With the release of the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B, some makers might feel older models like the 3 Model B+ or 3 Model B are outdated. However, there are numerous projects that still run well on older versions of the Raspberry Pi. Below is a list of six classic Pi projects that can breathe new life into older hardware.
OctoPi is a Raspberry Pi-based print server for your 3D printer. It allows you to start prints from your web browser, monitor prints remotely, and easily create time lapses. It’s fantastically convenient, bypassing the need for an SD card reader every time I want to start a print. Plus, with remote monitoring, I don’t have to time long prints so I’ll be home for the whole print. If I see an issue with a print I can stop or pause it from my phone. If I want to create a timelapse I just have to click a few buttons.
OctoPi requires very little peripheral hardware. Besides the 3D printer, you’ll need a USB cable to connect your Raspberry Pi to your printer. You’ll also need a power supply, and a USB or Raspberry Pi camera. Setup is very straightforward. Downloads and setup instructions can be found on OctoPrint’s website. OctoPi will run well on the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, 3 Model B+, and 4 Model B. Other hardware like the 3 Model A and Zero W are not recommended. Learn how to create your own OctoPi setup with our helpful guide!
Gaming might seem like an unusual use case for older hardware, but some emulators run very well on earlier versions of the Raspberry Pi. You’ll be better off with a 4 Model B for mid-90s consoles, but the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ offers more than enough power for emulating 16- and 32-bit systems.
Older versions of the Raspberry Pi shine in portable retro gaming systems, like the PiGrrl. Shoving a computer, power source, and screen into a small case can cause some serious thermal issues. The higher TDP of the Pi 4 Model B exasperates these issues. By choosing an older model you can reduce the amount of heat generated and prolong battery life.
There’s a wide range of peripheral hardware you can use in your retro gaming setup. Micro Center offers a wide range of retro gaming systems and accessories, many of which are based on the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+. Check out this post for more information. Check out our RetroPi Guide here!
PiHole is a network-wide ad and tracker blocker. It blocks ads on any device connected to your network, from desktop computers to smart fridges. Using a VPN allows you to connect to your home network while you’re using another network. This lets you keep using your PiHole when you’re connected to other networks.
While an ethernet connection is preferable to WiFi for stability, PiHole runs well on any Raspberry Pi. I personally use a 3 Model B, but I have seen many reports of excellent performance with Pi Zeros as well as the original Raspberry Pi model B. PiHole can be installed on almost any single-board computer. It’s also fairly light on requirements - PiHole doesn’t need any peripheral hardware other than a power supply and a WiFi or Ethernet adapter for models without built-in networking. More information can be found on PiHole’s Website.
Many popular media servers, like Plex or Kodi, can run on a Raspberry Pi. Plex has some more intense functions, like transcoding, and could require powerful CPUs. Thankfully, you can disable transcoding on your server. This will require you to be a bit more picky about the format of your media files, but it will allow you to set up a server that requires very minimal processing power. You can find some good information on avoiding transcoding while using Plex here. You’ll need a client like a smart TV or tablet to stream to, but no other peripheral hardware is needed.
Unlike Plex, Kodi plays media directly on the Raspberry Pi, so there’s no need to worry about transcoding. You can find instructions on setting up Kodi on a Raspberry Pi in the Kodi wiki. You’ll need an HDMI cable to connect your Pi to your TV and a wireless keyboard, controller, or remote to navigate Kodi’s user interface. We also have a guide on how to set up a Kodi-based media server!
There are a number of Raspberry Pi-based security camera solutions. Most allow you to use WiFi or Ethernet security cameras, or a Raspberry Pi camera or USB webcam connected directly to a Raspberry Pi. MotionEyeOS makes it easy to set up a security camera system that can be controlled from a web browser. It includes a motion detection module, so it will only record when something moves. Video and images can be uploaded automatically to Google Drive or another cloud storage solution, so you won’t need to worry about filling up your SD card or losing footage. All you’ll need is some cameras and a laptop to access the web-based user interface. For more information check out the project’s GitHub page.
Older versions of the Raspberry Pi work very well for building a streaming music player. PiMusicBox allows you to stream music from Spotify, SoundCloud, or other cloud-based music sources. You can stream music from a device on your network, like your phone. It can also play music stored on a flash drive or SD card.
PiMusicBox can be used to build a stationary music player in your house with an amplified speaker or can be turned into a portable music player. It will run on any Raspberry Pi, and can be integrated into almost any system. It doesn’t even need a monitor. Everything can be controlled from a web interface that has been tested with most browsers on desktops, iOS, and Android. It supports USB audio and is compatible with a number of Pi DAC HATs including those from HiFiBerry and IQAudio. More information and some example projects can be found here.
These projects are just a few of the options to utilize older Raspberry Pis. Most older projects will still run well on older hardware, as they were designed to work with the technology of the time. If none of the examples above pique your interest, you can look through older blog and forum posts to find projects you want to do. Whatever you do, don’t just throw those older Raspberry Pis in your parts box and forget about them. They’re still powerful single-board computers that can be put to use in a wide range of projects.
Looking for more information about Raspberry Pi? We’ve got a Hobby Board section of the community, as well as Hobby Board guides like The Definitive Micro Computer Buying Guide, Raspberry Pi Basics, and How to Create a Retro Game Console with Raspberry Pi! And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, don’t hesitate to post a new discussion and the Community will be happy to help!
Submit photos and a description of your PC to our build showcase
See other custom PC builds and get some ideas for what can be done
Services starting at $149.99