How to Find Old Versions of Free Software

February 24, 2011, By Christian Cawley

There are many reasons why you might be looking to use old versions of popular free titles. You might be looking for a way to open an old file that modern software no longer supports, or alternatively you might even simply prefer the older version to the one that is made available now.

How to find old versions of free software

You might even be running an older operating system in a virtual machine and require a specific version of the application in question that will run suitably within your VM. Perhaps you’re using a netbook and want to limit the resources that the application uses. Either way, you can find various websites on the web providing old version of applications like Firefox, RealPlayer, various messaging clients and many more.

Drawbacks of Old Software

While the idea of using old version of software might be appealing – particularly if the application in question has since gone premium (meaning that you now need to pay for it) or if the user interface was subjected to an unnecessary makeover – there are several drawbacks that you should consider.

The first is compatibility. Many applications are updated over time in order to maintain compatibility with operating systems, other applications and the web. A result of this is that an older version of the tool in question might now be incompatible with other systems – a good example is an old version of a chat client being unsuitable for use with its intended network.

Another problem that you might encounter when installing and attempting to use old versions of free software is a lack of compatibility with its modern incarnation; you might have issues running both versions on the same operating system or you might be planning to share data between two versions of the same application.

Bear in mind also that features are often removed from software not because the programmers are being unkind to the users but because the features in question are not considered good enough.

Where Can I Find Old Versions?

There are different places where you might find old versions of applications:

  • Old computer magazine cover discs
  • Floppy disks in the back of a drawer
  • Installed on old hard disk drives
  • Running on old computers
  • To download from dedicated websites
  • Via the BitTorrent network

Remember that we’re talking specifically about free to use applications here, like messaging clients or versions of open source office software.

Several websites are in existence providing download links to older software versions. These include:

Using these websites is simple. For instance if I visited I would see a list of popular downloads, a search box and an option to view and download Mac software.

For instance I might be looking for a copy of RealPlayer – I might prefer the idea of the older MP3 playing version than the modern YouTube video downloading release. At this application is listed under Multimedia, as you might expect. Selecting RealPlayer from the list will take me to a page with around 12 previous versions of the software, all ready to download and install.

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