Internet, Networking, & Security Antivirus What Is Abandonware? Programs without support or updates are considered abandonware By Tim Fisher General Manager, VP, Lifewire.com Tim Fisher has 30+ years' professional technology support experience. He writes troubleshooting content and is the General Manager of Lifewire. our editorial process Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Tim Fisher Updated December 13, 2019 Antivirus Browsers Cloud Services Error Messages Family Tech Home Networking 5G Antivirus VPN Web Development Around the Web View More Tweet Share Email Abandonware is software that has been abandoned or ignored by its developer, whether on purpose on unintentionally. There are a variety of reasons that a software program is left ignored by a developer. Even the term itself isn’t super specific and can refer to many types of software program types like shareware, freeware, free software, open source software, and commercial software. Abandonware doesn't necessarily mean that the program is no longer available for purchase or download but instead means that it’s simply no longer maintained by the creator, meaning that there's no technical support and that patches, updates, service packs, etc., are no longer released. In some cases, even copyright infringement is ignored by the creator because everything about the software is abandoned and left as-is without a second thought to how the program is being used, who's selling it or reusing it, etc. Mark Airs / Getty Images How Software Becomes Abandonware There is a multitude of reasons that a software program could be considered abandonware. The program hasn’t been updated in a long time and the developer feels no need to release a new versionA commercial program is no longer supported but the company still existsA business owning a commercial program no longer existsA business purchases the rights to a program either directly or indirectly through a business acquisition, but then doesn't continue developmentFinances restrict the creator from further developing the softwareThe software can only be used with older hardware or operating systems that are no longer available or mainstreamA developer releases a newer version and abandons the previous oneThe developer has passed away and there isn’t anyone in charge of the projectOld shareware is released by the developer but isn’t maintainedThe license server necessary for a program to activate and work is permanently unavailable, and the related software cannot function In all of these cases, the same general concept applies: the entity developing or owning the software treats it as a dead program. How Abandonware Affects Users Security risks are the clearest effect that abandoning a software program has on the users. Since upgrades are no longer released to patch potential vulnerabilities, the software is left open to attacks and is considered unsafe for everyday use. Abandonware also no longer moves forward when it comes to features and other capabilities. Not only does the program not improve but it also likely becomes unusable in the coming years compatibility-wise as different operating systems and devices are released that the program will probably not support. Abandoned software can still be purchased as used software from existing users but abandonware isn't available for purchase from the official developer. This means that if a user missed out on buying the software through official channels, they no longer have that opportunity with the abandonware. Users cannot get official support for their software. Since abandonware means that there's no longer support from the company, any general questions, technical support requests, refunds, etc. are left unanswered and seemingly unnoticed by the creator. Is Abandonware Free? In actuality, abandonware doesn't necessarily mean freeware. Although some abandonware may have once been downloadable for free, that’s not true for all abandonware. However, since the developer is no longer involved in the program’s development, most likely because the business no longer exists, it’s often true that they don't have the means and/or desire to enforce the copyright. What’s more, some distributors of abandonware get approval from the copyright holder so that they are given the proper permissions to give out the software. Basically, whether you're downloading abandonware legally is entirely circumstantial, so it's important to check with each distributor specifically. Where to Download Abandonware Lots of websites exist for the sole purpose of distributing abandonware. Here are just a few examples of abandonware websites: Be careful when downloading popular but old software programs and games. Make sure you’re running an updated antivirus program and be sure you know how to run a malware scan should the need arise. My Abandonware: Thousands of old games from as early as the late 70sVETUSWARE.COM: Huge list of abandonware games, software programs, and operating systems for Windows, DOS, Linux, and macOSAbandonia: DOS game downloadsAbandonware DOS: Retro game downloads for Windows and DOSOldVersion.com: Outdated software programs, video games, and abandonware for Windows, macOS, Linux, and AndroidThe Vintage Software Collection: Internet Archive's collection of abandonware software programs Lots of old PC games and software programs are packaged within ZIP, RAR, and 7Z archives—you can use 7-Zip or PeaZip to open them. More Abandonware Facts Abandonware can actually apply to other things besides just software, such as mobile phones and video games. The same overall idea applies that the device or game is abandoned by its creator and left without support for its users. Some programs would be considered abandonware if the commercial program is owned by a company but no longer supported. However, if that same program is then archived and offered for free, it might be considered by some to no longer be abandonware. Abandonware is sometimes considered different than discontinued software in that the developer hasn’t officially released a statement that the program is being discontinued. In other words, while all discontinued software is abandonware, not all abandonware is always considered discontinued software. For example, Windows XP is considered abandonware since it applies to the above concepts (updates and support are no longer available from Microsoft) but is also discontinued software since Microsoft released an official statement.