Computers in classroomDo you have an old laptop lying around that you're not sure what to do with? Windows MultiPoint Server lets you turn that old laptop into a fully functioning Windows user station – even if the old machine isn't actually up-to-date enough to run current versions of Windows or other software.

How does this magic happen? Read on to learn how your nonprofit, charity, or library can repurpose older machines as Windows MultiPoint Server user stations.

Why Reuse Old Computers?

Reusing old computers makes both environmental and financial sense. From an environmental perspective, a majority of the energy and fossil fuels used by a computer are consumed during its initial manufacturing. Extending the lifespan of a computer through reuse means more return on that initial environmental cost.

From a financial perspective, reusing computers means your organization saves money because you don't have to invest in new computers. Reusing an old laptop as a MultiPoint Server user station also minimizes the hardware costs associated with setting up a new user station, since you don't need additional access devices to connect the laptop user station to the host computer.

How It Works

When you reuse an old computer as a MultiPoint user station, you usually do so by turning that old machine into a "thin client."

Traditional thin clients are small devices that let you access another computer or server. Thin client devices have minimal internal memory, storage, and processing power, and they run stripped down, basic versions of software. They don't need heavy-duty hardware and software because another computer or server does all the hard work.

Older computers can also be turned into thin clients. In a MultiPoint Server environment, your old computer becomes a thin client user station, and it can offer a fully functioning Windows user experience. This is true even if your computer is old and slow and can't run full versions of Microsoft Office, Windows, or other software on its own.

What You'll Need

Here's everything you need to reuse your old computer:

  • Any old computer – even one that is eight or ten years old – that is capable of running Windows XP should work.
  • Thin client software: This is a very basic version of an operating system that you install on your old computer. It's much simpler than a full version of an operating system and therefore will have minimal system requirements (especially handy for old computers). Importantly, the software also "locks down" your old computer, preventing users from accessing and making changes to the computer's hard drive. If you have Microsoft Software Assurance coverage, Thin PC is a good option.
  • An Ethernet connection to connect the old computer to your Local Area Network (LAN).
  • Software to connect the old computer to the host computer: you can download and install the free Remote Desktop Connection Client from Microsoft to do this. Other software products, such as NComputing’s VSpace Client, Rdesktop, and Virtual Box can also be used.

What you don't need is lots of extra hardware. If you're repurposing a laptop, the laptop comes with its own screen, keyboard, and pointing device (though you are welcome to attach an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse to the laptop). You also don't need any additional access devices to connect older computers to the Windows MultiPoint Server host computer.

Learn More

Image: Massachusetts Secretary of Education

by Ariel Gilbert-Knight, Senior Content Manager, TechSoup