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30 Hardware and Windows Tips in 30 Days Tip 29: Saying Goodbye to Legacy Hardware

Still have CRTs, parallel-port printers, PS/2 mice and keyboards, and USB 1.1 stuff cluttering up your office? Here's some advice to help you decide when it's time to part with the old and make way for the new.

Some Things Old, Some Things New

I'm a hardware packrat - and I bet I'm not the only one. I still have an HP LaserJet 5P printer that's over a decade old - and still pumps out crisp 600-dpi text. I also have a couple of 15-inch LCDs from Samsung - and a 19-inch Samsung CRT. I'm typing this on a "clicky" IBM-brand 101-key keyboard made by Unicomp Keyboard Products that plugs into a PS/2 port.

Just so you don't think I'm a complete Luddite, I also have a 22-inch widescreen display connected to a DVI port, various wireless mice, an eSATA hard disk, and other up-to-date goodies. With so much new, why keep anything "legacy" around? Here are the rules of thumb I use to decide when it's time to give legacy products like these the heave-ho.

Mark's "Out with the Old" Rules of Thumb

1. If it doesn't fit, you must discard it.

Number 1's pretty simple. If you can't connect it or install it into a system anymore or isn't supported by the operating systems you use, out it goes. Not to a landfill, though - find an electronics recycler in your area to take it off your hands.

Serial mice and ISA-based adapter cards failed this test years ago and have been banished from the office. PS/2 and parallel-port devices are next on the hit list as more and more systems go "legacy-free" and replace serial, parallel, and PS/2 ports with more USB 2.0 ports. Although you can buy adapters to keep legacy devices around, hold onto your money until you've reviewed the rest of the list.

2. Too slow? Out it goes!

Most of my work is submitted electronically, so the 6-page-per-minute print "speed" of my elderly LaserJet 5P is not an issue. However, if I ever need to crank out a lot of originals, especially in full color, both the LaserJet 5P and its print-mate, a middle-aged Epson Stylus Photo 925, will be kicked to the curb for recycling.

As USB 2.0 devices (running at 480Mbps) have replaced USB 1.1 devices (running at 12Mbps), my collection of USB 1.1 hubs have been exiled; it's no fun running a drive at a small fraction of its design speed!

3. Lacking vital features? Send it to the bleachers!

Remember those two-button and three-button mice you used to use? Once scroll mice came in and made it oh-so-easy to move through your document, there was no reason to keep the old mice around. Apply the same logic to other hardware around your shop. Are you spending more time doing mission-critical tasks you could do easier with new hardware? Make the change!

I switched from a 19-inch CRT to a 22-inch widescreen LCD because my mission-critical task is technology writing - and the 22-inch display lets me run two MS Word documents at 100% side-by-side. Immediate boost in productivity!

My IBM-branded 101-key keyboards are due for replacement as soon as I shift my desktop PCs to Windows Vista (my laptop's been a Vista box for over a year). I like Aero's 3D task switching feature, but to use it, I must have the Windows key - the key missing from my beloved "clicky" keyboards.

4. Before you toss it, offer it a new home.

If When money is tight, you might not be able to replace everything you'd like to all at once. Find out what tasks around the office are suitable for older equipment, and move it down before moving it out. For example: my 15-inch LCDs make great secondary monitors on my dual-head graphics cards, and my 19-inch CRT is now running on my "FrankenPC" experimental PC.

5. If it's useless, lose it.

Spring (and, believe it or not, it will be spring in just a couple of months) is traditionally cleaning time, but why wait? As you go through those "techo-junk" drawers in your office or home, ask yourself how many RJ-11 phone cables you really need (if you are now using VoIP phones, the answer is "none"!). Do you have cables for devices you no longer have? How about toner or inkjet cartridges that don't fit any of your current printers? The list goes on. Donate it or recycle it, but don't keep stuff around you can't use anymore.

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