Ten things you can do keep an old computer useful

I spend my working hours on a 2.26Ghz machine, but my play time is devoted to the hardware of the last century. I sometimes get questions about how to work with a second-string computer, and usually my answers are something on this list. I could give a lot more, but these are the most frequent.

  1. Keep it clean. Any hardware geek will tell you that dust, dirt, grime and funk keep a computer from running peak. And any hardware geek with a shred of pride will show you a computer case clean enough to eat out of. Dust impedes fans. Dirt creates a thermal layer that makes things overheat. Grime blocks connections. (No joke: I’ve seen computers “magically” start working again just by cleaning dust from the case and motherboard.)
  2. Keep it in working order. It should go without saying, but using flaky or error-prone hardware puts the rest of the system at risk. So don’t be afraid to splurge on a new 200W power supply for your 450Mhz desktop if the old one is acting funny. Or an extra 64Mb for your aging Thinkpad. It’s worth it. And so is a little protection: An added layer of ventilation or a better fan is not overkill if you care about the hardware you’re running.
  3. Do your homework. It’s an obvious analogy, but not having a basic understanding of the inside of your computer is kind of like not having a basic understanding of the inside of your car. You don’t have to know how to field-strip and overclock an Athlon box, but you should at least have an idea what might be wrong when something misbehaves inside your K6-2+ 550.
  4. Pick the OS that fits. Don’t expect straight Ubuntu to run on a 333Mhz computer. Don’t expect straight Xubuntu to run on a 166Mhz box. But don’t feel bad because your machine doesn’t play well with the distro of your choice. For every favorite distro there’s a second place finisher, and there’s no shame in using a different flavor on a different machine. I regularly use a lighter distribution (like Arch, SLAX or Zenwalk) on machines that can’t handle Ubuntu’s bulk.
  5. Pick a filesystem that fits. If you don’t know what that means, read more about filesystems and find one that’s appropriate for your hardware. I’m not going to just tell you which one is right, because it depends on your processor, your hard drive, your IO connections and your file workload — all at the same time.
  6. Use a smooth desktop. I’m not a big Gnome or KDE fan, and if you’re on an old machine you probably aren’t either. There’s nothing wrong with them — they’re just too heavy for my purposes. If you’re running an old machine, take the time to learn Fluxbox, Openbox, IceWM or even FVWM. A svelte window manager can be the difference between life and death for an older machine.
  7. Lighten the load. Throw out the stuff you don’t use, or don’t want in the way. Drop the unwanted packages, services, features and frills that slow you down. Sure, my 300Mhz Pentium II can do pure transparency and composited windows, but I don’t run that nonstop. I save it to show off to other geeks. If it’s too slow, it’s got to go.
  8. Or better yet, start from scratch. It’s more effective than sifting through a bulky installation. And it’s almost a guarantee that any system you customize from scratch will perform better than one you rip the guts out of. If you take charge of what’s on your machine and add only what you want, the end result will always be faster. Some distros work this way by default.
  9. Learn to love the terminal. You can get an amazing number of things done in a terminal window, and on a slow machine, this is critical. Don’t be afraid to relegate tasks like music management, IRC, e-mail, file management or torrent downloading to a terminal window. Old machines thrive on console applications and the final product is generally indistinguishable from that of a chunky GUI app.
  10. Show it off. Make it pretty. Repaint it. Cover it with stickers. Mod the case. Let your kids illustrate it. Doom it up. You’re more likely to keep and use a machine that looks good and makes the local geek green with envy … than one that looks like a heap of dirty junk. No matter what speed it runs. ;)
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138 Responses to “Ten things you can do keep an old computer useful”

  1. 1 gunnix 2007/03/16 at 5:35 PM

    My brother recently got a computer for free from someone because it was broken.
    He tried to fix it but gave it away to my little brother. I helped him out by taking everything apart and cleaning the dust off, and putting back. It worked perfect after that. My other brother was pissed he gave away what he thought wasn’t working :) (definately nice cause he’s got a huge ego lol)

  2. 2 mpiasecki 2007/03/17 at 9:28 PM

    Good thought process there. I have a PentiumMMX 133 running FreeBSD with blackbox and dillo for web browsing. Everything else it pretty much though $bash if I can help it.

  3. 3 Danny 2007/03/19 at 9:52 PM

    I would submit this post to Digg, but I wouldn’t want your site to be down. The Digg effect can be doom.

    Excellent advice. Something every Linux and old hardware geek should have on their wall.

  4. 4 K.Mandla 2007/03/20 at 11:57 AM

    :D Digg if you like; WordPress can handle it. Thanks.

  5. 5 Danny 2007/03/20 at 9:51 PM

    You done been dugg, dude!

  6. 6 mdm-adph 2007/03/21 at 9:55 AM

    it’s not WordPress you have to worry about — it’s your server!

  7. 8 Jaymoon 2007/03/21 at 9:57 AM

    Very good suggestion about finding alternative programs that run faster.

    Azureus too slow? Try Ktorrent.
    Browsing through your video folder in Nautilus takes forever? Try PCMan File Manager.

