Having bought an iPad, I realized that I no longer use my laptop as often. This means that I actually use my desktop a lot less! Unfortunately, my desktop, with some decent specs, is in sleep mode most of the time. I thought it was a bit sad and a waste of money, so I decided to do a little research and find a way to use it.
I previously wrote about how you can install Windows 10 on an old computer to bring it to life, and this is what I did on my desktop. Also, I’ve previously written about how to automate your computer when you’re not using it for certain tasks. Apart from completing these two tasks, I wanted the desktop to be even more useful!
After days of testing and experimenting with the software, I can now happily stream music and videos to any web browser or my smartphone without being at home! Since there are some extra hard drives on my desktop, I even turned it into a NAS using free software as well.
Now I can connect to my server via FTP to upload / download files and even use it to back up Time Machine for my Mac. Sweet! So, here is a list of programs with which you can turn your tiresome old computer into something more useful.
I bought a Synology NAS and while I’m very happy with it, I realized that I can do whatever I want just by installing open source software on my desktop! One of the coolest programs I’ve always heard of, but never used until now, is FreeNAS Basically, that’s exactly what the name says: a free NAS OS for your PC, Mac, or Linux.
It is a very functional and powerful OS that also supports additional functionality via plugins. I was amazed at what I was able to do with this software. Please note, if you are using FreeNAS on a computer, you really cannot use that computer for anything else.
Some of the other programs I mention below work on Windows. FreeNAS is a proprietary OS that manages all the hard drives installed on the computer, etc.
It should also be noted that FreeNAS is really useful if you have a desktop with multiple hard drives and at least 4GB of RAM. Hard drives don’t have to be super fast or gigantic in size, but the whole point of using FreeNAS is to store files and then either stream those files or use them in some other way.
To get started, check out the FreeNAS tutorial articles from Lifehacker and Engadget They walk you through all the steps to set up your NAS and how to set up all the advanced features like streaming, downloading, and more.
Kodi.tv is one of the best ways to turn your computer into a media center. It is an open source project that can play almost all popular audio and video formats. It can even play direct DVD and Blu-ray copies, which is really nice.
You can stream any media at home or over the Internet. You can also control the entire concert with a remote control and enjoy a host of advanced features with their large set of add-ons.
Kodi.tv is absolutely awesome, but you get the most benefit if you have a small desktop. I have two desktops: one giant Dell and a newer smaller HP desktop. I decided to use an HP desktop and connect it to my HD home TV running Kodi.tv
It works great, but I realized I couldn’t have done it if I didn’t have this smaller desktop. If you have an old and rather large desktop, you can try one of the other programs mentioned below.
TVersity is another good choice for streaming media. It used to be free, but now it looks like you need to buy a license. They have a free version, but it cannot do transcoding, which greatly reduces its usefulness.
You can purchase Media Server or Screen Server software. One allows you to stream content from your PC to your TV or mobile device, and the other allows you to display your PC screen on your TV or mobile device.
For audiophiles with huge music collections, Subsonic is the best way to stream music everywhere! Subsonic can automatically resample songs that are streamed over the Internet to a bitrate that will prevent songs from skipping or stopping playback.
What’s great about Subsonic is that they have apps for Android, iOS, Windows Phone 7, Roku, and more. Moreover, apart from streaming music, it can also stream videos. However, this program is best suited for streaming music.
VLC media player
VLC Media Player not only plays almost any music or video file you can add to it, but it also lets you stream music and videos locally over the network or over the Internet! I never really knew this, although I have been using the program for 5 years now!
Check out the How-to-Geek guide to set up streaming with VLC. Nothing fancy about it, but it gets the job done and since most people have already installed it it might be worth checking out. Enjoy!