If you pay the creditors, the information can remain on your credit report for an additional period of time because your payment renews & resets the clock. Paying the creditors will not undo history either. I would suggest disputing any small item that is more than one year old because it is unlikely that the creditor will respond to the credit bureaus' request to confirm the debt. With larger debts you may want to wait a bit longer to dispute.
However, repairing your credit isn't all about removing the negative information. Far more important is creating and maintaining good information. I published a 10 part series on this topic to help people that have gone through bankruptcy, but some of this info may help you too. You will have to scroll past a lot of other stuff to find these reports but looking doesn't cost you anything. Hope this perspective helps!
I would hire a lawyer specializing in credit repair to validate the debts and deal with any remaining issues through negotiaiton or court action.
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You may not have a legal right to have truthful negative information removed from your credit report. The first step is always to get copies of your three major credit reports to see exactly what is (and isn't) being reported and who is doing the reporting (i.e., the original creditor, a collector, or both).
Just because your may not have a legal right to the removal of truthful reports, that does not mean you can not negotiate (or hire an experienced attorney to negotiate for you) for the removal of the trade-lines as part of a deal. Many original creditors will not budge, but many collectors will work with you.
Even if you just pay the debts, the debts then need to be properly reported as having a zero balance. Plus you are just a few years away from having these debts come off your report due to their age.
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