9 Things to Do with Old Computer Parts

When the time comes for you to upgrade your computer, it can sometimes feel daunting as to what to do with your old one. You probably spent hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on your old computer, and throwing it away seems like an unspeakable offense. Yet, just leaving it sitting there and taking up space in your bedroom or home office doesn’t seem like a great idea, either.

What do you do with old computer parts? There are a number of creative and productive ways to repurpose your old computer parts. Most include rewriting functioning parts for other uses, using components for décor, or finding responsible ways to dispose of them. Here are 9 ideas on how to use old computer parts:  

  1.  Revamp and repurpose the speakers
  2.  Turn the cooling system into an LED lamp
  3.  Make re-use of the screen
  4.  Extract the microphone for recordings
  5.  Make ornaments from the screen components
  6.  Make magnets out of keys
  7.  Search for rebates
  8.  Take it to the recycling center
  9.  Donate

To find products to help with these ideas, click here.

The manner in which you employ your old computer parts will vary depending on your electrical knowhow or style as an interior decorator. However, it is best to at least consider all potential options for repurposing your old computer before simply throwing it out.

Rewire Old Computer Parts for Further Electronic Use

If you want to get further electronic use out of your computer, the first step will be to take the computer apart so that you can get to the components contained within. This will involve removing all screws from the back of your computer and prying apart any plastic casing that was held in place by these screws. 

This casing protects various components that will have a variety of new uses.

Once these components are exposed, you will want to carefully separate all of the internals, gently pulling on any wires and separating the interior parts in a manner that will not compromise their future utility, if you choose to use them.

Now that your computer is apart, you should be able to identify the parts that will be useful to you for repurposing projects. While there are countless ways old computer parts can be electronically repurposed, in this article, we will only discuss the old computer parts that are most easily repurposed for novice do-it-yourselfers

1. Revamp and Repurpose the Speakers

Most laptops, especially those made after 2008, come equipped with extremely good speakers that will still be useful, even after the computer itself may not be functioning at optimum levels. Some of these laptop speakers even come with mini subwoofers.

Most of these laptop speakers come encased in their own sealed enclosures, eliminating the need to build a speaker box, allowing you to use the speakers as they are. These speakers are generally very flat and unobtrusive, so they can be easily joined together with glue to make one unified speaker system. 

After the speakers are joined into one unit, you can solder a Bluetooth amplifier to the plastic enclosures around the periphery of the speakers. A small Bluetooth amplifier will likely need five volts to operate, so you will need to solder on a USB socket, which will allow you to connect the speaker system to a USB power bank, to give the amplifier its power.

The speaker unit will now be functional, if not overly aesthetically pleasing. Fortunately, there are ways you can dress it up. A couple of simple steps will give your repurposed speakers a professional and finished look:

  • Add trim to the outside of the system – along the plastic edges that enclose the speakers, add some wooden or plastic skirting. This skirting will need to be thicker than the casing around the speakers, maybe about half a centimeter or so, in order to keep the covering from resting directly on the speakers.
  • Wrap the unit in a thin fabric – you will want to make sure the fabric is thin enough that it does not obstruct the sound coming from the speakers. Once the unit is fully wrapped, fasten the fabric to the skirting with some small staples.

As this new speaker unit is connected to a Bluetooth amplifier, it can be wirelessly connected to your phone or tablet to play music or podcasts. In addition, since the speaker unit is relatively flat, lightweight, and unobtrusive, it can easily be mounted to a wall for convenience.

2. Turn the Cooling System into an LED Lamp

Every laptop comes equipped with a system that will move heat away from particularly hot-running integrated circuits (IC). This is necessary so that extremely high temperatures do not damage the IC or other important components of your computer’s interior.

Heat is transferred by using a set of small pipes that move the heat through the computer and to the fan, which then blows the excess heat out of your device and into the open air.

As this cooling system within your computer is capable of handling a significant amount of heat, it is perfect for cooling light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that rest outside of your computer. As most LEDs quickly generate an abundance of heat due to the amount of light, they emit relative to their size, they can quickly burn out if not connected to an adequate cooling system.

