Upgrade, resell or recycle: what you should do with your old PC

5. Advanced picture frame

If you're after something with a bit more of a DIY edge then putting an old laptop to work can be the perfect project. If you're able to disassemble a laptop then, as with many models, it's possible to mount the display reversed to the main chassis.

Depending on how much of a completionist you are, you can remove the chassis altogether, along with any optical and hard drives. Try booting the system from a USB flash drive for that minimal feel.

Mounted inside a suitably large frame it makes an interesting way to display pictures, and as it still has full wireless networking, you will be able to throw up videos, web pages and more.

6. Arty project

wall mounted PC

Who said that we're running out of ideas to do with old kit? Never, we say! A really common DIY project for an old desktop system is to turn it into some sort of art installation. A while back we wall mounted an old PC, which worked out pretty well we think. In fact one of the test systems we use is still mounted on that very Perspex sheet.

Search www.instructables.com under 'computers' and you'll find a wealth of arty and just plain crazy projects to try from fish tanks to Millennium Falcon-styled PCs.

7. Retro gaming

Arcade cabinet

Even a laptop from the last millennium is capable of playing some games. If you fancy another DIY project why not construct your own retro gaming table or cabinet? Or you could just let the kids play on it while you watch Match of the Day.

Emulators such as MAME enable you to relive those gaming days of glory. Depending on how lazy or rich you are, it's possible to hack together a fun arcade table from an old coffee table and use wireless peripherals for next to nothing. Or if you go all out, you could add some high-end arcade controls from www.xgaming.com.

8. NAS/Printer/Firewall/Web server

In the grand scheme of things, any one of these would be somewhat trivial for an entire PC to do, most even semi-new routers provide these features while only using 10 watts or so.

However, when you start adding advanced features such as hardware firewall, flexible print servers, totally configurable NAS with any file system or RAID configuration and suddenly it makes a lot more sense. There's a whole range of OS choices to go for from standard Windows, Windows Server to FreeNAS and Linux Format favourite ClearOS.

9. Network solutions

This covers a host of solutions, but having a second PC is fantastic as all of a sudden you can start playing around with networking. Ideally, you'll want a hub/router but if you've got a wireless or broadband router that should be taken care of.

Obviously, you can now simply play with Windows networking, fiddle with IPv4 and generally swear a lot when none of it works. You could also run a dedicated game server or grab a copy of www.turnkeylinux.org and have an instant web server to play with.

10. Test system

An easy win is to use the system as a test bed. This won't suit many people, but if you try out a lot of software or even need to benchmark hardware for evaluation, it makes an awful lot of sense not to tie up your main PC. As it's an older system, it's not going to cut the mustard for graphics cards, but for many other tests and software evaluation it's a valid use.