6 Sept 2012

How to Use Linux to Rejuvenate Old Computers

Examining Old Desktop
Image by slgckgc
If you're at the point of tossing that old computer in the trash, don't! No matter what, you can upgrade or find something to do with that computer, because of Linux.


If you have never played around with Linux, you will see a whole new world of technology, simply by using Linux. In a matter of about one hour, you can have Ubuntu on any old system! You can even test it out with a live CD mode before you install anything to the hard drive. For Linux newbies, Ubuntu is all the rage.

When you boot up Linux, you will notice it's different in appearance from Windows, but has a lot of the same features. For instance, there is still a start menu and icons. Browsing the web and typing documents is simple. An even bigger advantage is access to tons of free applications. As you can see, Linux is a great operating system for tons of devices!


Using Linux, you can convert your old computer right into a LAN server. You can simply replace your old server and share the internet access. You can connect via a VPN service with other offices and even offer some public access. If you run the project RouterOS or ZeroShell, you can administer it through the internet browser on a computer that is remote. It installs directly onto the hard drive.

LAN File Server

You may decide that you want to create a NAS enclosure on your old computer by installing the FreeNAS server to your computer. When you do this, you don't have to be concerned about other computers being on, in order to access Windows share. It allows better control with shares and can record user details as well as have the ability to authenticate users. You will also have the recycle bin support with FreeNAS. Unlike deleting a file in a Windows share, it won't be deleted forever and you can recover it from the trash can at a later time.

Make it a Hotspot

If you want to have Wi-Fi internet access for both you and the neighbors around you, you should install a Wi-Fi hotspot with that old computer equipment. Linux has a live CD option called ZoneCD that provides filtering to web content and Wi-Fi authentication. All you need is the disk, and it boots right up without changes to your hard drive. All you have to have is the bootable CD-ROM drive, a USB thumb drive or floppy drive for storing the configuration and 128MB of RAM.

There are many other uses for Linux with your old computers as well.

You can host your own website, or use it when you are trying to develop an intranet. You can use it to host an email server or as a database for special projects.

If you’re at that point of tossing out the old computers, don’t do it! Think again and look at all the wonderful things you can do to rejuvenate that computer and bring it back to life!

Will Messing writes about technology and recently took the plunge to open his own computer business.  He recommends using www.healtinsurancequotes.org to find great rates for the self-employed.


  1. > In a matter of about one hour, you can have Ubuntu on any old system!

    This is a bulshit and you never tried that! It was true in the past but you cannot install latest Ubuntu version to an old system anymore. Why? Kernel with PAE is the showstopper....

    1. Even if there is some truth to your comment I still find it completely excessive and overall untrue. I run the latest LTS Ubuntu 10.04, which also happens to be the latest Ubuntu LTS or not, on a 12+ years old PC which has been running it 24/7 for about 6 years now. I didn't have to tweek anything except install the applications I use.

    2. ...by running *it* I mean Ubuntu in general, not necessarily Ubuntu 10.04...

    3. I found a custom version of ubuntu 12.04 which does not come with PAE so that I could install it on my 6 yrs old notebook.

    4. Most desktops in the last ten or perhaps more years can handle PAE. There are a number of notebooks that cannot. Some desktops as old as seventeen years can handle PAE. Of course, there are options for a non-PAE kernel for machines that cannot use PAE, but not the current default Ubuntu install. Any machine that old would be much better off with a lighter weight distribution anyway.

    5. I bought a projector a couple of months ago, and some weeks after that someone gave me a Acer Travelmate 8100 from about 2004 with a couple of keys that didn't work.

      It now runs with ubuntu 12.04 as a mediacenter and a lan-server. It has no problems running xbmc, and it also runs pcsx PSX-emulator, so that I can play all old playstation games on it.

      I control it with desktop sharing (VNC) from my laptop or my android phone. I've also got remote-apps for xbmc and amarok on my phone (so that I don't need to turn on the projector to play music).

      The only problem I've had with it, was that it wouldn't recognise my cheap usb gamepad. A very rare bug that I got worked out in the end.

      From garbage to gold the way I see it!

    6. Thanks for sharing the story!

  2. > If you run the project RouterOS or ZeroShell, you can administer it through the internet browser on a computer that is remote. It installs directly onto the hard drive.

    WTF? RouterOS from Microtik? Is it free? You have to buy a licence and it is better to buy their router with RouterOS preinstaled; RouterOS is not good option for an user with old PC. ZeroShell? It is better one but I cannot see any stable release, only beta, RC; I will not install such distro to my personal router. I know there are stable Linux distros for router but most people should buy a ready to use box based on ARM chip. Other question is support of IPv6 in Linux distros for DIY router; well IPv6 is not well supported, in most cases it is ignored...

  3. Hello children please stop fighting amongst yourselves, Like I'm always telling windows and Mac users they are not the only computer operating systems in the world, Ubuntu is not the only Linux distribution either. there are plenty more that are far better but tell that to the ubuntu brainwashed who only know and think of ubuntu, I would never recommend ubuntu to anyone

    1. What do you recommend? Tell us...

    2. This is not a place for holy wars, mind you!

  4. For a LAN file server I recommend Debian GNU/Linux with only the command-line interface and enable the following services: ssh, nfs or SAMBA, LVM, and perhaps ldap if user authentication and access rights are desired. Install one hard drive for the operating system and one or more to store the files.

  5. I have P2 with 256MB SD RAM and a 20GB hdd. Actually I've put together this machine from 3 different PC's and how did I use this old timer?

    settled CentOS 5, patched and built a vServers kernel and now I'm running 4-5 gusts on this host only for my home testing purposes :) and yes it is working just fine.

    - d

  6. All this old kit is a bad idea environmentally.

    Consider this, for every 100W - 24x7 online, at least here in Germany, you will pay around 250 EUR a year for electricity. Recycle that garbage and buy a Raspberry Pi for 35$.

  7. Yes, you can do alot with old computers, but please be environmentally responsible, and as the other commenter suggested - get a Rasberry Pi or other low powered device instead (Atom, VIA, etc). Why generate 10x more electricity from old systems vs more powerful and lower power requirements devices?

  8. This is amazing! We just bought a new laptop, but maybe now I'll just claim the old one as mine and have my own! THANKS!