    I installed Xubuntu on an old 450MHZ computer I had laying around, and it runs so much smoother than Suse 10.1 with Gnome that I had been running before…

  8. 9 mk2ja 2007/03/21 at 9:59 AM

    You should put one of those Digg buttons on here, too. I was apparently not logged in when I saw this on Digg, but now that I logged in, I can’t find it again to Digg it!

  9. 10 Binaryspiral 2007/03/21 at 10:07 AM

    Smoothwall and a couple of nics makes any old system into a firewall that can handle more traffic that the latest offerings from Linksys, Dlink, or Netgear… and much more configurable.

    My $0.02 anyway.

    • 11 Beeker 2009/03/26 at 11:52 PM

      Very true – I used a 100Mhz Pentium with 64Mb RAM as a firewall running IPCop for six years or more. There’s a plugin for IPCop that allows you to download the configuration to another machine, so even if the ancient disk fails, you just pop another in, run the installer again and restore your config. Brilliant.

      Eventually I restructured my network so I didn’t need the IPCop box anymore.

  10. 12 Jeffery Lebowski 2007/03/21 at 10:09 AM

    Sound more like a guide to keeping a Sun Pizza Box alive!

  11. 13 lpcustom 2007/03/21 at 10:13 AM

    “it’s not WordPress you have to worry about — it’s your server!”

    Yo dummy….look at your browser’s address bar.

  12. 14 Reg 2007/03/21 at 10:15 AM


    My favorite little less than 100 MB Distro -

    Takes old 486 laptops and makes them run faster
    than a Core 2 Duo Windows Vista machine!

  13. 15 Tony P. 2007/03/21 at 10:27 AM

    At one job we had dehumidified compressed air available at several locations in the building, including one in the garage.

    Every three months I’d take PC’s out to the garage, open them up and blow out all the dust bunnies. We managed to use those PC’s for several years past their normal lifespan.

    When we were floating budget ideas I recommended a compressor. Can never have enough blowing air.

  14. 16 Douglas F Shearer 2007/03/21 at 10:34 AM

    I run several websites, svn, trac, backups, some heavy number crunching for my new folding@home stats new project ( http://fahstats.douglasfshearer.com ), folding@home, and a bittorrent server on an old 500Mhz Celeron with 192MB of RAM.

    All runs dandy, though due to a slowly dieing motherboard (I can now only connect one ATA device) and work demands it’s being replaced by a dual core Xeon machine soon.

    Has served me well for almost 10 years now.

  15. 17 Ray 2007/03/21 at 10:44 AM

    Tony P.

    Compressed air can cause static, so I would advise people to be very carefull when using compressed air to clean out their machine

  16. 18 Jonathan F 2007/03/21 at 11:00 AM

    Ray, I have to disagree with you as I have a friend who has operated a computer repair shop and has used compressed air for probably 10,000 computers and NEVER has had a problem.

  17. 19 gravity 2007/03/21 at 11:05 AM

    >Compressed air can cause static, so I would advise people to be very carefull when using compressed air to clean out their machine

    and blowing air from the mouth can cause spitting on the motherboard. what do you suggest?

  18. 21 Bob 2007/03/21 at 11:25 AM

    Endian Firewall Community Edition works qute well on anything with a PII-450 or bigger and 256MB of Ram. It’s a great way to continue to use an old machine and the firewall can keep your kids out of stuff you don’t want them in. It’s not perfect but it does work well.


  19. 22 Pat 2007/03/21 at 11:36 AM

    Some day (in 2000) I have found old Am386DX motherboard in my hardware rubbish. Because of sentiment to that configuration of PC I assembled whole machine from it. I started my PC computing adventure with that kind of machines in 1991. The machine has AMD 80386 DX 40MHz processor and 4MB of RAM. I installed Debian or Slackware on that. Can’t remember, but I’m sure kernel was 2.0.36. Everything worked as expected. It was visible slow machine. But it worked. Now I have collection of five IBM Netvistas with PIII 1GHz connected to fileserver. And my family is happy surfing on the Internet. All (and more) is controlled by Debian GNU/Linux.

  20. 23 Travis 2007/03/21 at 11:41 AM

    I have an old Dell optiplex 450 MHZ. It had been handed down through the ages from my older brother to me to my younger brother and finally nobody needed it anymore. Throw it away? Of course not!!! Me and my older brother spray painted it black (looks awesome btw if anyone has the same system) loaded knoppmyth (Distro based around mythtv – http://www.mythtv.org) on it and now it’s an always on master backend that can WoL me and my older brothers computers to record tv shows. Given it’s limited workload of fetching channel data and only one 60mm quiet-ish fan it’s perfect for the job.

  21. 24 Larry 2007/03/21 at 12:05 PM

    You could have at least mentioned Damm Small Linux. It’s great for a P-166 machine. I use it on an old HP P-233 with no hard drive for “guests” to use to get their email. Very useful.

