What To Do With an Old Laptop: 12 Brilliant Ideas

Got a laptop gathering dust or wondering what to do with an old laptop?

Trust me; I’ve been there; owning a laptop past its prime could be a dilemma.

But fret not! This article is your comprehensive guide to handling your aging tech buddy responsibly, whether by finding it a new purpose or appropriately recycling it.

So stick around because we’ll turn your technological challenge into an opportunity!

Key Takeaways

  • Recycling or donating your old laptop is crucial to reduce electronic waste and minimize environmental impact . Improper disposal in landfills can have harmful effects due to the toxic substances inside.
  • Before recycling or donating, remember to back up your important files using cloud storage or external backup aids. Also, securely delete sensitive information and clear browsing history from all browsers on the laptop.
  • Factory resetting the laptop is essential to remove personal data and ensure a fresh start for the next user. De-authorize programs, uninstall unnecessary software and consider doing a system reset if needed.
  • Get creative with your old laptop by experimenting with new operating systems like Linux – based distributions or repurposing it as a media server. These alternatives can breathe new life into your device and offer exciting possibilities for usage.

Why You Shouldn’t Dispose of Your Laptop in a Landfill

What to do with an old laptop - don't let them pile up in a landfill.

Think about this: Tossing your laptop into a landfill might seem like an easy cleaning solution, but the impact is far from negligible. Electronics usually contain harmful substances such as lead, mercury, and cadmium, which you don’t want to leach into our Earth or air.

The Electronic waste (E-waste) problem continues to grow. We can chalk that up to Earth’s booming population and the rapid tech advancements we’ve seen in recent years.

In reality, merely a fraction of global e-waste is managed appropriately, making each disposed of laptop much more than simple clutter; it’s part of an environmental predicament we’re yet to tackle effectively.

Our beloved devices are often shipped from rich nations to countries less equipped for safe processing procedures—the wrong side of globalization no one wants to discuss.

When you factor in data security concerns on top of health and environmental threats—imagine personal information falling into evil hands—it becomes clear trashing our tech should be a last resort option only.

Luckily there are plenty of better alternatives out there!

Prepare Your Old Laptop for Reuse

Before recycling or donating your laptop, preparing it for reuse is important. Here’s a video I’ve used to prepare my laptops:

How to Safely Prepare Your Computer for Sale or Donation

Back up Your Files

Sure, it might sound tedious, but you don’t want to lose those cute cat videos or important work presentations.

Back up your files and destroy sensitive information on your old laptop.
  1. Choose your preferred backup method: Cloud storage solutions like Google Drive, OneDrive, or Dropbox can be used for file backups, and they are incredibly easy to use. Just make sure you’re connected to the internet!
  2. Get external backup aids if needed: If cloud storage services aren’t enough or not your thing, consider investing in an External HDD or SSD. One option I personally recommend is the Seagate Portable 1TB. It provides ample storage space and is quite reliable.
  3. Copy all essential data: This includes documents, photos, videos, music files – anything you might need in the future.
  4. Remember software licenses: If programs like Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite are installed on your laptop, remember that these require de-authorization before installing them on a new computer.
  5. Secure sensitive information: Destroy sensitive files with tools like CCleaner, Eraser, or File Shredder to leave no traces of your private information.
  6. Clear browsing history: Don’t forget to delete browser history from Safari, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer (if anyone still uses this), Microsoft Edge, and Mozilla Firefox browsers.

Factory Reset Your Laptop

Trust me, factory resetting your laptop can be as easy as baking a cake if you follow the right steps. Here’s a clear-cut guide to making it happen:

  1. Uninstall any other software programs that the next user wouldn’t need.
  2. Now comes the main part: system reset! If you use a Windows system, you must go through ‘Settings’> ‘Update & Security’> ‘Recover.’. For MacOS users, you’d have to restart while holding down Command + R until the Apple logo appears, then follow through with Disk Utility for a factory reset.
  3. Powerwash is your friend for factory reset if you’re using ChromeOS (like in Chromebooks).

Creative Uses for Your Old Laptop

You don’t have to donate or send your laptop somewhere for reuse. You can keep it and reuse it for something else.

