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Suggestions for how to set up an old laptop as a media center

CaedwyrCaedwyr Registered User regular
My sister has an old laptop from the mid-2000s that she doesn't use anymore. She'd like to set it up to use as a media center/streaming video PC. It has a nice screen, but fairly low-powered specifications. Is there some general advice on how to go about getting the most out of an old laptop for something like this? It sounds like an ex-boyfriend of hers installed a dual-boot OS on the laptop, but that really seems like a poor way to handle things. She has Windows XP on this for sure. I was thinking of trying ChromeOS, but if there are any tricks for getting smooth(er) performance out of an old machine they'd be much appreciated.


  • BlindZenDriverBlindZenDriver Registered User regular
    Using it for music should be no problem, however if it will be powerful enough to stream video is another thing - a mid 2000 machine can be a lot of things and some are just slow. I suggest getting your hands on it and simply see what it will do with some video files before putting in a lot of time, it should be possible to get VLC running on it without to much work.

    As for optimizing it depends. Many laptops will share there RAM between the OS and the GPU and if you get in the BIOS you can then, often, tweak how much of the RAM is set aside for the GPU so that can be one area to look at. Other than that I'd say it is making sure it uses the newest available drivers and minimizing what stuff runs in the background that uses CPU cycles.

    For safety and choice of software putting Linux or Chrome OS on it is a good idea, but as mentioned I'd test out first if it is worthwhile even trying.

    Bones heal, glory is forever.
  • AridholAridhol Registered User regular
    You can make an amazing media pc out of a mid 2000's laptop with plex on Linux.

    What is the model #?
    I am happy to walk you through here or in PM's.

    What you are able to do is play ANY media to a TV via the HDMI or whatever it has as an output and you can even queue stuff up from your phone. You can leave the laptop lid shut (usually) and just play whatever you want.
    As a bonus you could even play some games now that Steam is pretty decent on Linux :)

  • WiseManTobesWiseManTobes Registered User regular
    Seconding trying out VLC player, such a lightweight program and plays basically every file type

    Steam! Battlenet:Wisemantobes#1508
  • CaedwyrCaedwyr Registered User regular
    Thank you for all the responses. I will likely dig into this on the weekend. The laptop is an Acer Aspire 7100 with a Celaron M processor inside. More specs will have to wait for me to boot it up.

    Some of the comments here make me think that I can probably get my old 2010 laptop running better as a media centre and streaming device, so I am very interested in the advice being offered.

  • baudattitudebaudattitude Registered User regular
    I had an Aspire 7100. I concur that the screen is way better than it has any right to be.

    It will not do particularly well with any kind of modern video file. I could not get mine to play 720P mkvs through VLC full-screen without dropping frames, though it would play them if VLC was in windowed mode and not scaling from 1280x720 to the full resolution of the screen. For DVDs and standard def stuff, it should be fine, or maybe if you are outputting video to a native 720p screen so it doesn’t need to scale.

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