  22. 25 Rick Sparks 2007/03/21 at 12:11 PM

    My favorite thing to do with older-generation PCs is to delegate them to time-consuming tasks such as video rendering. Since it takes my 2gHz Celeron PC ten hours to process a feature-length MPG, I’ll let the Pentium 350 I bought on eBay for a hundred bucks do the same work for seventeen hours so I can keep playing games, doing some writing, watching online documentaries, and such. Get a switcher to share the keyboard/monitor/mouse and you won’t even need a second desk, just cram the old PC in a corner. Multi-machine tasking rules!

  23. 26 Chris C 2007/03/21 at 12:31 PM

    very nice article. I love using my old computers laying around for stuff like SMB servers, apache, ventrilo servers. you can do anything with em and linux! great for any project. Like rick above, i dont hook up monitor, or keyboard or anything, in fact, I dont even like to install an X server. I throw my old comp in the closet, and I just SSH into it if I ever need to do anything to it.
    Knowing the command line is essential.

  24. 27 Chris C 2007/03/21 at 12:33 PM

    oh ya, Debian minimal install works awesome on old comps! and freeBSD.

  25. 28 me 2007/03/21 at 12:46 PM

    actually… ubuntu is not fat at all. i installed the server edition on my gf computer (133mhz 64mb toshiba lappy) and installed the packages for X on top of that.

    heavy duty packages like firefox she runs from my server and with the graphics/sound redirected to her laptop. it works great and is under 500mb.

    on the plus side i can use the same distro for every computer in the house which keeps the learning/research curve to a minimum.

  26. 29 Wanna-B 2007/03/21 at 12:50 PM

    Good stuff. I have an old Compaq I have been fiddling with, I finally got it up and running…One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Now my kid has a computer!

  27. 30 Lukaszp 2007/03/21 at 12:52 PM

    What about Gentoo and compiling/optimizing your system for the hardware you have in your machine. I don’t say it’s for everybody but for those who can do it it’s a good way to go.

  28. 31 heinzketchup 2007/03/21 at 12:54 PM

    The title as an error and isn’t really about keeping an old computer useful as to maintaining one. I thought this article would give me ideas on how to make it useful for every day stuff like let’s say turn it into a media center pc or a music player.

  29. 32 Harry Hexagon 2007/03/21 at 2:12 PM

    I highly recommend trying out Enlightenment 17 WM over Fluxbox. It is noticeably more responsive, even in spite of having a lot of extra eye-candy.

  30. 33 jc 2007/03/21 at 2:57 PM

    Nice article, since two years ago I’m running as my Internet firewall OpenBSD in a 486DX with 48MB of RAM. It doesn’t have any GUI but it just works wonderfully, inside a plastic box.

    OpenBSD 4.0 (GENERIC) #1107: Sat Sep 16 19:15:58 MDT 2006
    cpu0: Intel 486DX (486-class)
    real mem = 49905664 (48736K)
    avail mem = 37015552 (36148K)

    Free available memory is about 10-12 MB of RAM running just these processes ;) pf + ntpd + pflogd + apache + dnsmasq + noip2 + sshd + syslogd + dhclient + postfix. UNIX&LINUX ROCKS!

  31. 34 eat 2007/03/21 at 3:32 PM

    you could always use it as a table?

  32. 35 Absorto 2007/03/21 at 5:28 PM

    Old machines are great for Distributed Multihead X11 :)

  33. 36 Jeff Smith 2007/03/21 at 6:12 PM

    I also use DamnSmallLinux on an older machine. Its an old laptop.
    133Mhz Pentium,
    32MB ram
    1.6GB harddrive

    On a machine this old I manage to play audio cd’s, stream internet radio via shoutcast or stream mp3′s from other machines on my network, browse the web, read ebooks, chat on 9 different messenger networks using GAIM… It has a word processor, spreadsheet, I can even use GIMP for editing photos.

    All this on a machine this old. Who’da’thunkit?

    Hence there’s no reason to throw out an old computer if it works, unless you’re just plain lazy or afraid you may have to learn something.

    All this on a Fujitsu Lifebook 735Dx.

    If you don’t want your old machine, you’re welcome to send it to me!

    • 37 petr 2010/04/13 at 7:32 PM

      Hello! I also have 735dx!!! I bought it some time in 1997…. and did everything on it for the looongest time…
      Then, it went to the closet.
      And now, I want to bring it back to life!

      It has 32mb ram now… and win98SE… I would not mind trying linux – it will be a big challenge to me though, never tried!

      my prolems now are that: the comp sometimes beeps three times and suspends. after waking up from suspend, it is frozen. I dont know how to prevent this.

      and, i dont quite know how to make it work with wifi usb stick…

      best wishes,

  34. 38 mepawel 2007/03/21 at 6:23 PM

    I saw a video on veoh today showing exactly what you are posting about…well for humorous efect anyways ;)

    There was some pretty funny stuff in it like computer-mouse golfballs for example. If you want a link, just drop me a line ;)

  35. 39 nick 2007/03/21 at 7:15 PM

    you forgot that old standby of turning those early dinky cube Apple Classics into …yep geek fish-bowls … [i have seen folk do this...]

