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What to do with an old laptop: 10 clever ideas

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So you’ve upgraded to a brand-new laptop at last—or perhaps you’re finally clearing out clutter—and now you’ve got an old laptop to deal with. What to do with it?

That depends on your circumstances, the age of your laptop, and the amount of time and space you have. But chances are, your old hardware can rise to the challenge of a second lease on life, even if it’s not with you. You can give it a new, single purpose; donate it to a worthy cause; sell it (even if it’s only for parts); or responsibly lay it to rest. To help you decide on your laptop’s next act, we’ve gathered up our top suggestions, with specific project ideas to try if you keep it.

Repurpose

Neverware CloudReady welcome screen on Lenovo ThinkPad X240 Alaina Yee / IDG

Turning your old laptop into a Chromebook is a simple, easy project—and in some cases can result in a Chromebook that has better specs than today’s low- and-midrange models.

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Before you go out and buy a new device—say, a Chromebook or a media streamer—consider whether you can reuse an old laptop to handle the work instead. 

These projects don’t require hardware upgrades, but if your laptop is on the older side (7+ years), it might pack more of a punch if you add more RAM or swap a hard-disk drive for an SSD. For well-aged laptops, you may need to find RAM via a reputable seller on eBay to get a reasonable price.

Not sure if your laptop will support an upgrade to a solid-state drive? Watch our video that explains how to tell if your system can take an SSD.

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Guest PC

It’s nice to be able to offer house guests a computer to use without having to sacrifice your primary device. Freshen up your old laptop with our tips to make it run faster for free, then leave it in a spare bedroom or public spot for visitors.

DIY Chromebook

This route doesn’t rule out use for other purposes, since you can obviously use a Chromebook as a guest PC, for example. But you can extend the number of devices for use in your house by switching to a lighter-weight operating system—a laptop that struggles in Windows 10 can feel much more responsive in ChromeOS. Turning a laptop into a Chromebook doesn’t take much time, either, as you’ll see in our full step-by-step guide.

If your laptop isn’t compatible, you can instead opt to install a lightweight Linux distro. Same idea, different OS flavor.

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