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Legacy Cricut FAQs

Between 2018 and 2020, Cricut dropped anything resembling support for their earlier models. Ironically, most of those machines still work fine. But most users can't use them with their computers anymore, and Cricut isn't selling new physical cartridges for them anymore.

So how useful are they, really? The answer is, pretty darn useful.

This article contains some definitions, caveats, and suggestions, followed by "Frequently Asked Questions."

Cricut History So Far.  Click to go to article.If you feel like you need more background on the models mentioned here, and Cricut's decisions that affected them, check out our article "Cricut History So Far."

Dateline April, 2021

I put the approximate date of publication prominently near the top of these articles because this sort of content can go out of date quickly. In fact, I started writing these articles because most of the internet pages I found while researching these topics was so outdated as to be useless. On the off chance that I don't get this page updated, and you stumble across it in five years, I want to let you know that the information I published here (after much research and experience) may no longer be valid.

You'll thank me later. :-)

Forum Information

Since I started this page, we have begun adding a discussion forum that will include reader questions and responses. Some of that will delve into more detail than we can do on this page, so if you want more information than you see here, check out the forum page here.

And before you say anything, yes, we're still working out the bugs.

"Legacy Cricuts"

Most Cricut owners with anything older than an Explore realize that Cricut has dropped all support for at least eight previous models.

They are calling them "legacy" models and refusing to support them in any way. All but one of the abandoned models required cartridges to operate, and Cricut wanted to go to an all-digital technology.

But in a way, Cricut is a victim of their own success. Because the early models were built like tanks, and the vast majority of them are still in working condition. So Cricut owners - even some folks who've upgraded - are loath to relegate them to the scrap heap if they can still be put to use.

The good news is that most working Personal Cutters, Expressions, Creates, Cakes, and Cake Minis can work with third-party software to cut anything you want including images you download from the internet or create yourself. (Sadly, this doesn't work for Expression 2, Mini, or Imagine - Provocraft designed them specifically to work only with ProvoCraft software that they later discontinued.)

This page and its related page are an attempt to help such users get use out of their perfectly functional machines that the manufacturer has "written off." We'll start with some introductory material, then get to the questions.

Five Ways To Use First-Gen Cricuts

The folks who are getting good use out of the first generation Cricuts today usually fall into one of the following classes:

  • Folks with plenty of cartridges and no desire to use a computer.

  • Folks with cartridges and a working copy of Cricut Design Studio

  • Folks who've "upgraded" to another machine already, but keep their first-gen Cricut handy in case they want to revisit content on one of their favorite cartridges.

  • Folks with a working (but probably bootleg) copy of Sure-Cuts-A-Lot2 (SCAL2) software and a hacked Hosts file (for several years the only way to get first-generation Cricuts to cut original or third-party images).

  • Folks with licensed copies of SCAL4 or 5 software and a third-party driver that allows the software to drive first-gen Cricuts directly (a much better solution once you get it set up).

We'll discuss each of those situations below. But first we must review the "caveats," including three "legacy" models that aren't as useful as most of the Cricuts we discuss in this article, and cases where it makes more sense to upgrade than to keep investing in older technology.

Caveats

As fun as the first-gen Cricuts are to use, you should not spend more money trying to kid them along than it would cost to replace them. For example:

  • Avoid spending more money on additional cartridges than it would cost you to upgrade to a machine that doesn't require cartridges, or which can use cheaper "digital cartridges." Alternatives include:

    • Getting a used Silhoutte Cameo 1 or 2 cheap, downloading their free, user-friendly sofware, and learning to live without cartridges.

    • Upgrading to a modern Cricut that allows you to "link" the cartridges you own and import original and third-party designs. (Cartridges that have been linked to other people's accounts will not work with your new Cricut, though.)

      Note about Used Explore, Joys, and Makers: - As far as I can tell, you can use them for almost everything, but they stay registered to the first user no matter what. So if you try to use a Explore 1 to link your cartridges, you run a risk of linking them to the former user's account, making them useless for your purposes.

  • Avoid spending more money on bootleg software (so you can print your own or third-party designs) than it would cost you to replace your current machine with a newer machine. (That said, I have gotten my licensed copy of SCAL5 to drive to my Create, Expression1, and Cake directly, and that's worth the expense.)

What if Replacement or Upgrade Seems Appropriate?

