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Don’t overlook thrift stores when looking for software

Need a cheap copy of Windows or Office? Don’t need the newest, buggiest, clunkiest version?

Visit your local Salvation Army Thrift Store.I was flipping through CDs at a Salvation Army store over the weekend. The software was mixed in with the music. I found several copies of Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0, and numerous copies of Office 97, all marked at $3.

Windows 98 is probably more useful, which is probably why I didn’t find any copies of it. But NT4 is reasonably fast and stable (by Microsoft standards) as long as your hardware is supported.

Office 97, on the other hand, had all the major functionality of later versions but is a lot less CPU- and memory-intensive. Remember, when it came out, 133 MHz PCs were above average, and 32 MB of RAM was usually considered excessive.

Just make sure the disc is original, the right disc is in the case, and it includes the CD key. I found a number of odd things in Windows 95 CD cases–some more useful than Win95 and some a whole lot less. None of it would have mattered since they would have required a different CD key from the one on the jewel case.

And make sure that if you’re going to run this stuff and connect the computer to the Internet that you’re sitting behind a reasonably good firewall. A Linksys router or wireless access point is perfectly adequate. Microsoft no longer provides security fixes for this old software, so you could be more susceptible to attacks than someone running the latest and worst.

I was definitely glad to stumble across a source of legal and useful commercial software. I know it’s just a matter of time before I’ll need it, and I’d much rather pay $3 for Office 97 than $300 for a newer version that didn’t really add anything useful besides ribbon toolbars, new Clippy animations, and a soundtrack by Robert Fripp.

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2 thoughts on “Don’t overlook thrift stores when looking for software”

    1. Very true, but there’ve been times I’ve pointed people that way and they’ve wanted MS Office, for whatever reason. Probably so they can honestly put on their resume that they have experience with it.

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