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Reusing Old Computers & Routers

Introduction

Do you have an old computer or router—or a whole heap of them—lying around collecting dust? If you have some spare time you can put them to good use and learn a few things along the way.

In this article, we’ll discover 17 different tech projects making use of old computers and wireless routers. Some projects you may be interested in just for experimental reasons, but most can serve a real and productive purpose.

The majority of the computer projects require a working machine, but most will work with relativity low resources and some without a working Windows (or any OS) installation. Some projects will work with virtually any old PC or laptop from the past decade, while some may require a machine that’s only a couple years old. Since many consumers tend to work on a three, four or five year cycle (meaning they buy a new machine every 3-5 years) most of the machines you have sitting in the garage should work just fine.

Before wiping your computer’s hard drive, you might want to make sure there’s nothing on it that you want to save. Who knows, you might find some old documents or photos that you can reminisce over! The third project on the next page actually discusses how to recover your files.

Most of the wireless router projects require the use of a firmware replacement. These only work for select brands, models, and model versions. Your other limitation is the wireless standard; if your old router supports only 802.11b, wireless connections are limited to speeds of 11 Mbps. If using 802.11b/g you’re limited to speeds of 54 Mbps. To put those older standards into prospective, the newer 802.11n standard supports speeds to 450 Mbps and above.

Many of these projects take advantage of free open source software, along with freeware and commercial products. If you find a solution that runs on its own OS, keep in mind you can also experiment with it on your current system right inside Windows by using Windows Virtual PC or another virtualization application.