  • If You're Tapped for Cash, Consider a Used Replacement - You may not feel comfortable shopping for used Cameos or Explores on auction sites, but all of these products are solid. if you know what you're looking for and buy only from people who guarantee they are working, you may be able to escape the "cartridge conundrum" for less than the cost of a few cartridges. (Again, used Explores, Joys, Makers, and Cameo 4s all stay "registered" to the original owner, which can screw up certain things like cartridge linking. But they will work just fine for you.)

  • Consider Upgrading to a More Robust Model - On the other hand, most modern cutters can cut more materials than your old Cricut, so if you often feel the need to cut, say, thicker chipboard than your old Cricut can handle easily, a new Maker or Cameo 4 may be in your future anyway.

  • Consider Keeping Your Old Cricut Around, Too - Finally, nobody says you have to get rid of your old Cricut if you upgrade or migrate to something else. Keeping it may be the best option for folks who migrate to a cutter like the Cameo that doesn't take cartridges at all, or if you have a big collection of cartridges you can't migrate to a new Cricut because they're actually linked to someone else's account.

    Even an Expression takes up a lot less room than, say, that mitre saw your spouse only uses once a year. Keep the old one for when you want to use images from your cartridge collection, and use the new one for everything else. Or you could use the old one for cutting vinyl and thin card stock and the new one for the tougher stuff.

Caught In the Middle

Three Cricut models that were supposed to be transitional between physical cartridges and software-driven were "caught in the middle" when underlying software issues forced Cricut to discontinue the only software that had ever driven them - Craft Room. One of them is essentially a doorstop at this time, and the other two are close.The Cricut Mini never used cartridges and only ran on one program, which is now discontinued.  Click for a bigger photo of this expensive doorstop.

  • The Cricut Mini can not operate period, since it never took cartridges, and Cricut has discontinued the Craft Room software that drove it.

    Cricut's advice to owners was to "consult their warranty statements." Lots of folks formed their opinion about Cricut's commitment to their users as a result of this abdication of responsibility, and I can't blame them. Do not buy one under any circumstances.

    Can/Should You Hack Your Cricut Mini? By the way, a few folks have taken on hacking Cricut Minis as a sort of science project. They can't be restored to use Cricut cartridges or "image sets" ever again, but at least two have been restored to the point where they can cut downloaded or original images using Sure-Cuts-A-Lot or some such. It takes swapping out computer chips, programming eproms, and more, so if you really just want a working cutter, there are many easier ways to go. But if you want a challenge, click on the picture of Dr. Frankenstein and Igor at work in the lab.

  • Hailed as revolutionary, the Cricut Imagine combined an inkjet with a cutting engine, but was largely ignored by Cricut owners.  Today, you can do the same thing with registration marks and a freestanding printer. Click for bigger photo.The Imagine (CRIM0001) was barely supported when it was new; now it can only be used with cartridges. Worse yet, barely any of the special cartridges it used are available at any price.

    If you have a working Imagine with enough cartridges to meet your needs, keep using it as long as you can. But if you don't have one already, don't rush out and get one. With many of today's cutters, you can do what the Imagine was supposed to do by adding registration marks to pages you print on a standard color printer.

  • The Expression 2 was designed to work with Cricut's Craft Room software.  Once Craft Room was discontinued, the E2 became a cartridge-only machine. Click for bigger photo.The Expression 2 (CRX002) was the first Cricut that couldn't be driven by 3rd-party programs like Sure-Cuts-A-Lot 2. Since Craft Room went away, it can't be driven from a computer at all.

    If you're going to use it as a freestanding, cartridge-driven machine, you may discover that the little LCD screen is more useful than the little screen on the Expression 1. But if you don't have one yet, there are better ways to spend your money.

The First-Generation Machines

The Cricuts listed below are different from the three products listed above in that they were designed to work from cartridges primarily, and working from computers was a sort of afterthought. They will continue to work indefinitely with the cartridges you already own. In addition, a number of users are still running them with computers, either kidding along relatively primitive, pre-2011 software, or figuring out how to make SCAL4 or 5 work with them. Ironically, that makes them more useful than the three products above, which were designed to be dependent on software.

  • Personal Cutter - CRV001

  • Create - CRV002

  • Expression - CRX001

  • Cake - CCA001

  • Cake Mini - CCM001

If for some reason, you want to get one of these used, I recommend the Expression. If you need a little portable unit,get the Create; it has advantages over its predecessor, the Personal Cutter.