There are endless possibilities, from experimenting with new operating systems to creating a web interface for a DIY tablet or even setting up a home security cam.

Trust me; you don’t want to miss out on these exciting ideas. Keep reading for some truly inspiring uses for your old laptop. And if you’re replacing your laptop, perhaps you’re an author or writer, take a look here at the best laptop for authors based on cost and performance.

1. Experiment with a New Operating System

Alternative operating systems.

One of the most exciting things you can do with an old laptop is experiment with a new operating system. Linux-based OS like Ubuntu, Mint, elementary OS, and Manjaro offer great alternatives to traditional Windows or macOS.

Installing one of these open-source OSs can revitalize your laptop and give it a new lease on life. You’ll be amazed at how smooth and efficient these systems run on older hardware, breathing new life into your trusty companion.

Not only will you get a fresh interface and improved performance, but you’ll also have access to a vast array of free software. The possibilities are endless, from productivity tools like LibreOffice to multimedia players like VLC!

Plus, Linux distributions are known for their strong security features, keeping your data safe while you explore your reimagined laptop’s exciting capabilities.

2. Set Up a Media Server

Do you have an old pc with a stack of movies, music, or TV shows waiting to be enjoyed? Turn your old computer into a media server and bring entertainment to any device in your home. Here’s how:

  1. Install media server software: Transform your old computer into a hub for all your favorite media by installing software like Kodi or Plex. These platforms allow you to access locally stored music, podcasts, and videos on multiple devices throughout your home.
  2. Stream to smart TVs and gaming consoles: With your media server up and running, you can easily stream content to smart TVs and gaming consoles using apps or plugins designed for these devices. Sit back, relax, and enjoy your favorite shows on the big screen.
  3. Access content on smartphones and tablets: No more huddling around a small laptop screen! Use the power of your old laptop as a media server to wirelessly connect smartphones and tablets in your home to stream movies and music on these portable devices.
  4. Organize your media library: Take advantage of the features offered by media server software to organize your vast collection of movies, TV shows, and songs. Add artwork, descriptions, and metadata to create an attractive, user-friendly interface for browsing your files.
  5. Personalize streaming settings: Customize the streaming experience by adjusting settings such as video quality, subtitles, and audio preferences within the media server software. Tailor the viewing experience to suit each viewer’s preferences.
  6. Expand storage capacity with external drives: If the storage capacity of your old laptop is limited, consider connecting external hard drives or network-attached storage (NAS) devices to expand the amount of media you can store on your server. This way, you’ll never run out of space for new additions.
  7. Share with friends and family: Hosting a movie night at home? Share access to your media server with friends or family members so they can enjoy your vast collection too. Simply create user accounts with restricted permissions and set up parental controls if needed.
  8. Enjoy media on the go: Want to take your media server on the road? Simply connect to a VPN service, set up port forwarding on your home network, and you can access your media library from anywhere using a laptop or mobile device.

3. Convert It Into a Home Server

Another creative way to repurpose your laptop is by converting it into a home server. With the right software and setup, you can transform your old laptop into a powerful network-attached storage (NAS) device or game server that can store and share files across your home network. Here’s how:

  1. Install NAS software: Use open-source NAS software like TrueNAS Core, Rockstor, FileCloud, or XigmaNAS to turn your laptop into a fully functional server. These programs allow you to create a centralized storage system that can be accessed by multiple devices in your home.
  2. Connect external storage drives: Enhance the storage capacity of your server by connecting external hard drives or solid-state drives (SSDs) to your laptop. With options like the Seagate Portable 1TB external HDD, you can easily expand the available space for files and media.
  3. Set up disk management: Use built-in tools like Disk Utility on macOS or NVRAM on Windows to manage and configure the connected storage drives. This allows you to organize and allocate space efficiently for different data types.
  4. Configure access permissions: Create user accounts with different levels of access permissions to ensure secure file sharing within your home network. This way, you can control who can access specific folders and files stored on the server.
  5. Enable remote access: To access your home server remotely, enable features like VPN or port forwarding on your router. This will allow secure connections from outside networks, giving you convenient access to your files wherever you are.
  6. Utilize cloud syncing: To enhance data redundancy and accessibility further, consider using cloud storage services like Google Drive, OneDrive, or Dropbox in conjunction with your home server. By syncing important files between your server and cloud storage, you’ll have an additional backup layer and easy access from any device.

