Definition of Abandonware

Abandonware refers to a type of software, typically older, that is no longer being developed, maintained, or supported by its original creator or copyright holder. These software products, which can include games, applications, and operating systems, have often become obsolete or incompatible with modern systems. As a result, they are usually available for free download from various websites and online communities, although obtaining and using abandonware may still raise legal and copyright concerns.


The phonetic transcription of the keyword “Abandonware” is:/əˈbændənˌwɛr/

Key Takeaways

  1. Abandonware refers to software that is no longer being sold, supported, or updated by its original developers, usually due to the decline in its popularity or the dissolution of the company that created it.
  2. Though abandonware is no longer legally available for purchase or officially supported, it still holds a strong nostalgic value for many gamers and users, leading to dedicated communities, fan websites, and archives that make such software accessible for download and use.
  3. Downloading or distributing abandonware might still be legally problematic, as it may constitute copyright infringement. Some countries have specific abandonware laws and regulations, but in most cases, the legal status of abandonware remains uncertain.

Importance of Abandonware

Abandonware is an important term in technology as it refers to software that is no longer supported, updated, or sold by its creator or copyright holder.

This occurs when developers or companies either go out of business or choose to discontinue their product due to a lack of demand or resources.

The importance of abandonware lies in its potential value to users who may still rely on outdated software for personal or commercial purposes.

Abandonware provides users with the opportunity to legally access, download, and use software that is otherwise unavailable, while preserving the history and progression of technology.

Furthermore, it fosters creativity and innovation within the tech community, as enthusiasts often take it upon themselves to modify and adapt abandonware to work on modern platforms, ensuring its continued relevance and utility.


Abandonware serves a unique purpose in the realm of technology, acting as a lifeline for software and games that are no longer supported or being sold by their original developers or publishers. This primarily occurs when a company dissolves, relinquishes their rights to the intellectual property, or simply decides to cease further support or sales of the product. As a result, this software, often in the form of classic video games, becomes difficult to obtain through conventional channels, which widens the gap between the creators and users who still wish to make use of or enjoy these products.

Abandonware helps to bridge this gap, enabling enthusiasts, researchers, and educators to access, preserve, and share software that would otherwise be lost to time. Though the term “abandonware” might imply a negative connotation, its role in the technology landscape is quite significant. Abandonware sites proudly serve as digital archives, ensuring that these often nostalgic and culturally significant pieces of software do not disappear, and remain available for future generations.

The preservation of abandonware can also spark renewed interest in older games or software, leading to potential reboots or fresh adaptations. However, it is important to note that abandonware still exists in legal grey areas, with some parties arguing that it infringes on intellectual property rights. Nonetheless, this digital practice highlights the importance of maintaining a connection to the past while fostering continued appreciation for the historical context in which these software titles were created.

Examples of Abandonware

Abandonware refers to software or digital products that are no longer being maintained or supported by their original creators. Here are three real-world examples of abandonware:The Microsoft MS-DOS operating system: MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System) was a popular command-line based operating system in the 1980s and early 1990s. The last version of MS-DOS, MS-DOS

22, was released inSince then, Microsoft has not released new versions or provided support for MS-DOS. The operating system is considered abandonware, and although it has been replaced by more modern systems like Windows, some users and developers still have a passion for the classic software.

Sierra On-Line adventure games: Sierra On-Line, a game developer and publisher from the 1980s and 1990s, produced several popular adventure games such as King’s Quest, Space Quest, and Leisure Suit Larry. While some of these games have been re-released or remastered, many of the original titles are considered abandonware. The company ceased active development and support for these games, resulting in them being largely unavailable through official channels. Fans often rely on unauthorized sources like abandonware websites to access and play these classic games.Lotus 1-2-3: Lotus 1-2-3 was a popular spreadsheet program in the 1980s and early 1990s, competing with the likes of Microsoft Excel. Developed by Lotus Software, which later merged with IBM, the last version of Lotus 1-2-3 was released in

As new spreadsheet software came to the market, Lotus 1-2-3 gradually lost its market share, and IBM discontinued support and sales inSince then, the software has become abandonware, with users seeking out copies of the program from various unofficial sources.

Abandonware Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is abandonware?

Abandonware is a term used to describe software, typically games, that has been discontinued or is no longer being actively developed or supported by its creators. These games are usually no longer available for purchase or download and are considered “abandoned” by their original developers.

2. Is it legal to download and use abandonware?

While there might be some legal grey areas surrounding the distribution and use of abandonware, it is generally considered a violation of copyright laws to download and use software that is still under copyright protection. It’s always recommended to respect copyright laws and obtain games or software through legal means.

3. Why are people interested in abandonware?

There are various reasons for an interest in abandonware. Some people enjoy the nostalgia of playing old games from their childhood or earlier periods of gaming history. Others may want to explore a game or software that was popular during a certain era. Additionally, some users may want to study the development and design of older software for educational purposes.

4. How can I identify if a game is considered abandonware?

A game is considered abandonware if it has been discontinued, its creators no longer support it, and it is no longer available for legal purchase or download. Searching for the game online and researching its development history can help determine if it meets these criteria. Keep in mind that the status of an older game can be a gray area, and it’s always best to follow and respect copyright laws.

5. Are there websites that specialize in abandonware?

Yes, there are several websites that have curated collections of abandonware software. These websites often provide information about the software, including its development history, and have community forums for users to discuss their experiences with the games. However, as mentioned earlier, it’s important to be aware of the legal implications of downloading and using abandonware, and to respect copyright laws.

Related Technology Terms

  • Software Obsolescence
  • Out-of-print Software
  • Unsupported Software
  • Orphaned Works
  • Copyright Infringement

Sources for More Information


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