  36. 40 Arem 2007/03/21 at 7:30 PM

    Amen! I will say that dirt isn’t too much of a problem unless it’s really bad. Unless you have a window, vacuum it once a year and you’ll be good. But I’ve got to agree: picking the OS that fits is definitely a bit a lot of people miss. I don’t know how many people I see trying to run Windows XP on their old piece of junk machine. If they used an OS designed for that hardware, and killed off all the billion things they have running at startup, they’d have a perfectly good machine.

  37. 41 Thorx3 2007/03/21 at 8:39 PM

    So, I have a DELL Gxi Pentium PRO 200 Mhz with 384MB RAM, with an HP CDWriter Plus 9200i and works perfectly with OpenBSD / FreeBSD.
    Old Hardware is very useful to make appliances like firewalls, even FreeNAS for file network storage :-D

  38. 42 Television Live 2007/03/21 at 8:39 PM

    I have kept all my old pcs, regardless of their working condition and I truely encourage people to at least decorate their pcs rather then just keep them as they are. And use them as file servers at the very least.

  39. 43 Phoenix Woman 2007/03/21 at 8:42 PM

    It occurs to me: Modern PDAs have similar specs to an old 486 unit, yet they’re being forced to run crudware like Windows CE. How ’bout retrofitting one of those buggers with the minimalist old-school software of one’s choice? (For instance: Is there any reason anyone needs anything more ‘advanced’ than Word97 for word processing software? My own favorite is WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS, but I realize that some folk might want to use something that has HTML features in it. But really, most word processing software that I’ve seen sucks at HTML/XML editing, so why not just use the OpenOffice or other HTML/XML editor instead?)

  40. 44 Eleftherios Kosmas 2007/03/21 at 9:06 PM

    very good advices and you can even use a 386 as an apache server!

  41. 45 Hmmm 2007/03/21 at 9:15 PM

    PLEASE take the next logical step here and
    (I know you’ve implied the direction) but
    humor us with your actual findings, especially with
    Ubuntu and Xubuntu and perhaps another next lighter GUI
    distro worth using.

    I speak with some passion here as Ive recently
    spent TOO much time trying to piece together the
    HELL of keeping old stuff in tune. It’s ABSOLUTELY
    WORTH DOING, but can be hell to sort out…So many distros
    and variations, not to mention hardware drivers.

    My example was compaq presario 1255 laptop.
    I made it dual boot 98 and Xubuntu.
    The Xubuntu 6.10 is a lil heavy but works stable
    and frankly I’d have NO IDEA the next lighter GUI to try,
    much less if Gnome, KDE, or some other desktop is
    an obvious choice to speed things a tad without losing
    functionality. Im using whats native to Xubuntu because I dont have better info on add-on/replacement option.

    Linux, while flexible is often awkward as hell for the Non-guru
    to accurately figure out dependency issues, which kernel version/distro etc.
    I once spent 2 days trying to completely add Amorok
    to full Ubuntu Breezy Bad….adding one missing file at a time.

    In my presario 1255 example, Win98 defaults the laptop display to a unreadable 640×480. After hellacios googling, I found out that Sanyo via another company sensoray made the display,,,,Drivers? nope. Turns out that Neomagic 128 ZV drivers from Magicgraph will get you to a usable 800×600 16 color display on the 98 side.

    Ive found out through pure hell torture what .inf, .pdr files etc will get Alcor Mass storage card readers woking on regular 98.
    I figured out the mass storage to get the ipod nano going, and a Lexar jumpdrive.–none of this obvious….

    Then,,,I wanted to add a G wifi card…really?
    Struck out on Netgear WG511 for Ubuntu and Win98

    So….PLEASE go ahead and share what worked decent and stable enough, so others can know too.

    Its already hell enough to dodge the gotchas where you need Adobe Flash drivers above Ver 8 and Win98 cant support that,,,then you hopefully can switch over to your ubuntu.

    Oh, and I want GUI linuxes too. Most people got a Azz full of commandline with DOS years ago. Yes we know ls -a …etc, but thats for the hardcore people..I just want a gui…THAT WORKS.
    This command line sympathy has haunted the mainstreaming of Linux.

    Your spelled out info on gui linuxes for old computers could be huge in making more linux users.

    Sorry for my venting hahahah
    You are welcome to post and view at my site.

  42. 46 syelviapoe3 2007/03/21 at 9:32 PM

    How if your PC run so low…what should we check ? Besides a vires attack ?
    Thanx u :)

  43. 47 syahid ali 2007/03/21 at 9:42 PM

    once i made an old system with 2GB’s of hard disk space to run an as an antispam server for my company’s mailserver. works like a charm for an old fella.

  44. 48 Angela & Joseph Krivoruk 2007/03/21 at 10:02 PM

    Thanks for the input.
    I need to do that– HOPEFULly it’ll RUN quicker and won’t be over heating. :)

  45. 49 Vincent 2007/03/22 at 12:20 AM

    Hey, the wallpaper for your desktop (http://xs413.xs.to/xs413/07123/2007-03-20-190207_1600x1200_scrot.jpg.xs.jpg)
    looks nice. Mind sharing where I can get it?

