Specifically, legacy-free refers to a mindset of PC hardware design. The reasoning behind legacy-free is that older ports are too slow and clunky to use, and USB technology is the way of the future, and actually put the U in USB to use. Legacy free, supposedly, will reduce OEM support costs.

To illustrate the legacy problem, Microsoft has provided some hilarious examples. (http://www.microsoft.com/hwdev/platform/PCdesign/LR/Lfinterface.asp)

Add a Hard Drive

Legacy: I ran out of hard-disk space because I had too many MP3 files. I tried to install a new hard drive on my computer, and 12 hours later, I finally got the jumper configured correctly and it worked.

Add a Color Printer

Legacy: I have a collection of digital photos that I wanted to print. So I bought a popular parallel port color printer. I plugged it in, and it didn’t work because of some problem with the parallel port not being detected properly. I couldn’t get it to show up properly in Device Manager. I remembered that someone told me to switch my parallel port to ECP mode because of another device I had. So I went into the BIOS settings and switched it back to EPT mode. After a little more time configuring, I finally got it working. Boy, am I glad I work in the computer industry and understand this stuff!

Legacy-free computers, as specified by Microsoft, must lack the following.

  • Floppy drives: because every computer is connected to the Internet and you can just e-mail your document or burn it on a CD.
  • Serial ports: because everyone uses internal Winmodems now.
  • Parallel ports: no need for something THAT big
  • PS/2 ports: PS/2 ain't hotpluggable, so out it goes. Ironically, Windows 2000 SP3's lists of bugfixes include "PS/2 hotplug support"
  • Game/MIDI port. Creative, to some extent, has done this already on the SoundBlaster Audigy, by putting the game port on a seperate adapter.
  • ISA slots, obviously

Legacy-free computers are a disaster waiting to happen, really. The 'dumb' nature of the USB port forces the CPU to waste time doing what would normally be done in hardware (like, for example, UART for serial ports). If your computer goes tits-up, PS/2 will just work, but USB drivers are one of the first things to go wrong with a computer.

In spite of mfk's well formulated argument above, I must disagree. Legacy free boards are not necesarily a disaster waiting to happen - no more so than a standard legacy board anyway. You simply have trade-offs.

You sacrifice some compatibility (say with Linux) for speed. A Firewire (400 MB/s) or USB 2.0 (480 MB/s)port certainly has a higher band than a serial (11 pin, 115200kb/s) or parallel (25 pin, 1200kb/s) port. Also, smaller cable equates to less clutter behind the box (a small point really, but it is something to think about). You can clearly see the speed advantages. Networking over firewire is realistic, whereas parallel networking is slow and lagged. Sure it works for your printer, but anything else? As far as the modem, considering how pricy Legacy Free boards are currently, if you're paying for a legacy free system you can probably afford cable internet.

Another advantage USB has over Serial/Parallel is that the USB CONTROLLER takes up one IRQ. You can (theoretically) hook up to 127 devices to the USB controller and still use only one IRQ. This aids in the elimination of the PS/2 port because a)USB keyboards and mice are readily available and inexpensive and b)you can fit 4 USB slots in place of two PS/2.

As far as the "hilarious" complaints Microsoft fabricated for their article, one must realize that - sadly - this is what the average computer user thinks (ok, maybe not to the extreme of "I will never update my hardware again", but you get the point). A standard user will give up quickly if something isn't easy. And I'll be damned if I haven't had jumper problems because the diagrams were shit on at least 1/3 of all the hard drives I've ever owned :)

Really, one wouldn't have to eliminate floppy drives, game ports, or have internal modems. Many external 56k modems do come with USB connections. You can have a floppy drive - you'll just want it to be serial ATA (I know that's not really reasonable, but there's always ZIP discs to replace it), but it doesn't really matter what Microsoft says, no intelligent board maker will kill the floppy drive (Abit's "Legacy Free" boards all have a floppy channel). Most sound cards come with game ports on them, no need to worry about those. And if you're still using ISA slots - it's time to upgrade.

Obviously if you're using a computer that only needs Windows 3.1 or Dos to do what you need it to do then none of this matters, serial and parallel are perfectly fine etc. But if you want the fastest, top of the line schtick, then Legacy Free may not be a half bad idea.
Some current boards that are Legacy Free:

    Abit AT7 / IT7
    Abit AT7-MAX2
I have a legacy-free motherboard. It's not totally legacy-free as it still has a floppy drive controller but what it does lack are serial, COM and PS/2 ports.

The reasons to change to a legacy-free computing world:

  1. Less legacy ports mean more USB ports. Before I went legacy-free I was forever running out of USB ports, now I have 8 USB ports to play about with. More than I need for my mouse, keyboard, mp3 player, digital camera, etc.
  2. Better future compatibility. Legacy-free motherboards usually come with USB 2.0 and Firewire as standard. My board even came with 4 RAID connectors, meaning I could potentially attach 12 IDE devices to it!

The reaons not to change to a legacy free computer world:

  1. Ownership of legacy free devices. When I upgraded I had to buy a new keyboard, not a big deal really. Luckily I already owned a USB printer and I don't connect to the internet via a modem through this computer. However, if I did, I could have used a USB or PCI hardware modem (yes, they do exist!).
  2. Expense. The only legacy-free motherboards on the market at the moment are the Abit boards and they are at least 50% more expensive than a non-legacy board, although this is probably down to the exta RAID connectors, on-board 5.1 sound with digital output, on-board LAN, etc.
  3. Cheap USB/Fireward PCI cards. What's the point of getting rid of all these potentially useful legacy-port when you can add a PCI and have the best of both worlds?

I think the question of performance is a false one. The differences are minimal and the benchmarks have proved that the Abit legacy-free boards are among the fastest on the market today.

Whether to go legacy-free is down to personal preference. I expect one day everyone will use legacy-free computers, even if it's not exactly necessary at the present time.

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