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Creative ways to repurpose your old Windows-based computer

Do you have an old Windows-based computer you no longer use? Maybe you got a new one and just do not know what to do with your old system. Here are a few creative ways to repurpose your old Windows-based computer.

Creative ways to repurpose your old Windows-based computer

Are you tired of your old Windows-based computer collecting dust in the corner of your room? It's time to give that outdated device a new lease on life by repurposing it for other uses. With some creativity and basic technical skills, you can turn your old machine into a valuable tool for various tasks.

For this article, I will reference the two (2) types of networks you can use your repurposed computer on: Internet and Intranet.

  • Internet: A global system of interconnected public networks. The Internet is a type of Wide Area Network (WAN).
  • Intranet: A private network for sharing files and printers that you cannot access from the Internet. The Intranet is a type of Local Area Network (LAN).

The first thing we need to address is the version of Windows the computer you want to repurpose is running. The version of Windows your computer is running should dictate what you should use it for. Older versions like Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 no longer get security updates and should only be used on your Intranet and kept off the Internet when possible.

Intranet uses

The most popular use of a spare computer is as a server. There are several different types of servers, so let's take a quick look at each type.

Home Media Server: If you have a large media collection of movies, TV shows, or music, you can turn your old computer into a home media server. By installing Plex or Kodi, you can stream your media to other devices in your home, such as a smart TV or mobile device. This can save you from purchasing a new media server or subscribing to a streaming service.

Plex: Stream Movies & TV Shows

Kodi: Open Source Home Theater Software

File Server: If the computer you are repurposing has a drive with plenty of free space, you should consider using it as a file server. In just a few minutes, you can share folders and files between devices on your Intranet. Not only can you share folders and files, but you can also use a file server to back up your various Windows-based computers.

How to share a folder on a private network

How to backup your Windows 11 computer using Windows Backup and File History

Backup your files with File History and Windows Backup in Windows 10

Print Server: Do you have an older printer with only a USB or LPT port and would like to share it with other computers on your Intranet? Just set it up on your repurposed computer, then go to the Devices and Printers section of the Control Panel and right-click on the printer you want to share.

From the context menu that appears, left-click on Printer properties and then select the tab labeled Sharing. Place a check mark in the Share this printer checkbox and give the printer a share name. Your printer should now be ready to share on your Intranet.

Web Server: If you are interested in web development or want a testing server for your website, Windows has an extensible web server called IIS (Internet Information Service). This feature is not installed by default but can be quickly installed by simply turning it on. Just go to the Programs and Features section of the Control Panel and select Turn Windows features on or off.

Internet uses

Gaming Rig: If you're a gamer, you can repurpose your old computer into a gaming rig. While it may not be able to handle the latest games, you can still play older titles or retro games. You can also install emulators, like DosBox, and play classic console games on your PC.

How to use DOSBox to run old DOS games and programs

You can access some old software and play old video games at the Internet Archive. They have all sorts of older software, games, books, movies, and, of course, the Wayback Machine. This is one website you could spend hours, if not days, exploring.

Download old software and play old video games at the Internet Archive

Dedicated Streaming Machine: If you're a streamer or content creator, you can use your old computer as a dedicated streaming machine. By installing OBS or XSplit, you can capture and stream your gameplay or other content to platforms like Twitch or YouTube. This can be a great way to start your streaming career without investing in expensive equipment.

Open Broadcaster Software | OBS

XSplit: Livestreaming and Webcam Enhancement Tools

Education and Learning: Finally, you can use your old computer for education and learning. You can use websites like Khan Academy, Duolingo, or Coursera to learn new skills or brush up on your knowledge. You can also use your old computer to teach your children or grandchildren basic computer skills or programming.

Khan Academy | Free Online Courses, Lessons & Practice

Duolingo - The world's best way to learn a language

Coursera | Degrees, Certificates, & Free Online Courses

In conclusion, there are many creative ways to repurpose your old Windows-based computer. By giving it a new life, you can save money, learn new skills, and make your life more productive. So, dust off that old machine and start exploring the possibilities.

How to use DOSBox to run old DOS games and programs

Sometimes it is fun to go back and play the DOS video games I grew up playing. But it can be challenging since Windows doesn't utilize DOS anymore. But you can still run your old DOS games using DOSBox.

How to use DOSBox to run old DOS games and programs

So the other day, I was going through some old CDs and came across a Gravis Gamepad disk from 1996. It has a few DOS shareware games I used to love to play, including Doom.

My first thought was, "Wouldn't it be fun to go through a couple of levels of Doom?". My next idea was, "It's not going to be easy to set up.". Since the DOS games I wanted to play were 16-bit, the 64-bit version of Windows 10 I am running wasn't going to do it.

There were only two (2) solutions that came to mind; an MS-DOS Virtual Machine or a Personal Computer (PC) emulator like DOSBox. Since I just wanted to play a few games, DOSBox was the simplest way to go.

Now DOSBox is not a full-blown version of DOS and lacks many of the features of MS-DOS. DOSBox is designed to facilitate running older DOS games. It will run some DOS programs too, but results will vary.

To get more features, you would need to look at an SVN build. An SVN build is a version of DOSBox that people have made from the latest version of the source code. Additional features you can get with an SVN build include copy/paste and printing support.

Now to get things going, I went through the Gravis disk and found the games I wanted to play. The way DOSBox works is it creates a virtual DOS environment using an existing folder as the root DOS drive. So I created a new folder in File Explorer on my D: drive named DOSStuff to use as the DOS root drive. I then created a sub-folder called Temp and copied all of the DOS game folders I wanted from the Gravis disk to it.

Now just for the sake of argument, I decided to see what would happen if I tried to run one of the install programs/scripts from a 64-bit Windows 10 command prompt. Sure enough, I got an error about running 16-bit applications. I was going to need to install DOSBox first.

16-bit error message inside of Windows 10
16-bit error message inside of Windows 10

So I downloaded and installed the basic version of DOSBox. The installation was quick and straightforward. I made a couple of minor changes to the DOSBox options, so it would automatically mount the D:\DOSStuff folder as the virtual C: drive and change the command prompt drive letter to C:. All of the old DOS commands were coming back to me.

F.Y.I. - I use the term Folder for when I'm in Windows and Directory for when I'm in DOS. They are both the same thing. I'm just old-school when it comes to DOS.

DOSBox running on a 64-bit version of Windows 10
DOSBox running on a 64-bit version of Windows 10

I quickly navigated to the Temp directory in the DOSBox command prompt. I then proceeded to go into each game directory via the DOSBox command prompt and run each of the install programs/scripts. With a little tweaking of the game options, I'm off to relive some of my favorite DOS video games using DOSBox.

Doom running inside of DOSBox on Windows 10
Doom running inside of DOSBox on Windows 10

For more information on DOSBox, follow the links below.

DOSBox, an x86 emulator with DOS
DOSBox SVN Builds

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