How-To Geek

Ask the Readers: How Do You Give an Old Laptop a New Life?

That powerhouse laptop you bought back in 2006 can’t compete with the sleek ultrabook you just unboxed–but that doesn’t mean you should ship it to the dump. How do you give an old laptop a new lease on life?

Whether you tear it apart and rebuild it into something brand new, put it on night duty as a backup station, or install a lightweight Linux distro before passing it on to your relatives, we want to hear all about your tools and methods for keeping old laptops out of the junk bin.

However big or small your repurposing project, sound off in the comments below with your tips, tricks, and tools. Make sure to check back in on Friday for the What You Said roundup to see how your fellow readers revitalize their old laptops.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 11/14/12

Comments (138)

  1. Henry

    Ubuntu/Other Linux Distro
    often as a server for something like VNCing to from my phone for my intranet from the internet
    moreover using something like ClearOS to replace your router is awesome

    also trying out something like an experimental build of an operating system like ReactOS is great on actual hardware; especially if you’re helping to build it

  2. Kevin

    Totally agree with Henry, some version of Linux. Get your learn on.

  3. James


  4. Citrus Rain


    In fact, I’m about to put openSUSE on my uncle’s computer when I get home since he’s been waiting for my stepdad to reinstall XP on it for 2-3 weeks.

    It’s so old, it’s NIC card is incompatible with my home network. No wireless, no CAT5.

    I’ll post results.

  5. David

    First one: Disassemble and clean the cooling system ( new paste etc. It had been running hot) New 7200 RPM drive, reinstall of Vista OS and added Ubuntu via WUBI.. all started b/c the CMOS battery had died.
    Second one: New 7200 RPM drive, upgrade to Win 7, increased RAM from 1gig to 2.5 gig. Use it in the basement while working on crafts.

    Netbook: Installed Kubuntu… still pretty iffy as a usable machine.

  6. zmarsh

    My Acer from college is only three years old, but is running slow, has a bad battery, is missing a few keys, and the touchpad doesn’t work.
    I’m thinking of wiring it to my TV and using a wireless keyboard with a built-in touchpad to control it from the couch. Could be good for Hulu, Netflix, Spotify, etc.

  7. Paul

    One word: Ubuntu


    Increase RAM, reinstall OS, change battery

  9. Mark

    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.

  10. wbrown

    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.

  11. thegeekkid

    @James: ROFL!!! :)

    But needless to say, Ubuntu.

  12. Steve

    1) MSCONFIG diasble any unneeded apps
    2) SERVICES.MSC disabbled unneeded services
    3) Reconfigure with a cheap, SSD as the boot/main drive
    4) Add ram

    Did these and STILL using an IBM x41 from 5 years ago. And yes, Win7 runs beautifully on it. (ok, not exactly my MAIN device but still…)

  13. Dude

    Prop a table

  14. Don Flood


  15. sadly

    I used to rebuild, slap linux on them and donate to people that can’t afford them. Now I do not get as many chances as I used to but would love to keep building for those that can’t afford a new one.

  16. coolkid3245

    Install ALL the games!

  17. LadyFitzgerald

    My previous “laptops” were netbooks. Two died and the third just couldn’t keep up with me so they weren’t worth reviving. I did salvage the HDDs although they are too small to be good for much (one 120 GB and two 160 GB).

  18. airjmax

    – More RAM
    – Faster hard drive (7200 rpm or Solid State – check compatibility first!)
    – Clean installation of Windows or Linux
    – Blow out any vents
    – Limit programs to the bare minimum you will use
    – Use a fast, lean browser (Chrome, Opera)
    I have done this many times, and sold the older machines to satisfied people, and have done upgrades like this for friends/family/work associates.

  19. Ikeysee

    With all the fuss of networks restricting over-the-top devices, an old laptop serves as a simple universal way to watch television streams, saved content, and all network offerings without restrictions and regardless of what device.

    basically I use the display out to the home theater using HDMI when possible and use the tv as a display and configure notebook to operate with the cover closed. Place it on the shelf like a component, and connect Ethernet if possible.

    The HDD can serve as a DVR, iTunes and “air”play actually are useful, and with Netflix and amazon prime, the network websites, and all the radio and music offerings in the cloud, an older laptop can perform brilliantly for many years as a hidden media hero.

    In addition I use my tablet as a remote mouse into the laptop and have full control while it is snug in its place.

    I welcome any comments or questions :)

  20. Justin

    I have a somewhat old HP laptop: 2Gb ram, 1.9 Ghz dual-core AMD processor. It is running Vista, and needs a new keyboard. I have already upgraded the battery to one with twice the capacity.

    New keyboard on ebay is going for around 25 bucks. I would also like to upgrade to Win8, since I have had issues with this laptop (it will not wake from sleep).

    Is it worth spending around $65 total to do the upgrades? Or should I save for something newer? I just need a laptop for recreational use and occasional web development.

  21. Interwebz Fan

    there are two options…

    1). SSD, moar RAM, Win 7

    2). SSD, moar RAM, Ubuntu

  22. jeepmanjr

    2006? LOL! I use a Dell C600 to run my communications hardware. And a Dell C640 to play with Backtrack 5 software. Otherwise, they would find their way to the dumpster. Literally.

  23. NSDCars5

    I did this with my 2010 netbook:
    1) Upgrade RAM (1GB > 2GB)
    2) Wipe HDD (GParted)
    3) Install Windows (XP on lesser machines, but this one was powerful enough so Windows 7)
    4) Install Linux (Puppy Linux on lesser machines, but this one was powerful enough so Ubuntu 11.10)
    5) Give it away to a relative (this case, my sister) along with some “Linux for Dummies” guide/eBook.