Because most of these models will still do what they were designed to do, owning any of them gives you options. Unfortunately, the Internet is full of advice for using these old machines that hasn't been true for years.

The following section includes the questions most people ask about these machines and the software that once worked with them.

Frequently Asked Questions?

Here are the major questions we've answered so far. For other issues, consider visiting or signing up for our discussion forums here.

Should I keep my old Cricut after I've Bought a New Machine?

Consider it.

Even if you can "link" some or most of your cartridges to your account and use them with your Explore, Joy, or Maker,

Why?

First of all, because some of the images that are on the cartridges are NOT available on the "Image Sets" of the same name.

As an example, there's NO QUESTION that the "Happy Hauntings" "Image Set" is missing important content from the original cartridge. Yes, you can buy some of it separately, but why should you have to?

Secondly, your old Cricut was built like a tank and probably still works fine. Consider using it to cut out the sorts of things it's good at. That way you can keep it set up, say, for vinyl, and use the new toy for the harder stuff.

In addition, if you have an Expression, Personal Cutter, Create, Cake, or Cake Mini, you can use it with SCAL5 to cut .svg files that you create yourself or download from the internet. Yes, you can import .svg files into Design Space, but I generally find cutting images right from SCAL on a Cameo or one of the aforementioned legacy Cricuts to be much more straightforward.

And being able to easily save my files on my hard drive as .svg files means I can use them in the future no matter what software or hardware I eventually wind up with. Can you make that claim for your Cricut images?

Is it Safe to use "Linked" Cartridges On Old Cricuts?

Yes; the vast majority of them will work just fine. Caveats:

  • If you decide later to upgrade to an Explore or later, you won't be able to use those cartridges with the new machine.

  • It's possible to spend more money on linked, but hard-to-find cartridges than it would cost to migrate or upgrade to, say, a used Cameo that doesn't require cartridges, or a used Explore that will let you keep using the images from the (unlinked) cartridges you already own. (Just don't try to use a used Explore's cartridge port to link your cartridges - you run a danger of them linking to the first owner's account.)

  • If you are fortunate enough to still have a working copy of Cricut's Design Studio on your computer, you'll find that it doesn't support most of the used cartridges that turn up. See below.

Will Cricut Know Somehow if I Use Linked Cartridges On My Old Cricut?

No. And they won't really do anything about it anyway. Also, the FTC won't know if you tore the tags off your matresses.

On the other hand, if you do upgrade to an Explore, Maker, or Joy later, you probably won't be able to use them with your new cutter. So don't go crazy tracking down "linked" physical cartridges that cost more than the same "digital cartridges" would cost if you upgraded to a new Cricut first.

Can I Cut Original or Downloadable Patterns on a Legacy Cricut?

Yes, as of February, 2021, you can cut your own patterns or patterns you get from the internet with Sure-Cuts-A-Lot (SCAL) 4 or 5 and a third-party add-on. This lets the software communicate with the Personal Cutter, Expression, Create, Cake, and Cake Mini.

People have been using bootleg copies of SCAL2 and hacking their PC's "hosts" file to do this for years. But SCAL5 is much better software, and much easier to use once you get the third-party add-on installed.

That said, no software will drive a Cricut Mini, Imagine, or Expression 2 period.

Is Design Studio Still Available?

No. Even if you get a brand-new-in-the-box copy somewhere, you should know that Cricut will not give you an activation code. Don't waste your money.

In fact, Cricut will not even allow users who have working, licensed copies of Design Studio on their hard drives to migrate them to newer computers.

If you never bought and installed Design Studio when you could, don't feel too bad. It's relatively primitive, and the only thing it does well is allow you to arrange images from cartridges you already own on the page, so you can see how they will fit.

If you DO have a working installation of Design Studio, the following FAQ may apply to you.

Does Design Studio Work With Linked Cartridges?

Yes and no. If you're lucky enough to have a working copy of Design Studio on your computer:

  • A: Guard it with your life. If the computer you have it installed on fails, you can NEVER use it again. ProvoCraft will not let you activate or move a licensed copy. You might consider making a "clone" copy of your hard drive as insurance.

