Technology Today: Old PCs still have a purpose

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It happens every single day in America. Someone gets a new computer.

Shiny, new computer smell (yes, there is one), and look at all the pretty backlit buttons and keys! It’s always nice to get a new rig, because it is faster, has more hard-drive space and may even be in a fetching new color.

However, what about your old PC? Do you just consign it to the trash can? Perish the thought! Although your old desktop or laptop may be old, it could still serve a purpose in your life, assuming it still turns on and works.

For a start, old computers are great in homes with children. Think about it. Do you really want to go out and spend $500 to $700 on a new desktop or laptop for a 7-year-old? I didn’t think so. An older PC can be useful for running all sorts of learning programs, or just playing games.

If you have teenagers, this is especially nice because unless they are about to take off for college, a brand-new machine all souped up is not what they need. As an added bonus, when they’re working on a different machine, and not your new one, you have eliminated the possibility of them jacking up your new system.

My recommendation is that you return that old PC back to its factory settings to get rid of all corrupted files and whatever else may have been slowing it down. It’ll run like new when you do.

Another idea to consider is turning that old desktop into a NAS — network area storage, a computer dedicated exclusively to storing files. You can take that desktop and use the existing operating system on it, in most cases, and set up a home network called a workgroup. That way, you can share files and folders to that NAS. Instead of having pictures and videos all residing on your computer, where they take up hard-drive space, store it on your own NAS.

To set up your NAS and make sure computers can communicate with it, try downloading Free NAS at www.freenas.org. This is a free operating system you can install on the old PC that will help you connect it. Plus, you can impress your friends with your technology skills.

Let’s say none of these ideas appeal to you and you just want to get rid of your old computer. There are a couple of routes you could go. To make some quick money on the side, consider selling it on Craigslist. There are always people looking for older PCs on that site, and you should have no problems selling it. Please exercise caution, though, when meeting with strangers. I have done it in the past, and it has always worked out.

Lastly, may I suggest donating your old PC to a church or some other charitable organization? These organizations are usually more than happy to take your old PC and use it for their internal operations, or for education programs to help the community.

Of course, donating to a nonprofit means you get a tax deduction, but more important, you can get the sense of knowing that you are providing a machine to someone who needs one but cannot afford it.

So old PCs are not something that should be launched into space, or sunk to the bottom of the ocean. Of course they will eventually wear out, but if they’re currently operating well, you have some options. That old PC that has been faithful to you for so many years still has a purpose in the modern era, and if not for yourself, for someone else.

HUNTER BONNER is an information technologist. He can be reached via his blog at www.techedgeblog.wordpress.com and on Twitter at @HunterBonner.


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