I can still remember how things were in the PC industry a decade ago. Manufacturers were striving to build the fastest CPU, the fastest a video card, the fastest RAM memory, and so on.
Then, laptops started to take over the scene. The thought of having access to the raw power of the desktop PC in a small bag was very appealing to many. And yet, PCs have somewhat managed to survive this trial as well.
We are now in an era where people are buying smartphones and tablets, rather than desktop computers. And why wouldn’t they do that? These smart devices have enough power for most of our daily tasks, and yet they can be easily carried in a pocket.
And to make things even worse for computers, tablets and smartphones are much easier to use. Not to mention that there are literally millions of various apps that can do whatever you may think of, be it business, social media or pure entertainment.
So what’s your good old, trusty computer supposed to do? If you’ve got one hidden under a desk and covered in dust, you are not alone. Fortunately, there are several things that you can do to turn it into a useful device once again.
1. Install a different operating system
Yes, your brand-new tablet will always run faster than your old computer. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t speed it up! Install one of the popular Linux distributions on it, and it will feel like an SSD hard drive update for sure.
I know, you may fear Linux a little, but the good news is that several distributions are very friendly for people coming from Windows, for example. Install Ubuntu, and you will feel at home. Or, even better, run it from a memory stick before installing it.
This way, you will be able to see how it runs and evaluate its user interface. Don’t be put up by the slower OS loading speed, though; a regular memory stick will always be slower in comparison with a decent hard drive.
2. Set up a Network Attached Storage (NAS) Server
A NAS is a small server that makes use of your old computer to store and share files with all the devices on your Wi-Fi network. You don’t need a fast computer to do that – just a lot of hard disk space! Then, you will be able to store all your favorite movies on your old PC, accessing them from your laptop, tablet or smartphone anytime you want to.
You will need an application like FreeNAS to do that, and you can set individual permissions for each device that is supposed (or not) to access your content.
3. Create a hotspot
We’ve mentioned Wi-Fi networks in this article, and often times they work great. But sometimes your tablet just keeps disconnecting, because there is a wall between it and the router.
In this case, your good old computer can be used to set up a hotspot, a device that shares your Internet connection through Wi-Fi.
You will need a computer that’s got the Wi-Fi card, of course. But the good news is that you can buy a Wi-Fi stick for only $20…$50 or so. There aren’t too many of these, but I’d search for one that’s got a removable antenna, which can then be replaced with a better antenna by making use of standard extension cables.
A typical Windows installation will also include the needed support to turn your old PC into a hotspot. If you go this route, be sure to place the computer in an area where the signal is weaker, but not dead; otherwise, it will not be of much help.