Back in November we asked what you would do with an old unused laptop. If you have an old laptop that’s not doing much more than gathering dust, chances are you could put it to better use. You could sell it, but you probably wouldn’t get too much for it. Donating or recycling can also get it out your hair, but if you’d like to try something different, read on for some ideas.
Salvage usable parts
Not the flashiest choice, but potentially the most useful one. Just because the processor and RAM no longer meet your needs doesn’t mean that the hard drive, optical drive, and even the LCD screen should be thrown out too. All of these parts can be easily removed, and, with the exception of the screen in some cases, do not require total dismantling. When removing any of these parts, be careful to remove all mounting screws and carefully detach any cables before removing it from the case. LCD monitors almost always have a cable that attaches directly to the mainboard, and tearing it could render the monitor useless. If you wreck it, you’ll have to buy a new monitor to extend your desktop display.
Of course, you can also get a wealth of small parts from an old laptop, including screws, jumpers, heatsinks, cables, LEDs, and even keys from the keyboard. FRC Tech offers a good instructional page on the basics of dismantling a laptop, and a forum on ThinkComputers.com offers a comprehensive set of guides to taking apart many different Toshiba laptops.
Make a digital picture frame
A digital picture frame can be a great gift that you made yourself. Your mom would probably like it more than the ceramic pencil holder you made in the third grade. Unlike that time, though, you’ll have to decide whether the frame will show only preloaded images or whether it will access an online source like Flickr. PopSci.com offers this useful guide to building your own photo frame, as does Repair4Laptop.org.
Install Linux and make a media extender
Old laptops aren’t great at running memory or processor-intensive software, but they can make great Linux terminals. You could outfit it with Linux for exclusive internet use, data storage, or even for controlling other devices like a home entertainment center. Unfortunately you may also have to retrofit it with a larger harddrive or WiFi card to get better use out of it. Yesterday we mentioned both MythTV and XBMC as alternative frontends. This article at Linux.com has more information on building a Linux home media center. There’s also this guide by The MediaCenter Expert or this article by ZDNet’s George Ou.
Get creative with upgrades
Sure, you could do the standard mods and add WiFi or Bluetooth, but why not get adventurous with your modding? You could give the old laptop a snazzy wooden case mod, an extremely potent air-cooling system, or switch to the qwerty keyboard out for a Dvorak keyboard. Your imagination is the limit.
In the spirit of our previous post, what would you do?