Five Ways to Repurose an Old PC with Open Source Software

If you’re anything like me, you have a dark corner of your basement that you rarely go into. It’s your just-in-case stash of old computers and computer parts, you’re convinced the minute you throw away any of the parts, you’ll need them. Sure every modern TV or monitor uses HDMI, but you keep those VGA cables around, just in case. Why not give all those old PC’s new life?

1. Install a Desktop Linux Distro
The quickest and easiest way to repurpose your old laptop is installing a Linux “lightweight” distro on it. Lightweight distros such as “Lubuntu”, are designed specifically for older PC’s, they use fewer resources than most modern operating systems. They do sacrifice some of the sleeknesses that you find in a new OS, but retain the same level of functionality. Especially if you tend to use your computers as web browsing, streaming, and social media machine.

2. Build Your Very Own Cloud Storage in Your Home
Sounds intimidating, doesn’t it? There are services like OwnCloud that allow you to build you very own cloud storage on just about any PC. You can share files stored on the device from any internet connected location, so it works as your personal cloud storage. While there is documentation that can walk you through the process, for the gun shy there’s an image from Turnkey Linux.

3. Transform Your PC into a Firewall
This is probably not for everyone. You may simply just not have the use or the level of geekiness to drum up the desire to do this, but if the desire is there, you could turn your old PC into a firewall. A firewall serves to prevent intrusion into your network. Products like PFSense allow you to turn your computer into a security appliance. Improving your network security posture while making use of that PC sitting in your closet.

4. Build a NAS (Network Attached Storage)

Maybe you don’t want to share your data with the internet but want the convenience of being able to access data from any device on your home network. If you have the job in a corporate environment, you probably have what are known as network drives that allow you to have access to data no matter what computer you login to on your network. Products like FreeNAS allow you to do the same in your own home, all you need is one of those old PC’s laying around. While the concept may seem a bit advanced, there is enough information online to help all but the most computer illiterate among us set up a NAS.

5. Use it to Learn

Maybe the best thing about that old laptop is the ability to use it to test all the open-source software that’s available whether to test-drive it or learn? Have an interest in IT Security, Linux distros like Kali Linux are specifically built to penetration testing. Want to get a head start on Systems Administration, try CentOS, a free version of Red Hat–used in most enterprise environments–out, break it, fix it, then break it again. Or you could simply take the time to see which one the the ideas I’ve mentioned already are best for you.

Before you throw out that old computer or just let it sit and collect dust, keep in mind there are a multitude of options to get the most out of that old hardware.

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