A PlayStation 4 console on top of an Xbox One.
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The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and S ushered in a new generation of console gaming. Since backward compatibility is such a big deal this generation, it’s possible you no longer have much use for your old console. So what do you do with an old console you no longer need?

Consider Donating Your Old Consoles

By far, one of the most impactful things that you can do with your old console is to donate it to a charitable organization. This could be a children’s hospital or a domestic violence shelter in your area, or it could be an established charity like Gamer’s Outreach (U.S.) or Get Well Gamers (U.K.).

Giving your old console to a thrift store or selling it online through eBay for Charity can also make a difference since you’ll be raising money for a good cause.

A PlayStation 4 console with a bow on it.
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We would recommend contacting any institutions first via phone or email to learn more about their policies for accepting donated goods. Don’t forget to include any old games, controllers, and peripherals that you no longer need either.

You could also donate directly to friends, neighbors, or anyone else whom you think might get some entertainment out of your old console. Not everyone can afford a brand new system, and not everyone is invested in video games enough to spend a few hundred dollars. You could awaken a passion for video games in someone who’s never touched a controller before.

If you own a PlayStation 4 and you’re upgrading to the PS5, you’re less likely to play your old games on the older system thanks to the PS5’s backward compatibility. Newer consoles run older games better, often with enhancements or optimized versions. The same can be said for the Xbox Series X and Series S, both of which are backward compatible with several generations of Xbox.

Use Your Old Console as a Media Center

Both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 (as well as older consoles like the Xbox 360 and Wii U) have apps for accessing most major streaming services. This includes premium streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+, free streaming services like YouTube, music from Spotify and Pandora, or live streaming platforms like Twitch.

While the PlayStation 4 can play DVDs and regular HD Blu-Rays, the Xbox One is able to handle 4K discs in high dynamic range. Both consoles can play files from USB storage, with the Xbox One family even supporting x265 (HEVC) files.

All you need is a TV or a monitor to plug your old console into, and somewhere to put it. You can use an external USB drive to add storage, with both the Xbox One and PS4 supporting external hard drives.

Game Streaming Is a Viable Option, Too

Sony has a game streaming service called PS Now. This premium service lets you stream games from the internet directly to your console without being limited by the hardware. The service is often touted for its emphasis on older PS2 and PS3 titles, but modern PS4 titles are also included.

(Microsoft has its own Xbox Cloud Gaming streaming service, but it can only stream to Android devices. You can’t stream games to an old console.)

If you’ve already bought a PS5, you can use your PS4 to stream games to your console over your local network. This allows you to play PS5 games on your PS4, provided that your network is up to the task. This means that you can stream games from your living room PS5 to a PS4 in your bedroom at glorious 1080p resolution.

Network performance will affect the viability of game streaming, both in terms of online streaming and local remote play. If you’re going for local play, a wired ethernet connection will give you a more consistent experience.

Better Multiplayer and Co-op Gaming

Even though the next generation of games consoles is already here, your old consoles should work fine for a few more years at least. If you have multiple gamers in your house, two consoles can help keep the peace. Playing together is often more fun than playing alone, too.

One of the most compelling reasons to hold on to your old console is for multiplayer purposes. Two consoles mean that two players can play together, each with their own display. There are tons of multiplayer experiences that can benefit you, including co-op campaigns, competitive online play, and survival sandbox games.

This includes games like Halo, where entire campaigns can be played together. Fallout 76, Sea of Thieves, and Red Dead Redemption 2 all offer immersive online worlds that are lots of fun to explore together. Hectic shooters like Borderlands can suffer performance drops in split-screen, but that’s a problem that you won’t have if you’re both using separate consoles.

Cross-play is also becoming more prevalent, with games like Minecraft, Rocket League, Call of Duty: Warzone, and Battlefield V allowing players to play together regardless of whether or not they’re using Sony, Microsoft, or PC hardware.

With PS4 and Xbox One games now being considered last-generation, game prices will fall. You’ll find more used copies in thrift stores and online marketplaces. There are bargains to be found, but the games are still just as good as they always were.

Check Out the Homebrew Scene

Homebrew is user-developed software designed to run on closed systems like game consoles. It requires you to circumvent protections put in place by the manufacturer to run custom code. Once you’ve got access to the console’s operating system, you can install your own apps.

How far you get with homebrew ultimately depends on which console you have, how technically proficient you are, and much of the time, how lucky you’re feeling. If you have a Wii or a Wii U, then you’ll find a wealth of homebrew available to you, including user-made channels, emulators, and launchers for loading games directly from the disk.

Reddit communities like r/WiiHacks and r/ps4homebrew are a huge help when attempting this sort of thing. There’s plenty of risks involved, and you could—possibly—end up bricking your console entirely. You’ll also want to avoid using primary accounts (those you still use or have used to purchase games) since companies like Nintendo and Sony often ban users whom they suspect of hacking.

RetroArch menu icons

The Xbox One remains one of the only consoles to never be “hacked” for use with homebrew. Despite this, Microsoft supports a developer mode that allows you to run Universal Windows Program (UWP) apps on your Xbox, provided that you install them yourself. By doing this, you can use your Xbox One or Xbox Series X|S console as an emulation box.

Whether it’s ultimately worth it to you depends on the level of risk you’re comfortable with, and also, what you want to use the console for. Emulators are a popular choice thanks to projects like RetroArch. Just be sure that you understand the legal implications of emulation and ROMs.

RELATED: How to Install the RetroArch Emulator on Xbox Series X or S

Dead or Dying Console? Try and Fix It Yourself

You could sell your “broken” console for a pittance on eBay, or you could try and fix it yourself. This can be a rewarding experience in which you learn a thing or two about hardware. If you know what’s broken, you can find spare consoles on eBay for a pittance, after all.

The most common problems will be disc drives that no longer read discs, and dead hard drives. These are relatively easy parts to swap out, and you can even upgrade components like the hard drive while you’re at it to increase the console’s overall capacity.

A person repairing the inside of a PlayStation 4 Pro console.
nelladel/Shutterstock.com

You may have other problems, like a dying fan, poor thermal performance (heat dissipation) due to dust build-up, or buttons that no longer work as expected. iFixit can help you find your way around the hardware, while communities like Reddit’s r/consolerepair offer constructive feedback. Then there’s YouTube, with endless video tutorials from enthusiasts to help you along the way.

Just be careful and make sure that you know what you’re doing before you open up the console. You can still give yourself a nasty shock, even if the console is off and unplugged. You’ll probably want a few basic tools, like an anti-static wristband or mat and a screwdriver set, before diving in.

A console that you’ve fixed yourself can live for many more years, which is better than having it die a premature death as a pile of e-waste.

Will You Be Upgrading to Next Gen?

The PS4 and Xbox One might qualify as “last-gen” at this point, but they’re not that old. Games are still being released for these platforms and will be for years to come. As the dust settles on the generation, used discs will continue to get cheaper. There’s plenty of life in these platforms yet.

But when you do eventually decide that it’s time for an upgrade, take a moment to consider what’s best for your old hardware rather than simply letting it collect dust under the TV.

Ready to pull the trigger on a new console? Here’s why you should avoid the all-digital versions.

RELATED: Why You Shouldn't Buy an All-Digital PS5 or Next-Gen Xbox

Tim Brookes Tim Brookes
Tim Brookes is a technology writer with more than a decade of experience. He's invested in the Apple ecosystem, with experience covering Macs, iPhones, and iPads for publications like Zapier and MakeUseOf.
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