  46. 50 Brkoni 2007/03/22 at 1:32 AM

    you should use windows! :-)
    what is “ubuntu” an african word?

  47. 51 sistemasoperativos 2007/03/22 at 2:18 AM

    I have two old computers (Pentium I MMX 200 MHz 32 MB RAM, and Pentium III 128 MB RAM). The oldest one is used for debian or freebsd command line use to try services like webserver, mail… the other right now with debian + gnome to install and try graphic software.

    Very interesting post, thank you

  48. 52 misslionheart 2007/03/22 at 3:15 AM

    I’v just deleted all the *rap from my documents. Now it’s running like a dream! :lol:

  49. 53 Rob 2007/03/22 at 4:21 AM

    Or you could use it as a thin client! If you have a modern computer and a few old junkers sitting around, load your favorite distro on the good computer, along with LTSP (Linux Terminal Server Project) and those old computers can boot over the network. They’ll run all their programs on the good computer, but display on the old computer. It’s a great way to make use of old hardware.

  50. 54 Shaun 2007/03/22 at 4:39 AM

    Good read and advice =)

  51. 55 1ofHis 2007/03/22 at 5:47 AM

    And don’t delete any drivers! My first computer was a 386 that came from the Pentagon. It had a game on there that I loved to play. I didn’t know anything about computers at that time so I went to the library and got some books. One of them was for “Dummies”. I learned that I could delete unnecessary files and somehow got into the system files. I saw a huge list of drivers and thinking they were actual names of people drivers, I deleted them. Next time I turned on my computer, I saw a blank screen! How sad!

  52. 57 FraudWasteAbuse 2007/03/22 at 6:19 AM

    How appropriate that I came across your post. I’m also a big fan of retro hardware and software. I just recently wrote an article detailing old computer games and the goodies and trinkets that used to come with them.


  53. 58 Jerry 2007/03/22 at 6:19 AM

    Excellent …

    Now i know what to do to my PC…

  54. 59 Tenacioussoul 2007/03/22 at 7:25 AM

    great tips :)

  55. 60 Marianne 2007/03/22 at 8:24 AM

    Great blog article–thanks! I too use a last century computer (I hate to discard anything stil working, except an ex husband!)–Very detailed and useful, I believe I can keep this beloved computer going a bit longer now.

    My blog: comfortfoods.wordpress.com

  56. 61 mobile2007 2007/03/22 at 8:36 AM

    Thanks for the advice. Vista seems to be like XP with a few bells and whistles. Do you think it’s being forced down our throats?


  57. 62 engtech 2007/03/22 at 11:00 AM

    You forgot the ever popular “fill the old computer up with cement, leave it on the front lawn and watch from a window as people try to steal it”.

  58. 63 Joey 2007/03/22 at 11:14 AM

    You forgot the paper weight option.

  59. 65 Not Again 2007/03/23 at 11:04 AM

    How many times do we have to read this article? There must be literally _thousands_ of articles about running linux on old boxes. Dont take offense. But seriously, these articles started appearing a decade ago, and nothing about them has changed, nothing at all. We know already.

  60. 66 Freddy de la Cruz 2007/03/23 at 8:44 PM

    Greeting from Chile!

    I have an old Toshiba Libretto 50 (75Mhz), 32MB running WIN98SE.
    700MB HD.
    Better than a PDA or an E-book reader. Excelent for abandonware.
    And runs Office 97, IE, mail, news, etc. I am still looking for
    some old 16bit PCMCIA cards or the famous docking station.
    Or some fancy solid state hard disk… Or linux.

    My friends admire this little machine.

  61. 67 Joe Brandt 2007/03/24 at 6:05 AM

    Old systems are environmentally beneficial! I use an old 400MHz (running FC5) as a print/firewall/fileserver. Draws less than half the power of my multi-GigaHertz P4 systems. Go green!

  62. 68 Blake Lewis 2007/03/24 at 6:25 AM

    To keep an old computer useful give it a little upgrade once in a while :D

  63. 69 Anil 2007/04/07 at 11:39 AM

    I procured a very old machine from somewhere, and made my own web-server out of it! It’s hosting five websites as of now! What can be sweeter? :) Linux rocks! http://stooge.myftp.org

  64. 70 kdrlx 2007/06/06 at 3:11 AM

    Pentium MMX 200Mhz
    64MB RAM
    10GB + 80GB Hard-Drive (Not recognized by BIOS, but doesn’t matter linux)

    Server – Web Server, File Server, Router

    Debian Etch Custom Install

  65. 71 James 2007/08/03 at 6:40 PM

    I am disappointed with the new Window Vista Platform it does nothing than to slow and alienate older computers. I tried running it on my year old Dell Computer and it ran miserably, I’ve since uninstalled and gone back to XP. New Operating software means new operating systems these days.

