Your gigantic desktop at home doesn’t have to collect dust while you’re away traveling and can actually come in quite handy protecting your home, files, and taking some of the bandwidth burden off your laptop. These tips are also useful for those of you with parents or other relatives who aren’t especially tech savvy but kind enough to give you a digital hand.

desktop computer

Turn That Desktop Into An Offline Backup Center

dead hard driveMost people don’t invest in the $50-100 or so annually required to purchase offline backup, though traveling without it can be a recipe for disaster. Instead, using a free program your laptop shouldn’t travel withoutCrashplan – you can use the free space on your desktop as a storage point. Aside from being free, another benefit is that the upload speeds to your personal desktop is about double that of using Crashplan’s paid servers.

  • Return The Favor – If you’re using your parent’s computer for backup you can also return the favor by giving them some storage space on your laptop.

Crashplan is incredibly easy to setup and once you select the files and folders you want, the program works in the background keeping a backup of your travel pictures in a distant second location.

computer within a computerCreate Your Own Personal Proxy

There are a number of ways to get around regional censorship like Hotspot Shield and its alternatives; yet still you can turn your home computer into a private proxy. The free Hamachi2 lets you create private VPNs, giving you the benefit of a proxy whose bandwidth is all yours, generally providing quicker access than using a public VPN.

  • Remote Desktop – The company behind Hamachi2, LogMeIn, also provides free remote desktop tools through their web interface. Using it, you can act as though you’re sitting right in front of your desktop, no matter where in the world you happen to be.

Remote desktop has many uses personally for you, but if you’re using a less-than-computer-literate relative’s computer it can also be a good way to do a little remote support to keep your folks quiet to help out your family when they can’t find the Internet Explorer icon.

A Home Security System

Let your desktop keep an eye on your house for you by being your digital eyes and ears. Most desktop monitors or USB ports have cameras attached to them these days; and using motion-detection software like Yawcam (Windows) or iAlertu (Mac) you can get email (photo) updates if any uninvited guests happen to walk past your living room. You can also configure either program to quietly keep an eye on any house-sitters or Couchsurfers if you happen to be the suspicious type.

copenhagen apartment

  • Time Some Background Noise – Light timers are a good way to protect your home when you travel but your desktop can also be timed to create the background noise of a dog, loud conversation, or casual TV watching too.
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Task Scheduler built into Windows 7 and the Mac-equivalent Automator can automatically open and close any noisy applications around dinner time and the weekend.

syncing mobile deviceUse Dropbox To Send Photos To Mom And Save Essentials

Offline backup services like Crashplan are good for a shotgun approach to backup but when it comes to your latest travel photos, travel reservations, or downloaded travel guides, Dropbox can be your direct route to backup. The little folder Dropbox creates can be synced back and forth with your computer at home in case you accidentally delete your hostel reservations or end up with a corrupt memory card.

  • Share Photos And Large Files – Sending large files via email can be time consuming and not the easiest for some family members. You can share your Dropbox folders with friends and family so they can get live updates from your travels in Mexico.

Dropbox also creates yet another backup point for you which can be synced with mobile devices as well – for quick access in tight trains or metro systems.

Your Downloading Workhorse

Don’t let your desktop sit on idle Internet hands and save your own web access by initiating large downloads remotely. The (hopefully) stable and secure connection will help you avoid broken or disconnected downloads. Using the aforementioned remote desktop you can browse for the applications or large files you need and then use Dropbox to sync them back to yourself.

working horses

  • Download Streaming Videos And TV Shows – Get around nagging regional blocks and download videos from Hulu, YouTube, and other sites using Video DownloadHelper.

Chances are your home computer has a better Internet connection than most hostels or hotels and you can just pickup the files when needed. Better yet, have the downloads save directly to your Dropbox folder so there’s even less for you to micromanage.

Think Online When You’re Offline

Your desktop can be your connection to the Internet on your behalf, downloading, backing up, and securing your home while you’re enjoying life offline in countries around the world. There are about multiple ways to perform the tasks above and several other ways to put your desktop (and Internet connection bill) to creative use. It’s certainly better than letting both computer and connection go idle; that time away from the Internet is reserved for you, not your desktop.

[photos by: Cennydd (desktop computer), Images by John ‘K’ (dead hard drive), ismh_ (computer within a computer),  Johan Larsson (syncing mobile device), mag3737 (working horses)]