  24. green

    Netbook: ubuntu + fluxbox (for lightweight environment)
    use for learning linux.

  25. Chemical

    I would use a set of fully charged paddles and a shot of adrenaline.

  26. EchoGecko

    Here are a few things I have done

    -Picture Fame 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 I 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.

  27. semiretired

    I loan them out to friends with temporary needs, I use some for dedicated marquee signs, usually leaving the laptop on site. I do not particularly like to work on laptops, but have salvaged many and made them single use or loaners.

  28. SpiderDan

    Wipe. Install Linux. Fixed!

  29. Juergen

    Lightweight Linux: WattOS!

  30. cavaliersa

    Faster hard drive (either a 7200rpm drive but preferably an SSD), the max RAM that it can handle (usually/hopefully 4GB) and Windows 7.

    My wife’s old laptop had XP on it since new in Jan 2008, in the middle of last year (2011) changed the hard drive to a spare WD 5400rpm 8MB cache drive and loaded Windows 7 onto it – she’s been much more happy since. It’s much faster than it was on XP with no major changes or cost expense incurred. For what she does computing wise it does very nicely!

  31. Redgrave

    I fail to understand this appeal over using Ubuntu. First of all it does a poor job at mantaining a low memory usage, between probably all other Linux based distros. It’s surely the glamorous interface that attracts everyone even tho everything else Ubuntu related has no appeal for someone working in the IT field more than 1 year.
    And it doesn’t matter if you use GNOME, KDE, or LXDE. Ubuntu manages the system’s resources very poorly.
    You want an OS for an older laptop/PC? Get Debian. Or anything else that’s not Ubuntu.
    XP is out of choice since it more than ten years old. Yes you can do pretty much anything with it, but if you are the average Joe using it then the amount of time configuring settings, evaluating risk applications and security related is too much of a trouble.

  32. bellawatson123

    Take it to Geek Squad thats what I did!!!!!!

  33. Jami

    I don’t think it’s worth it for my laptop from 2004 to upgrade the hardware so I downloaded Linux Mint on it and it’s just fine for light activities like browsing and checking email.

  34. Grant

    I agree with Linux, but can no longer agree with Ubuntu. Unity has made it just too heavy for older hardware.

  35. winshima

    I recently updated an older laptop and replaced the Hard Drive with an SSD and it made a big difference in the speed.

  36. cam2644

    On an older laptop Linux Mint runs a treat but it does on new ones too

  37. MeNotYou

    Wow…. is all I can say… Some of you guys are pretty ignorant! This was supposed to be “instead of” not a page of newbies posting on how to pluck up what would be easy fix to an old laptop… About the only answer that was close to the point was… using it as a router or sniffer…. we all know you can install another OS that has a smaller footprint or adding more hardware to spiff it up.. WOW, yet again to the posters of

  38. scooter13uk

    New OS running bare minimum. More RAM. Added a touchscreen & external HDD. Installed Jukebox Jockey. Encased the touchscreen in a wooden surround with laptop behind. External speakers and HEY PRESTO – instant Jukebox. Addition of wireless keyboard & mouse means it can be used for net too.

  39. Deedee

    I have a 2004 laptop 512MB RAM and 80GB HD (I wish I had something better, but money is tight.)
    With Ubuntu and WXP. A wonderful old machine to do some weird tests on.

    In general, I install people a Linux distro so they can leave the machine to their kids for facebook/mail/internet and openoffice for their homework. They get 2 or 3 years of good use after that.

  40. Rex

    My old Compaq nc6000 (512MB RAM, ugh) was old enough that its WI-FI configuration posed initial setup problems for Ubuntu, OpenSuse, Fedora, Knoppix, PCLinuxOS, and several others.

    However, Linux Mint 13 Maya recognized all components immediately, and I was up and running in minutes.

    I showed my 12 year old niece TuxTyping and she was so enthused about it that she made me install Linux on their laptop.

    I found that I can max out the RAM at 2 GIG, and at a cost of about $25 per GIG, at some point I might leave the Stone Age and upgrade. Right now, I use the Mint box as a VLC music box.

    At some point, I may want to test out VirtualBox with some old legacy Windows XP programs that haven’t been ported to Linux, given that I’m tech-phobic about losing my connectivity settings in experimenting with a VM, and if I blow it, I could just re-install Linux Mint Maya again and be up and running in no time.

    Since I am not a gamer or video watcher on the PC and have no real use for super fast chips, the 1.7 Mhg chip is sufficiently powerful for my needs, if I upgrade the RAM. From previous systems I’ve had, I learned that the relative chip speed is not the biggest factor in boosting throughput. Even a super chip slogs down in a 512MB RAM system.

    Linux Mint Maya has been trouble-free comfort food for my old laptop with funky legacy drivers.

  41. Mel

    After a few years, I reset it to factory settings and if it is still working slow or inadequate for my needs, I donate it to either a college for their IT students to play with/work on or I give it away to aunts/uncles who are computer illiterate and don’t care that it’s slow – they only want it for email.

    Then I go buy a new one for myself. :-)

  42. CRAZE

    I took an old HP netbook, and hid it in my TV stand. Connected it via VGA and 3.5mm audio cables, hooked it up to ethernet cable and a wireless presentation keyboard. It’s configured to run with the lid closed, and I hooked it up to an ancient external HD. The only thing anyone sees is a remote control sized keyboard. I often get questions from my family in regards to Win 7 on my TV, some just don’t understand how my TV works like a computer. lol. Either way they all love the media center it’s turned into. Who needs a DVD player or Cable TV when streaming is available for free all over the place?! Don’t throw away old copmuters. Rupurposing is always the way to go!

