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5 Ways to Automate Your Computer When It’s Idle

If you’re like most people, your home computer is probably idle most of the day. Maybe you’re at work, watching the kids, shopping at the store, or watching TV. Either way, 80% of the time my computer is at home either turned off or asleep.

This is good for saving energy and money, but the support for most computers is not that high anyway. Instead, I decided that I wanted my computer to do something useful while I wasn’t working on it. Well, what can you achieve on a PC without being around? Quite a few things actually. Here are five things you can try.

Help mankind

There are quite a few projects that try to solve really difficult problems in the world, but they require more resources. If you want to help with scientific research, there are several university programs around the world that can use the power of your computer along with millions of other computers to create a supercomputer.

BOINC Project

The BOINC project

This is a University of Berkeley project where you can volunteer your computing resources to help cure disease, study global warming, search for objects in space, and more. They have over 172,000 volunteers and over 850,000 computers online. This gives them a whopping 27 petaflops of processing power. Just download the program and select the projects you want to support.

Folding home

Folding @ home

Another major volunteer computing project is Folding @ home from Stanford University. Its main purpose is to investigate diseases by looking at protein folding. It’s all pretty technical and tricky, but you mostly help them create new drugs to fight disease.

Back up your computer automatically

If you are not backing up your computer, you really should take the time to come up with a proper backup plan. Even if your computer does not have important data, you can still save hours if your computer crashes and you need to perform a recovery.

Reinstalling Windows along with all of your programs is a time consuming process. Why not back up your computer when it is idle? You can create your own backups manually, but you have a better chance of creating backups if they are created automatically.

The best option here is to use a cloud backup service. Personally, I’ve used BackBlaze and Carbonite Obviously, these services cost money, but they are very easy to use and don’t have to worry about manually backing up your computer.

Update your computer

If you hate rebooting your computer in the middle of a work day, you can easily change your settings so that Windows only updates your computer when you’re not using it.

In Windows 10, you simply click Start, then Settings, and then Update & Security. Click Change active hours and set the times at which you work on your PC. Windows will only perform updates outside of this time range.

In Windows 7, open Control Panel and click Windows Update. In the left pane, click Change Settings.

You can install new updates every day or choose one day of the week. You can also choose a specific time when you are most likely not using your computer.

Set up an FTP or Game Server

If you enjoy sharing a lot of content with others, you may want to consider setting up your computer as a file sharing or game server. I wrote an article about third party software that can be used to create a home file server

You can also install IIS on Windows Pro and later to create your own FTP or web server. Finally, if you enjoy playing with friends, you can set up your own game server to play games like Minecraft, Counter-Strike, Quake, etc.

They’re a little more difficult to set up, but your friends will definitely find you cool if you have one working from home.

Become a Tor Relay

If you have a powerful machine, unlimited internet connection, and a damn good router, you might consider becoming a Tor relay Tor, in case you didn’t know, is a project that aims to help users browse the Internet without being tracked. This is not complete proof, but it suits many.

However, the network is made up of volunteers who act as relays. When you visit a website, your request goes through several relays before reaching its final destination. It helps to hide your true identity.

There are some technical and legal implications required to become a Tor relayer, depending on where you live, your ISP, etc. However, if you can, this is a great way to make the Internet more private.

Other additional uses

I’ve only listed five ways to leverage the extra processing power of your PC, but there are so many that I decided to add a couple more.

  1. Bitcoin Mining – You Probably Won’t You will make a lot of money if you use one computer with one GPU, but if you have a powerful multi GPU rig you can make a couple of dollars a day (possibly). Or you can join a mining pool. One free and clean bitcoin mining program is GNUMiner
  2. Record movies and TV shows. If you have an OTA antenna and extra hard drive space, you can easily record TV shows and movies for free. Download a program like Plex to your computer, plug in a digital tuner and you’re done.
  3. Automating Usenet Uploads – Download a program such as SABnzbd to automatically download files from Usenet.
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    There are many other things you can do on an idle PC, but I only remembered a few of them. If you have another cool way to use an idle computer, let us know in the comments. Enjoy!

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