Creative ways to repurpose old and unused technology

When you’re loading up new gear, you may be hesitant to get rid of all your old stuff. If these devices are still working perfectly, it looks like a waste, right? Who knows, maybe you’ll need them someday. So what do you do with an antiques collection? Let the heap grow bigger? Building a small museum? Kick appliances to the curb, and let their toxic ingredients seep into any soil or water supply? Let’s see if we can find your old electronics a second life instead.

Use an old tablet or laptop as a second monitor

Old screens can help you double your viewing space (if not your productivity). You can make other devices do the same, too. Depending on the model and software availability, older tablets and laptops can act as second screens for your main computer. I’ve used the Duet in the past, and if you’re on a Mac, it’s even easier with the original Sidecar functionality. Android devices can enjoy similar solutions like SuperDisplay, which lends itself to people looking for a graphics tablet with full pen pressure sensitivity.

Help scientists explore outer space and treat cancer

If you have an old machine that still has a working CPU, you can effectively give that unused computing power to your researchers by connecting to a distributed computing network. Through these systems, millions of connected devices can work together as a supercomputer to help solve some of the world’s biggest computing problems. Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing is at the forefront of this technology, allowing phones and connected computers to work quietly on medical, cosmic, biological and sports projects. All you have to do is turn on your device and connect it to the internet, then run an applet in the background.

Turn an old PC into a dedicated media server

If family photos and videos are taking up a lot of space on your primary PC, it’s easy to make a second PC a new home for your content. Once the drive is on your network, you can access it anywhere in your home, even remotely with a bit of a waste. Plug it into your TV and use Plex to recycle your old PC into a fair-to-quality media server. Old game consoles can play a similar role, allowing you not only to store old content, but also to organize, search and play all your media

Turn an old tablet into a dynamic photo frame

An old iPad used as a picture frame.

Old tablets are well suited to serve as digital photo frames. Oftentimes, the process is also very simple. All you have to do is load old photos into the tablet’s native Photos app, then simply set it to slideshow mode and make sure that the screen sleep function is disabled. It is also possible to find support software that can eliminate the need for a wired connection to transfer images. We are big fans of Frameo and Fotoo.

Reuse an old phone as a security camera

Many things

Now that most smartphones are equipped with very powerful cameras, it is easier and more efficient than ever to turn your old phone into a security camera. Depending on the app you’re using, a phone’s camera can provide remote live streaming to your primary device, and in some cases you can even save your footage to the cloud.

While this is primarily intended for home security, similar services can turn old phones into dashcams, so you can have an ongoing record of what’s happening on the road. Drive Recorder is among the most popular options on Android.

And if all else fails, just donate the device

If you can’t find a new use for your old tools, there are plenty of people out there who can use your stuff. For larger devices like phones, computers, and tablets, it’s worth looking at organizations like Computers with Reasons, a registered charity that collects and distributes devices to low-income families, seniors, and disabled veterans. You can even get a tax receipt for the donation.

Other tools can easily be offloaded via local “buy anything” groups, many of which can be found on Facebook. If you’re looking to barter and possibly get something out of it, apps like Bunz can provide a healthy swap ecosystem.

We hope these beloved tech choices give you a chance to continue contributing to your life or the life of someone else. If these options don’t work, make sure you dispose of your old electronics responsibly. They are loaded with hazardous materials that must be handled with care.

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