If your old laptop has a tiny hard drive, and by small I mean under 100 MB of space, you may or may not be able to upgrade it. Even if you can, you are certainly looking at no more than a gigabyte of space and will probably be making use of someone else’s used drive. Still worse, maybe the drive in your laptop is completely dead. Since we are talking about an older laptop in this case, we are fortunate because unlike newer models, older laptops almost always came with a built-in floppy drive.
With a small drive, you might be able to squeeze an early edition of Windows 95 onto it (I’ve done this but it’s painful). However, Windows 3.1 will comfortably fit on such a drive just fine. With a few floppy disks, you can install that and a compatible word processor from that era like Microsoft Works or Word Perfect. You now have a small and portable word processor to use while on the road or to write that novel you’ve secretly been working on.
But what if the drive is dead or nonexistent? There’s still hope. Some of you may not remember using computers before they had hard drives, but I can assure you that it is possible to get by without one on many tasks. You’ll need to create a bootable DOS disk. If you aren’t terribly familiar with DOS, you may want to make sure DOSSHELL is on it to help you navigate files without fumbling around on the command line. Once you’ve booted into DOS, you can use the built-in EDIT utility as a word processor. Once you have EDIT running, you can swap out the disk and use a second disk to store your documents on. You might even be able to install an older word processor on a third disk that you can load ofter booting that will have more functionality than DOS’s EDIT.
It breaks my heart to see a computer in need of a good home. For years, I’ve driven my wife crazy with all the “strays” I’ve brought home with me. After all, the last thing my house needs is a few more cubic feet devoted to kenneling old and abused computers.
That being said, laptops present very unique opportunities. No matter what caused you or someone else to ditch that old laptop, there still may be some way to integrate it back into society. For every kind of laptop lemon, I’ve found that there’s plenty of lemonade to be made.