How to turn an old laptop into a remote server

Laptop remote server
Make use of that old laptop gathering dust and turn it into a remote file server

What can you make from a laptop that has a broken screen (other than an oversized and rather ugly paperweight)?

The cheapest and easiest option is to put the lappie to good use serving up delicious files. Sure, that option is about as sexy as most people find a furry in spandex pants, but a file server can be damn handy.

You can stream music and video from it, use it to download that 2GB Batman demo, or just merrily torrent your socks off.

Meanwhile, print servers are even more dull but genuinely useful, or you could just use it as a discrete, low-power second system that can be tucked away on a bookshelf.

In addition, as long as it has an external monitor output and working LAN port, you can set up and use the laptop as a remote desktop system or connected to a HD-ready TV as a direct media centre. The latter is only really an option if your machine has enough grunt to manage your video requirements, though.

Most versions of XP and Vista have Remote Desktop pre-installed, but XP Home users who lack this can get it here.

As you'd expect, the Microsoft Remote Desktop implementation is unsurpassed. VNC is fine, but it isn't a patch on the speed of Remote Desktop.

In our pursuits, we're also going to make use of Wake On LAN (WOL), so we can put our server to sleep and remotely wake it up when needed, even from an iPhone.

And if you find your decrepit laptop's storage capacity to be a little paltry, you could consider getting hold of an external USB drive or even upgrade its internal hard drive – they're relatively cheap and could make a big difference.

Once you've lived with your new server for a week, we reckon you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.