This old computer taking up space and collecting dust has become an eyesore. You’ve moved on to a bigger, better and more technologically advanced computer a long time ago, and you don’t need such a relic anymore. Programs run smoother, games look brighter, what possible reason could you keep it on longer? In a word, repair.
Refreshing means making your computer great again. This does not mean that you need to gain momentum to play the latest and greatest games, although you could. It simply means cleaning it gently, replacing and updating parts, for resale, or to enjoy the good old days of days gone by.
You can always send it to the manufacturer and let it take over all the hard work. However, the manufacturer is unlikely to return the old system at a price even close to what you would expect. Plus, you’re missing out on the opportunity to do it yourself.
How to restore your computer
Even with minimal technical knowledge, you can take on this project yourself. All you need are the right tools for removing parts in need of repair or replacement.
A set of screwdrivers with different heads and some kind of flashlight are the essentials. Having a power supply tester, a USB computer image update program, a bootable disk or external hard drive, and a spudger tool if you’re trying to fix a laptop are also great tools to have on hand.
If your goal is to make quick money, you also need to have acrylic paint or magic marker on hand for any scuffs or visible scratches on the outside of the tower.
Performing a detail check
First, inspect every inch of your computer for damage. Physical issues are likely to be the biggest challenge you will face when restoring your computer to its former glory. Touch all corners, including the top and sides of the tower or chassis, inspect the fans for chips or breakages, all ports, connectors and power supply.
Check the motherboard. Are there any noticeable problems? How many ports are directly connected? Do you have add-ons? Disk drive? Optic? Be careful. A solid physical foundation is needed before we can even touch the software part of the repair. Huge irreparable damage will increase the cost of the project and can undermine your expected monetary goal. Any damage you find should be annotated.
After completing the physical examination, locate the power cord and plug it into a power source. Try turning on your computer. If all goes well, the rest of the restoration will go smoothly. Please wait a few minutes as the download may take a little longer than you are used to.
You can also hear several beeps when turning on. This is a hardware way to tell you that something is wrong. But what happens if it doesn’t even turn on? Then there is probably an internal problem that needs your attention.
A Closer Look
Pay attention to the power connectors going from the power supply unit (PSU) to the motherboard. If the computer does not turn on and the connections are in order, then there is probably something wrong with the power supply or motherboard.
Without readily available replacements, the cost would be prohibitive, so repairs are probably not worth the effort. Any other connections that seem wrong, correct them.
A clean computer is a happy computer. Chances are, the inside of the case is quite dusty, so grab an air compressor and wipe it down. You can use compressed air in a can or portable compressor to clean the motherboard, cards, disk drives, power supply, any fans (especially the CPU fan on the motherboard), and the case.
If you have the latter, do not point the compressor directly at the parts. Instead, remember to blow through the air in waves to avoid damaging it.
Updating and replacing parts
Remove any parts that do not work or have obvious physical damage. CD-ROM drive and built-in sound card are not required. You can replace them at your leisure, but this is not necessary. A video card is a separate story. Any damage that needs to be replaced. The same can be said for the CMOS battery.
CMOS, short for Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor, is a memory located on the motherboard that stores your BIOS settings. Obviously this is an important part of the whole package. Other critical parts that look damaged and require inspection are RAM and a faulty hard drive, if applicable. Anything you plan to update does not need to be replaced.
Upgrade your computer as best you can. Even if the RAM appears to be intact, it is still recommended to upgrade it. Hard drive too. If possible, upgrade the CD-ROM to DVD and the modem to a Gigabit Ethernet or Wi-Fi card. The choice is yours, but for a gamer looking for something on the cheap, both might be the best option.
Power It Up
After all components are replaced or updated, turn on your computer to see if you can open the BIOS screen. A complete computer image conversion is a good idea whether you plan to keep or sell the finished product. Darik’s Boot and Nuke (DBAN) is an open source option for removing all data from the system, allowing you to start from scratch.
Choose a more modern operating system such as Windows 10 or Ubuntu / Debian Linux. Installing both is also a viable option Make sure you have enough hard drive space for whatever operating system you choose.
You should also consider installing additional software, hardware and peripherals to make them look more attractive to your customers. This includes cloud storage and backup applications, security software, additional disk storage, and a keyboard, mouse, and monitor. Speakers, especially if the sound card has been removed, are worth considering.
Make sure everything works before you sell it. Test your computer by downloading some old games, running old software and loading the hardware.
Windows computers (10/8/7) already have a built-in memory diagnostic tool to get you started. However, I would suggest UserBenchmark for a closer look at your main hardware systems.