  43. InterruptDriven

    We used an older Dell 8100/XP to drive an LCD hung on the
    office wall to display Outlook for a department calendar for the
    Dir. to see easily when people were around. We set it up to display when closed.
    Everyone shared their calendars with the login we setup.
    Our Admin showed me how to config the Outlook calendar
    display to show everyone in a different colored bar. The rest
    was a no-brainer. btw: 4 screw pattern on the rear mount plate (with stand removed)
    of an old Dell 1901FP” monitor fit the pattern exactly of a cheap wall
    bracket from Target. Just had to get longer bolts from HW store.


  44. Me

    Donate the laptop to a charity. We have a charity that gives laptops to kids who can’t afford one locally. Also, you can donate it to a charity shop. Someone can buy it who can’t afford one otherwise.

  45. paul

    I just put ChromeOS on my laptop to see what that was like, it isn’t that old, only a 2007 but it was a cheap crappy Dell so that is almost like adding a couple years to it :)

    I am thinking of just completely wiping it, adding more RAM, a larger drive and using it as a DVR/ Internet Media Player for my TV upstairs. I am looking for suggestions on what has worked for others on HTG. Ikeysee what did you use to set up yours? Anything on a Linux Distro or purely MS.



  46. Marco

    Linux all the way!

  47. mhenriday

    I set a limit at a processor speed of 1.6 GHz. If less, I dump the machine as hardly worth the effort and expense to upgrade ; if this or higher, I check out the motherboard and see if it supports at least 2 GB RAM. In that case, I upgrade to the max RAM the computer can take, clean it up physically, and then install the latest Ubuntu version. The battery is almost always dead in the water, but replacing it would be more than the machine is worth ; instead I always use it coupled to the mains….


  48. robert75203

    Any of the ubuntu derivations are worth a try. If you have limited resources (low memory, old cpu, etc) try peppermint linux or my current favorite LUBUNTU.

  49. Michael

    I couldn’t believe this would work, but I’ve done an old desktop and an old Laptop good service by installing Windows 8. Blows me away. Lots of Window’s 8 new stuff doesn’t work, or at least not nicely, but both computers are working far better, faster, easier than before and the stuff the people used their computers for before still works. Remember the old days when Windows would first check that your computer was big enough, fast enough, etc then abort the install if you didn’t fit. …

  50. Brendan

    I have a Lenovo x60, that runs Windows 8 like a dream…

    But all I use it for is Movies and Interwebbing.

  51. Gabriel

    I say give it the Ferris Bueller treatment and make it a door bell answering machine!

  52. Michael Redd

    SSD and upgrade to Windows 8 will make laptop like new.

  53. dragonbite

    I wouldn’t know… all of my systems (save one) are what other people have given away! But I usually install a fresh Linux distribution, probably Ubuntu if it can handle it. If I could set up ChromeOS on it then I would and use it as an “internet thin client” :)

    I guess I would look at what I can do with it (media center, internet device, web or some other server, firewall and wireless router, etc.) and 9 times out of ten it would involve installing some form of Linux.

    Now if I were to get a new laptop, I would have to prepare my old one to be used by the kids when the desktop is busy.

  54. GaryU

    IE-10 is out now, its faster than Chrome, give it a try

  55. gdesmedt1

    All these comments are pretty much the same… I really like the ideas of fixing them up and giving to ppl that really need them. I’ve seen some people setup home businesses from the kindness of others, and they manage to improve their financial situations.

    I’m thinking of using the wonderful opensource hardware to build units and connect them via zigbee or wifi or lan (not too sure which will be best… helpful comments will be appreciated) to each other and using the old laptop as a home control device… and using your tablet or smart phone to talk nicely to the laptop that communicates to all the devices…

    old computer = smart home ;)

  56. Peter Ridgers

    I use a Dell Inspiron (originally sold with win ME – gives an idea of the age) as a centos server – only needed a new battery and makes a great domain controller, web server, file server, database server (postgresql and mysql) and lapd server. Been on for 18 months – never fails (battery keeps it up during power outage).

  57. Jer


    Good cleaning
    Boost RAM to Max
    OS Refresh

    Let the kiddos learn on it. Use it to unload mem cards from the camera. Use it at the coffee table to remote to my beastly PC upstairs.

  58. Dallas

    I do what Mark is doing. I have a computer repair shop and I recycle old computers and donate them to our counties Help program. A lot of single moms with kids really appreciate them. Also, I give used parts to my customers. If their computer needs more memory I will install used memory if I have it at no cost. I live in a very low income area and I do what I can with old computers to keep them going for these people. It also keeps them out of the landfill.

  59. Jon Tabakman

    I’m a tech, so I have spare hard drives, and Ram.

    1. Clean it up. Blow out the dust.
    2. Replace the CMOS, hard drive ,and the battery.
    3. If it needs a keyboard, get it also via Ebay. Most cost under $20.
    4. Upgrade the Ram, and Bios.
    5. Now the fun part. Virtually any XP notebook will run Windows 7, and it will run faster than XP. If you don’t want to spend the bucks, re-install XP, or get Ubuntu.
    6. If it’s a Mac, it’s basically the same procedure except that you will find software issues that need to be addressed. That said, I have a Powerbook that’s 12 years old. It only needed a new drive and Ram. Runs just fine with Camino as the browser.

