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Published: Saturday, 10/1/2005

A new life for PC cast-offs

Repurposing is an often-overlooked solution when deciding what on Earth to do with that old clunker of a computer.

People usually try to find someone else who can use the cast-off machine before storing it in a closet or trashing it. They put PCs into yard sales, try to donate them to a charity, or give them away.

How about finding a way you can use it yourself? That s repurposing giving an old computer a new job around the house or office.

People in the United States discard millions of perfectly good computers every year. Many work on basics like word processing and e-mail, but are too slow to suit the owners tastes.

As prices for cutting-edge new computers continue to fall, it becomes increasingly difficult to sell old computers or even give them away.

Trashing computers and monitors is a bad option, since the components contain toxic materials that can contaminate the environment.

I ve found new uses for several old desktop and laptop computers, and salvaged parts from others and put them to good use.

One 5-year-old desktop PC, for instance, came equipped with a great sound card and upgraded speakers. In retirement, it now is a jukebox PC that entertains people working in the garage or the garden. The computer s new purpose is to play music CDs, and its sound rivals a top-of-the-line stereo system.

The speakers and subwoofer from another cast-off PC are serving the same purpose in my home office. For years, I ve listened to background music on a small boom box while writing.

Now I m listening to deep, rich, crisp sounds, rather than the tinny output from the boom box speakers. I realized that the speaker cord, which normally plugs into a PC, also fits the input jack on the boom box. The boom box now plays through the big classy speakers from that cast-off PC.

Other new purposes for old computers:

Bring that old laptop out of retirement for the kids to use as a portable DVD player on long car trips. All it takes is an inexpensive adapter to power the computer from the car s cigarette lighter socket.

Turn it into a PhotoPC. Remove unneeded programs and files from that old hard disk drive, and use the PC to store, view, and edit your collection of digital photographs. Remember to save back-up copies on a CD.

Convert it into a digital video recorder for TV programs. That means installing a TV tuner card. These cards have a jack for connecting a TV antenna or cable. TV cards come with software for recording TV programs on the computer s hard disk. The shows can be burned onto a CD to free-up hard drive space.

Move it to a new location to provide Internet access in a guest room, bedroom, basement, kitchen, or garage.

Give the old PC a chance, and it probably will work faithfully for years in its new life.



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