Using Older Computers – Key Considerations

If your library needs to keep older computers and use them as long a possible, here are few points to keep in mind:

  • Computer upgrading: Ideally, all your computers will be able to run the same version of a currently supported operating system. This makes it easier to maintain the computers and use the latest features. To do this, you’ll need to upgrade your computer operating system and software. However, very old computers may not be upgradeable to the current version of Windows.
  • Compatibility issues: Moreover, after you upgrade, you may find that the other software applications and utilities that you installed previously may not be so completely compatible with the new version of Windows. To avoid this unfortunate outcome, you may want to consider leaving these computers as they are, and limiting their purpose to specific tasks. As an example, one library designated their older computers – Gates-granted computers which ran Windows NT – for use by children to play educational games. These computers were taken offline so that the children were not able to access the Internet.
  • Computer donations: Donated computers should be evaluated for their potential usefulness before accepting them; some older computers may be more trouble than they’re worth. It’s a good idea to have a policy in place that states that you will only accept computers capable of running the same software as the other computers in the library (e.g., Pentium IV processor, 512 GB RAM, 20 GB hard drive). That way, you can gracefully decline donations that won’t be useful.
  • Linux considerations: A few rural libraries have also made the foray into Linux, a free, open-source operating system. Some flavors of the Linux-based operating system are “lighter” and geared to run on fewer computing resources than Windows. This reduces the costs of buying operating system upgrades. So, this might be another way to extend the life of your computers.