  66. 72 steve 2007/10/30 at 1:37 AM

    great site,,got a server running on my old comp,,my url is my server, check it out,,also got an old 486 running win98 using it for cpu sharing,,making a few pennies lol

  67. 73 Open Computer Case 2007/10/31 at 5:23 PM

    Great post! I’ll probably blog something similar later. Open Computer Case

  68. 74 Whatever-ishere 2007/11/22 at 2:32 AM

    thanks for the GREAT post! Very useful…

  69. 75 The Computer Repair Guy 2007/12/16 at 4:22 AM

    Dust is a killer and can really cause a Pc to overheat, recently saw one so clogged up that the fan would not go round any more….Gave it a good clean (and a spray :-( ) and worked fine

  70. 76 Ice 2008/01/30 at 2:44 AM

    Moin, moin,
    What about using an old iron as a terminal with Nomachine’s FreeNX or more consequent with LTS? See also Rob’s post from March 22. I am using an old Dell Notebook Latidude C600 with a P-III 600MHz CPU and 256MB Ram as a terminal and it works very well because alle applicatons are running on a adequate server. After a disk-crash i used it with the live-cd, this time i had only access with the delivered app ‘terminal server client’… Now with a new disk i’m up and running again with it and even wireless.
    I have seen the ubuntu-packages nbd-server and nbd-client, which were used within LTS. I want to expand my notebooks diskspace with this Network Block Device thingmagics but i dind’t sucseeded. Is there somebody, who also wants to attach a device like harddisk / cd- / dvd- / blueray- / hd-dvd – burner to a box which can’t support additional hardware? I heard that the harddisks are much more faster than with NFS oder ISCSI!

    sincerely yours

    PS: Very, very great post!!

  71. 77 Jake 2008/02/15 at 10:32 AM

    I’d like to suggest using Kazehakase for older machines. It is a light web browser based on the Gecko rendering engine, so you should be able to browse much like Firefox without your extensions.

  72. 78 velox 2008/04/12 at 2:08 AM

    i’ve tried it on:
    Pentium MMX 200Mhz
    64MB RAM
    10GB Hard-Drive (Not recognized by BIOS, but doesn’t matter linux)
    …and it works

  73. 79 computer tips and tricks 2008/05/04 at 11:33 AM

    apa ada yang tahu website untuk download driver agp and driver MB?

  74. 80 funkameleon 2008/05/27 at 6:32 AM

    Xubuntu 7.10 alternate is running great on a Compaq Presario 4810
    That’s a pentium MMX 200MHz, 64 MB RAM (like Velox : )
    perfect for a light webserver, ssh server and a irssi-/torrentbox

  75. 81 Umfaan 2008/06/28 at 8:11 AM

    Hey! This is great – not only your article, but that there have been so many responses. Nice one! Like many others, I am into “oldware” – specifically Old Hardware with a new lease on life thanks to top software like the Ubuntu clan and light and efficient stuff like Sqlite.

    Only problem is, with so many people realising old hardware is so useful, prices at the tip are going to be on the way up…

    By the way – I am guessing you are South African. Keep up the good stuff Brother!

  76. 82 Bob 2008/07/25 at 6:05 AM

    Interesting stuff! On librettoworld.com, we collect some very useful information about older mini laptops (the Toshibo Libretto) and there use also. Even the most modern Linux distributions like Xubuntu 8 run on the oldies.

  77. 83 Chris 2008/08/25 at 12:03 AM

    It’s a shame lots of big companies throw out old computers. Mind you they destroy the hard drive (wipe it and then drill holes in them) our company just last year (unfortunately I missed it) threw out about 50 old P2 laptops. Wow wouldn’t a lot of people love to get ahold of one of those.

    Also they were throwing out 10 or 20 GX300′s not bad but they were perfectly good computers (gasp!!) and people were ripping the processors out of them and the RAM. Why didn’t they just take the whold damn computer!? (shocked)

    I managed to get 2 but I had to pay $30 for them. Then I found one and luckily it was all intact except the processors and RAM. I had grabbed a couple of Processors earlier in the day before anyone had chance and I used them to get a nice working GX300 with a clean hard drive.

    These machines are all perfect for LINUX and will probably run Windows just fine.

    It’s just a shame companies could donate this equipment to lower income people instead of junking them. However just got news some more are going 4or5gx400′s. I’m going to try to save 2 or 3.

    Great article by the way, I’m always looking for things you can do with old computers. Don’t forget you can set them up to control some automation projects / robotics projects / astronomy tracking etc… lots of cool stuff you can do if you know a bit about electronics.

  78. 84 adelgazar 2009/01/02 at 8:22 PM

    Thank you for this list. You reminded to us those things we all should know. It comes very handy in these days of economic turndown.

  79. 85 pceditor 2009/01/14 at 6:37 AM

    thanks for this Good read.

  80. 86 johnraff 2009/03/10 at 12:39 PM

    Some more useful discussion of this topic on this Tuxradar post on Mar 7th:
    They recommend Vector Linux, but there are lots of other ideas too.