4. Create an Anonymous Internet Browsing Machine

If you’re concerned about online privacy and want to browse the internet anonymously, repurposing your laptop this way could be the perfect solution. With Linux distributions like TAILS, Whonix, and Qubes OS, you can transform your laptop into an anonymous internet browsing machine.

These operating systems prioritize security and privacy by routing your internet connection through the Tor network or using other advanced security measures. Installing one of these Linux distros on your laptop gives you a dedicated device for private browsing with enhanced protection against tracking and surveillance.

5. Set Up a WiFi Hotspot

You can set up a public WiFi with your old laptop.

Here’s how you can set up a WiFi hotspot with your old laptop:

  1. Install hotspot software: Install specialized software that will allow your laptop to function as a WiFi hotspot. Several options are available such as Connectify Hotspot, MyPublicWiFi, and Baidu WiFi Hotspot. Choose one that is compatible with your system.
  2. Configure network settings: Once the software is installed, open the program and configure the network settings. You can choose the name of your hotspot (SSID) and set a password for security purposes.
  3. Enable internet sharing: Go to your laptop’s network settings and locate the “Internet Connection Sharing” option to enable internet sharing. Check the box to allow other devices to connect through this computer’s internet connection.
  4. Connect devices: Now that your WiFi hotspot is up and running, you can connect other devices, such as smartphones, tablets, or laptops to it just like you would with any regular WiFi network.
  5. Enjoy wireless connectivity: Voila! Your old laptop has transformed into a powerful WiFi hotspot, providing wireless connectivity for all connected devices. You can now browse the web, stream videos, or work online from anywhere within range.

6. Create a Starter PC for Relatives

Why not repurpose your old PC as a starter desktop PC for your relatives who may need some help navigating the digital world? With a little setup, you can create user accounts with restricted permissions and parental controls to ensure their PC activities are safe and secure.

Plus, remote-control programs like TeamViewer can be installed so that you can provide them with assistance and updates from afar. It’s a great way to introduce them to technology while sharing your knowledge and expertise.

7. Convert Into a Kitchen or Guest PC

One of the creative ways you can repurpose your old computer is by transforming it into a kitchen or guest PC. Instead of letting it gather dust in a drawer, give it a new life as an entertainment hub in the heart of your home or as a convenient device for guests.

With its compact size and functionality, your old computer can easily serve as a recipe book holder, allowing you to easily cook up culinary delights. Additionally, you can set up streaming services like Netflix or Spotify on the laptop so guests can enjoy their favorite shows or music during their stay.

Repurposing your old computer for this purpose reduces electronic waste and adds convenience and entertainment value to your everyday life.

8. Create a DIY Tablet

What to do with an old laptop? Repurpose it into a tablet.

This cost-effective and creative project allows you to transform your outdated hardware into a sleek and portable device.

By disconnecting the screen from the keyboard and attaching it to a separate enclosure or frame, you can enjoy all the benefits of having a tablet without investing in a new one.

Whether you’re using it for entertainment, browsing the internet, reading e-books, or even as a digital sketchpad, creating your own DIY tablet gives you full control over its size, design, and features.

9. Set Up a Home Security Camera

Another creative idea is to set it up as a second monitor for a home security cam. Not only will this give new life to your old device, but it can also provide an extra layer of security for your home. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Install a webcam: Connect an external webcam to your laptop. This will serve as the camera for your home security system.
  2. Choose surveillance software: Look for surveillance software that is compatible with your laptop’s operating system. Popular options include iSpy, Blue Iris, and Sighthound.
  3. Position the laptop: Choose a strategic location where the laptop can capture a wide view of the area you want to monitor. Consider placing it near entry points or in common areas.
  4. Set up motion detection: Configure your surveillance software to detect any motion within its field of view. This feature will trigger recording when movement is detected, saving storage space and making it easier to review footage.
  5. Enable remote access: Many surveillance software programs offer remote access capabilities, allowing you to watch the live feed or playback recordings from anywhere using your smartphone or another computer.
  6. Customize settings: Adjust settings such as sensitivity levels, recording duration, and notification preferences according to your needs and preferences.
  7. Ensure power supply: Keep in mind that running a laptop continuously as a home security cam will require a stable power source. Consider connecting it to a reliable power outlet or using an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to prevent disruptions.
  8. Secure the laptop: Mount or position it securely so it remains stable and inconspicuous while capturing surveillance footage.

