What to do with an old laptop?

Пост доступен на русском языке via Восстановление на Softdroid: Как вернуть к работе старый ноутбук.

After five long years using my trusted (and now extremely out of date) laptop, I’ve finally moved along to something better.

Old Laptop

Dell Latitude D610, Intel Pentium-M 750 (1.86GHz), 2GB RAM, 60GB HDD (using Truecrypt software FDE), 14.1″ 1400×1050 LCD, Windows XP Professional 32-bit SP3.

New Laptop

Dell Latitude E6510, Intel Core i7-820QM (1.73GHz, with Turbo Boost to 3.06GHz), 8GB RAM, 250GB HDD (using Seagate hardware-based FDE), 15.6″ 1920×1080 LCD, built in 3G HSPA modem for use when travelling, backlit keyboard, Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit.

Mini Review of Dell Latitude Series

I’m not one to replace my laptop hardware often, but it was time, as I had less than a month of my 5 year warranty remaining and I was out of hard disk space. Plus, the old laptop was breaking down a bit too often for my liking. Motherboard replaced 4 times, LCD replaced 3 times, keyboard replaced 2 times, and HDD replaced once. To Dell’s credit, they never made any fuss and always promptly sent out replacement parts without making me run irrelevant diagnostic tests, but it was all getting a bit too much. I think the main reason I had so many problems was the poor placement of the exhaust vent on the Latitude D-Series chassis, which was on the back and always blocked by the port replicator, causing constant overheating. I was happy to see that on the E-Series chassis, the exhaust vent has been moved to the side instead.

I have yet to try out all of the new features of my new laptop, but I will say that it’s Fast (with a capital F). Especially compared to what I was using before. The screen is amazing and the backlit keyboard is icing on the cake, because these days I use the computer with the lights off a lot, due to having small kids around. Not that I need to look at the keyboard whilst typing, but it’s still cool to have nonetheless.

A Dilemma

However, I now have an old laptop in working condition which is sitting idle, and I don’t know what to do with it. First, I considered repurposing it as a training computer for my 3 year old daughter and installing a netbook OS as those should in theory be pretty basic and easy to use.

First I tried Jolicloud (PreFinal release), a netbook OS that seems to be getting generally good reviews in the blogosphere. I tried the LiveCD and was disappointed to find that the Intel wifi card in my laptop did not work (nor was I able to find any information online about making it work). So I just gave it a look-through offline, enough to get a feel about what it offers.

Then I tried Ubuntu Netbook Edition (version 10.04), where the wifi did work on the LiveCD. Overall a pretty similar experience to Jolicloud, which was not a huge surprise given they share the same foundations. Jolicloud seemed to offer a better out of the box experience (rather it would have, had wifi been working), but Ubuntu’s UI polish was much better.

However, finally, both options seemed somewhat underwhelming and I kept on thinking to myself, “What if I just put XP back on this thing?” After all, XP is now almost a decade old, very stable due to years of bugfixes and patching, and pretty snappy too. Jolicloud and Ubuntu, as netbook-optimised OS’, stand out when dealing with real netbooks which have very limited vertical real estate. However, with 1050 pixels on the Y-axis, the appeal of screen real estate saving features was pretty minimal.

After all this, I also gave up on the idea about using my old laptop as a training machine for my daughter. Makes more sense just to use the home desktop with Windows 7 and a regular keyboard and mouse rather than using Windows XP with a relatively confusing trackpad.

I think most likely, I probably will install Windows XP on the old laptop. The alternatives are underwhelming. Though, I still have no idea what I’ll do with it.

5 thoughts on “What to do with an old laptop?”

  1. Salaams,

    Have gone through the same situations you cited, both in trying out the Ubuntu netbook edition as well has the desktop one but none worked on my very old Acer, but then I reinstalled XP home and handed it over to the Kids. Mohammed is now doing fine with it and so is my 4 year old Khadija who has found out new ways for watching the nursery rhymes googling and she annoys Mohammed over the laptop that I gave to him.
    I think kids are better off with XP then Win 7 and its more friendlier to them….Ubuntu is not for them yet.
    BTW, Its khadija’s 4th B’day tomorrow night.
    Oh one more thing I would highly recommend Juz30 software (just do a google search) for your daughter for memorizing Quran and do download husaree for her.

  2. Thank you so much for your article 🙂
    I was thinking about replacing my 5 y.o. HP laptop for a newer one, since it allows me to do what I still want too, but in comparison to my brother’s 2 y.o. old HP, very slowly.

    At least I’m not alone! I have no idea what I will do with still working HP, but I am sure I can find a good use for it. 🙂

  3. Hello guys, well I have had my share of old laptops, but in my eyes they are never old.
    I have used and older Dell 600 as a server for transmitting a USB camera feed from the airport so that I could get a live feed on the weather prior to driving 35 Km to find out, being an instructor it would be nice to get a better view of the weather at the field especially when it is marginal.

    I have a Dell 600 laptop installed at my parents home, I connect to it via Teamviewer and could activate both the USB camera and audio remotely. My father has alzheimers and i check in with him from work or when I am travelling.
    I have converted a few old, very old laptops into digital picture frames and given them as gifts to family and friends, they are configured to download pictures automatically from my server and this way they can follow along with my adventures and get regular updates and take a part in my life regardless geographical location.

    My latest conversion is a Toshiba portege 3010CT – 266 Mhz with 32MB RAM, installed with DSL (Damn Small Linux) and placed in a ready to use IKEA “RIBBA” frame that cost $4.99. This way I do not need to build a PC holding unit around it, the frame functions as the housing unit, 2 hours later you got yourself a digital picture frame.

    Home automation server is another attempt I have done with test software, when the free trial was over I did not bother to purchase the software.

    If your laptops have built in WIFI or if you have a WIFI NIC for that model, then you can use it as a wireless base station.
    I am using an old Compaq Armada 7730 with a Compaq WL100 PCMCIA as a wireless base station and a firewall filtering sniffer.

    There is a vast variety of usages, imagination is the limit.
    Enjoy your attempts.


  4. Salaams.Has read your conversations on old laptops. It is a pity that I do not have laptop. Unfortunately there is no also money either on new or on the old. Would be very grateful to that person which to me has presented the laptop.Thank you for attention. Yours faithfully ValeraSibastia@rambler.ru an e-mail address

  5. Salaams.Has read your conversations on old laptops. It is a pity that I do not have laptop. Unfortunately there is no also money either on new or on the old. Would be very grateful to that person which to me has presented the laptop.Thank you for attention. Yours faithfully Valera.Sibastia@rambler.ru an e-mail address

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