  60. Yellatdr

    To LadyFitzgerald:
    Would sell those two drives? I have to old HP laptops that are in good shape but would like to put SSD’s in each to give to use.

  61. Rabo

    1. get more RAM
    2. reinstall windows
    3. use chrome, MSecurity Essentials, etc.
    4. turn off aero(only when I play a game)
    5. install lubuntu as default OS
    6. tell other people to stay the hell away from it before they screw something up

    I have an ultraportable from 2003 that still works great other than the loose hinge. I even play some games on it!

  62. Leo

    I would agree with the folks suggesting the SSD over HD option. A bit of money, but the HD does represent the slowest part of the computer system. With this bottleneck gone, performance is increased.

    I have tried Ubuntu, but so that more people can use the laptop, I think that Windows XP SP3 still represents a good option.

    Large capacity DDR SODIMMs are like gold in my city, and when we do get something in, it goes quite quickly. Moving from the typical 512 MB to 2 GB substantially increases the speed at which the computer will work with even 1 GB being sufficient.

  63. batequeixo

    Throw UBUNTU on it and be happy!

  64. paul

    MENOTYOU. can tell a lot from one’s Alias for user name. Nice name calling, especially as you failed to read this paragraph…

    Whether you tear it apart and rebuild it into something brand new, put it on night duty as a backup station, or install a lightweight Linux distro before passing it on to your relatives, we want to hear all about your tools and methods for keeping old laptops out of the junk bin.

    Read the second line and maybe you might understand why people are talking about the Linux installs…

  65. markstrelecki

    Bare Metal Clean Install
    Build slipstreamed Windows install media (DVD/USB)
    Wipe all partitions, recreate and FULL FORMAT
    Boot to desktop and get networking up and running
    Get all driver updates from Windows Update (that are available)
    Install base apps, including MS Security Essentials
    Defrag hard drive, image a backup
    Use with care for LONG TIME
    That’s my way, YMMV.
    I Love How-To-Geek

    Atlanta, GA. USA

  66. Linux Fan

    I turned my old laptop into a media server. I have Ubuntu 12.04 loaded on it with XBMC. We hook it up to speakers for a party and use the Android XBMC app so people in my house can control it to what they want. XBMC is and exceptional interface and the smart phone app throws it over the top. Its all very easy. I have my Dvd collection loaded into xbmc as well which is cool for movie nights. When I can’t find anything in my library I want to listen to I fire up the Pandora plugin. XBMC is the all around best product for home media. I have family with the uber fancy Crestron Adagio system and XBMC runs circles around it. I strongly recommend this product, it cant be beat.

  67. MdKnightR

    In a word? Jolicloud

  68. John

    I still have old stuff. I’m as old as them I’m 64. My wife has a £3,000 sewing machine. The software will not run on anything later than 2K so why do I need a new laptop for that. I incubate eggs for hatching and use one for controlling the temperature. It is plenty powerful for that. I use another one for running my TV movie database. All my DVD’s are dumped down to AVI and I can then play them through my TV. They can still think faster than me so word processing is still OK on the old stuff as you call it. Cleaning fans and putting the max memory in and just a small drive (20gb) for the O/S is sufficient. I use a portable 1TB drive for the movie database. I’ll probably stir a few of you people up but we live in a world of recycling not dumping. Give us old codgers a second chance.

  69. BluArcher

    Linux Mint on 3 of my old HP laptops. 2gb ram and they are fast!
    Easier for a Windows user to work with than Ubuntu (although Mint is based on Ubuntu!)

    If my boxes were Vista, I would put Linux or XP on them.


  70. the geeky brit

    I turned an old Compaq armada into a mame arcade machine, works great.

  71. Nick Carter

    A good cleaning, as airjmax said, blow out the vents, if still running too hot disassemble, clear wad of cat hair from heatsink and refresh the heat sink compound. Add ram if possible. Convince friend/family member that neither Vista nor XP really can run usefully in 1GB of ram and install Xubuntu.

  72. Lantiis

    Oh easy. If your laptop is becoming obsolete, slow, too bulky for its own good, a mockery next to your friends Ultrabook, etc, just clean it (blow out vents, keyboard, trackpad and internal parts if you are comfortable with opening up your laptop to extend the life of its parts), then nuke it with a new OS (I recommend a lite install of Linux like Mint or Puppy if you are used to Windows, MacPuppy if you are used to Macs, or Xubuntu if you want to use your brain XD), and always keep software to a minimum (only what you will actually use the laptop for).

    I have a Dell Latitude D505 (STILL) that runs beautifully with only minor speed issues. It isn’t as fast as my iPad or 2-year old i7 8gb RAM HP Win7 HP monster I use for gaming, but it does its job for the kids and friends: Mint Linux OS, Firefox, Gimp, OpenOffice, connects to the printer, and it plays music and videos. It may take an extra 10 to 20 seconds to open a program or lose its mind if you try to open more than 5 internet tabs, but it works, is virtually maintenance free and it saves me from buying a new laptop for the kids!

    I am about to do the same to a 10-year old Toshiba Satellite that is now too slow for Windows – Hey, it’s new to the kids and will be the coolest, most desired yet least expensive Christmas present this year! I might be a thrifty mom, but I look like a goddess in the eyes of single-digit-aged kids and their friends! XD Yeah, that’s right, I am the “cool” mom!

  73. JungleBoi

    (1) Open lid completely.

    (2) Submerge in fish tank as decoration.