  • You can see which cartridges your version of Design Studio supports by scrolling down the cartridge list in the upper left corner.  Click for bigger photo.B: Recognize that Cricut stopped updating Design Studio with cartridge definitions even before Craft Room (now defunct) came out. So most of the linked cartridges on the market at any given time won't work with Design Studio anyway, though they'll work just fine in your machine.

    If you like to do as much with Design Studio as you can, you can check to see of your installed version of Design Studio supports the cartridge you're considering, by checking the drop-down list in the upper left corner of the program's screen.

    Keep in mind that if you ever migrate to an Explore or later Cricut, you will not be able to use cartridges that other folks have linked. That said, nobody says you can't keep your old system around for when you want to use the art from those cartridges.

    In fact, I recently doubled the memory and the hard disk size of the computer I had Design Studio on so I could keep using it. (You can't install Design Studio as a new program on a different computer, but you can clone your hard drive to a bigger drive on the same computer.)

    My list of cartridges supported by my remaining copy of Design Studio.  Yours may have fewer, depending on your release.  Click to see a printable version.Finally, I scrolled through all the cartridges supported by my version of Design Studio (v. 1.0.40422.0) and did about forty screen captures to get a list on one page. That way when I am tempted to buy another cartridge (linked or not), I can compare it to my list and see if my Design Studio would work with it.

    To download the page I came up with, right-click here.

    To see a list of the cartridges that were supported in the last version of Design Studio, click here. Note that your version may support all of these. The version I have does not.

Can I Still Get Legal Copies of Sure-Cuts-a-Lot 2 (SCAL2)?

No. No matter what anyone tells you, legal copies of Sure-Cuts-a-Lot2 haven't been available since 2012. Beyond that, in 2011, Cricut's lawsuits forced SCAL to force any installed copies of SCAL2 to self-upgrade to a version that would not work with Cricut machines.

Other folks figured out other solutions, a lot of which involved bootlegged copies of SCAL2 that were guaranteed to drive your old Cricuts as long as you remembered to do certain hacks on your machine (or get a tech-savvy friend to do it for you).

To be honest, I don't really blame people who used to have software support for their machines and saw it taken away twice (Design Studio and then Craft Room) for trying other, technically illegal approaches. But there are better alternatives, like buying a real, licensed copy of SCAL5 and installing the third-party drivers that will allow it to communicate with your legacy Cricut (described further down). The feature upgrades alone are worth the cost of a new license.

How Can I Update My Cricut's Firmware?

Okay, your copy of SCAL doesn't work with your Cricut, and you think it might be because your Cricut's firmware needs updated.

Your Cricut's firmware version shows right when you turn the thing on. Back when I was using SCAL2, you needed the following firmware versions for SCAL2 to work at all. I've been told that SCAL5 requires the same firmware versions, and experience with an old Explore and an old Create supports that.

  • Cricut Personal Cutter (CRV001) - Firmware version 1.1 or 1.3x

  • Cricut Create (CRV002) - Firmware version 1.51-1.54

  • Cricut Expression (CRX001) - Firmware version 2.3x

  • Cricut Cake - Firmware version 2.3x

  • Cricut Cake Mini - Firmware version 1.51-1.54

The Cricuts listed above are the only Cricuts that ever worked with SCAL.or will ever work with SCAL. If you have one of the cutters above, and the firmware version is lower than the version listed, you can use Design Studio in trial mode to update their software.

If you have access to a copy of Design Studio, you can install it on your machine and use it in Trial Mode. (Some online Cricut clubs make a download of this available, for this purpose only. I don't because it's technically a violation of copyright and the Cricut gods are mad enough at me already.) Again, do not buy a copy of Design Studio - you won't be able to use if for anything BUT updating your Cricut's software.

The Trial Mode will cut any image you try to cut in such a way as to make it useless, but:

  • You can use it to check whether your computer is actually communicating with your cutter.

  • You can use it to update your firmware to - hopefully - make it more compatible with SCAL.
When you click on Help and choose the firmware update, you'll get a long list of instructions for performing the update. Do exactly what it says.

And when the thing is done updating, do it again. I've had one Cricut Create that showed the firmware was updated, but wouldn't work with SCAL until I ran the firmware update again. Other folk have had similar issues with the update.

What can I do if my Cricut's firmware version is higher than the version numbers listed above? - I don't know; I've never seen one and most bloggers I've asked haven't either.

