Introduction: Repurposing an Old Computer

Picture of Repurposing an Old Computer

Someone once asked me what they could do with an old computer, and my reply was, "Anything you want!"

We all have them -- they're in the back of the closet, or in the dusty attic or basement, or sitting out in the garage.  Some may or may not work, and may or may not be worth fixing.  And some are just too old and slow to be turned into a media center or put to any other task, and are so obsolete they're not even worth donating.  Certainly if a computer is worth fixing, I highly recommend it.  After all, the computer I'm using to upload this instructable is around 10 years old -- or at least it's motherboard and processor are that old.  Or, if an old computer can be turned into a Linux machine -- and if that's your thing -- go for it!

The computers I'm thinking of are those that just need to be sent to the junk pile.  But before you send them out to be recycled, I want to point out a few things you can make out of them that you might find to be a fun project.

If this interests you, read on....

Step 1: The Parts in Your Computer Don't Have to 'compute!'

Picture of The Parts in Your Computer Don't Have to 'compute!'

There is a wonderful assortment of parts in an old computer than can be made into interesting sculptures!

The robot sculpture in the photo was made from an old AMD processor, a processor heat sink, two PCI cards, a cooling fan, and a bad length of ethernet cable.

I attached the parts to the heat sink using a combination of screws and epoxy.  It was a relatively simple project, and in the fall it will probably make its way to my daughter's 2nd grade classroom as a decoration.

Step 2: Some Parts Can Even Be Almost 'artsy'

Picture of Some Parts Can Even Be Almost 'artsy'

If you happen to have a photo of your 13 year old dog wearing a dunce hat, then I have great news for you!  There just happens to be a really neat photo frame hidden in the optical drive.

As I disassembled the world's slowest optical drive, I came across this aluminum part and thought, "Wow!  This would make a really neat picture frame!"

I removed the part, fastened my photo behind it, added a cardboard backing, and engineered a simple cardboard stand (2nd photo) so it would be free-standing.  Somewhere down the road I'll probably use the plastic housing of the optical drive for an even larger picture frame.

Step 3: Don't Forget the Hard Drive

Picture of Don't Forget the Hard Drive

I always remove the hard drive before I dispose of a computer, because leaving them in isn't good from a security point of view.  This hard drive could have been re-formatted and used as a 2nd drive, but it was so old and small it wasn't worth fooling with.  So, it became a sculpture of a hard drive computer virus!

I took the drive apart, drove out the bearing that holds the platter in, and remounted the platter on the opposite side to give the "virus" some depth.  I added wiggly eyes, and used a portion of the ring that held the processor fan in place for the mouth.  The original cable became the hair and arms. 

The cable used for the hair was simply glued in place as was the mouth, and the arms are held in place by small brackets (made from wire) that were screwed in place. 

My teacher daughter has already taken this to her home!

Step 4: And Finally.....

Picture of And Finally.....

And finaly, there are the mouse-a-saurs!  I made these from some old computer mice -- the kind that plug in and have the little rolling ball on the bottom.  Every part in each mouse-a-saur came from a single mouse. 

The housings became the head, the circuit board became the body, and they feet were either made from the mouse buttons or the cable ends.  The eyes came from the index wheels inside the mouse, the nose from the rubber covering on the mouse ball, and the arms from the mouse cable.  Everything was assembled using hot glue.

This is certainly not an all-inclusive list of what you can do with the parts inside an old computer, but it's probably enough to get you thinking!  Not only did I have fun making these, but I kept much of an old computer from hitting the landfill.

Plus, with the mouse-a-saurs, I can now sit in my little workshop and be surrounded by all my friends.....!

Comments

rmarcus2 (author)2014-02-03

I adore the mouse-a-saurs! Great job!

Yonatan24 (author)rmarcus22015-11-15

Same here! It's the best!

knife141 (author)rmarcus22014-02-03

Thank you for your comment!

Yonatan24 (author)2015-11-15

Hi, I've added your project to the "A Collection of New Uses for Your Old Computer" Collection

This is the link If you are interested:

https://www.instructables.com/id/A-Collection-of-Ne...

pianolover10124353 (author)2013-07-19

you make the coolest stuff, I just want to buy it all.

HollyMann (author)2013-06-27

WOW I am so impressed and absolutely love everything you've created - I wish I had that skill!!!

knife141 (author)HollyMann2013-06-27

Holly -- I've seen your instructables and you definitely DO have that skill! Thanks for the comment!!

HollyMann (author)HollyMann2013-06-27

And the old mouse is my favorite!!! So cute!

xaenon (author)2013-06-26

I dig that vintage calculator!

billbillt (author)xaenon2013-06-26

looks like an old TI "Datamath" to me...Maybe 1974..

knife141 (author)xaenon2013-06-26

Thanks! I found that at a flea market, took it home, cleaned it up, and after a fresh battery it worked like new.

neil1701 (author)2013-06-26

An interesting article.Like you said,there are many things you could make from old computer parts,i think i seen a pic on the internet of an old computer case used as a mailbox or a simple one is all these clocks you can buy made from old CDs/DVDs and cassette shells(from back in the day when 4.75cm per second was the data transfer rate in the 80s unless you were better off and had a FDD like a CBM 1541.Keep up the inventing and keep posting the inventions you make.I,m bicycles myself and mad 2 homemade trailers that i use for different purposes.......

knife141 (author)neil17012013-06-26

Thanks! I appreciate your comment.

seems you have forgotten the possible electronic uses for the components. there will be enough circuitry in there for some awesome projects.

Kiteman (author)2013-06-25

You ought to do separate step-by-steps for each of these ideas.

I'm sure they would popular, especially those mouse-a-saurs!

blkhawk (author)2013-06-25

I have some old working computers that I have repurposed using small Linux distros. They are very efficient printer or web servers.

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Bio: I enjoy taking a pile of junk and making something unusual out of it. I like wheeled vehicles, and currently own two motorcycles, two electric ... More »
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