Now that you (or a friend) switched from PC to Mac, what do you do with the PC? Surprisingly, that old PC might be a great accessory for your Mac (and not just as a footrest). Reuse before you recycle, pull that old PC out of the trash and make it submit to the power of your Mac.
Parallel/LPT Port Printing
First, a former PC often has an old printer lying around that might at least have some ink or toner left in it. Sometimes that printer might even be a heavy duty laser printer that unfortunately has a old PC parallel/LPT port which isn’t compatible with your Mac. After you set up your PC to print to the printer, simply right click on Properties and then set print for sharing.
On your Mac, go to System Preferences, and then Add Printer. If you click on Windows, the printer should show up as shared. You’ll probably need to choose the type of printer, since the Mac won’t automatically recognize it. When the ink or toner dries up, you may still want to keep this print server around to offload larger jobs without tying up your Mac or your main printer.
Networked Storage Space
While you’ve got that PC networked for printing, you might also like to use Windows File Sharing and create a network-accessible hard drive commonly called NAS (for Network Attached Storage). Your hard drive will be accessible to anyone in your household. Best of all, most PCs can often take more than one hard drive, so adding additional storage is relatively inexpensive and easy to do.
Besides extending your network storage space and sharing files, you can setup a utility like CrashPlan. CrashPlan allows you to easily backup one computer to another over a network. As always, standard caveats apply regarding setting a proper password, firewall, and antivirus for your PC.
iTunes Home Sharing
Even if you don’t enable file sharing, iTunes Home Sharing via Bonjour will still be accessible to you. Install iTunes on this older PC and store music you want to share with others in your household. With the proliferation of laptops in a household, iTunes music sharing is a bit harder without a central location. Why clog up the hard drive of your other Macs? If you backup your music to this central PC and make it accessible via iTunes, you’ve got a truly win-win solution!
Another great use of an old PC is as a burning station. Unlike Mac optical drives, PC drives are relatively inexpensive and easy to replace. If you’re making that mix CD for all your wedding guests [Ed. note: The RIAA views this as copyright infringement.] or want to burn 50 copies of your presentation for prospective clients, doing it on your Mac is a slow process and can wear out your drive. After you make a master CD on your Mac, use your favorite PC burning program and burn away! Your Mac isn’t tied up and if your PC burner dies, it’s easy to replace.
Virtual PC Without The Virtual
Finally, the best use of an old PC in my opinion is a faux Virtual Machine. While programs like Fusion and Parallels are great, they’ll never quite reach the speed and flexibility of a true PC. Bootcamp is great, but you always have to reboot to use the PC and its peripherals. I’ve got an older PC that serves one primary function: running Quickbooks for the PC.
Simply add the PC to your network and install a cross-platform remote control program such as LogMeIn, VNC or Timbuktu Pro. Using these, you can generally run the computer “headless”, that is without a monitor.
So the next time someone says “what do I do with this old PC?” you’ll have some great recommendations. Or you could gallantly offer to take it off their hands, free of charge. You’ll nab yourself a handy accessory, and help make the world a slightly greener place in the process.
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