What to do with Your Old PC after Switching to a Mac?

It’s been a long time since I switched to Mac but about a year ago my mother-in-law switched back over to a Mac and so I inherited her used HP PC laptop. And until just recently it has sat lifeless on my shelf – so sad…

I have been using my MacBook Pro as an iTunes server for my two Apple TV’s, I keep all my shows and movies on an AirDisk connected to an Airport Extreme all of which streams wireless throughout the house. The only downside to this is when I take my MacBook Pro with me, so to goes the iTunes Server content which leaves my wife movie-less.

iTunes Sevrver

So I got an idea, PC’s can run iTunes, why not turn my aging PC laptop into an iTunes Server? And then I remembered the AirDisk my movie data was on, which on a Mac is very easy to connect to and share. An so the Googleing began… I needed to find out if/how a PC could connect to an Airport AirDisk. A few minutes later and the results where in, PC’s can connect to AirDisks too, maybe not as elegantly as a Mac does it but at least it was possible.

So this is what I did or should I say did twice because the first time I got the PC iTunes Server up and running she decided to go down about a week later virus ridden and ashamed, nothing a day and of my time and a format and reinstall couldn’t fix! No more casual surfing with PC iTunes Server for me 🙁 And yes I had virus software on it to boot!

So here’s the setup I used to turn my PC into an iTunes Server:

Most importantly I installed iTunes on the PC.

To Connect to the Airport AirDisk (for access of my media) I need to open My Network places and Add a network place. I used the Choose another network location option and entered \\\video which is my Airport router address followed by the name of the AirDisk volume I wanted to share. I was also asked for my user name and password for the AirDisk, I used my main user account user name. I have found that after a reboot I need to authenticate my AirDisk network on the PC, no biggie since I can VPN into the PC when I need to get in.

AirDisk Connection

So that brings us to the VPN side of things and for some reason when I log onto a PC from a Mac using screen sharing VPN software I just don’t feel as dirty, it almost feels like I am still on a Mac. I know ultimately it’s denial but it works for me! So why the need for VPN software? I need to update my PC iTunes lists whenever I have new content and I hate running downstairs to the room under the stairs every time I need to do this, and again if I can do it from a Mac, I can keep my physical distance from the PC at a maximum.

I didn’t do a lot of research looking for VPN software, the first one I found that looked good was VPN Server Free Edition and with a bit of tweaking it worked so I stuck with it, cause if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

A few things I had to sort out to get mine working where:

Make sure Windows Firewall was allowing VNC and the ports it needed which I had to add manually, they where port 5800 and 5900.

VPN Ports

I set my authentication to “No Authentication” as I have a fairly closed network.


I found I needed to set the Legacy settings to “Only use protocol version 3.3” to get it to work.

Legacy VNC 3.3

I also needed to get to my PC via a Web browser by entering vnc followed by the IP of the PC so in my case this is what I had to enter in my web browser (vnc:// Once this was entered the Mac would open a Screen Sharing window similar to using Screen Sharing with an OS X based computer.

Windows Window

All in all it was not too bad of an experience except for the virus and the lost day as a result of the virus. I do feel better about getting some good use out of a retired PC and since many of you Switchers might also have a tired or retired PC kicking about, why not put some Apple iTunes software on it and turn your PC into an iTunes Server! Don’t forge to pick yourself up an Apple TV if you don’t have one already and get even more out of iTunes.

Comments [13]

  1. Actually Jim offers a really good point. Programs like Freecycle are also a great way to recycle an old PC.

  2. mine is sitting in my closet unused. Thinking of turning it into a rendering machine for 3D work.

  3. Nice article Ross. You've inspired me to reuse my Sony Vaio laptop into a media server for my TV. I just recently got an iPhone. Any thoughts on what I can do with my old windows mobile phone?

  4. @Jeff – hahah I dunno about the Windows Mobile phone – I'm in the same boat as you. My new phone arrives sometime this week and it'll be replacing a WM Smartphone. I plan on keeping mine around as a spare I guess, maybe I'll try to sell it on craigslist.

  5. You can use it to prop the garage door open so your dog can sneak in and out at will.

    Please tell us how to dedicate an external hard disk drive to act as an iTunes server. My music library is starting to take up lots of disk space.

    Congrats on the "new to you" site. Love it!

  6. I reinstalled WinXP on mine and gave it to a relative who was without a computer at the time. I haven't missed it. And I have VMware Fusion for those time when I do need WinXP, which are increasingly rare.

  7. What did I do with my old pc after switching?? I used Freenas to turn it into a file server. The nice thing about Freenas is that it can boot from a USB thumb drive and is packed full of goodies. For example, it uses Firefly to function as an iTunes server. It also features upnp, web server, FTP server, rsync, and bit torrent!! It's super easy to set up and manage. The first thing I did was set it up so I can use it to store my time machine backups. It offers software raid and supports several raid configurations.

  8. I already use my PC for this purpose, and I'm switching it out for a Mac Mini. I just found that the PC was too unreliable to leave on permanently, on top of which I'm not sure if the iTunes software on windows is as robust as the OS X version.

    Any other users founds this?

  9. Very nice site with very interresting tips!

    Same as you I moved before two years ago from Windows to OsX.

    OsX is the best system availble today.

    I moved mine in an Hackintosh!

  10. Hang on to that old PC, you'll need it for when the Mac crashes. That's not if, but when. Yes, I speak from experience. Once you go Mac you'll wish you could go back!

  11. Seriously? No one mentioned Screen Recyccler to use (if it’s a laptop as a secondary screen?

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