  74. charliann

    I’ve had a lot of old desktops in the past, removed the hard drives and hooked them up usb for extra backup storage. I have another one from a family member that runs XP and I was thinking about attaching a usb floppy to see if my old faves, like AmiPro would run on it. I would really like a computer to run the old DOS cd version of “The 7th Guest”, which won’t work with Windows 7 in XP mode or any other mode. I still have my old floppies with DOS 6.1 and wonder if I could install that to run it and play old programs with the DOS commands I used to be good at (some I still use with the command prompt… easier to delete *(1).* duplicate file copies than marking them in Windows.

    But what do you do with Ubuntu? ( never got into Linux) and I had no idea about Windows 8, tho I don’t want to pay to upgrade.

    Does anyone know if formatting and installing DOS 6 would work?

  75. Mucky Pup

    BT5+Reaver = WiFi fun… With your own network of course… ;)

  76. Cody

    add a computer to a car with it, if its already touch screen sweet otherwise you can purchase the components to make the screen touch screen, relocating the guts of the pc under a seat with the monitor up on dash or by the radio somewhere. Have done many like this.

  77. Ameet Kumar Tandi

    If you want to keep using that laptop for regular use,consider these steps:

    1.Add more RAM for better MULTITASKING.
    2.Add a SSD for faster BOOT and APP LAUNCHING.
    3.Bit of CLEANING inside out.
    4.using Linux XUBUNTU/LUBUNTU would better and faster than windows.

    Apart from that, here’s how you can be a bit more creative with your old Lappie.


    1.Learn a new operating system
    2.Make a Robot
    3.Give it to someone less fortunate
    4.Join a Distributed Computing Project


    1.Turn it to a Media Hub
    2.Stream Video to xbox360/PS3
    3.Home theatre PC.


    1.Garage Tool Addition (Car repair)
    2.In Car Mod as a GPS NAV Wifi hotspot
    4.Virtual Guitar Amp
    5.As a Second Monitor


    1.Home Surveillance
    2.Turn it into a CCTV camera

    DIY Hacks:

    1.Turn Your Old Laptop Into A Touchscreen Tablet
    2.Make a Projector from an Old Laptop
    3.Digital Photo Frame
    4.Home automation


    1.Run a Home Server for File-Sharing.
    2.Torrent server.
    3.print server for old printer.
    4.Music/Movie ripping server.

  78. pbug56

    My older laptop is limited 2 2GB. I did give it a SD card to reduce HD paging. I limit what gets run on it and it is usually OK. I do have one problem; the fan now gets noisy at higher speeds. I’m guessing there’s dirt in it I can’t reach. It is a DV9030 and I don’t want to completely disassemble it to get to the fan, so any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

  79. Suri-Virus

    Win XP on a Toshiba Satellite 4200 PRO.
    I upgraded RAM to loudacris 384 MB.

    Playin old games like Alpha Centaury, C&C
    and doin Car-Diagnostics (VW/Audi) with it.

  80. RJSheppard

    My laptop running Windows 7 was sitting gathering dust. I built a super fast Windows 7 PC that I use constantly because I only really want one set of files, that I create and update, etc. So I was going to use the laptop to read books, PDF’s, etc., and that didn’t happen becasue it was clumbsy for doing so, therefore I ended up buying an iPad. So what has got me using my laptop again? I installed Windows 8 on it to try it out (play with it) and to stay up to date with the current crop of OSes. I think I’m enjoying Windows 8 far more this way than I would have on my main system. This way I can just play with and enjoy trying tips and tricks I find, without fear of messing my system up.

  81. john3347

    One word: CLOCK. I have a computer I bought in 2001 or 2002 and it is still completly functional, but the capabilities are very limited (processor, ram, harddrive, etc.). It does however function most satisfactorily as an alarm clock. For a couple of years, it had enough life in the battery that it would survive a power outage of several minutes, but those days are gone. It now dies immediately when unplugged. I have upgraded to Windows XP so the new daylight saving time and the time setting capability is present, but the computer does nothing else. I can set the alarm and, with the external speakers, is loud enougth to wake somebody in the next room.

    An additional use for a barely functioning laptop is a family photo album display. Install Faststone Image Viewer (free) and set slide show to constantly display a slide show of however many picture files you have in any specified folder. I have a late ’90s Winbook with that setup. (Windows 98 original edition) The screen goes blank occasionally and requires a reboot to get it back going, but it is better than throwing it away. No internet on the Winbook.

  82. dougie

    peppermint os will work on any old piece of junk…….and look nice too

  83. john3347

    An additional use for a still functioning laptop that I tested for a few months was as a print server. Worked like a dream until the battery completely died. When it was no longer servicable as a print server, I converted to a clock described elsewhere in this thread.

    Some of you posters are describing uses for computers 2 or 3 years old as “old” laptops. My primary laptop that faces normal service is 5 or 6 years old and still going strong. Was delivered with Vista with no service pack. I quickly upgraded it to XP which was in SP2 as I recall.

  84. Tuporo

    I have refurbished a lot of laptops and netbooks and given them to several of my older workmates, family members by doing the following.
    1. New battery as the existing one was usually running out of juice
    2. New harddrive, larger capicity 500gigs are cheap.
    3. More memory at least to 2 Gig.
    4. Clean install of Windows 8, the boot time on it is amazing, faster and runs more efficient that Windows 7

    If your thinking of getting a cheap 2nd hand lappy, its better and easier if its at least a dual core, 2gigs ram. I installed Windows 8 on a lappy that had 500megs ram on it single core and it took ages. Once my mate added 2gigs ram, it worked more efficiently, and that laptop was 7 years old.

