4 Creative Things to Do With an Old Mac

Macbook Featured

Technology moves at an incredible pace, and it’s often challenging to balance the need for a faster gadget with your budget and the latest in consumer tech. If you have decided to upgrade your Mac, you may be wondering what to do with your old Mac. This guide offers a few options that won’t cost much to repurpose your old MacBook.

Tip: cannot decide which MacBook to get? Discover the key differences between a MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.

1. Use It as a Media Server

One of the best uses for an old laptop, whether a MacBook or Windows device, is to turn it into a media server. Several online options let you do this, but Plex is probably the most well-known.


While there is a paid option, a free Plex account gives you all the functions to set up a fully functioning media server from your old MacBook. Plex is compatible with movies, music, and photos stored on the device’s hard drive, and by creating a virtual server, you can access and stream the content through Plex on other devices. Follow the steps below to get started.

  1. Go to plex.tv in your browser. On the right side of the top bar, hover your cursor over “Download,” and click on “For Desktop.”
Plex Download
  1. Select “Mac” from the “Apps & Devices” drop-down, then click on the “Download Universal” button for your preferred version.
Plex Dowload Universal
  1. After the file is downloaded to your desktop, install the application, and create an account. Once you are logged in, you’ll find the streaming options on the left side of the screen.
Plex Live TV

The caveat? To access the content on your old MacBook through Plex, both devices must be connected to the same Wi-Fi network, and the laptop with the content you want to watch must have the Plex Media Server installed.

  1. Log in to Plex on the machine you want to use as the media server. On the left side, click on “My Media,” then “Get Plex Media Server.”
Get Plex Media Server
  1. Ensure “Mac” is selected in the drop-down menu, and click on “Download.”
Download Plex Medida Server for Mac
  1. Once complete, install the application, and run it. This should open in a new browser window. Read through the explainer, and click “Got It.”
How Plex Works
  1. Give your server a snappy name to easily identify it, untick the box for allowing access outside your home, and click on “Next.”
Plex Server Setup Name
  1. Select the file locations where your content is stored (click on the pencil icon to edit), and click on “Next.”
Plex Add Library
  1. Click on “Done.”
Plex Finish Server Setup
  1. To access your content, click on “More” in the left panel, and you’ll see the folders you added earlier.
Plex Menu

Tip: have a spare PC? You can also turn your PC into a media server using Plex.

2. Use It for Network Storage

Similarly to a media center, you can also utilize your old MacBook to function as network storage. This is incredibly helpful if you have a small business that you run from home and need to share content, documents, or files with others or between computers.

Laptop and Hard Drive
Image source: Unsplash

Essentially, the purpose of your old MacBook is to keep your data safe in the hard drive. By connecting it to your home network, it is accessible to others. This can be anything from entertainment files, work documents, art files, or a video editing machine. The technical term for this is “Network Attached Storage” or NAS. Follow the steps below to set up your old MacBook for file sharing over a network:

  1. Connect your old MacBook to your home’s Internet network.
Connect Via Icon 2
  1. Go to the Apple menu, and click on “System Settings.”
Mac System Settings
  1. Click on “General -> Sharing.”
Mac General Settings
  1. Click on the toggle to enable “File sharing.”
Mac File Sharing Togle
  1. On your new MacBook, you’ll see the old device in a Finder Window under the “Locations” tab. Click on it, and you’ll be prompted to sign in with your credentials. You can browse the files and copy over anything.
Mac Locations
  1. To make things a bit easier, add the shared drive to your user login items to automatically connect to the shared drive when both MacBooks are powered on. Open the menu, then click on “System Settings -> General -> Login Items.”
Mac General Settings Login Items

Good to know: with file sharing enabled, you can easily share files between Mac and PC.

3. Use It as a Retro Gaming Machine

Most gamers will scoff at the idea of playing video games on a MacBook, but it’s not all bad. The stigma comes from the lack of support for the macOS operating system and the difficulty in converting the minimum system requirements to an Apple comparison.

OpenEmu Games
Image source: OpenEmu

However, MacBooks are incredibly powerful and generally regarded as some of the best devices for resource-intensive tasks, such as video editing or music production. But the lack of AAA titles remains, leaving Apple gamers with limited options. However, it’s perfectly suited as a retro games center.

openemu Game Boy Library

The best way to do that is to download an emulator that lets you play thousands of games on your old device. Two of the most well-known emulators for MacBooks are Emulator Zone and OpenEmu. Both platforms give you access to a wealth of retro gaming system emulators, each with many titles. It can be relatively daunting to set up, but you can easily use an emulator to play retro games on macOS.

4. Use It With Another Operating System

If you are tired of using macOS on your MacBook and ready for a change, it is possible to install Microsoft’s Windows operating system. This is done through Apple’s Boot Camp Assistant application, which only works with Intel-based chips. You can also install Linux on Mac.

Mac Boot Camp Assistant

However, there is a crucial detail you must know about. Boot Camp doesn’t remove macOS and replace it with Windows. Instead, it creates a partition on the hard drive, then installs Windows on the dedicated segment. This lets you boot the MacBook in either Windows or macOS.

Tip: learn how to easily set up a local web server on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is my old Mac worth anything?

That’s difficult to determine, as several factors influence the resell or trade-in value. Naturally, you’ll get more if your MacBook is in good condition. There are a few websites, such as SellMyMac.com, where you can get an estimate based on some criteria. Another source is websites, such as Amazon or eBay, to learn what others are selling them for.

Does Apple accept Mac trade-ins?

Yes. The company has a robust recycling policy, and it accepts any old or unused Apple device. Through the Apple Trade-In program, you can take your old MacBook to any service center, and a team member will assess it. The value of the MacBook can then be used toward purchasing a new Apple gadget. However, if your returned Apple device isn’t eligible for a credit, it will recycle your electronics for free.

What do I do when getting rid of an old Mac?

First, ensure that all your data is removed from the hard drive. This can be challenging if the MacBook doesn’t switch on anymore. However, you could attempt to remove the hard drive from the case yourself, or take it to an authorized tech center to help you.

Image credit: Unsplash. All screenshots by Charlie Fripp

Charlie Fripp
Charlie Fripp

Charlie Fripp is a technology writer with a strong focus on consumer gadgets, video games, and cyber security. He holds an undergraduate degree in professional journalism and has worked as a journalist for over 15 years. In his spare time, he enjoys playing various musical instruments and gardening.

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