How to Set Up an Old Laptop for Kids

Family with laptopLightField / Shutterstock Studios

Most old laptops start to collect dust when they are too old to do anything useful. Revitalize and secure your old devices, turning an expensive clipboard into a fun playground and educational tool for kids.

Clean it up

The first thing to do when preparing to release a child on your old laptop is to make sure it doesn’t contain any intrusive, distracting, or inappropriate content. It could be as simple as updating your the Windows or Mac machine, uninstalling all unnecessary programs and deleting all your files.

If you have already recovered all the important files from the hard drive, the most reliable way to make the laptop suitable for children is to restore the device to its original factory settings. If it’s a Windows machine, you can use the Windows 10 machine Reset your PC functionality, reinstall Windows 7 from scratch, or reset your Windows 8 PC. If it’s a Mac, you can get a fresh install of the latest version of macOS.

You can still experience hardware problems with dead batteries, failed hard drives, or dusty motherboards. If your laptop battery is deformed or distorted in any way, replace it. Some of these problems may be worth the time and money to resolve them. Unfortunately, it can often be more expensive to repair your old computer than just buying a new one. Chromebook.

RELATED: How to properly clean your raw laptop

Lock up

Once your laptop has been thoroughly cleaned and working properly, you need to make sure it is safe and secure. This does not imply the implementation of complicated security measures. In fact, most Windows machines come with Windows Defender, which is a solid antivirus. If the child will be using a Mac, you should always protect your Mac from malware to make sure it is safe and secure while browsing.

Kid with glasses leaning on laptopMorrowind / Shutterstock

Once security is in place, you will want to configure the second most important security feature for young people using laptops: parental controls. Limiting usage time, certain functionality, access to inappropriate websites and content is essential for developing a healthy relationship with technology and the Internet. Macs have the ability to create user accounts specially for children with limits on application usage and screen time. Both Windows 7 and Windows 10 have robust parental controls. Windows 10 even lets you create and monitor a child’s account for even more safety while they work and play.

RELATED: Basic computer security: how to protect yourself from viruses, hackers, and thieves

Fill it up

Now that your disused machine is clean and secure, it’s time to make sure that the content your child accesses is engaging, educational, and healthy. When looking for family-friendly content, keep in mind that most free content will be riddled with ads. It can be difficult to find high quality content for kids, so we went on and did this part for you:

PBS Kids offers a wide range of games, videos and activities for children of all ages.
Minecraft is the most popular computer game for kids with lots of creativity and ingenuity.
Hoopla works with libraries to provide free access to electronic books for children.
Stripe, from MIT, focuses on teaching the basics of coding to children from the age of 4.
ABC Mouse collects learning games from a variety of topics in a subscription-based package.
Virtual excursions for a pleasant chance to explore famous places together.
Google Classroom is one of the most popular home learning apps.

As always, be sure to keep a close eye on your children while they are working or playing. Although the parental controls related to the previous section may help restrict your child to only approved websites, children are warned and always find some way to get around the rules.


If you’re still unable to run anything on your laptop, it may be time to lighten the load. Upgrading from an older laptop to a newer version of the same operating system can overload this old hardware. Instead of using something heavy like Windows 10, you can install operating systems like Google’s Chrome OS, which are designed to run on undernourished devices. It may be a slightly technical effort, but it makes it the perfect opportunity to teach your kids about technology. It is always worth considering all the little things you can do to speed up your Windows or Mac machine.

If you’re ready to get your hands dirty, you can breathe new life into your laptop by install Chrome OS on any laptop. Your device probably won’t be able to run many Chrome apps, but that should at least be enough to run the Chrome browser. This will give your child access to a healthy selection of websites for learning and playing.

RELATED: 10 quick ways to speed up a slow PC running Windows 7, 8 or 10

Using unused and unusable technology, we have successfully brought your device back to life, which can now be used by your children for work or play. Your device doesn’t have to be fast or stylish. Now that it’s clean, secure, and packed with quality content, your old laptop is ready to educate and engage its next generation.

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