Cool Ways to Repurpose Old Computer Parts

Old hardware, new uses

While you may want to keep your computer armed with only the most powerful hardware, there’s no reason you can’t make use of parts you replace. Obsolete is not the same as broken, and with a little ingenuity, you can get a lot of mileage out of spare parts. If you find yourself with a lot of parts on hand, you can cobble together a basic computer to use as a home file server. A functional home server doesn’t require high-end parts, and it will provide you with abundant file space to store any data you have. It is possible to find some uses for nearly any individual piece of hardware, too. You can convert an old internal hard drive into an external hard drive, for instance, with an external enclosure.

If you want to get really creative, you can do a lot more with old parts than simply find new ways to incorporate them into your computer. By combining old fans, for example, you can construct a makeshift air filter. You can even use hardware to make art pieces or do-it-yourself (DIY) projects, such as digital picture frames made from old computer monitors. With a little creativity and an aesthetic appreciation of wires and circuits, you can use these old parts to create furniture and paraphernalia with a cyberpunk style.

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Donations

As previously mentioned, much of the hardware that is thrown away is still usable. If you can’t find a way to re-purpose computer parts for your own use — or if you simply don’t have the time to go about it — why not give them to someone who can? Many nonprofits and education programs run on slim budgets, and donations of any sort can ease their burdens. Given the importance of computers in running any modern organization, donations of computers and hardware can be a godsend.

If you know of any local nonprofits in your area, try calling them to inquire if they need or can make use of your old hardware. Even if you aren’t familiar with your local nonprofits, there are resources available to help put you in touch with them. The National Cristina Foundation is an organization that directs computer donations to various nonprofits, primarily those with a focus on education or workforce development.

Canadians who wish to donate their computers can turn to the Electronic Recycling Association. The ERA maintains drop-off locations in several major cities in Canada. They work with many nonprofits throughout the country, providing them with computers and other hardware they need to stay afloat. They will also wipe the data from any hard drives you donate.

Another straightforward option is to bring your computer parts to Goodwill. A national 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides job training for people with disabilities, Goodwill raises funds by selling used goods throughout the country. They have locations in many cities and will almost always take high-value items such as computers and electronics.

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#3 – Use It As A File Server Or A Print Server

This is the option I chose for my HP computer.

I simply tucked it away in a small hutch with doors to hide it away, then ran the proper cables to network this computer with two other computers in the room.

You can even get a special adapter to view the contents of your “old” computer from — if you don’t want to use the old computer’s monitor (to save space).

This way, you’re creating your own home network, linking one or more computers with a printer and Internet service — so you can easily share files, play games, and print documents between machines.

Here’s how to turn your old computer into a file server.

 

#6 – Create A “Live” Weather Station

If you’re in need of a new hobby, you could become a weather geek.

Simply purchase some software weather programs and sensors, then keep the computer on at all times to track and monitor the current weather conditions. Offer your data to local TV stations or as a complimentary service available to visitors of your web site.

Here’s how one man set up his own personal weather station.

 

Step 1: Convert the ATX Power Supply to Benchtop Power Supply

This is the first project I made, many years ago, when I was still in middle school.

The project is very easy to do. Just chop off the connector and identify the wires:

– black wires are ground (negative)

– red wires are +5V

– orange are +3.3V

– yellow are +12V

– blue is -12V (comes handy in rare cases)

Connect the above wires to some connectors or therminals, so it will be easy to connect your project boards to them. I put just ordinary screws on some plastic board, because back then I had no money to buy banana plugs.

– green wire is important. It needs to be connected to ground – black wire in order for the power supply to turn on

– purple wire is +5V standby power. If you connect the LED on it, it will turn on if the power supply is plugged into mains. You don’t need to connect it if you do not need it.

– grey wire is +5V POWER-OK. Connect a LED here if you want to see when the power is OK. If you overload the power supply, the LED will turn off and you will know that there is no sufficient power.

Most of these ATX supplies need to have some load present on +5V(red wire) if you want to get the full power out on +12V line (yellow wire). So if you want to extract the full power out, you need to draw an amp or two from +5V, so just put a few power resistors (10 ohm or so) or some 12V car headlight bulbs on the +5V line and you are good to go.

It is good to leave one or two 4 pin HDD power connectors hanging out. You will see later that they come in handy.

Recycling or Making a Charitable Donation

Even if you are not a person who enjoys do-it-yourself projects or has a flair for decorating with old electronics, there are still some good alternatives to throwing out your old computer.

7. Search for Rebates

Some state laws prohibit that large electronic devices, such as computers, be thrown into the garbage.

As such, some stores and/or manufacturers offer rebates to ensure the safe disposal of your device.

If you kept your original receipt, check with the outlet from which you originally purchased the computer. They may be able to give you some money back for returning the device to them.

If not, it would be best to contact the specific manufacturer of your computer to see if it offers any incentives and/or guidelines for adequate disposal of your old computer.

8. Recycle

This is a better idea for computers that are severely misshapen and beyond repair than those computers that are simply old, slow, and ready for an upgrade. Think of computers that were inadvertently yanked from the desk and smashed against an unforgiving floor, or computers that got irreparably damaged in the back of a moving truck.

Most computers are made out of recyclable metals. Most salvage yards pay by the ounce or pound for these types of materials, so you may be able to recoup some cash by visiting the recycling yard, depending on what you have.

In addition, there may be do-it-yourselfers out there who do value the components of your computer. It may be worth your time to take your broken device to a pawn shop, or list it on the Internet “as is,” to see if anyone is interested in giving you a few bucks for the components he or she may be able to salvage.

9. Donate

While your computer may no longer be able to function at the level you desire or require, there is still a strong possibility that it can be useful to someone. 

After removing all important files and personal information from your old computer and storing them on the cloud or an external storage device, it is relatively simple to wipe your hard drive clean. 

You could then download a few games, save them locally, and give your old device to an orphanage or foster center so that kids can play games. Or you may choose to add some word processing software to the device and donate it to a homeless shelter so that the needy can work on resumes and cover letters.

In some locations, you can even get a tax deduction for donating old or used computers and/or computer parts.

Step 7: Save Some of the Components for Later

Save the fans, heatsinks, LEDs, switches and simillar stuff for later to use on different occasions.

Old CPU heatsinks are ideal for cooling powerful LEDs, power supplies have many smaller heatsinks that you can use for voltage regulators, also the wires come in handy

This is it for this instructable.

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