What to do With an Old Netbook?

Many of us at the moment probably own one or more of these devices: a laptop, desktop, smart phone, possibly a tablet and maybe a netbook. If we exclude the smart phone, the weakest device in your arsenal now is probably the netbook.

Netbooks were great. It's light, extremely portable, has a decent battery life and you can do all your browsing and emailing in convenience. However today, notebooks are extremely affordable and have much better specs than a netbook. Then the tablet arrived, it used to be expensive with Apple dominating the market, but thanks to Android a plethora of tablets have poured in the market. By now, you are probably doing your netbook stuff on your tablet (email, browsing, videos, social networking etc…) or combining the netbook usage with some high end gaming or graphics on your notebook.

Now you've got a netbook lying around, doing nothing but picking up dust. So, what other uses can you find for your old netbook? Here are a few I came up with:

Give It Away

This one is pretty obvious, if you have someone that doesn't own a computer the netbook will probably be the best gift ever! You could also give it to a younger sibling or donate it to some charity or thrift shop to be sold. Quick and easy disposal. Someone like me however, would skip this option.

Try a Different Operating System

Your netbook most likely came shipped with Windows XP or Windows 7 Starter, I'm leaning to a majority of XP netbooks. Heard of Linux? No, it is not a hacker thing. Although technically incorrect, Linux is an alternative operating system. However they come in flavors (Linux is the kernel), depending on usage. For beginners I would recommend Ubuntu. Simply download it, get a flash drive, download and run Unetbootin to create a bootable flash drive and let your netbook boot from the flash. Ubuntu will give you the opportunity to try it out without touching your hard disk contents.

For the geeks: install something like FreeBSD and show off your devilish netbook!

Run a NAS

Netbooks aren't really suited for running a Network Attached Storage (NAS) servers because they usually come with small capacity drives. However, if you just need to attach an external USB drive and you've instantly upgraded usable storage. For a quick NAS solution try FreeNAS. It is built upon FreeBSD but has everything you need to start a NAS almost immediately after installation. It comes with an easy to use web interface and several plugins to expand its capabilities. Don't let the system requirements fool you, for a small network your 1GB of RAM netbook should be ok.

I will probably be doing this with my old netbook.

Donate its CPU Cycles

Although I do not recommend it on netbooks, you could "donate" CPU time to one of several grid computing projects out there. Your CPU will be running at (or almost) maximum capacity searching for disease cures or aliens. Reason I do not recommend it is that firstly, the CPU will get hot and netbooks do not have the best cooling fans. Secondly, the CPU in a netbook is pretty slow, so you will complete computation projects pretty slow as well (may take days for a single work unit).

WiFi Repeater

If you live in a large house or one with many walls that make it difficult for WiFi signals to pass through, you may want a repeater of some sorts to extend the signal. Rather than buying a wireless extender, try a software solution. If you are running a Windows 7 netbook simply install Connectify and a few clicks later you have a wireless router that uses your current WiFi network. Place the netbook somewhere in the middle and you'll get better coverage throughout your house. Or, share WiFi with your friends (and your other devices) through your netbook in places that charge for, or have authenticated Internet access such as hotels, coffee shops, convention halls etc…

Other Uses

A few other uses (but that may not be as practical): automating your home (light on, lights off with a clap, sort of :-P), network firewall (requires at least 2 network cards), sell the parts (HD and RAM probably easiest accessible) or sell it online (is it worth much?)

One thought on “What to do With an Old Netbook?”

  1. With new superphones like the HTC One X or the Samsung Galaxy S III rocking 1.5 GHz quad cores, they probably will be stronger than your typical netbook. So your “exclude the smart phone” comment in the first paragraph isn’t too necessary. 😀

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