One blogger suggested making sure you have an OLD copy of Design Studio and maybe it would reset the firmware to an earlier version. I can't help thinking about Ferris Buehler running Cameron's dad's car in reverse, hoping it would crank back the odometer.

I guess you could give it a try, and if you're still committed to using a legacy Cricut with SCAL, you can always buy another one - they're going for $50 or less on ShopGoodwill.com. Not guaranteed, but I have yet to get a bad one.

Will Sure-Cuts-a-Lot 4 or 5 Drive a Cricut?

Neither SCAL4 or 5 will drive any Cricut "out of the box." But there are workarounds.

  • If you have a Cricut Expression, Create, Persional Cutter, Cake, or Cake Mini, you can install a third-party driver (described further down) that will let SCAL4 or 5 drive it directly.

  • If you have an Explore or Maker, you can export SVG files in a "Design Space Compatible" mode that makes them ready to cut when you import them into Design Space.

No Cricut Imagine, Expression 2 or Mini will work with ANY version of SCAL. Cricut designed them to be impervious to 3rd-party software. Then they discontinued their own sofware that drove these machines. Don't blame SCAL.

Does SCAL Work With My Cartridges?

No. even if you can get it working with your Cricut, SCAL bypasses most of the "brains" of the Cricut and drives the cutting mechanism directly. You do have to have a cartridge plugged in for it to work - any old cartridge. But SCAL is blind to the contents of the cartridge. If you don't have Design Studio working on your system right now (most people don't), and you want to use your cartridges with a computer interface to help you lay them out, consider tracking down good deal on an Explore.

If you're good with graphic software it is possible to do a screen capture of an image on Design Space, clean it up, save it as a bitmap file (.jpg, .gif, .bmp, etc.), then import it into software like SCAL5 that can convert it into an .svg file. If you have Design Space, you can even hide the grid marks. Of course, this only works on relatively simple images. Plus it's time-consuming and technically illegal, but it may bail you out of a special circumstance.

Can I Still Use a Gypsy With a Legacy Cricut?

Yes, but you can only use the images and fonts from cartridges that are already linked to it.

If you bought the Gypsy new and linked your own cartridges to it, fine. If you upgrade to an Explore, Maker, or Joy, you may need to have a phone conversation with Cricut's customer service department to get those cartridges to transfer to the new account.

On the other hand, buying a used Gypsy is a gamble. Yes, if the original owner linked a bunch of cartridges to it you may be able to use the images and fonts on it with your legacy Cricut. But you won't be able to link any of your own cartridges to the thing. It is what it is.

Can I Still Use a Jukebox With My Legacy Cricut?

Yes, Jukeboxes still work great. But if you go shopping for a used one, be certain it has the funky cable that connects it to the cartridge port on your Cricut. You can't use it without one, and you can't buy them new any more. Most of the used Jukeboxes I see online are missing the cable, which means they're useless for their intended purpose.

Can I Drive My Legacy Cricut With SCAL?

Learn about using Sure-Cuts-A-Lot (SCAL) with first-gen Cricuts.As of the month and year posted near the top of this article, it is possible to drive the following Cricuts with Sure-Cuts-A-Lot 4 or 5 with updated drivers and a third-party add-on. (I have tested this with the Create, Expression (1), and Cake in my own workshop.)

  • Cricut Personal Cutter (CRV001) - Firmware version 1.1 or 1.3x

  • Cricut Create (CRV002) - Firmware version 1.51-1.54

  • Cricut Expression (CRX001) - Firmware version 2.3x

  • Cricut Cake - Firmware version 2.3x

  • Cricut Cake Mini - Firmware version 1.51-1.54

If you want to learn more about this approach, please check out our article "Using Sure-Cuts-A-Lot with Legacy Cricuts."

Conclusion

I started this FAQ to discuss the questions that most people ask about these old, but perfectly useful machines, and to debunk several popular "urban legends" that keep circulating. Some of them were never true; some of them were true a few years back, but either way, I'd rather see folks working from real information when they make their decisions.

As questions continue to come in from readers, this list may very well expand.

In addition, if you've been thinking about getting a cutter for your own or your club's purposes, I hope this helps you avoid any critical mistakes.

Watch this page: more articles are in the works.

As always, we want to hear your suggestions, criticisms, additions, etc. Enjoy your hobbies, and especially any time you can spend with your family in the coming months!

Paul


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