  81. 87 Computer Rental Company 2009/03/24 at 6:01 PM

    Great tips!All computer users should know about this.Many of us ignore the power of cleaning up computer. And I mean this literally. I have read from many articles that the actual keeping of the PC and the environment clean totally affects the performance of computers. Computers tend to have longer life span and better computing processing.

  82. 88 RaiulBaztepo 2009/03/29 at 6:21 AM

    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language ;)
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

  83. 89 Joseph 2009/04/23 at 8:19 AM

    I was given an old laptop, that had windows xp and wouldn’t do anything because it was covered with viruses. This of course, was before I knew anything about computers so we gave it away! Now I think about it all the time! I could have a had a laptop!

  84. 91 thealphanerd 2009/04/23 at 8:09 PM

    I’ve got an old Compaq Presario with 28 MB of RAM. It runs 98 decently with IE 666, but I’d like to see it handle Linux. It has a 333 Mhz processor, and no ethernet or any internet because some guy took it’s networking card. I also have another running 95 with a front CLOCK SPEED MEASURE, but also dial-up. It’s actually decently fast. They both have semi-working disc drives. (The presario can’t play audio CDs) My ISP requires dial up users have Windows XP or higher, and that’s crazy, considering most would run ancient Windows. I’ve got one more, and it runes XP. To a crawl with 253 MB of ram. Then that beast has a 2.4 Ghz processor, oddly.

  85. 92 Prescott Linux 2009/05/13 at 5:56 AM

    This is an excellent article on Linux with older PCs, I have a 10 year old notebook at home I’ve trying different distros on and it’s been a blast!

  86. 93 funk 2009/06/11 at 11:47 AM

    I have and old laptop (tho not as old as the ones you guys are referring to) with 1.33Ghz and 256 RAM and i was going to run Xubuntu on it. however, i was worried that when i did this, my wireless card (D-link Airplus G) wouldn’t work on Xubuntu. i dont want to switch if im going to lose my internet…. can anyone help with this?

    • 94 tisch 2009/07/08 at 4:47 AM


      it works beautifully. i had a pentium III 1.13ghz with a dlink wirless g card, and i’ve had a pentium m 1.6 with an internal dlink card. i think it was called ‘air force one’ or something. i had to manually install the driver from dlink for both.

      when i did it worked perfectly. no hassles with the installs either.
      the laptops ran so well that i sold the older one for a good price, and used the pentium m as my daily comp for months!
      the battery life was also a full hour longer than it was on xp. go figure. xubuntu is a great distro, especially for that generation of machine.

      • 95 funk 2009/07/10 at 12:52 PM

        where did you find the driver? i’ve been searching for a while now, but to no avail. even on Dlink’s website. my card is the DWL G630. thanks for your help!

  87. 97 funk 2009/07/27 at 12:33 PM

    nevermind, i loaded xubuntu onto my computer and it worked well, without installing anything! oh the beauty of open source……

  88. 98 funk 2009/07/27 at 12:47 PM

    altho, now i just got 2 macs from a friend, (LC and LCII) and i have no idea what to do with them. i really dont need a server (HD is 40MB) and i dont really need to render anything, so i have no idea what to do with them….

  89. 99 NickC 2009/07/30 at 10:07 AM

    If you need to have X, you don’t have to have a desktop. You could try one of the light tiling window managers such as musca, dwm, scrotwm, wmii, etc. Musca is my choice, currently using 865Kb in total, and managing several xterms, opera, claws-mail plus some other apps on my current laptop.

  90. 100 TheThornz 2009/08/18 at 7:23 AM

    Things you can do with an old computer.

    1.)Set up a Boinc Server to help with science calculations for aiding in curing diseases, astronomy, mathematics and artificial intelligence. http://boinc.berkeley.edu/.

    2.)Donate it to a computer recycling facility for a Tax deduction.

    3.)Keep it up and running and store it in a closet as a spare computer, in case your main system fails.

    4.) Install linux! and mess around

    5.) got to http://www.dosgames.com and install every Dos game, Keep it as an old school gaming machine.

    I have an old laptop I keep at home with a Netzero account in case the power goes out. If the power goes out my cable goes out. I can turn on the laptop and hook it up to the phone line.

    I also have 2 old 1.2Ghz AMD machines with 512 ram running the Boinc project Rosseta@home, which helps to research and treat cancer.

  91. 101 Paul Blair 2009/10/17 at 5:16 AM

    Agreed with comment above… DOS is the way to go if it’s really that old!

    I made this tiny little FreeDOS distro for my school, which only has pre-MMX Pentium machines. It’s full of educational software for younger kids.


