Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

What would you do with a spare computer?

With a bit of luck, Hari and I will be picking up the keys for our new place today – we’re well into packing stuff although there’s still lots to do. One of Hari’s current housemates is donating his old computer, which he no longer needs and doesn’t want to sell, mainly because it’s rather old and wouldn’t sell for much and hasn’t got a monitor or keyboard (and isn’t able to take it for recycling). So we’re taking it.
Except I don’t actually know what to do with it.

The computer has an 800Mhz processor, 30 GB hard drive and 32 MB graphics. It’s recent enough to have 2 USB ports and an internal modem, but not recent enough to have a network socket. It also comes with not one, not two, but three optical drives – a CD-ROM drive, a CD-RW drive and a DVD-ROM drive. I have no idea what operating system it has but I’d imagine it’ll be Windows 98.

The lack of a network socket means its usefulness is somewhat limited, but adding one isn’t going to be difficult. Even then, I’m unsure what it can be used for. Its hard drive is a bit too small for a network server, and to make it into a router would require adding 2 network cards and a Wifi card if we wanted that as well. Furthermore, if it was a router it would probably have to go in the living room and I’d prefer not to have a big beige box there if possible – I’d rather have my Mac Mini, given the choice, or preferably a dedicated router which we’ll probably need to buy. A dedicated router would also use up less electricity, seeing as it’ll be on 24/7 essentially.

I can get an old CRT monitor for it and I’m sure I can pick up a cheap keyboard from somewhere so it won’t cost much to make it into a decent computer system, but I can’t imagine there’d be much demand for a computer of that vintage if I were to sell it. Hari and I between us already have 3 computers – my MacBook and Mac Mini, and her XCcube – so we don’t need another system really. So what would you lot do?


  1. Well, here at Creation we’re part of a scheme to donate unwanted computers, which might be useful for you.

  2. Donate it to a school or a place that can use it.

  3. I stuck a spare network card in a similar system and use it as a networked cd/dvd-writer since the laptop I’m currently using as my main machine only has a flaky cd/dvd reader. (I really do need to get round to fixing my desktop some time).
    Alternatively you can donate it as Trovster suggested, I’m not aware of any groups in Bradford but there are certainly groups in York and Sheffield.
    Or, you can build something out of the parts eg. Junk box flowers

  4. I like the artwork idea. And it works well on a computer security level too. Once you’ve finished with a hard disk destroy it… and get creative with the remains!

  5. I tend to use systems like that for servers. We have an old system running Ventrilo server for our gaming needs.
    I would also suggest Linux if your interested in that sort of thing. Other than that, a church donation or donation to a good home is always a good choice.

  6. I’ve got my foot on a laptop as I write this. I bought it a while back for a few projects I eventually scrapped, and have yet to do anything with it. If I commuted to work, I could see a use for it, but if it was a full-sized computer like in your case, I would just donate it or sell it on craigslist.