Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Legacy Hardware & Software

Note: I no longer develop this page. It remains as a legacy resource.

Insecure & Dangerous Online | 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 and the system requirements are too demanding.

Older computers use power supplies that are hard-wired to the computer switch. They have more of the ISA (black slots) than the newer PCI (white slots) and none of the more recent slots used by modern computers.

Other Issues

Even 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.

The supply of replacement parts has become almost extinct because “newer” legacy systems have replaced these systems.

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Insecure & Dangerous Online

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

Owners often 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 and neither do the manufacturers.

  • Security updates and patches for them are unavailable.
  • Windows Update won't work.
  • Drivers are unavailable.
  • Modern printers and similar hardware is incompatible.

Off-line Use ONLY

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

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.

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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

Sources other than the original manufacturer can be risky. These may contain malware or otherwise compromise your computer.

Drivers & Manuals

Finding drivers or manuals for older software and hardware has become difficult or impossible as material is deemed obsolete and removed from servers.


"Y2K" (year 2000) 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 date would refer to 19xx.

Obviously, this created problems when we entered the 21st century and dates became 20xx based.

The relevant code was hidden within millions of lines of computer code.

Vendors 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.

Y2K … ended up being a non-issue, not because it wasn't problematic (it was), but because there was plenty of time to prepare for it, which companies did.
Taylor Pearson

Sharing Legacy Data Difficult

Sharing the output of database and spreadsheet programs with others may be difficult if the software uses two-digit dates and makes incorrect assumptions about the century digits (i.e., 19xx rather than 20xx).

Delrina's WinFax Lite

Delrina's WinFax Lite, once included with most fax modems, was hard coded with date limitations that have nothing to do with Y2K.

  • The date options for the year go no higher than 1999 which wasn't evident until you actually attempted to send a fax.
  • Delrina was bought out by Symantec. WinFax Lite is no longer supported.

Most such programs offer no fix other than purchasing a replacement that is likely incompatible with legacy hardware.

System Upgrades

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.

Many hang on to legacy hardware because of the high prices of computers when they purchased their older computer.

Fortunately prices have come down drastically, making upgrading more affordable than ever before.

Professional Help

You may want professional help when purchasing a new machine in order to get the best value for your money including the right software and hardware for how you intend to use your computer.

It usually is more economical to invest more to begin with in order to avoid spending even more later (or finding that the computer won't perform as expected).

Just as you wouldn't demand the cheapest car on the lot without determining if it will be suitable and economical, pricing of computers is not the only measure of suitability.

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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 depreciation 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. Such costs may easily exceed the value of these older systems, making the purchase of a newer system more economical.

Whatever your decision is, I can make sure that you obtain the best value for your money.


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.

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.

There is a large support community and documentation to help you but no free support from the developers.

Legacy Linux

Legacy versions of Linux will run on old 386 and 486 systems.

While more current than what originally ran on them, these are obsolete.

Don't expect to run current software these 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.

Older computers that won't upgrade to Windows 10 have become very affordable on the used marked as newer equipment becomes cheaper.

These systems will run Linux with current browsers and newer software.

Related Resources

Related resources on this site:

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Updated: December 29, 2021