10. Set Up an Old-School Gaming Station

With a few simple steps, you can transform your laptop into a retro gaming machine and a portal to the nostalgic world of classic games. Here’s how:

  1. Install Emulators: Emulators are software programs that allow you to play games from older consoles and platforms on your laptop. From vintage arcade games to console classics, emulators cover various gaming experiences.
  2. Retro Game ROMs: Once you have the emulator set up, you’ll need some game files known as ROMs. These files contain the data for specific games that can be loaded and played on the emulator. A quick online search will lead you to countless websites where you can download ROMs for free.
  3. Connect Controllers: To truly immerse yourself in the retro gaming experience, connect USB controllers or Bluetooth gamepads to your laptop. This will give you a more authentic feel and make playing games more enjoyable.
  4. Customize Your Setup: Get creative with your old-school gaming station’s aesthetics. Consider decorating the area with retro posters or setting up an old CRT monitor for extra nostalgia.
  5. Expand Your Library: As you delve deeper into retro gaming, explore forums, online communities, and YouTube channels dedicated to this passion. You’ll discover hidden gems and receive recommendations for must-play classics across various genres.
  6. Multiplayer Fun: Many classic games offer multiplayer options locally or through network connectivity if you want to challenge friends or family members. Gather around your newly created gaming station for hours of competitive fun.
  7. Create Save States: One advantage of using emulators is the ability to create save states, allowing you to pause and resume gameplay at any point without worrying about losing progress or passwords.

  8. Revisit PC Classics: Don’t forget about PC games from yesteryears. Your laptop can handle many beloved titles that have stood the test of time, such as “RollerCoaster Tycoon,” “Age of Empires,” and “Diablo II.”
  9. Game Mods: Explore the world of game modifications or mods. These community-created add-ons bring new features, levels, and enhancements to classic games, keeping them fresh and exciting.
  10. Share Your Passion: Once your gaming station is up and running, share your enthusiasm with others. Connect with fellow retro gamers online or even organize local meetups to celebrate the golden age of gaming.

11. Donate Computer Processing Power

I love giving back and making a difference, even with an old laptop. Donating your computer’s processing power is a fantastic way to contribute to important research projects or humanitarian initiatives.

BIONC enables you to donate unused computing power to science.
BIONC lets you donate unused computing power to science.

Installing software like BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing) on your own laptop computers allows you to join a network of volunteers worldwide who collectively provide computing resources for various causes.

For example, projects like Folding@home utilize donated processing and computing power to study protein folding and help find cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, and COVID-19.

12. Prepare It for Remote Meetings

As someone who frequently relies on remote meetings, I understand the importance of having a reliable device to stay connected and productive. Here are some ways you can prepare your laptop for seamless video conferences and virtual collaborations:

  1. Clean up and optimize: Give your old PC a facelift by removing unnecessary files and programs. Use a tool like CCleaner or Eraser to securely delete sensitive data, including browser history and personal files.
  2. Update software: Ensure your operating system (OS) is updated with the latest security patches and features. Windows users can check for updates in the Settings menu, while Mac users can use the Software Update feature.
  3. Install essential software: Download and install popular video conferencing tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet. These applications will allow you to join or host virtual meetings seamlessly.
  4. Test audio and video settings: Before your first remote meeting, ensure your microphone and camera are working properly. Check the settings in your conferencing application to ensure they are using the correct input/output devices.
  5. Set up a dedicated workspace: Designate a quiet area in your home where you can focus on remote meetings without interruptions. Ensure you have proper lighting, a comfortable chair, and a clutter-free background for professional-looking video calls.
  6. Familiarize yourself with meeting features: Take some time to explore the features of your chosen conferencing app. Learn how to mute/unmute yourself, share your screen, use chat functions, and record meetings if necessary.
  7. Join early for troubleshooting: To avoid technical hiccups during important meetings, log in a few minutes before the scheduled start time to test your connectivity, audio quality, and video settings.

