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New Uses for Your Old Devices

Creative things to do with your old tablet, smartphone, or laptop

You love that shiny new device you just got. Now what do you do with your old one? If you think the only option is to take it to an electronics recycling event, think again. Old devices can have a second life as a music player, security tool, or many other handy items.

Old tablets are highly versatile. Here are a few ideas on how you can use them:

Cookbook. Place your old tablet on a stand in your kitchen. Then load it up with all your favorite recipes. Scan paper recipes and place in convenient file locations or create bookmarks for those that are online. This way, there won't be messy cooking hands on your new tablet!

Jukebox. In conjunction with a dock and speakers, you can use your old tablet to play all your favorite tunes, either stored on your device or through online streaming services such as Spotify ( Even better if you have a smart speaker system such as Sonos (, which allows you to play different tracks in different rooms.

Baby monitor. With your old tablet in your baby's room acting as a microphone and an app like Dormi (, you can monitor activity and noise.

Digital photo frame. Display your old tablet with a stand and set it up with LiveFrame (iOS) or Dayframe (Android) to create a slideshow of your favorite photos.

FAST FACT: The United States produces more e-waste than any other country, throwing away more than 9 million tons yearly.
Source: 20-e-waste-facts

Your kid's new tablet. Your child doesn't necessarily need all the latest bells and whistles on a tablet, so an older model will do fine. Just be sure to remove your data and take other precautions to make your old tablet a kid-safe device. (See the "How to Prepare an Old Device for Your Child" sidebar.)

Portable movie player. On a long car trip? Camping? In the doctor's waiting room? No worries, you (or your child) can still be easily entertained. Just load your old tablet with age-appropriate movies and you're good to go. E-reader. Create a book library on your old tablet using Kindle, your local public library, or the many resources for free e-books online.

Old smartphones can be used for many of the same purposes as tablets. Here are a few additional ones:

Smart home controller. Keep your old smartphone in a convenient place, much as you would a TV remote. Then use it to control all the smart devices — such as appliances, lights, and thermostats — in your home.

Security system. Set up your old smartphone in an area you'd like to monitor, such as a child's room or the front door, and use it as a security camera by installing a monitoring app, such as manything ( or Alfred (

Universal remote. Still using a bunch of remotes for all your entertainment components? You can download specific apps to your old smartphone to use instead. Or, if you're an Android user, download the universal remote app Smart IR Remote at Google Play.

Dedicated task device. Your old smartphone may no longer meet your needs for every function, but you can use it for just one. For example, put it on your nightstand and use it as an alarm clock; set it on your desk and use it as a calendar; load it up with games and use it for break time; or put it in your car for navigation.

Emergency phone. Keep your old smartphone charged up in your car. Then, if you're in an emergency and your new smartphone isn't available or out of juice, you'll still be able to call for help.

Travel phone. Bad things can happen to your smartphone when traveling, including loss or theft. The solution: load up your old smartphone with just the apps you need and take it instead.

Your old laptop can serve a variety of functions as well. Check out these options:

Media library. Load your collection of movies, TV shows, and music onto your old laptop and search online to learn how to connect it to your other devices for display.

Word processor. Your old laptop may no longer be robust enough for everyday use. However, if you're a student, writer, or office worker who needs to get some undistracted writing time in, set it up with only a word processing program and use it for extended periods of offline productivity.

Extra monitor. Double the size of your computer screen by adding another one! You'll need to go into the settings of each machine to do it. Search online to find the process for your particular technology.

Window to the outside world. Wish you were having an adventure somewhere else in the world rather than being stuck inside at your computer? You can get a glimpse of that world by setting an old laptop to a webcam that shows something fun. Tune your browser to monitor fascinating wildlife, a vibrant urban area, or adorable zoo babies.

New device for someone in need. Maybe your parent or grandparent just needs a device to Skype with family members and check the weather. Why not give them your old laptop for that? Or check around in your area for organizations that accept laptop donations.


How to Clear Data from Your Old Device
Our electronic devices contain a plethora of personal information including contacts, logins, messages, health facts, financial files, and so on. If you're planning to give your old device to a friend or family member, donate it to an organization, or even just recycle it, you'll want to delete all your data from it first. Generally speaking, you'll start by backing up your data, and then go through the steps to completely reset your device or erase (not just delete) your files. The process for doing this is different for each device and operating system, so search online for directions for your specific configuration.


How to Prepare an Old Device for Your Child
Before you hand over your old device to your child, you'll want to follow these steps:

  1. Wipe your device of all data. Check online for how to do this for your particular technology.
  2. Install a parental control app such as Qustodio ( Such apps enable you to monitor activity, set time limits, and make changes to your child's device.
  3. Install kid-friendly apps such as YouTube Kids, Messenger Kids, the KidRex search engine, and apps related to your child's specific interests.
  4. Other adjustments can be made based on your manufacturer and device type, so search for those additional options.
  5. Share with your child age- appropriate information about online safety. Even with restrictions, it's possible for them to wander into inappropriate online spaces. Visit 0006-talk-your-kids for tips to guide you.

Use these suggestions to make sure your child's first experience with their own device is a safe and happy one.