This is where your old computer’s cooling system can come in handy. An interesting desk lamp can be made with only the following materials:

  • Your old computer’s cooling system
  • A couple of small LED units
  • An LED driver circuit
  • A sturdy piece of aluminum, or other mounting structure

Use the following steps to make your lamp:

  1. Remove the cooling system from your old laptop – this should be easy to spot as the fan will make it noticeable. The fan will be connected to a couple of thin, copper-looking pipes
  2. Attach the LED units to your cooling system – ensure that you get a glue capable of withstanding high temperatures, as even with the cooling system, the lights will give off a decent amount of heat that could cause inferior glues to lose their adhesive properties. The good news is that LEDs are very lightweight, so minimal glue will be required.
  3. Connect the LEDs to a driver circuit – this is necessary to ensure that the LEDs are receiving the appropriate amount of current. Even if the lights are being properly cooled, they can still get fried and cease to function if too much current is received instantaneously.
  4. Mount the completed system to a display structure – this type of lighting system often looks best on an aluminum mount or some other type of metal that looks industrial and/or technological. However, it is more than okay to mount the system on just about anything, so long as the light is shining in the direction you require.

Just like that, you have successfully created a functioning LED lamp from your computer’s old cooling system.

3. Make Re-use of the Screen

Laptop screens have a wide variety of uses, even if they appear to be completely smashed. 

Once the cracked LCD layer is removed, there remains several useful diffusion sheets, Fresnel lenses, and an acrylic back panel. These components work together to spread out the computer’s backlighting evenly.

To take advantage of these light-distributing properties, you can simply leave the components in the screen casing. You will then need to wire the printed circuit board (PCB) on the back of the computer screen to activate the screen’s built-in back light. This can be an involved process for a beginner in do-it-yourself, so you may find this video helpful.

Once the PCB is successfully wired, there is a soft, diffused light source that can be used for a variety of purposes. Some ideas include:

  • Tracing backlight – this can enhance the image of the object you are trying to trace, allowing for the capture of more details. Simply put the object you wish to trace on the backlight, cover it with a blank piece of paper of your choice, and notice how clearly the object shines through the illuminated paper for easy tracing.
  • A false window – the illuminated backlight can make it look like the sun is shining into a room if mounted onto the wall. This is a great idea if your office or bedroom does not have a window and you are trying to increase the vibe to feel sunnier and more optimistic.
  • Hanging pictures – you can have a favorite image of yours printed on thin paper and then attach this picture to the illuminated backlight. This turns the picture into a high definition image and works especially well for images of nightlife.

4. Extract the Microphone for Recordings

The microphone in your laptop will be one of the smallest and most difficult interior components to detect. You will need to look for a small cylinder that has two wires attached.

Once you have the microphone located, there are a number of different ways you can utilize its properties. The most simple and straightforward is to make a small clip-on microphone that can be used for recording interviews. However, as not everyone will need a microphone to conduct interviews, this mini microphone can be attached to headphones for hands-free phone calls.

There are several steps you will need to take in order to make your old laptop microphone functional for telephone calls:

  1. Solder the microphone’s wires to a shielded audio cable – this shielded cable will prevent buzzing and interference noises.
  2. Thread the cable through a small piece of plastic tubing – this will protect the cable and give it a higher grade of structural integrity when completely functional. You will want to leave a small amount of the cable (the side nearest to the end of the microphone) exposed so that you can adjust the microphone’s position when mounted.
  3. Mount the tubing to your headset – this is most easily done using a small piece of Sugru. Sugru looks like molding clay and can be stuck to the outside of your headset. Once attached, embed the plastic tubing containing the microphone wire into the Sugru until it is completely concealed, allowing the new device to set into place.
  4. Add amplification – the amplification in computers is not very good, so you will need to add some external amplification to prevent distortion during calls. Connect this external amp to some wires that are powered by a USB port. Cover this amp with electric tape and plug into the computer’s USB port and microphone input to record quality calls.

Once completed and plugged in, your new headset will be of great utility in allowing for two-way communication for phone calls and/or interactive video games.

