5 Things You Can Do with an Old Computer Monitor

Bring new life to your old display

Old computer monitors may not be as large or alluring as new models, but most remain usable for years, even decades, after they were produced. Here's how to repurpose your old computer monitor.

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Use the Old Computer Monitor as a Secondary Display

A person using two computer monitors on a desk.

SasinT Gallery / Getty Images

Why have one monitor when you can have two? An old computer monitor can often serve you as a secondary display after you purchase a new monitor.

Nearly all modern computers can output video to at least two displays. Often laptops need to use an adapter or dock to use another monitor to make the second display accessible due to a lack of ports on the computer.

Placing the old computer monitor to the right or left of a new monitor is the most common choice. However, you can get creative by purchasing a third-party monitor arm and attaching it to your old monitor. This may let you place the old monitor above another display or flip it into portrait orientation.

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Use the Old Computer Monitor With a Hobbyist PC

A Raspberry Pi 4 from the top on a white background.

Raspberry Pi Foundation

An old computer monitor isn't of much use on its own, but inexpensive hobbyist PCs unlock new and inexpensive options for repurposing an old computer monitor.

The most popular hobbyist PC is the Raspberry Pi. This computer runs a Linux-based operating system and is powerful enough to handle most basic computing tasks like web browsing, video playback, and document editing. The most recent iteration, the Raspberry Pi 4, starts at just $35.

Hobbyist PCs are small and use very little power, offering flexibility in how you use the old computer monitor. You could place it in a workshop to display schematics and project notes, use it in a kitchen to display recipes, or hook it up to a solar panel for off-grid computing.

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Turn Your Old Computer Monitor Into a Game Emulator or Arcade Machine

An old computer monitor from the 90s.

calogero / Getty Images

Hobbyist PCs like the Raspberry Pi are powerful enough to emulate a wide variety of older games. Emulation of early 2D game consoles and arcade machines, as well as early 3D consoles, is possible on a hobbyist computer.

You may prefer to sit the old computer monitor in a den and use a gamepad to play, but dedicated arcade gamers can go the extra mile and use the old computer monitor to build an arcade cabinet. You can buy an arcade cabinet kit, repurpose an old cabinet, or design and build a new cabinet from scratch.

Want the arcade feel with less work? Wall-mount the old computer monitor at eye level, then mount a shelf at a comfortable height below it. You can place a hobbyist PC and arcade stick on the shelf. This setup requires minimal space.

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Use Your Old Computer Monitor as a Smart Home Dashboard

A display in a kitchen showing smart home information.

Calaos

Smart dashboard is a catch-all term for a computer that displays useful information chosen by the user in an attractive way.

In its most basic form, a smart dashboard might display local weather, local traffic, a to-do list, or a digital calendar. However, creative and dedicated users will find no end to the possibilities. You could turn an old monitor into the master control for a home security system or view the status of dozens of smart home devices at a glance.

There's literally dozens of ways to create a smart home dashboard. Here's a selection of popular software platforms and the operating systems they support.

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Use a Streaming Device to Turn Your Old Computer Monitor Into a TV

A Roku Express attached to the bottom of a display.

Roku

An old computer monitor can find new life as a small television that will fit into small spaces. An old computer monitor may even be preferable to a TV in some situations, as modern televisions usually measure 32 inches or more.

Turning an old computer monitor into a TV is as simple as attaching a streaming device. Any Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, or Roku device will work, but these options stand out.

Still, if you still can't find a use for your old computer monitor, or simply don't want it to take up space, don't throw it away! Your old computer monitor will be useful to someone else. You can sell it online or donate it to a local charity.

If all else fails, find a recycling program that will take the monitor. Monitors, like most electronics, contain components that can be hazardous as they degrade. Recycling the monitor will keep it out of a landfill.

FAQ
  • Are old computer monitors worth any money?

    It depends. Depending on the age, size, and condition, an old 4K monitor could be worth $10-$30. Monitors with lower than 1080p resolution might be worth only a couple of dollars. High-end gaming monitors, however, can be quite valuable.

  • How do I hook up an old monitor with a new computer?

    Since most older monitors use VGA connectors, while newer computers use DVI or HDMI, you'll need a VGA-to-DVI or VGA-to-HDMI converter.

  • What did computer monitors used to be called?

    Old computer monitors were called visual display units, or VDUs. Today, this term broadly includes all electronic visual displays including TVs, monitors, and digital signs.

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