Wondering about a vintage computer for vintage WP5.1 DOS

I’m pleased to have stumbled across this forum, as I’m hoping for some guidance.

I mostly use the antiquated Word Perfect 5.1 DOS for word processing in a computer not hooked up to the internet, just for text. It was custom-assembled for me by a friend who liked to tinker for fun, and it’s about 30 years old.

It may be finally dying, though, and I’m looking for a replacement–but also something now obsolete: A computer that has both an A-Drive for floppies and a USB port. These were being made probably about a decade ago, apparently especially by Dell. It would be hard enough just to find any floppy-USB combination, but it’s even harder to find one to accommodate WP5.1. And even harder because I’m not a techie myself, and I don’t know the language.

So I’m hoping for something with both an A-drive and a USB port (preferably in front), preferably weighing under 28 pounds, that would be able to have WP5.1, Corel 11, Microsoft Word (preferably an older version), and Excel. I’ve discovered that Dell made some models maybe about 10-15 years ago (Optiplex, Inspiron, Precision), but I don’t know the difference between them, whether they could be used for WP5.1, or how to choose between them. (I called Dell, ending up talking to some guy in India who was no help.)

What sort of questions should I be asking if I find a used option? I’d be grateful for any guidance.

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I am really bad in interpreting q question like this, but let’s give it a try.
what you are looking for is a simple dos machine with a floppydrive. I recently bought an old HP D530 sff office machine. Costed something like 15 euros.
Install freedos on it and all the dos things you want work like a charm.

If you want to toy around, you can get a IDE to SD or CF card adapter (CF is preferable i heard) so that you can run from a CF (or SD) card in stead of a harddisk.

I put MS-DOS onto a netbook (previously XP, with nothing but USB ports and no floppy drive,) which I pulled out of an e-recycling bin. When I plug in a USB floppy drive before powering it up, the floppy drive works. It becomes a DOS computer with a floppy drive.

Well, JustSomeOne, I’m probably bad at even asking the question clearly.

But it’s my impression that I’m not looking for a DOS “machine.” I think I’m looking for a machine with a floppy drive, which will have in it a compatible operating system, where I would install in that the DOS program.

This is a complex set of requirements, and you’ll likely have to pay someone to get it right.

The last machines with floppy controllers on the motherboard were server-class machines from the early 2000s. You absolutely don’t want any of these. Not merely are they loud (they’re meant for server rooms, far away from people) they also guzzle power.

Must you keep using floppies? Unless there’s an accessibility reason you don’t need to share with us, floppies are a format that has gone away. At best, they’re old stock (see floppydisk.com, the last supplier). At worst, you’ve already lost the data on them and you don’t know yet.

You might have to make do with an external USB 3.5" drive. This limits you to 1.44 MB HD floppy disks. You could be better going for a modern-ish small PC (like the Lenovo M93p ThinkCentre i picked up for $100) because it won’t have old capacitors and dust-filled fans.

Your software choice is complicated:


People do still use this, and you can buy new licenses even. But they’re typically doing it to maintain legacy legal documents, so there’s money involved in configuring hardware to keep it running.

Corel 11

This would likely need Windows 10 or so, which isn’t very happy being kept off the network, but would need a recent computer

Microsoft Word (preferably an older version), and Excel

Unless you mean an old version of Word as in Word 5.5 for MS-DOS which was released as freeware in 1999 by Microsoft as part of their Y2K compliance efforts, I’d suggest going as new as you can. Word prior to 2017 or so had a horrific incompatibility that infected tables and complex layouts in newer documents. If you share older Word docs with other people, they may have to rekey them. This may be why Office is now effectively a subscription-only product.

If you’re using a 30 year old computer, you’re probably relying on 30 year old peripherals. Serial and parallel printer ports are no longer a thing. PS/2 keyboards are (curiously) only on gaming motherboards.

I may be over-generalizing, but many of us here on this forum use retro computers because we don’t have to. Floppies are something to get all the data off ASAP and use as little as possible thereafter.

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Great answer!

I wonder what computer he previously had (one or more?)
Corel 11 is from 2002. I think best would be a 32 bit Win XP computer or better laptop. Best of both worlds DOS and WIN and USB.

Or later computer with Dosbox or other VM. Vintage hardware is of course better but for how long?
I also wonder why and if a physical floppy drive is really neccessary. (Is it just for the install?) Can maybe also emulated. All floppies should be saved to harddisc anyway. Limitations are in both cases.

I once had a Fujitsu T-Bird from around 1999/2000.(I guess, I bought this in summer 1999, but I’m not sure.) This had 3.5" floppy drive and USB. Keyboard and mouse were still PS2. I’ve never used this with USB and I don’t know how good USB support actually was.
While not high-performance, it was a common and robust consumer machine, which was exactly what I was looking for. I think, the processor was just a Celeron. (I used this just to review websites under Win/MSIE, running Win98, Win 2000, but also – more on an experimental basis – various Linux distros of the time, FreeBSD, and even Solaris 6. I recall having to swap the graphics card – which was probably an ATI card – for an older one, in order to run Linux.)

