Getting your old scanners to work with new OS

Rob Pegoraro, agony aunt for the the digital age, answers computer users' questions.

Q:
The Norton security program on my Mac keeps warning me about "portscan" attacks, which appear to come from sites in China. How worried should I be?

A: Not much: Any computer on the internet will get that kind of random inspection from afar. And as long as you've got a firewall and all current security patches in place, the bad guys can't tamper with your computer. You can think of these scans as the equivalent of strangers checking out your car after you've locked the doors and made sure nothing of value is visible inside.

Q: After upgrading my operating system, the old drivers for my scanner no longer work, and the manufacturer doesn't have any newer ones for me to download. Now what?

A: This happens more often than it should - for example, an upgrade to Apple's Mac OS X Snow Leopard left an iMac with no way to scan images through an otherwise functional Hewlett-Packard printer-scanner unit. Selling the device to somebody else - then buying a new model from a vendor with a better record of supporting its older hardware - is one option.

But if your scanner is valuable enough to you, Hamrick Software's VueScan (hamrick.com) can probably keep it operational. This program supports hundreds of scanners from dozens of manufacturers and comes in versions for every version of Apple and Microsoft's operating systems since Mac OS 9 and Windows 95 (plus releases for Linux).

It's free to try, although it will embed dollar-sign watermarks in scans until you pay to register it. A reader suggested this to me some time ago, citing her own positive experience, and the HP scanner worked perfectly in VueScan's trial download.

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