How to Build a Jukebox Out of an Old Computer

By Sara Williams

Old computers still have their uses, though limited. Creative people with basic computer hardware skills can take an old computer and turn it into a jukebox without much added cost, if any. You will need to determine whether the computer is still usable and capable of playing MP3 files, and getting the old computer running again might take a little extra work. Placing the computer in a cabinet with a door will also help you hide the likely ugly, beige computer case. How far you go depends on your computer skills and ability to build or alter old furniture.

Step 1

Determine whether your computer is suited for use as a jukebox. While you can make good use out of an older computer, some are just too old. Check for USB ports, an RJ-45 jack if you want an Internet connection for streaming radio and consider the processor speed, memory and hard drive capacities. Making a jukebox out of a computer with an 80 gigabyte hard drive is much easier than, say, a 1GB hard drive. If your computer runs on less than a Pentium 4 processor, you will likely have some problems with speed and compatibility.

Step 2

Remove the computer's case cover and use a can of pressurized air to clean out the inside of the computer, which likely accumuluated dust from sitting unused. Replace the cover and secure with screws if necessary. Locate a universal power cord and plug in the computer. Power it on to check that the computer still works. Symptoms of a broken computer include yellow or red warning lights and loud, unusual sounds such as clicking or crunching.

Step 3

Get an inexpensive touchscreen monitor if desired. You can find old cash register monitors with touchscreen capability on online auction websites and from used electronics dealers. The most common brand you can search for is ELO. Plug the monitor into your old computer using a VGA cord and any other cable provided, usually USB.

Step 4

Install a user-friendly Linux distribution such as Ubuntu, Debian or SuSE. Linux demand much less from computer resources such as processing power and memory,and are therefore well-suited to use with older computers. Remember to back up any old files you want from the old computer and install the touchscreen drivers. If you bought an ELO monitor, that company provides Linux drivers on its website.

Step 5

Go to "Applications" at the top of the screen and load a music player. Rythymbox Music Player is a good option because it comes with a music browser and live streaming options. Look for a warning about MP3 playback and follow its instructions to install MP3 support.

Step 6

Set up your computer wherever you like, such as in your living room or in a recreation room. Find a small cabinet to store the old computer if desired, leaving the touchscreen monitor to sit on the top. You can also try building your own enclosure for the monitor if you are skilled at woodworking. Shop thrift shops, garage sales or search around street curbs at the end of the month, when people move between apartments.