If you’re the kind of tech person who likes to stay on the cutting edge, the kind who upgrades their phone every year or rotates laptops with a significant frequency, then it can be tough to know what you should do with your old stuff. I mean, yeah, you could throw it out or try to sell it on eBay, but you can also put it to work in other useful ways. Here are some ideas.
A lot of people, myself included, use their phones to control their TV and stereo. You can cast stuff video to your TV or music to a smart speaker via functions like Airplay or Chromecast. If you want to unplug and put your smartphone away when you’re at home, having a separate device for a remote control is extremely helpful.
Yeah, smartphones are good for mobile games, but there’s some cool stuff on the horizon as well. Companies like Google and Microsoft are working on “cloud gaming,” letting you (theoretically) play console-quality games on your phone by streaming video from a remote server. Newer Android phones and iPhones with iOS 13 are compatible with Xbox and PlayStation controllers, so it’s worth keeping an old smartphone around if you’re interested in checking it out.
If you’re worried about security but not worried enough to buy a dedicated camera, you can use an old Android phone instead. Most guides recommend an app called IP Webcam to get it working. Once it’s set up, you can check in on things while you’re out.
Spare GPS device
Even if you don’t have an internet connection, your old smartphone’s GPS system should still work. Popular apps like Google Maps let you cache navigational data and save it offline, so there’s nothing stopping you from keep an old phone in your car just in case.
Computers and Laptops
PC media server
Instead of junking your old PC, set it up as a media server (here’s a tutorial) so you can access movies, music, and family photos from any device on your network. It makes it easier to share stuff with your household without manually sending files around.
Participate in a science project
Folding@home is a distributed computing project that “simulates protein folding, computational drug design, and other types of molecular dynamics.” It’s a program that runs in the background on computers and aids medical research. Is your old PC going to cure cancer? Probably not. But it’ll help in a small way.
And the rest…
Strip it for parts
This is a long shot but there’s a healthy aftermarket for old PC parts, in part because you can’t really buy individual components directly from manufacturers. You can also do it just to see if you can. iFixIt sells plenty of ready-made kits for any assembly/disassembly project you might pursue.
Give it to your parents
This one’s pretty obvious but you can save yourself some time and headaches by taking an old computer or phone, setting it up yourself, and then giving it to your parents. They’re not going to replace that old Gateway on their own!
When the electrical grid eventually fails and we return to using paper for everything, you’re gonna need something to hold all of that paper down.