Plus a few bonus ideas outside of the box
I recently came across a great deal on a used PC. Before, I only owned one computer, but because this PC was priced so aggressively and I’ve been wanting to have an extra PC, I didn’t pass it up. In this article, we will go through 10 possible uses for an extra computer.
Here are some of the most popular uses for an extra PC that may just be collecting dust, and also a few nontraditional uses you may have not considered.
1. Extra PC
If you only have one primary computer in your home (or a few), and find yourself on the PC a lot, you may simply want to consider adding an extra PC to your home. Particularly for people who have families or own homes with several rooms and significant square footage. It can be convenient to have multiple PCs spread out through the home, so that you don’t have to carry a notebook around with you, or if you have a desktop as a primary computer, having to go to the computer room each time you want to use a PC.
For the modern, technology based homes, people have even installed computers in their garages and kitchens.
2. Media Server/File Server
If you have a multi-user home with several computers already, you may simply want to setup the extra PC as a media server or file server. Check out my previous post on 7 programs to turn your PC into a streaming media server.
As a media server, you can store all of your music, videos, photos and other files on the PC, share them with your other computers in the home and even stream the media files to your TV. The PC will serve as a centralized location just for storing your video, music and photo library.
As a file server, you can share files, folders, documents, etc. with all (or select) computers in your home or even across the Internet. This makes it ultra convenient for basic file sharing, but also makes it simple to transfer computer files or data from one PC to the other on your home network or to others remotely, without having to burn discs or use USB drives.
HTPC, or Home Theater PC, is another very popular use for extra computers. With an extra PC as a HTPC, you can setup your computer in combination with your TV to do things like play Netflix, Hulu, Amazon VOD, etc. Additionally, if you have a TV tuner card, USB tuner or network tuner, you can setup the HTPC + Windows Media Center, which will allow for TIVO functionality (DVR) and even a live guide (if you don’t already have a cable box). Some of the most popular HTPC platforms are:
4. Backup PC
If you don’t have a NAS or backup drive for your important files and data on existing computers and aren’t backing up your data, you may want to consider using the extra PC as a backup device. Using free software such as FreeNAS, you can very simply setup the extra PC as a network backup which can be used to backup multiple computers.
Additionally, you can purchase an extra internal hard drive for the computer and set it up in mirrored RAID, which will strengthen your backup plan.
5. Storage PC
If the extra PC has significant hard drive capacity, you could simply use it as a generic storage location for files, programs, installers and other PC data. Just install an operating system, connect it to your router/home network, and use the PC to store all of the bulk software and files that you want to have, but that take up too much space or you prefer not to have on your primary PC; kind of like a external hard drive.
If you believe that the extra PC will be of little to no use to you, you may want to consider donating or gifting the PC. Most commonly, extra computers are gifted to family members who could use the PC, but you could also make a very nice holiday gift out of the PC also, if it’s in decent condition. Have a nephew that likes playing PC games? Maybe purchase a decent video card and gift the computer to him/her this Christmas as a gaming PC.
If you don’t have any family who would utilize the PC, you can also donate it to a cause. Most commonly, PCs are donated to local schools or other non-profits who could use the computers. Local libraries are also a positive place to donate, because they usually receive limited funding and have mid-range computers which are used by many people. Do not donate the computer to a college. They charge each student anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 per semester to attend. They don’t need donations, they are making plenty of money.
7. Children’s Computer
If you have kids, you could simply designate the extra PC as a children’s computer. This would likely add some insurance to your PC while also giving your kids an opportunity to learn more about technology. Instruct them on how to install programs and games, and encourage them to learn technology now, because they will be using it in the future.
8. Parts PC/Plan B
Another popular usage for extra computers is using them as Parts PCs or as a Plan B, should an existing PC fail or break down. For example, if the hard drive, RAM, optical drive, etc. goes out on your primary PC, you could simply swap out the parts from the extra PC and you’d be set to go, not having to purchase new components.
Additionally, should your primary computer fail all together, you could simply replace it with the extra PC.
9. Web Server
If you have a high speed internet connection such as cable or DSL, you can utilize the extra PC as a basic web server. With a web server, you can host your own website, blog or even email, so no hosting fees! Here’s my guide on setting up your own web server.
10. Surveillance System
Surveillance systems are camera driven, but the core, like mostly anything technology these days, is usually based off of a computer. Thus, you could purchase some compatible surveillance cameras for your home and use the extra PC as a monitoring station for the system.
None of the above extra PC uses for you? Here are some additional options:
- Build your own personal cloud server
- Sell the computer – part it out and sell parts individually or sell as a whole
- Contribute to open source projects – connect the extra PC to the internet and contribute to projects such as Berkley’s SETI@Home
- Giveaway – if you have a website, blog or even YouTube channel, you could giveaway the computer to a loyal fan or follower
- Auction for charity – Auction off the computer at a local or online auction, with 100% of the proceedings going to your favorite charity
- Install the PC into your vehicle and use it as a mobile computer – add-on a Wi-Fi mobile hotspot device from your wireless provider and get internet on the go
- Use it as a dedicated firewall (i.e. pfSense), router or antivirus layer
- Convert the extra computer into a gaming server for your favorite game
- Make someone’s day – Go into your local Best Buy or Frys and people watch those who are considering purchasing a new PC. Find a worthy person and offer to give them the PC for free, saving them up to $500 that they would have spent on a new PC, on the spot!
- Learn something new – Install an operating system that you are unfamiliar with, use it as a coding/programming computer, etc.
Thank you for stopping by the site for today’s post, which lists 20 ways in total to utilize a spare or extra computer. If any of our site visitors have any other uses for extra computers, feel free to list them in the comments. Enjoy!