24 Uses For An Old Laptop


There are many uses for old laptops, most of which require the laptop to be de-assembled (disassembled) and sometimes modified slightly. A laptop can make an excellent home arcade console with the right hardware. It is also possible to use a laptop as an interface between two computers or other systems.

Laptops usually contain more powerful components than what’s needed by their user, making extra hardware underused or neglected completely. If you have a motherboard that has an integrated GPU it might be better off being used on another computer where there is no GPU on board already, for example.

Some things you can do with your old laptop include:

1. Arcade machine

This is probably one of the best uses available since they are already built with keyboard and mouse input, along with video output for playing games. Set up a PPjoy or similar device to get controller input and you can play your old arcade classics on the cheap.

2. Home computer

This is somewhat less common since laptops usually come preloaded with Windows which means you won’t be able to use them as Linux machines immediately. If you’re tech-savvy enough though, you can get Ubuntu installed and set it up like any other desktop PC.

3. Media center

As long as there’s still an optical drive (or even just USB) left in your laptop, put XBMC on it (“Kodi” works too) and plug it into your TV for easy media playback from the couch.

4. Phone charger

If the battery still holds a charge, you have yourself a cell phone power brick. You can find compatible micro-USB or USB-C cords pretty much everywhere now so keep one at work, in your car, on your nightstand… wherever you need it!   * Portable game console – This works great if both joysticks are working perfectly and you have games to play on them. But please… for all that is good in this world don’t try to plug an arcade stick into a Surface Pro 4 . It doesn’t end well.

5. eBay flipper

Find some small electronics item that’s being phased out by its replacement model and buy up all the old stock at a quarter of the price. Then wait a few months and sell them on eBay for a tidy profit!


If you’re looking to get into cord-cutting or just want an affordable way to watch Kodi from your bedroom, hooking up an old laptop makes it easy to handle the software side. Plus, if it’s an Apple computer from before 2010 there’s a pretty good chance you can hook it up to your TV via HDMI.



7. Enclosure for other hardware

Whether that be an expensive energy monitor or a stuffed animal with a Raspberry Pi in it, sometimes you need something small and lightweight to house whatever project you’re working on. Just make sure whatever electronics you put inside are rated for whatever purpose you need.

8. Music streaming

With so many music streaming apps out there these days, it’s becoming more and more common for people to have a laptop playing music from Spotify or Pandora at all times. This method is an extreme example of that, turning the laptop into a full-scale boombox.

9. Carputer

Of course, if you want a little more power behind your stereo installation, a laptop makes a great carputer as well. In fact, some cars actually come with built-in laptops in to simplify the whole process. Just make sure anything you pick up has support for whatever stereo system it would be connected to.

10. Repairing old hardware

Whether it’s as adding RAM or as complex as a new GPU, one of the most common uses for old laptops is to rebuild out-of-date hardware. Combined with newer components from other computers, it can make a great home arcade machine or even a small server. So why not send in your laptop for repairs and make use of it!

11. Video surveillance

In a similar fashion, laptop cameras are often better than nothing when you want to keep an eye on your place without spending too much money. However, security has become more and more of a concern in recent years, with some cases reaching tragic levels. If you’re going to monitor your spot by webcam, be sure that you know what you’re doing

12. Digital art

Smaller tablets might not have quite as much drawing space as their big brothers, but when combined with Photoshop or GIMP, even a humble screen can produce some great drawings. These might not be suitable for printing, but they’re perfect for uploading to the Internet or putting together a simple art portfolio.

13. Retro gaming

If you need a break from your desk, an older laptop should come with all of the hardware you need to play classic titles like Sonic and Super Metroid. Many classics have been ported over to DOSbox, making your old laptop an extremely capable emulator. However, as with any computer hack, make sure that you know what you’re doing before trying anything complicated on this front.

14. Home automation

From locking doors at night to turning on lights when it’s dark outside, home automation is more affordable than ever thanks to interfaces like Raspberry Pi and Arduino. In fact, some people have been known to use their old laptops as a small-scale controllers for these types of projects.

15. Media management

Large hard drives on older laptops make them ideal for TV shows and movies, which can be stored on a hard drive and watched with a DVD player or HDMI cable. Streaming services like Netflix are easier on the wallet than buying physical media, but many libraries carry free digital downloads of DVDs that you may already own. Regardless of what type of collection you’re interested in building, an old laptop is capable of managing it all.

16. Old-fashioned browsing

The web has changed quite a bit since the 90s, making it difficult to surf the Internet distraction from modern technologies like app-based social media. Without the bells and whistles, it’s easier to appreciate websites that are more self-contained.

17. Digital Library

Online libraries like Amazon Unlimited contain thousands of books for a low fee, which can be obtained on an old laptop without any special equipment needed.

18. Saving memories

A digital camera can take hundreds of pictures in just minutes, leaving you with little time to transfer them over before storage runs out. Old laptops can fit in any room, no matter how small it is. The convenient size makes them perfect for taking on trips, rather than lugging around a cumbersome desktop computer.

19. Music

The traditional music player has been replaced by portable devices like iPods, but are usually not equipped with copyright protection tools. It’s easier to tell an iPod to “backup” your songs, but you can’t remove DRM from Windows Media Player or iTunes files without purchasing extra software which might cost more than the laptop itself ($20-40). Doing this also takes time and effort, whereas ripping CDs into MP3s is relatively quick and easy.

20. TV Shows

Instant streaming services have overtaken television broadcasts in popularity, with Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime all offering “television” shows with episodes released at once. These services are often included in the monthly price of internet service, but some people prefer physical formats to stream. DVDs or Blu-ray disks can be recorded onto an external hard drive while keeping the original pristine.

If you have a laptop that has a broken screen, you can reset it and connect it to your TV via the HDMI port.

21. Security

Laptop security features are usually more advanced than desktop models, making laptops more expensive. They are also easier to steal. Leaving your laptop unlocked on a table somewhere is asking for it to be stolen, which would leave you without access to all that it contains. A cheap USB security key costs less than $10, allowing you to keep files encrypted and locked away from thieves and snoopers.

22. Replacement

When it comes to laptops, the old model is often better than the new. Manufacturers are constantly changing their lines in order to keep them cutting edge and fresh, leaving those who bought a laptop six months ago with something that can be beaten by a modern smartphone.

23. Spare Parts

There’s a vast market for laptop spare parts, as even expensive laptops can be picked up second hand for a fraction of the price. If your screen breaks or your DVD drive stops working, then simply replace those parts without having to buy an entirely new system. Some manufacturers will even sell individual components from within the warranty period, though you may have to prove that you’ve taken care of your machine if it fails outside this time frame.

24. A Smaller Version of a Desktop PC

Laptops are essentially small desktop PCs, but with certain components removed and others replaced by integrated chipsets on the motherboard. This makes them smaller and lighter than their larger counterparts, ideal for taking on the move with you wherever you go. They also put less strain on battery life than a typical desktop PC, though the battery life will still vary between different laptops.

There are many uses that can be found when using an old laptop. To avoid breaking the device, try to ensure that your laptop is not already broken before you do all of these things.


I am a computer engineer holding a bachelor's degree in Computer Science, complemented by a Master's in Business Administration from University of Strathclyde, Scotland. I currently work as a Senior IT Consultant in Melbourne, Australia. With over 15 years of...