Use Structural Components for Decorations

If you are not particularly electronically inclined or do not see the need for any of the repurposed devices constructed in the previous section, there are still a couple of ways you can put your old computer to use without throwing it out.

5. Make Ornaments from the Screen Components

As mentioned in the previous section, there are many valuable layers that lie beneath the LCD covering the screen.

Some of these layers, including the acrylic back panel, can be used for creative arts and crafts projects. Neat ornaments can be made using the following steps:

  1. Cover the acrylic back panel in masking tape
  2. Trace your design on the masking tape
  3. Cut around the design and file down any uneven edges
  4. Remove the masking tape
  5. Attach some low intensity LED light strips (think Christmas lights) to the back of your ornament to illuminate at night

If you want to hang these ornaments, a small hole will need to be drilled through the top, through which a thin piece of twine can be laced in order to hang the ornament from a fixture.

Due to the nature of the acrylic back panel, these ornaments will be very lightweight, so hanging may not be the most desirable use for them. As such, small notches can be carved into strips of wood in which to set your design, making for a neat decoration or do-it-yourself gift.

6. Make Magnets Out of Keys

Popping the keys out of your old keyboard and filing down the backs can make a smooth surface on which to glue some small magnets.

These can be great to hang on your refrigerator to spell out inspiring messages or to add to a metal tray to help toddlers learn their letters and numbers, allowing them to form words, phrases, and number sentences without the characters getting lost.

If you do not want to magnetize the back of the old keys, another great idea is to turn the keys into a memory game for kids. Simply trace the outline of a keyboard onto a piece of cardboard and see how well your youngster can use the free keys to properly reconstruct a keyboard.

Recycling or Making a Charitable Donation

Even if you are not a person who enjoys do-it-yourself projects or has a flair for decorating with old electronics, there are still some good alternatives to throwing out your old computer.

7. Search for Rebates

Some state laws prohibit that large electronic devices, such as computers, be thrown into the garbage.

As such, some stores and/or manufacturers offer rebates to ensure the safe disposal of your device.

If you kept your original receipt, check with the outlet from which you originally purchased the computer. They may be able to give you some money back for returning the device to them.

If not, it would be best to contact the specific manufacturer of your computer to see if it offers any incentives and/or guidelines for adequate disposal of your old computer.

8. Recycle

This is a better idea for computers that are severely misshapen and beyond repair than those computers that are simply old, slow, and ready for an upgrade. Think of computers that were inadvertently yanked from the desk and smashed against an unforgiving floor, or computers that got irreparably damaged in the back of a moving truck.

Most computers are made out of recyclable metals. Most salvage yards pay by the ounce or pound for these types of materials, so you may be able to recoup some cash by visiting the recycling yard, depending on what you have.

In addition, there may be do-it-yourselfers out there who do value the components of your computer. It may be worth your time to take your broken device to a pawn shop, or list it on the Internet “as is,” to see if anyone is interested in giving you a few bucks for the components he or she may be able to salvage.

9. Donate

While your computer may no longer be able to function at the level you desire or require, there is still a strong possibility that it can be useful to someone. 

After removing all important files and personal information from your old computer and storing them on the cloud or an external storage device, it is relatively simple to wipe your hard drive clean. 

You could then download a few games, save them locally, and give your old device to an orphanage or foster center so that kids can play games. Or you may choose to add some word processing software to the device and donate it to a homeless shelter so that the needy can work on resumes and cover letters.

In some locations, you can even get a tax deduction for donating old or used computers and/or computer parts.

Final Thoughts

Don’t just get rid of you old computer parts. There are many things you can do with them. This list is just a few ideas for you to take advantage of when it comes to using your old computer parts. Things to do with old computer parts include:

  1.  Revamp and repurpose the speakers
  2.  Turn the cooling system into an LED lamp
  3.  Make re-use of the screen
  4.  Extract the microphone for recordings
  5.  Make ornaments from the screen components
  6.  Make magnets out of keys
  7.  Search for rebates
  8.  Take it to the recycling center
  9.  Donate

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