  85. Richard

    I have a five year old Acer 9300 which originally had Vista on it and I was disappointed after I upgraded to Windows 7 64bit even with more memory. I had been thinking about getting a new laptop but I don’t want to pay the windows tax so I have been trying different linux distros and the one that seems to be the best for it is Linux Mint 13 Mate 64bit.

  86. Zakariah

    Well I guess you could upgrade the hardware then clean install Windows on it.

  87. Dave

    I rebuild them and find someone who doesn’t have one and give it to them. I get to play hands on and they get a functional computer. When I throw it away, it truly is useless junk. Now the 80 year old TUBE radios I refurbish I keep!!! Those, I understand. To reboot one, simply replace the fuse.

  88. Jack Scott

    I have always had problems accessing the interior of a laptop – removing the keyboard, etc. – is there a site where I can get info on how to safely invade the interior without damaging the components?

  89. muhammad

    i just backup my files then put in a windows 7 cd, roboot, do complete format of hdd and reinstall windows.

  90. Bill Taylor

    I have a Win 2000 Dell right now with 256 mg of SDRAM. Not having any laptop SD I’m installing Puppy Linux on it and will give it to a youngster for Homework Assignments. I receive donated units all the time and clean, wipe the HDD with DNB and recycle them to youth and elders with low funds. Some folks just need a computer and free is their only option.

  91. rKiller

    After I bought my Ultrabook Convertible I used my old Dell laptop to Run UBUNTU and used that as a Server for some sites! Also for Exploring some “Dangerous” stuff that mite be deadly to my Windows PC

  92. jcw

    I have one permenantly attached to the flat screen for streaming online movies and another has been stripped down and is used just for audio files. My husband has been digitizing his record collection.

  93. Peter

    It runs JMRI Decoder Pro and when hooked to a wifi router, it lets me use my iPhone work as a controller on the model railway layout.

  94. josbruyn

    I use Linux 2.632-21-generic (i686)
    Distribution: Linux Mint 9 Isadora LTS it got service till april 2014

  95. Bob

    See Plop Boot Manager for booting old hardware with bits (eg USB booting) that are not supported or CD/DVD drives that have failed.

    It’s Free.

  96. Robynsveil

    I set up systems to give to people who can’t afford one. The main reasons I use some flavour of Linux as the OS of choice are:
    Legally free to install – you don’t have to worry about the whole EULA thing (licensed to user, not system)
    Virtually maintenance-free: it updates itself, isn’t going to allow nasties *by* *design* – I only say this because we have a hybrid OS environment here, and the only PCs I have headaches with are the Windows ones, even with AV and anti-malware and MS Security Essentials, etc.

    I tend to favour Linux Mint 13 (maya) because of a quick-transition OS (from Windows XP or similar) and because it is hassle-free to get everything working.

  97. Mike

    I have used old computers in several ways:
    1. Make it a single purpose device i.e. CD burner, storage, server. Who cares if it is slow if all you are doing is storing old pictures.

    2. Use it as a learning device for new users in my family. Who cares if you crash it, drop it or otherwise hammer on it if it is a platform to teach someone new how to treat a computer before you give them your GOOD laptop.

    3. Turn it into a Linux machine. Linux never ceases to amaze me. Ever since it was just a small group of files on a European server it has always been fun. Now that the teething is over you can get some serious work done even on an old PC/laptop with Linux. I have an old laptop with Linux on it that is faster by a long shot that the new laptops my friends hand over to me to “fix” (read decrapify, strip down and otherwise make fast).

  98. TechGeek01

    If a friend wants me to revive their old computer, I will make sure to backup personal files, and will wipe the OS completely, and install Ubuntu (unless they find a variation they like better – usually, I come prepared with a handful of LiveCDs, and demo them and let them choose). I may upgrade some parts, but very rarely. I’ll restore the files, and walk them through the account set-up process, and write up a quick Readme.txt tutorial on their desktop, and they’re usually good to go.

    If it’s mine, I’ll basically follow a similar procedure, but I choose a flavor of Linux, which is usually either Ubuntu or Backtrack 5. Occasionally, I will just scrap it for the parts, but that rarely happens.

    It’s not a very complicated procedure, and it’s generally followed by most of us in the geek world, but it gets the job done, and gets the best results.

  99. Argimiro

    I took my Dell XPS M1530 that is 4 years old and was running Win. 7 with 4 GB of RAM. It was getting sluggish, and I installed an SSD and Win 8. What a tremendous difference this upgrade has made. Starts in app. 15 sec from dead and 8 sec from sleep. Now I’m almost using it solely as my primary computer. BIG BIG IMPROVEMENT.

  100. hArLtRoN

    I take a laptop apart and clean EVERYTHING and if it can support Windows 7, I install it. If it can’t I put a distro of Linux. Have only had to do this a few times and Windows 7 was supported both times. I’m still figuring out which distro of Linux is the easiest to use.

  101. Squarepants

    I have currently 3 laptops that I have picked out of my local recycler that are all dated from around 2000 or 2002. Single core processors, small used HD’s (less than 80GB),1g or 1.5g RAM. They all run Win7 really well except the Dell C600 which is a little sluggish with 1.3 ghz, 40g HD and 750mb RAM.

    A Toshiba M55 that my brother took his aggression out on. The LCD and lid have been removed, the wireless antennae or tucked under the keyboard and it is in my shop with a recycled flat panel monitor.

    I’m going to try Ubuntu on that C600.

    Wish me luck.

  102. rashad

    Resurrect first laptop? May be a problem – 1992, monochrome screen (yep!), 80486 CPU, 64MB memory
    It’s actually surprisingly compact, but roughly the weight of a (real) brick.

    oh, and it only runs Windows 3.1

  103. thesilentman

    Laptop resurrection? Xubuntu or 2000 Pro/XP for the non tech savvy people.