This may meet your requirements. (Corel 11 is from 2002, so it should run a machine that was then about 2 or 3 years old. Also, I think, the T-Bird line was available for quite a while.) As this was quite an ordinary machine, I have no idea, if these are still around (certainly, nobody would think of them to be especially worth preserving) or how well these held up. And, while perfectly viable for running legacy software, you wouldn’t want to use this as a daily driver nowadays.

Maybe of interest: As I recall it, the optical drive was CD and not DVD. And there were models with built-in ZIP drives. Ah, yes, not that unimportant then, the BIOS was Y2K compliant! :slight_smile:


A simple DOS machine that ALSO has USB ports.

And cables. I had self built machine that had a usb mother board. The mother board had
USB, but at that time cables from the mother board to chassis was ~ $100.00 each.
I never did get USB for that machine as I/O was from the old system.

Thanks, Scruss. I can’t get the quoting mechanism to work - but I do want an internal A-drive, not external. I’m trying to gradually transition from floppies to USB ports.

I found a place where I am in Phoenix, that has some Dell Optiplexes stashed in their warehouse: 745 and 780, and a bunch of Dimensions, 4400, 4550, 4600, GX 270. They supposedly have A-drives, but they don’t want to pull them out to look at. They’d be $150, which I gather is more than I’d pay online, but it’s easier for me in person. But these guys don’t want to be bothered telling me about the differences between them. A techie I know slightly was going to help be, but he’s suddenly ill.

I searched for “Dimension 4400 floppy” and asked for images, and on the first page I got this:

So, for sure these tower PCs will normally have a floppy drive.

If you’re not afraid of funky, I’d recommend the eBox 3350. Something that looks like this:

It has decent specs for what you need, takes very little space. You can plug in a USB floppy drive and it will automatically work. You can even boot from that if needed. Works great with win98 (tested).

Stay away from earlier models such as the one with CF card in the photo below. That one has problems with win 98. Maybe you can install 95, but I’d recommend the newer model.

If you want something more “modern” you can search the Qbox-1000. That’s an interesting toy that I got Tomb Raider 3 working on quite nicely.

The advantage of these little toys is also that you can buy them relatively cheap from ebay. And you can mount them on the back of a monitor.

Sorry, no, no funky for me. And actually, no, I’m finding that it seems rare for a computer to have both an A-drive for floppy and USB ports.

I’m interested in the two Dell Optiplexes that this store has, 745 and 780, but they don’t want to be bothered to look in their warehouse, and the computer pro that was going to help me is ill. I don’t even know what questions I should be asking them, or how to know if they’d be compatible with the old WP5.1 DOS word processing.

If the local used computer store won’t help you, and the computer pro can’t, I’m not sure there are many people who can help you.

I did some digging around to see what the most recent PC motherboards that included a floppy port might be. It surprised me:

  • ASRock 980DE3/U3S3 is an AMD motherboard supporting DDR3 memory and USB 3 with a single floppy connector on board. Its manual publication date is 2013

  • Embedded/Industrial AMD LX800 (Geode) motherboards such as the Axiomtek SBC84622 may still be available as new old stock. I remember Geode-based computers being cleared out as very low cost surplus a decade or more ago, because they are tremendously limited in processing power.

Both of these would be far more expensive than the $150 your local dealer quoted. End-of-life industrial hardware tends to sell for “what can the client afford?” kind of money, as very often they’re the sort of thing keeping a multi-million industrial device going.

Alright, I dig that. Under these circumstances, the best option I can recommend to you is this one:

But you would need someone to tinker with it to make the setup for all your software.
I hope this helps. :slight_smile:

… or, if you are in US and prefer the desktop slimmer version (I would):

… or just search the Dell Optiplex 755 on ebay and pick the exact model you want, making sure it has a floppy. Some of them have card readers.

I found it a bit hilarious to read my retro computing forum messages today, and see a picture of a Dell Optiplex tower. :slight_smile: But I suppose if this forum is still around in 20 years, we’ll see them a lot more often.

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I should start off with a big apology. I normal preface these threads by emphasizing that I’m not a techie, with a plea to keep the replies simple - as in the movie Margin Call, as if you were talking to a golden retriever. In my efforts to be clear, I forgot to include that. So much of the replies are over my head.

However, although I’m avoiding Ebay and hoping to buy something in person, then, Enthusiast Guy, I found an Optiplex 450 and 480, and although I can’t persuade this store yet to bring them in from their warehouse, this might be a good bet?

Well, I don’t think you need to apologize, we “techies” also tend to talk “tech” way too often.

I also understand your reluctance on the Ebay so ok.

Short version:
Nope, those Optiplex 450/480 are not good for what you need.

You need a computer with at least 500 Mhz CPU, 1GB of RAM and a HDD of 60 GB or more. Those Dell(s) I recommended are perfect, but you can ask for similar hardware. If you have a link to the website of your local store, or an online store that delivers to you, I can take a look and pick something up.

