What Can You Do With Your Old Computer To Make it Useful Again

Uses of Old Computers A lot of us own old computers lying neglected in some corner of the basement – they are still in perfect working condition but we decided to discard them just because they are not so fast as their new cousins or that their processor and hard-drive is not good enough to run the latest software.

Well, it’s may be a good time now to wipe that dust layer off those old computers and put them to some good use - a new breed of web services makes it possible for you to do just about anything on a computer as long as it is connected to the internet and can run a web browser (like Internet Explorer or Firefox).

You don’t have to install any software on your computer as it’s all delivered on the Internet through the web browser. And these services are absolutely free though supported by advertising in some cases – there are no license restrictions which are normally associated with desktop software.

Let’s look at some of our normal computing requirements and how they can be easily solved using web based software without any hardware upgrades or investments:

Office Apps – A word processor, spreadsheet and presentation application is a must-have for any business. Infact I have seen some people writing emails inside Microsoft Word because it’s such a familiar environment and using the text formatting tools in Word or Excel is like second nature to them.

Taking a cue from Microsoft Office, Google and Zoho have developed an online version of Office productivity suite that look and behave the same way as MS Office with one difference – they are free and run inside most web browsers.

Microsoft, though a late entrant, will also be launching a web based version of Microsoft Office Works pretty soon that will compete directly with the offering of Google and Zoho.

IM Chat – After email, chat is the next most popular activity on the Internet. If your computers are not fast enough to run popular IM client software like Yahoo! Messenger, Windows Live Messenger or AOL Instant Messenger, meebo.com offers a web clone that lets you connect with your IM buddies inside the browser.

And there’s another advantage with web based instant messengers - since your employees / family members / customers are chatting inside the web browser, the risks associated with IM worms are close to nil.

File Storage and Media Players – The other day I was surfing at a nearby Reliance WebWorld outlet as the office network had suffered an outage. Though all the computers at the outlet were connected to a common network, there was no way to access files from one computer to another except for putting them in a public network folder.

And if I logged off or the computer crashed for some reason, all the files saved on the desktop would be gone forever.

It’s a common problem among internet café users in India. They have to travel with USB drives and blank CDs else they risk losing their work because the cyber café owners are less likely to provide them personal file storage.

Enter Jooce.com – a blessing for people who either don’t have computers or hop from one place to another but still need access to their data.

Uploading files or folders to Jooce is as simple as sending file attachments with email. And once your files are on Jooce, you can access them from any desktop that is connected to the web.

If your uploaded files have media content (like images, songs or videos), you can enjoy them right inside the web browser through Jooce without downloading the files locally.

Jooce is currently in a private. Other popular web services that also offer anytime access to your files include Box.net and Twango.com, which was recently acquired by mobile phone maker Nokia.

What’s next - This is probably just the beginning but expect to see more wonderful apps in near future as companies, that already sell packaged software, start to realize the potential and market of online applications. Even Adobe is working on a web version of Photoshop image editor.

Not just an average home user, Web based computing is extremely beneficial if you run a small business, a school or even an internet café with multiple computers but cannot afford multiple software licenses or expensive hardware upgrades. Get a high speed broadband connection and educate your users about the web clones.

Before you donate that old PC to a charity or sell it on eBay

Amit Agarwal

Amit Agarwal

Google Developer Expert, Google Cloud Champion

Amit Agarwal is a Google Developer Expert in Google Workspace and Google Apps Script. He holds an engineering degree in Computer Science (I.I.T.) and is the first professional blogger in India.

Amit has developed several popular Google add-ons including Mail Merge for Gmail and Document Studio. Read more on Lifehacker and YourStory


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