5 ways to automate your computer when it's idle

If you're like most people, your home computer may not work most of the day. Maybe you're at work or watching kids or going to the market or watching TV. Either way, 80% of my computer at home is off or sleeping.

This is good for saving energy and money, but most computers don't cost much to maintain at all times. Instead, I decided that I wanted my computer to do something useful while I was working on it. Well, what can you do without a PC? Pretty much everything actually. Here are five things you can try.

Help humanity

There are quite a few projects out there that are trying to solve really complex problems in the world, but need more resources. If you want to help with scientific research, there are several programs from universities around the world that can harness the power of your computer along with millions of other computers to create a supercomputer.

BOINC project

This is a project from Berkeley University, where you can volunteer your computer resources to help with healing, study global warming, find objects in space, and so on. They have over 172K volunteers with over 850K computers in the network. This gives them a great deal of 27 petaflop computing power. Just download the software and choose the projects you want to support.

Fold @ home

Another big project for volunteer computing is Folding @ home from Stanford University. Its main purpose is to study diseases by considering protein folding. It was all quite technical and surpassed my head, but basically, you helped them design new drugs to fight disease.

Automatically back up your PC

If you don't back up your computer, you should really take the time to plan an appropriate backup. Even if you don't have any important data stored on your PC, you can still save hours if your computer crashes and you need to perform a recovery.

Reinstalling Windows with all your programs is a time consuming process. Why not have a backup of your computer when it's idle? You can create your own backup images manually, but you are more likely to create backups if they are made automatically.

The best option here is to use cloud backup service. The ones I have used personally are BackBlaze and Carbonite. These services obviously cost money, but they are easy to use and give you the freedom to not worry about backing up your computer yourself.

Update your PC

If you hate your computer restarting in the middle of a working day, then you can easily adjust your settings so that Windows only updates your PC when you're not using it.

In Windows 10, simply click Start, then Install and then Update & security. Click on Change operating hours and set the time you work on the PC. Windows will only perform updates outside of this time range.

In Windows 7, open Control Panel and click Windows Update. In the left pane, click Change settings.

You can choose to install new updates every day or you can choose a day of the week. You can also choose specific times when you may not be using the computer.

Set up FTP or Game server

If you are a person who likes to share a lot of content with others, you might consider setting up your computer as a file or game server. I wrote an article about some third-party software that you can use to create a home file server.

You can also install IIS in Windows Pro and higher versions to create your own FTP server or web server. Finally, if you like playing games with your friends, you can Set up your own game server to play games like Minecraft, Counter-Strike, Quake, etc.

This is a bit more complicated to set up, but your friends will certainly think you're great if you have one of these running at home.

Become a Tor Relay

If you have a powerful machine, unlimited Internet connection and a router, you might consider becoming a Tor Relay. Tor, if you don't know, is a project to help users browse the Internet without being tracked. It is not sufficient evidence, but works well for many people.

However, the network is made up of volunteers acting as relays. When you visit a website, your request goes through a number of relays before reaching the final destination. This helps conceal your true identity.

Becoming a Tor relay has a number of technical requirements and legal implications, depending on where you live, your ISP, and so on. However, if you can, it's a great way to make the web more private.

Use another extra

I just listed five ways to use additional processing power for your PC, but there are many other ways that I think I'll add a few more.

  1. Bitcoin mining - You may have made a lot of money if you used a computer with a graphics card, but if you have a powerful multi-GPU rig, you can make a few dollars a day (maybe). Or you can join a mining group. A free and clean Bitcoin mining program is GNUMiner.
  2. Film and TV shows - If you have an OTA antenna and additional hard drive capacity, you can easily record free TV shows and movies. Download a program like Plex Go to your computer, connect the digital tuner and you should be fine.
  3. Automatically download Usenet - Download a program like SABnzbd to automatically download files from Usenet.

There are many other things you can do with an idle PC, but these are just a few things that come to mind. If you have another great way to use an idle PC, let us know in the comments. Enjoy!