Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Legacy Hardware & Software

Finding Solutions | Software & Hardware

How to maintain legacy computers: advice and solutions for older computers.

Running Very Old Computers

There are still folks running older computers.

They Still Work

These ancient PCs still do the job they were designed to do when they were built.

Software Limitations

However, they are too old to run current software. These systems will not generally run any software newer than when they were active.

Hardware Upgrades Not Possible

Upgrades to newer hardware is impossible because the pieces just don't fit into the slots (or the system requirements are too demanding).

Older computers can have challenges, particularly if they are using the older power supplies that are hard-wired to the computer switch and have more of the ISA (black slots) than the newer PCI (white slots).


Security software no longer protects them so they cannot be hooked up to the Internet.

Often owners feel they can't afford to upgrade or they have just become accustomed to the older technology.

Obsolete Windows Dangerous

If you're using obsolete versions of Windows you should be aware that Microsoft no longer supports these operating systems. Security updates and patches for them may be unavailable and Windows Update probably won't work.

As long as you DON'T use them on-line, the risk is much reduced and they can allow you to run legacy games and other software.

Many of the programs that ran on these computers are no longer safe to use. Vulnerabilities discovered in newer versions of Windows are not supported for these legacy editions.

Other Issues

Even such casual users may find that many legacy programs no longer work for them and they may be unable to squeeze even a few more months out of their systems. Obsolete hardware and software is difficult to obtain and maintain.

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Finding Solutions

So what do you do?

Check with the manufacturer for information about updated drivers or software patches. You may use a search engine to find the data you need. Include the following information in the search string:

  • software manufacturer
  • product name
  • fixes


"Y2K" (year 2000) is a term that has all but vanished from the Web but once was a very popular search term.

Y2K refers to the ability of the hardware or software to correctly interpret dates following the turn of the 21st century. Earlier software and hardware vendors had simply assumed a two-digit code would refer to 19xx. Obviously, this created problems when we entered the 21st century.

The relevant code was hidden within millions of lines of computer code and many experts were concerned that issues with Y2K could create huge problems if misinterpreted in critical systems like hospitals, nuclear facilities, electrical utilities, military hardware and more.

  • Database and spreadsheet programs that either have only two-digit dates or make poorly chosen assumptions about the century digits (i.e. 19xx or 20xx) may make sharing files with others difficult.
  • Some early programs are hard coded with date limitations that have nothing to do with Y2K. One such example is Delrina's WinFax Lite software that was once included with most fax modems. This program has a date limitation that you will be unaware of until you actually attempt to send a fax. The options for the year go no higher than 1999. Delrina was bought out by Symantec and WinFax Lite is no longer supported.
  • Some programs offer no fix other than purchasing a replacement (often requiring that you upgrade your entire system).

Drivers & Manuals

You might find the drivers or manuals you're looking for here:

If you are running an older operating system you may not find a workable solution without upgrading both your hardware and software to accommodate current technology levels. Fortunately prices have come down drastically, making such an option more affordable than ever before.

You may wish to have some professional help before purchasing a new machine in order to get the best value for your money and the right components for what you intend to do with your computer. It sometimes pays to spend more to begin with in order to avoid spending even more later (or finding that the computer won't do what you bought it to do).

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Obtaining Legacy Software & Hardware

There are several sources for legacy software and hardware that you might try if you need to replace a component that has failed or to add to your software collection. Your success will vary and in most cases the warranty will not extend any longer than the time it takes for the vendor to collect your money.

  • Garage sales provide a tremendous source of such equipment.
  • Check the "bargain bins" in second-hand computer stores.
  • Friends may have useful stuff they will give to you.
  • Government surplus sales can provide you with parts and working systems.
  • Legacy Computers and Parts Place is a commercial source in Hamilton, Ontario.

Be aware that most of this stuff has been sitting in a dusty corner for some time — probably for a very good reason. Don't pay more than a few dollars for anything over five years old. While the seller may have paid a fortune for their goods, the declining price of new equipment and software has a similar, if more rapid, effect on used computer goods.

Getting Help

If you would like some help in locating used software, parts and working computers (in the Greater Victoria area) you can contact me. Remember that I charge for my time and expertise and that such costs may easily exceed the value of these older systems. I can, however, make sure that you obtain the best value for your money.

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Linux Alternative

Safer, Faster

If you can't afford the newer hardware needed to run a more current version of Windows, have a look at Linux.

Linux is Free

Linux is free. You might have to pay for support but there is a large support community and documentation to read.

Current versions of Mint and Ubuntu are surprisingly easy to use and can run natively on much of the hardware used by Windows, including printers.

Legacy Linux

Older versions of Linux will run on legacy 386 and 486 systems and many of the solutions are more current than what originally ran on them.

Of course you shouldn't expect to run the full graphical operating system and all the available programs on older computers.

Newer = Better

You may need to bite the bullet and upgrade your software and hardware to a more recent legacy computer. The more modern your system, the more likely you will find a solution.

Windows XP and Vista computers have become very affordable on the used marked as newer equipment becomes cheaper. These systems will run Linux, more current browsers and much of the newer software.

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Related Resources

Related resources on this site:

or check the resources index.

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Updated: August 24, 2018