Donate or Recycle Your Laptop

Where to Donate Your Laptop

Here are some organizations and programs where you can donate your laptop:

  • National Cristina Foundation: This foundation helps connect donated technology with people with disabilities, at-risk students, and economically disadvantaged individuals.
  • Computers with Causes: This organization provides computers to families and individuals in need, including low-income students, disabled veterans, and nonprofit organizations.
  • human-I-T: With a mission to bridge the digital divide, human-I-T refurbishes donated laptops and distributes them to underserved communities and schools.
  • World Computer Exchange: This global organization collects used laptops and donates them to schools in developing countries, helping to improve access to education.
  • Digitunity: Digitunity aims to close the digital divide by providing refurbished laptops to low-income individuals, seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities.

How to Recycle Your Laptop

Recycling your laptop is a responsible way to dispose of electronic waste and help protect the environment. Here’s how:

  1. Research recycling programs: Check if the laptop manufacturer, such as Apple, Dell, Lenovo, or HP, has a recycling program. These programs ensure that your laptop is properly disposed of and recycled.
  2. Local recycling centers: Find local e-waste recycling centers through resources like Earth911 and the Consumer Technology Association’s Greener Gadgets program. These centers specialize in handling electronic waste and can safely recycle your laptop.
  3. Best Buy: The popular electronics retailer offers a convenient recycling program where you can drop off your laptop for proper disposal. They have rigorous recycling standards to minimize environmental impact.
  4. Donation organizations: Consider donating your laptop to charities or computer-based charities like the National Cristina Foundation or Computers with Causes. These organizations refurbish computers and provide them to those in need.
  5. Data security: Ensure all personal data is securely erased from the laptop’s hard drive before recycling. Use disk utility tools like CCleaner, Eraser, or File Shredder to permanently delete sensitive files and clear browser history.
  6. Uninstall programs: De-authorize software licenses like Microsoft Office, iTunes, Adobe Creative Suite, etc., before disposing of the laptop.
  7. Dispose responsibly: When dropping off your laptop at a recycling center or donation organization, follow their packaging and disposal instructions guidelines to ensure safe handling during transportation.

Wrapping Up What to Do With an Old Laptop

In conclusion, your old laptop doesn’t have to end up as electronic waste. Properly recycling or donating it can help reduce carbon emissions and provide much-needed technology to those in need.

Plus, with creativity and DIY know-how, you can repurpose your old laptop for various fun and practical uses.

Now you know what to do with an old laptop…

So before tossing it in the trash, consider all the possibilities and give your loyal companion a second life!”.


1. What are some options for disposing of an old laptop?

There are several options for disposing of old laptops responsibly. You can recycle it through a certified e-waste recycling program, donate it to a charity or organization in need, sell it online or locally, or repurpose it for other uses.

2. How do I securely wipe the data from my old laptop before disposing it?

To securely wipe the data from your old laptop, you can use specialized software for data destruction, such as DBAN (Darik’s Boot and Nuke) or CCleaner. Alternatively, you can remove the hard drive and physically destroy it if you’re concerned about sensitive information falling into the wrong hands.

3. Can I upgrade components on my old laptop to extend its lifespan?

In some cases, upgrading certain components on old laptops can help extend their lifespan and improve performance. Common upgrades include increasing RAM capacity, replacing the hard drive with a solid-state drive (SSD), or upgrading the operating system to a newer version if supported by your device.

4. Are there any environmentally friendly options for reusing an old laptop?

Yes! If your old laptop still functions but no longer meets your needs, you can consider repurposing it instead of throwing it away. For example, you could turn it into a media center connected to your TV with streaming capabilities or convert it into a dedicated home security monitor using webcam software and motion detection tools.

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