What should I do with my old Mac?

Apr 12, 2010 - 7 Comments

what to do with old mac

“I just got a brand new MacBook, what should I do with my old Mac?”

This is a very common question I get, and I typically give one of four answers depending on who’s asking the question. I’ll go through each choice and hopefully they’ll give you some ideas:

1) Setup the old Mac next to your new one and use mouse and keyboard sharing

For power users and professionals, this is nearly always my first suggestion. Using something like Synergy or Teleport, you can share a single mouse and keyboard across multiple Macs, effectively giving you not just two screens, but two displays with full computing power behind them. Having dual displays dramatically increases productivity and with the extra processing power having two computers is kind of the best of this world. Use your older less powerful Mac for things that are not so processor intensive and more mundane, like email, web browsing, instant messaging, etc, and use your new more powerful Mac as the primary machine for your more complex tasks, be it developing, video editing, photo manipulation, whatever. Try this out, you can thank me later.

2) Repurpose the older Mac as a media center or file server

This is a bit more complex, but if you’ve got some time on your hands it can be very rewarding to setup a file server using file sharing or a media center using something like Boxee or Plex/XBMC. If you’re setting up a media center, just remember the types of content you can playback are dependent on the Mac’s hardware capabilities, be sure to check if your Mac can play HD video if you’re looking to play high quality video files. Ready to jump in? Check out how to setup a Mac Mini as a media center.

3) Give the older Mac to a friend or family member

Maybe your kid would like a Mac in their own room, or maybe your Mom is battling viruses and malware on her clunker of a Windows PC. Fixing up a Mac and giving it to someone else is not only a nice gesture but because of their stability and ease of use, it just may reduce those family tech support calls you inevitably get because you’re the computer guy in the household.

4) Sell your old Mac

If all else fails, or you just want to recoup some of the costs of your new purchase, sell the old Mac. Mac’s retain their resale value amazingly well, far more than any other PC. Craigslist is a great way to sell just about anything you have laying around and Mac’s are no exception, but if you live in a smaller community you might not have much luck. EBay is the other option since you can ship to buyers globally, and while they take a commission of the sale, I’ve generally found that used Mac’s sell for more on eBay than they do on Craigslist. Just do a quick scan of ads on both sites to see the price you can expect to get for your used Mac.

[ above MacBook Pro image from Flickr ]


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Posted by: Bill Ellis in Mac OS, Mac Setups, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Armin Soyka says:

    I found this and thought it was interesting. Kinda simulare. http://www.screenrecycler.com/ScreenRecycler.html

  2. GrayGaffer says:

    Minis hooked up to HDTVs with EyeTV are pretty common. Now I want to add my (ooh shiny!) new iPad to the system as the coffee table portal, but I want to screen share to a pure virtual screen buffer on the Mini that to the OS is a second monitor, and put control and other stuff on that screen. Screen sharing the video screen is just not very comfortable. I looked at Xvfb, but that is an X11 service and I’m not sure how to get a vnc server looking at it, or how to get it included in the main OS X screens. Any ideas out there?

    My other solution, but more work, is to do an AJAX app running off Apache, with a back end that will pass through commands from the browser buttons to AppleScript interpreter. EyeTV is very scriptable. And there is MacPerl::AppleScript at CPAN.

    There is also a FireWire HD cable box controller program in the Apple devkit, which is hopefully also scriptable so it can be used to fully centralize and integrate everything. It has source so if not could be enhanced.

    Last: what is the oldest worth doing anything other than scrap with? For example, I have a 450MHz TiBook, a 500MHz Blue&White G4 tower, and an original G3. Not to mention the 840AV or the two IIFX’s. The TiBook does not quite show Internet videos at today’s resolutions. The G4 is my last SCSI host for my old but pro scanners.

  3. Spelling Nazi says:

    Gester = Gesture ?!?!?!?

  4. adonai says:

    Repurposing a Mac is a lot of fun, I have one setup in my kitchen as a music player and recipe reader, and a Mini hooked up to my TV as a media center.

  5. Murphy says:

    I’ve got a Santa Rosa era MBP hooked up to Drobo and EyeTV as a media recorder-converter-server and backup server. I probably should have sold it way back when and gotten a Mac mini for the job. Not sure what the Santa Rosa is worth these days.

  6. Marc says:

    Regarding suggestion #4: be sure to wipe your data from the hard drive before shipping it off to who-knows-where.

  7. Bo Franklin says:

    I just bought an old G3 iMac from Ebay for £20. I’m planning on using it as a printing server, and jukebox hooked up to my stereo. There’s life in the old Macs yet!

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