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What do I do with a moderately fast spare computer?
February 20, 2012 1:43 PM   Subscribe

Ideas for what to do with a (moderately fast) spare PC in 2012? (Intel C2D 3ghz E8400, 8GB RAM, etc) HTPC comes to mind, but open to more creative suggestions.

I bought this Dell about 5 years ago and have been updating it here and there ever since. (SSD, 8GB RAM, 3GHZ processor, etc)

I've finally outgrown the case and motherboard, so I decided to build a whole new machine from scratch. (Really wanted to upgrade to a core i7)

That being said, I've now got a moderately fast PC on my hands that I'd feel guilty using only as a file server. I'm considering installing Boxee on it, or perhaps some sort of HTPC operating system and maybe even moving the innards into an HTPC case as well, but I don't know if there are any other fun alternatives/projects. (All of the older related MeFis relate to outdated processors that are only capable of basic tasks, I figured I'd refresh the topic with a C2D machine and plenty of RAM.)
posted by petah to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
That's way too beefy for an HTPC, IMO. GPU-based video decoding is your friend, and keeps everything cool and therefore quiet.

If I were you, I'd build a Visual Pinball cabinet. That machine should play most tables pretty well.
posted by wierdo at 1:56 PM on February 20, 2012


Donate it
posted by Confess, Fletch at 2:03 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


FWIW, that has more than enough horsepower for a HTPC. You will want a graphics card for that purpose. The Radeon 7750 is a very strong candidate: easily fast enough to do all 1080p video functions (TV, Blu-ray), does not require additional power through a PCI-Express power connector, and can play many games (may need to dumb down graphics for top-end games). The cost for that card is $110.

The other upgrades would be expected: enough hard drive space to store your movies/TV, TV tuner. If your TV provider requires a CableCARD there are now a few options for CableCARD tuners, but your OS will have to be Windows 7 (due to Windows Media Center requirements).
posted by Mister Fabulous at 2:11 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Join a bunch of distributed computing projects: leave it turned on, connected to the Internetz, and searching for large prime numbers and aliens and whatever.
posted by kengraham at 2:14 PM on February 20, 2012


My spare PC runs torrents 24 hours a day.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:33 PM on February 20, 2012


Well, if you put a graphics card in it, you could turn it into a super-console: with the right tools it could be emulating every video game system from the dark ages up through the Playstation 2 (and with better graphics on the polygonal systems to boot).

Get a frontend (a program that "unifies" your different emulators and simplifies the process of selecting games/music/movies etc) and a controller. You can boot straight to the frontend and never have to use a keyboard and mouse. It does take a lot of time though.

Here's what people can do with this sort of setup when they're of a mind.
posted by Poppa Bear at 4:54 AM on February 21, 2012


If you're the kind of person who feels guilty about things run the number on the power consumption. Then you will want something far more efficient (green and long run cost effective) than this for a HTPC or fileserver.

Sell it. Donate it. Just don't use it because it is what you have (says the guilty person running xbmc on an xbox because it is there).
posted by srboisvert at 7:50 AM on February 21, 2012


With those specs, it could make a decent transcoder (utilizing the GPU for an extra boost) if you have a lot of spare time and DVDs/BluRays laying around.
posted by samsara at 8:05 AM on February 21, 2012


Donate it to your local equivalent of FreeGeek Chicago. They'll take this PC and turn around to help work to minimize the digital divide. This machine is in good shape, but your local community PC reuse / recycle organization will part out older machines grabbing useful components and recycling the rest.
posted by garlic at 8:23 AM on February 21, 2012


Mister Fabulous: "The other upgrades would be expected: enough hard drive space to store your movies/TV, TV tuner. If your TV provider requires a CableCARD there are now a few options for CableCARD tuners, but your OS will have to be Windows 7 (due to Windows Media Center requirements)."

Only if your cable provider sets the CCI byte on channels you actually watch. Mine doesn't (except for a few premiums, which I no longer subscribe to), so a CableCARD tuner works fine with MythTV or whatever else.
posted by wierdo at 11:31 AM on February 21, 2012


If you don't want to build a HTPC then your existing DVD drive, memory, hard drive, SSD and (potentially) the PSU could all be used in the new computer.
posted by mr_silver at 2:19 PM on February 21, 2012


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