NeweggBusiness will gladly give you money for old IT equipment. Or instead, you can fashion a grunge-era Compaq 486 into a print server. Millennials love sustainability and vintage items; should you turn that old computer into a fully-functional print server for extra style points?
Check that the PC specs meet the super minimal requirements
You just need a Intel 386 CPU or later; 8 MB of system memory; a 3.5-inch floppy drive, and a parallel port—what printers and joysticks plugged in the good ol days before USB.
If you have an extra Ethernet network adapter card, you need that in the PC. Those old 386/486 motherboards have a single PCI slot, and cheap 10/100/1000Mbps Network Adapter will work fine. If you’re working without an Ethernet port, go with a dual RJ-45 server adapter.
Download the drivers and printer server software
Download a NIC driver, and print server software. There are dozens of free choices; Qcontrol from Pcounter is one.
You’ll need to un-compress the program files, so have WinZip installed. You’ll need WinImage to make a disk image of the print server driver and copy it onto a medium the old PC can read. Style points if you use a 1.44 MB floppy disk inserted in the A Drive.
Add the drivers to a boot disk
Open WinImage in the command line: C:\winimage\winimage.exe. Drag the files for the NIC driver and print server application into the window. Scan the computer for a file called modules.lrp – drag and drop it in too.
Insert the floppy disk and follow the prompt to write WinImage contents to disk.
Connect the printer to the old PC with a parallel cable. Power on the printer. Boot the PC after inserting the disk with the driver and module files.
Add the printer and server to the network
Go to Control Panel–> printers & fax –> add a printer. You may have to uncheck the Autodetect PnP function. Click Create New Port–>Standard TCP/IP port–>manually add the IP address (192.168.1.252) port name (PrintSrv), and Custom Raw Port number (9100).
Is this a good idea?
In a conventional business sense, not really. Your awesome retro PC print server uses unnecessary energy—especially if it runs 24/7. This is not ideal usage for a 20 year old computer. A low-power sub-$50 network print server does the job at a fraction of the energy intake.
If you have more than one printer in the office, driver uniformity is best practice. If that old PC has Windows 8 or later, running a modern v4 driver should be fine. But best to use it as a server room novelty for the IT team to enjoy.