But, I’d strongly advise you to follow this path instead:

  • get the cheapest laptop you can find for 100-200$ (I can help picking one);

For example, I was able to find this where I live, for 150$:

1.6 Ghz Celeron, 2 cores
4 GB of RAM
120 GB SSD


  • get an external USB Floppy (25$ or so);

  • move whatever you can recover from your existing floppies to your laptop drive;
  • get a small external drive of 1TB for 70$ or so:


  • make backups of all your important files on that external drive, while also keeping a copy on the laptop. Ideally, you would also get some backups on some CD’s or DVD’s, but at least start with this
  • give up on WordPerfect altogether (pretty please!). Microsoft Word is able to open and manage wordperfect documents without problems;

It will cost you at most 300$, but you’d sincerely have a contemporary computer, that you can always plug in to your existing monitor with a cable and maybe an adapter, so at any point in your life, you can adapt it to a “desktop” setup.
And you can always take it with you anywhere.

Now, the long boring version (that you can even skip, lots of tech talk here):

Let me recap a bit what I understood as the requirements. You need to run Corel 11, Word Perfect 5.1 and some older version of Microsoft Office on the “same computer”.

These three pieces of software are somewhat from different eras, so I googled the requirements for each:

Corel 11 seems to be able to run on either of Windows XP/Vista/7/8 operating systems, and this link (CorelDraw 11 Free Download For Windows 7, 8, 10 | Get Into Pc) says the minimum requirements are:

Memory (RAM): 128MB of RAM required.
Operating System: Windows XP/Vista/7/8
Processor: 200MHz Intel Pentium Processor
Hard Disk Space: 300MB of free space required.

Please note these are MINIMUM requirements, you can do above that with no problem.

WordPerfect 5.1 was released for the DOS operating system in november 1989, so it will most likely run on DOS 4.0 upwards. That’s the cheapest of all, it will run on anything, so that should be ok.

Since you mentioned that the Office should simply be “older”, I chose Office 2010 since it runs on Windows XP.

Why did I chose Windows XP? Because you are looking for a computer with a floppy drive, so I am trying to get closer back in time for that.

Windows XP (SP3) itself has the following requirements:
a 233 MHz processor, 64 MB of RAM, 1.5 GB of available hard drive space, and an SVGA-capable video card

… and Microsoft Office 2010 is the most “expensive” in terms of requirements. It needs:

500 MHz or faster processor
Memory 256 MB RAM; 512 MB recommended for graphics features and
certain advanced functionality
3.0 GB available disk space
Display 1024x576 or higher resolution monitor

Are you dizzy yet? No worries, let me help you get simple overall requirements:

You need a CPU of minimum 500 Mhz
RAM: 1 Gb (because from my experience, that’s where Windows XP’s RAM sweet spot is)
A hard disk of 60 Gb or more

These are the specifications I found for the Dell Optiplex 450:

Dell Optiplex 450/L 486DX 66MHz Desktop Computer
486DX2/66 MHz Processor
270MB Hard Drive - no operating system
16MB Memory
1.44 Floppy Drive
3 ea ISA Slots

If the requirements I found are correct, this computer will only be good for WordPerfect, so NO. I expect the 480 won’t be much better in terms of specs.

If you go to a shop anyway, you can ask for what you need.
But I doubt, that there is something which covers everything.
Everything has a disadvantage. (Lightweight vs. internal drive and low cost).

If you really want an internal floppy drive, you might have trouble with a modern PC.
Another issue is the operating system.
Keep in mind that Windows 11 usually don’t run DOS software (unless within an emulator like DOSBOX). And modern hardware needs a modern operating system, and that usually doesn’t support old and new hardware (non USB floppy).

An old PC has other issues (maybe don’t support USB) and modern software.
And what about the operating system there? You would need Windows XP or similar.

The question is also what do you want to pay. (Operating systems usually cost as well).

Here, we all like vintage PCs, but for daily work we all have modern hardware as well.
Another option would be a dual system with 2 operating systems. Or 2 systems.

I also would recommend a modern PC or Win XP PC.
On a modern PC you can also do other stuff.
Please ask yourself if you really need an internal floppy. Why not backup everything and use a modern PC. I think an old PC you can’t use for another decades. And there are other issues, like security, or weak points like leaking batteries. Very old hardware and software is more expensive.

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WordPerfect files can be read by later computers.
There are also converters (to WORD) around.
So I would focus on COREL 11. That might also have issues running on both older and newer computers now or soon.
Corel files can probably also converted but depends on how many files you have and in what format.
If you want to use exactly the same you can use an emulator.
Or do you also have an old printer?
It’s not difficult to use an emulator or use a modern computer and adapt everything.
Also keep in mind that Windows XP etc needs to be activated by Microsoft (either online or by phone) and is not supported anymore.

I wonder how urgent and serious this is asking this in May.