  92. 102 Computer Tech 2010/03/28 at 8:18 PM

    I would always recommend using Linux over Windows. with linux you can customise it to your every need

  93. 103 Jordan 2010/04/06 at 9:13 AM

    I have an old laptop I keep at home with a Netzero account in case the power goes out. If the power goes out my cable goes out. I can turn on the laptop and hook

  94. 104 Ricardo 2010/04/12 at 2:31 AM

    You gave me the idea of unboxing my old pentium 3 450mhz. I did this today. When I connected it on the power line, something inside the power supply exploded.. hehhehehe.. oh god, I really hate when this happens. Now I need to find a new one to see if that baby is still working. :(

  95. 105 Moogly 2010/05/27 at 10:15 AM

    I’m currently installing ubuntu for a friend’s old computer, sorta slow, I’m thinking of setting it up with OpenBox and configuring it to use OpenBox/Gnome it’s not too slow but not exactly as fast as I would have expected it. I’m thinking I should install chronium instead of Firefox for them. Anyway thanks for these tips they help :)

  96. 106 Jennifer 2011/02/02 at 2:54 PM

    Thanks for share. I have a Pentium 2, with 512 mb (ram). It´s a relic :)

  97. 108 eripere 2011/03/24 at 11:31 AM

    Good article, I will try ubuntu on some old computers I have.

  98. 109 ricky 2011/03/28 at 8:51 AM

    Any step by step guide on how to convert it into a server? what do you guys recommend

  1. 1 The Internet Journalist » 10 Things to Keep an Old Computer Useful Trackback on 2007/03/21 at 10:50 AM
  2. 2 Ten Things to Keep an Old Computer Useful « News Coctail Trackback on 2007/03/21 at 11:17 AM
  3. 3 10 things you can do to keep your old computer useful « yatendra.com Trackback on 2007/03/21 at 11:17 AM
  4. 4 Keith Chiu » Blog Archive » 10 things you can do keep an old computer useful Trackback on 2007/03/21 at 2:11 PM
  5. 5 Biker|Geek » Blog Archive » Ten Things to Keep an Old Computer Useful. Trackback on 2007/03/21 at 3:34 PM
  6. 6 crashweb.net (tech) » How to keep that old computer useful Trackback on 2007/03/21 at 4:48 PM
  7. 7 its about time» Blog Archive » links for 2007-03-21 Trackback on 2007/03/21 at 4:54 PM
  8. 8 Top Posts « WordPress.com Trackback on 2007/03/21 at 4:58 PM
  9. 9 meneame.net Trackback on 2007/03/21 at 8:18 PM
  10. 10 Ten Things to Keep an Old Computer Useful at a g33k’s blog Trackback on 2007/03/21 at 9:35 PM
  11. 11 Wednesday final picks « oldephartteintraining Trackback on 2007/03/21 at 11:11 PM
  12. 12 Consejos para sacar partido a un viejo ordenador « Sistemas Operativos Trackback on 2007/03/22 at 2:45 AM
  13. 13 Ten things you can do keep an old computer useful « [jerry@Freedom:~]# Trackback on 2007/03/22 at 6:24 AM
  14. 14 Computer » links for 2007-03-22 Trackback on 2007/03/22 at 11:55 AM
  15. 15 Inside The Mind Of KJS » Blog Archive » Have An Old Computer? Keep It Running Longer! Trackback on 2007/03/22 at 2:31 PM
  16. 16 Keeping an Old Computer Useful « The Isolated Entrepreneur Trackback on 2007/03/23 at 4:15 AM
  17. 17 Blue Sky Mining » Blog Archive » Wee Laddies Give Green Supercomputing a Go Trackback on 2007/03/28 at 10:38 AM
  18. 18 links for 2007-03-29 « Where Is All This Leading To? Trackback on 2007/03/28 at 6:08 PM
  19. 19 Blue Sky Mining » Blog Archive » The Computer as Art, Friend Trackback on 2007/04/04 at 8:53 AM
  20. 20 blooG - Tecnologia e Internet diariamente Trackback on 2007/05/02 at 12:34 PM
  21. 21 سردال » كيف تستغل حاسوبك القديم؟ Trackback on 2007/08/08 at 8:05 AM
  22. 22 1001 Lists To Read Before You Die | Terabell - technology, law, programming and a laugh Trackback on 2007/08/11 at 6:44 PM
  23. 23 Happy birthday to me « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2007/08/22 at 11:54 PM
  24. 24 Things to do with an old computer « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2007/09/14 at 11:34 AM
  25. 25 Ten Things to Keep an Old Computer Useful « Linux and Unix Top News Trackback on 2007/10/01 at 12:00 PM
  26. 26 Keeping That Old Computer Running Longer | A Day Late, A Buck Short Trackback on 2007/11/07 at 2:02 AM
  27. 27 Technology Web - Ten things you can do keep an old computer useful Trackback on 2008/01/24 at 3:43 AM
  28. 28 Ten reasons not to buy a new computer « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2008/10/28 at 8:33 AM
  29. 29 Principia Mathematica Corporatica « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2010/09/17 at 2:46 PM

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Some recent desktops

May 6, 2011
Musca 0.9.24 on Crux Linux
150Mhz Pentium 96Mb 8Gb CF

May 14, 2011
IceWM 1.2.37 and Arch Linux
L2300 core duo 3Gb 320Gb

Some recent games

Apr. 21, 2011
Oolite on Xubuntu 11.04
L2300 core duo 3Gb 320Gb

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