If you’re anything like us, you probably have Old Devices and Hardware sitting around gathering dust in the loft, the garage or the cupboard under the stairs. Printers and scanners, hard drives with low storage capacities, outdated routers and even PCs are likely candidates.
They’re all items you no longer have a specific use for because new hardware has come into your life to replace them, but you don’t want to throw them out because you never know when they might come in handy. Well, that day has finally arrived. In this Weekend Project, we’ll help you re-evaluate your old hardware and find creative new uses for it.
Scanners and Printers Scanner
Scanner Technology hasn’t changed much in recent years. Many of us put our scanners away just because they take up too much space and we don’t use them very often. If your device is very old, however, you may have abandoned it because it doesn’t work with a new PC. If you’ve simply tidied your scanner away because it’s cluttering up the place, it may be time to dig it out and get it
working again so you can finally digitise all those old photos before they fade away. Unless your scanner is really old, there’s a good chance the manufacturer will have created new drivers that work with your current operating system. Check the company’s website to see if you can find any compatible software.
If there are no new drivers available, VueScan could be the answer. The makers of this multipurpose scanning tool say it works with more than 5,600 scanners, and although it isn’t free (the standard edition costs £22.89), you can download and try it before you commit to paying. If your PC lacks the correct port for the scanner (serial or parallel, perhaps), buy a cheap USB adapter from Amazon or eBay.
The same adapters are available for printers. Again, you should be able to find compatible drivers from the manufacturer’s website, or sometimes Windows 10 can find them for you. Open Settings, select Devices, ‘Printers &Scannerss’ and click ‘Add a printer or scanner’. Wait for ‘The printer I want isn’t listed’ to appear, then tick the option ‘My printer is a little older. Help me find it’.
If you haven’t used your printer for a long time, you’ll probably have to throw away all your ink cartridges and buy new ones, and also run a deep clean (or three) to clear the nozzle heads. However, if the printer hasn’t been out of use for too long, simply submerging the ink cartridges in a bowl of warm water for a while and using a cotton bud to clean the area where the ink comes out may be enough to get them working again.
If you have a spare computer monitor, it’s probably because you replaced it with a larger, more up-to-date model, or because you bought a new PC that came with its own screen. Either way, as long as the monitor still works and you have enough space on your desk, you can bring it back into service by setting it up as a second screen.
This essentially expands your Windows desktop across two (or more) displays, giving you a lot more room to work with. You can then dedicate one screen to email or social media, for example, while using the other to work on. Alternatively, you could use the second screen to watch TV programmes and films that don’t require your complete attention while you get on with other tasks.
To work with a second screen, your computer must have a graphics card with two or more compatible ports. If yours does, the process is very straightforward. We show you how to do it in our Mini Workshop, below.
As long as your old hard drive works properly, you can use it as additional storage. Buy an external enclosure and you can turn your internal 3.5in or 2.5in hard drive into a USB-connected storage device. A hard drive docking station also lets you plug in any drive quickly.
If you have a handful of old drives, you may prefer to use them in network-attached storage (NAS) device, which works as a central repository for all your media, documents and backups. The easiest way to create one is to use FreeNAS, which runs directly from a USB flash drive that you plug into your PC.
You’ll probably want to erase any data from your old hard drives before you put them to new uses. You can format them in Windows or use CCleaner, which offers a drive wiper in its Tools section.