SE sites like Stack Overflow, Super User and Server Fault often discourage questions that concern obsolete technologies and hardware.

Some also discourage seemingly "unprofessional" practices such as non-updated operating systems, older browsers, etc. The question guidelines also mention that the question should demonstrate a reasonable amount of "professional" practices as part of the question. These words can often itself be subjective, keeping, say, top tech companies at the highest level of the spectrum as the "gurus" of best practices.

Other organisations may have applications that rarely/never need to connect to the Internet or never have any use for the "latest" or the "most secure" practices. (Example: tiny struggling startup-charities in third-world countries or individuals who are fanatic re-use enthusiasts or objectors of periodic obsolescence).

Some, for example, may use old programming languages such as FoxPro, that can run on Pentium 4 machines or use Microsoft Word 97 for word-processing, and they may not have a use for the features that the later software offer.

So, if people are using technologies/hardware that are best optimized for the resources they have access to, and if there are enough people to answer questions, why should the questions themselves be discouraged or banned?

Why can't they be allowed a place in the respective forums? Why should it mean "one size fits all" when it comes to "professional" practices ? In any case, if there aren't enough answerers, the questions can lament in the unanswered section, right?

What was the rationale to discourage obsolete technologies?

  • 8
    You should probably ask this on the specific Meta site for the Stack Exchange site you encounter this behaviour; there is even a site dedicated to outdated computer systems: Retrocomputing. – Glorfindel May 26 '19 at 13:03
  • There are multiple SE sites that discourage obsoletion. I wish to know the common rationale, if any. – Whirl Mind May 26 '19 at 13:11
  • 3
    I'm not sure this exists. You can absolutely ask about old, deprecated or even obsolete technologies on SO. Unless you include context as to why that's the appropriate technology choice (using the right tool for the job is professional) you may well be advised simply not to use it, but it's not actually an off-topic reason. – jonrsharpe May 26 '19 at 13:48
  • 1
    The criteria differs for individual sites, see this on SuperUser Meta. New questions about obsolete methods are often a duplicate of an old question, (unfortunately for you) possibly one that was deleted. Old questions about old technology are usually preserved if there are some upvotes and good answers. Check the Meta for each site's for an existing answer or open a new question there. Asking here provides the answer that each site is a little different. – Rob May 26 '19 at 13:51
  • @Rob There is no way to close a question as the dupe of a deleted one. I don't know what will happen to a dupe-closed question whose original is deleted, but I suspect it remains closed without an original - what will be a strong argument to reopen it. But is happens very rarely, I had to dig the SEDE to find orig-less dupe-closed questions. – peterh - Reinstate Monica May 26 '19 at 14:14
  • 2
    @peterh, That's not what that says. – Rob May 26 '19 at 14:36
  • 2
    "I wish to know the common rationale..." Each SE community decides for itself what is on-topic, and what is off-topic.That precludes the idea of a common rationale. – Ron Maupin May 26 '19 at 15:34
  • @jonrsharpe : "Using the right tool for the job is professional. " . Using the optimal tool for the job within your constrained access to resources, is work too. – Whirl Mind May 29 '19 at 5:51

That's not always the case. I'm an SU mod, and I speak primarily from that perspective

I think part of this has to do with attitude. If you're running an outdated OS cause you want to stick it to the man, or like it more, and are going to give people sass for asking why.

On Superuser - we've had questions to do with windows 98 and even older OSes in some cases. I've even had a extremely well received one on software recs, and once posted an answer using OS/2

A good question on an obsolete or EOL OS gives a compelling reason for the use of that OS - unique hardware, software that won't run on anything more modern and so on.

Quite often in your use cases, software alternatives might work better. On the other hand, you might some day find that you're the inheritor of an author's old dos machine .

People are going to tell you "run linux" or "you need to let go of XP". Folks are going to warn you of EOL software. Your question is stronger for finding compelling reasons not to do it.

So tell the story of the neat thing you're trying to do in your question and what your goals are. Not how terrible everyone is for hating on your older systems even before they do.

Serverfault probably is a different story - but if you came in with a great question on interesting, obscure hardware or software with a good business reason, folks would be interested rather than appalled. Here's a recent example

We don't always hate on obsolete OSes - if you have a great reason for using them.

As for SO I'm not sure, but people might actually pull this off

  • 1
    Technical questions are technical, with an algorithmic approach about why something does work or not, under technical conditions. Why should the "reason for use" be so compelling enough to answer a technical question ? A question on say IE6 for intranet use or old OS, the technical part of the ans will be the same, and will depend on the technical conditions that governs its context. The ans would be the same, if it were presented when that tech was in full swing, or today if it's used under the same technical conditions. Why should a whole "what today's developers think" come into it ? – Whirl Mind May 29 '19 at 5:43
  • 2
    I'm not a developer. The point being that in reality how you ask a question and the story behind it makes it much more likely to be well received than one that basically is focused on arguing that their way is right, and annoying folks. You're free not to take my advice and say it dosen't matter but the reality is it often does. – Journeyman Geek May 29 '19 at 6:56

For ServerFault obsolete technology is a complex question.