  104. ned11wils

    In my IBM T42 basic stuff has it running just as slick as ultrabooks I have tested. Reinstalled the XP operating system from the disk set, upgraded the almost full 30 GB hard drive to 160GB, am using 1.50GB of RAM, good housekeeping and program management with TuneUp Utilities. Hope to find a better browser than IE9 but she runs nice.

  105. Henry

    Here is one for you:
    I was given a laptop with a broken screen, has 2.0 dual core, 300 gig hd, 6 gig ram. I have an empty Alien desktop tower. I have begun marrying the 2 together. I have a 17 inch lcd monitor that I will mount on the right side of the tower that will swing out away from the tower when you want to use the computer. I will mount all the hardware inside the tower, use the computer power supply…??still working on final design settings with keyboard and mouse…I also will have some kind of carrying handle on top…
    I have tried dozens of Linux distros, don’t settle for just Ubuntu, there are other just as awesome distros out there!!
    will try to keep posting as time permits…


  106. dug

    Chromium OS, JoliCloud or for really old MacPup!

  107. Rich

    I have Toshiba and it is running Windows Pro. It continues to freeze. I do not have my boot disk. The computer is about four yr old was doing fine and now it just freezes up like an ICE CUBE Will the boot disk help – I downloaded all service paks and I am running a virus protector. All is well there. Any suggestions?

  108. vic

    I repair computers and clean them up all the time for people. I never charge anything besides parts anyways. I use windows or linux, i prefer windows personally and most of the people I get pcs to aren’t very computer literate. But like anyone else upgrade memory hard drive and the opsys if compatible. I have raised several laptops from the grave hear lately.

  109. Luigi

    Install XBMC (on top of linux or use XBMCbuntu), plug it into my amp and use it to stream media to / from android phone and play internet radio

  110. Mountaineer

    When my Gateway laptop’s screen died, I connected it permanently to the TV and use it all the time just for TV and films. This is particularly useful as we live overseas with poor local television and expensive Sky.

    I use a wireless mouse so the PC is tucked away neatly in the TV/Hi Fi cabinet. Because I removed all other unecessary software, it runs faster than it ever did before.

    P.S. This is reply is from a geek-free zone. Why do some people feel they must make a smart-arse comment even if they can contribute nothing useful? I enjoy the newsletter though!

  111. Rishabh Mathur

    I have had only I old laptop, with XP on it. Then I decided to install Win 8 CP on it (by the time I got RTM, its screen stopped working properly, and now it is with a technician who would repair it). thinking of putting Win 8 RTM or Ubuntu in it, and using as a desktop (its battery is dead, and the model is obsolete)

  112. Viggenboy

    I’ve turned several old laptops into simple media players for bedrooms/guestrooms (even a bathrrom once with the PSU located outside room). Why shell out loadsa dosh for expensive internet radios and Sonos terminals when even the slowest old laptop will do a very respectable job of this simple task. Simply install windows media centre (if not there already) and uses as a terminal for your media server etc.And when you can get cracking sound these days from relatively cheap 2.1 computer speakers it can be a first class solution. Add a cheap USB/infra red remote (less than $5 on eBay) and you’re sorted, even if you’re laptop is being scrapped because you got mouse or keyboard issues.

  113. thesindawg

    Recenly revived my circa 2009 Acer Aspire 5536:

    -Samsung 830 128GB SSD
    -Windows 8 Pro (customized with Decor8 and some other customization tools)
    -4GB RAM
    -New battery

    Would love to try out Ubuntu, but Windows 8 is stinking fast on this thing. The laptop has never worked so well, and outfitted with these upgrades for less than $200.

  114. meir

    I use it dedicated to my modeltrain layout

  115. JoeG

    1) Format & install WinXP
    2) turn off a couple dozen useless windows services
    3) Install minimum programs
    4) use MsConfig / Registry to turn off more uselss junk that gets set to load avery time
    5) Configure swapfile configuration to force specific, unchanging, size
    6) Image it so I can revert to it in the future

  116. PeteD

    1 Upgrade RAM to 4GB
    New HDD
    Fresh install of an OS Vista/Win7/*.Nix
    Disable non need apps on boot/background

  117. Kristy Beal

    Old laptops were not enough system for work duty so I turned one old laptop into a music system for my office and another was made into a video library for my kids. Now when I need to go on a trip, I have music and movies to take along… Also, putting your games on a machine is a good idea. You never know when you will be stuck in an airport or a tip in the country. This keeps kids and adults happy in the digital age.

  118. mrmohamed

    In my opinion the best linux which we should use as a light linux distro is Lubuntu. Sub product of Ubuntu. It’s particularly designed for light use.

  119. xilef

    nothing. my laptops tend to die before they become obsolete, I guess they’re not made for heavy 24/7 use…

  120. markus

    using an old laptop from a friend (athlon 1.9ghz dualcore, 3gb ram, toshiba brand), that he needed anymore for media encoding.

    windows 7 home premium
    freesshd (i prefer sftp over samba)
    handbrake encoder

    keeping the cpu load off of my main box.

  121. Hank

    Have an old Toshiba with windows 95…any ideas???

  122. Andre

    Apart from adding extra RAM if possible, running Advanced System Care will certainly help. The best, however, for optimizing performance, is running Norton’s Power Eraser. Once, I was forced to use it. Despite all the usual scary footnotes and disclaimers, it worked wonders and gave new life to my computer. By the way, MS Works actually has a larger file than Office! Go figure. Remove. My old Dell 2003 model laster 5 years with 1GB of RAM. Ingenuity, ladies & gentlemen! Good luck to all.

  123. Phil

    I strip the OS install down to a bare minimum…currently running XP on a 10 year old Acer…install iTunes and sream music from my main computer over my network. (I’ve ingested our entire cd collection into this computer) The laptop outputs to my stereo and fills the house with our music.

  124. Phil


  125. Gary

    I have a dual core Centrino HP/Comaq laptop that I bought refurb/off lease 5 years ago. It had XP Pro installed 1 GB and an 80 GB HD. I upgraded it with 4 GB a 500 GB HD and Windows 8 Pro a new battery and a new charger. When new this was a high end laptop selling for $1500 so it had quality components inside. With the new OS and memory upgrade it is not the fastest gamer around, but it is certainly adequate for word processing, internet and some mild gaming. I thought my old battery was bad, but with the new charger it would chage to 73 % and run for over an hour. I now use it as a back up. I found components of good quality and decent price on Amazon. I have never had much luck or satisfaction using Ebay.

  126. Joe Schmidt

    I never throw away anything; have 2 Dell 600 laptops came from ebay under $200, unfortunately displays busted on both but all the rest works… so can just plug in an external monitor of some sort and back in business as spare computers.

  127. BigAl


    Linux Ubuntu Based distro. Quite nice and fast.

  128. Patrik

    Has saved several old laptops by cleaning and installibg minimun Xp.
    One old stationary I use in my arcade mashine, complete with mame AND jamma interface.
    Several people gere usa and suggest xbmc for dvdcollection and that is great, but personally I am a videophile and everything below 1080 is a waste for me in my cinemaroom.
    Other recycle projects are separeting screens from laptop, by extending the cables, to make a nice photo/internetconnected frame in our bathroom. The motherboard and psu is hidden and waterprotected under sinkcabinet.

  129. Amit Shreyas

    Installing ubuntu 12.10

  130. Coosa

    Upgraded my daughters HP netbook with Atom processor as a learning tool for my 5 year old.

    Larger SSD drive, graphics accelerator/overclock, reinstalled XP with Chrome browser. Dissabled all unnecessary software/services, upgraded to 4mb RAM.

    He has learned to Start windows, log on to several learning web sites, play games, and is learning to draw in CAD (Draftsight). Pretty good for a 5 year old.

    Our other old laptop took over home automation duties wtih some X10 controls, and a pico PLC to control pool pump, outside lights, interior lights, automatic coffee pot, close garage door etc. It also interfaces with our Destiny home automation computer and alarm to update us on status of door openings, and other securuty warnings.

  131. Piney

    That old laptop can be revived in 3 easy steps

    1. SSD
    2. Maximum amount RAM
    3. Linux

  132. Chaim Seymour


    My old computer is running Fedora Linux. Ubuntu was too demanding


  133. Mike

    I started using a 2000 era dell laptop, so old it has a floppy drive and RS-232 connections on the back of it. This when my present desktop died. For some reason I have fallen in love with this old relic and now run my workstation off it. I bumped the memory from 128MB up to 512 (the max), at the moment using Windows 2000 with a tight firewall, no javascript, and a virus scan daily.

    Funny thing: I enjoy this much more so than newer setups like Windows 7. Mostly I think I like the simplicity. In windows 2000 I knew where everything was.

    But: I will be double-booting to ubuntu or lubuntu.

  134. saspen3

    I have an old dell c400 latitude laptop that came with 512mb ram and 50gb ide hdd. I swapped out my win xp pro and installed ubuntu for a bit of learning. it has a slot for a wifi radio. interested in anyone who has upgraded a similar model laptop. the other thing ( my only pet peeve) is the cd drive is a scsi connector (not onboard) so it can be annoying to take around as it has to be detached then re-attached all the time.

  135. seiferflo

    Increase RAM to 2GB min.
    Open the laptop, clean the dust and make sure all fans are working properly (why, a hot processor looses its efficiency with time)
    Remove old CPU paste and put a a new if you know how to do it.
    Check your harddrive is still fine with CrystalDiskInfo. Else you can do a low level format to try to repair the bad sectors. Upgrade to a 7200rpm if you find a cheap one.
    Install Win7 home made lite version (in a sense, use KUC to integrate only the essentials updates, no superseded ones, then use RT7lite coupled with RT7booster to remove 70% of the unused functionality, cf. rtwincustomer forum). My version is around 1.3GB once slimmed and 4.5GB installed.
    Disable all the fancy effects except the new button style to make it look new.
    Install all the new drivers (use or
    You’re good to go on with old donkey.

  136. Joe

    Most of you have talked about the hardware & Software part …
    How about the visual part ? My lappy does run smoothly , but the outer pad and its look, seems sloppy.
    So i jst turned myself into a graphic designer and used my creatvity to change the overall look.
    Now my lappy looks like a Mean Killing Machine to others
    but only i know that its a little tiny lap.

  137. Pmac

    Install lubuntu on an old laptop for my brother once. On my old desktop I downloaded a linux kernel recently,to see if I can have some fun with the modules

  138. Lijah

    I have a HP dv7 laptop with 4g memory, 2g ram, it run Vista home pre. mium, extra modem, and it has a tv turner. Bought it in 2009, when running it sounds like a loud machine, the fan runs continuously; and very often I get a blue screen while watching tv. I cleaned the vents wilt can air, and it still runs loud. What should I do?

More Articles You Might Like

Enter Your Email Here to Get Access for Free:

Go check your email!