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What You Said: Giving an Old Laptop a New Life

Earlier this week we asked you to share your tips and tricks for breathing life into an old laptop, now we’re back to share your junk-bin sparing methods.

Many of you worked to keep old laptops from getting scrapped by dusting them off and donating them. Mark writes:

My acquaintances & friends give me their old computers when they buy a new one. So I disassemble, clean, install an opsys,and get internet working. I also upgrade memory, wireless, etc. from my parts bin.
Then I give it to a poor person who needs a computer. Usually a single working mom with kids.

I also do the same with old desktops as well. They really appreciate them and It gives me the satisfaction of resurrecting an old computer.

Wbrown does the same:

Donate it via the local Lion’s Club for use by families of sight-challenged children.
Always a new HDD, max memory, clean and dust..
Cool way to help someone, and know it will be appreciated.

EchoGecko shares a veritable laundry list of his past projects:

Here are a few things I have done

-Picture Frame PC.
-14″ LCD, P3 CPU, 128 MB Ram, 10GB HD runs puppy linux + WiFi drivers and is setup to ryscn to a folder on my local fileserver, Cost $10 picture frame, power usage, 19-21 watts

-HP Pavilion with 1.7 Ghz PM CPU, 17″ LCD, 20 GB IDE HD, DVD-RW, 2 GB Ram, Wifi N upgrade, Wall Mount in Picture Frame style, + RF remote interface, and analog radio transceiver installed, XBMCbuntu installed, setup to act as a picture frame, and display weather, entered local radio streams + Pandora, and acts as a HTPC for movies and streaming, acts as a digital radio that can transmit on FM to my radios in the house:

* Cost about $60 for Wifi N, Picture Frame, RF remote, and radio transceiver. may upgrade to a small 32 GB ssd for instant on, but not likely.
* Power, idle picture frame mode 19 watts, HTPC mode 21-25 watts, Radio mode 20 watts
* This unit is meant for use by my mother, who has some trouble using computers in general, maybe its the remote but she loves this, mostly due to the radio features i had added.
* No it does not due 1080p, but its only connected to a 720p screen so it does not have to.

-FireWall/Gateway. Converted a gateway 405ROG with 1.4 GHz PM CPU 256 MB Ram, no lcd, no keyboard,no cd/dvd/floppy, 10 GB HD, added NIC ($3 Ebay) to be a untangled gateway, works great running for almost 2 years -10-16 watts

-FileServer, (no longer in use) used the Gateway 405ROG as a basic fileserver, speeds at 7-9 MBps due to limited 10/100 NIC, turned into firewall/gateway

-Flashing Station, Converted another Gateway 405ROG with LCD screen to a flashing station to test/upgrade wifi routers to use DD-WRT, in use for almost 5 years.

Hit up the original comment thread for dozens of other suggestions for squeezing more life out of your aging hardware. Have a tip to share? It’s not too late to join the conversation.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 11/16/12

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