Long answer

Why it's a complex question ?

a. Obsolete OS are no longer patched for security problem. That fact bring new problem as a missed patch will leave the older OS vulnerable. Often third part product are used to circumvent those problems. A example is if you need to use a Windows 2000 for a specific reason, then it might be welcome as a question if in example it's isolated in a VLAN and if it's a public facing server, then using a product like a reverse proxy to not expose the server directly to the Internet.

b. Obsolete OS are no longer patched for new feature or hardware support. As such if you buy a new application or hardware, often you just can't use it on the older OS. Question on how to use X on Y for obsolete OS fall fast offtopic for that reason. (The inverse is true, if you have a newer OS but linked to something old, like a tape library that is no longer supported by the manufacturer, it can often cause problem)

c. Older OS if installed physically will usually come with a out of warranty support. Major brand no longer support any physical gear over 10 years. To give some examples

.. Dell require you to be on extended warranty if you use the server in production. You can order parts outside of the warranty, but Dell keep separated their stock for warranty versus for sale. If your server mainboard crash after 5 years, you might have to buy it on ebay to replace it if Dell no longer can supply it.

.. For HP you can normally order stocks outside of warranty for 10 years from when the server was designed.

So if you run a server with an older OS you must ask yourself if the server crash, how much time it take to recover ? For such reason it's often tagged unprofessional to run on such gears such older OS. A question on how to recover a crash to migrate to a new server might be welcome, but again it's a case by case story.

Short answer;

Obsolete technology bring a lot of problems that even the manufacturer don't support. If your question is well worded on the why you need the technology, often the question will not be closed, but it's really a case by case scenario. I don't even state HIPAA's compliance rule about security update in my answer if you work for a healthcare enterprise

ps; To answer your question you had in comment about IE6; if you had today a application that still need IE6; then a professional's way to handle that would be to use a virtualization product to publish IE6 (xenapp, xp mode, view, etc..) or to migrate the application. IE6 died with XP long time ago, so if you bring a question about IE6 and that your entire computer fleet is still XP, well, better call a consultant. (A new generic question today about IE6, and you don't have such need will become a hypothetical question at that point)


There is no such rationale, although strongly obsolete technologies might become off-topic on different reasons. For example, they might look non-professional on sites focusing for professional questions in their rules. Or they might be practically irreproducible, because the voters would need to install a 20 year old machine in a VM to check it.

But not this is the most important cause of the high closure probability of such questions. The cause is that these tend to be more disliked by the community, resulting a lesser cooperative decisions in the border cases. Thus, the closure probability is high even if your question is so or so on-topic.

If there is clearly no rule what would make your oldie question off-topic, but your question is closed on a false reason, do the usual actions to save it:

  1. Look all the comments you get carefully, and follow them, even if they look hairsplitting for you. The trivial thing to keep in eye: it is not enough if your question is ontopic for you, it should be on-topic for the voters.
  2. Defend your question: write convincing arguments in comments, and edit your question to solve the problems what they've said.
  3. Go to the meta site for further discussion. It might result a downvoted meta post, and a hard debate. Be very polite and cooperative, it doesn't matter what are they doing to you. Beware, if the voters think you are antagonistic to them, they will vote negatively for you (leave closed, down) and silently go away.
  4. If also mods take part in the discussion, keep in eye: mostly they are trying to represent a community consent, but they are mostly not against you, even if it looks so on the first spot. Mods reopen your question with mod powers only rarely, because they won't risk a conflict with the pro-closure site members. But if they openly support you, it has a strong catalysing effect to the voters.
  5. If the site chat is an active one, also there can you request some support. It has the advantage that it won't risk a deeply downvoted meta post what you can't delete any more, however typically you can't attract the same attention as with a meta question.

Your attitude should be a consulting thing, i.e. you want to politely understand, why your question is off-topic. Never show an attitude like "You ...., why you closed my question while it is pretty okay!", even if this is what you think. Instead, have a neutral, researching stance working on to understand the site rules.

We have also https://retrocomputing.stackexchange.com for questions like these. Compared to the larger sites, it is a very nice and friendly community, bound by the love of the oldie things.

Note also, if you dislike a shop, then you won't buy there anything. If a community is too antagonistic to you, probably they are doing the same also to others. You don't need to join them, you can get your answer also on the RC SE. Silently leaving a community is the worst what you can do to them.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .