Windows Vista/7/8 update prevents some old CD-ROM games from running

Citing security issues, Microsoft disables Safedisc DRM. But users can make old games work again at their own risk.


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In another case of digital rights management doing harm to paying customers, a slew of CD-ROM games are being rendered inoperable by a security update in Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8.

As reported by RockPaperShotgun, games that rely on SafeDisc DRM will no longer run with Windows update KB3086255. While a workaround is available, Microsoft warns that it could leave your computer or network more vulnerable to viruses or other malicious software.

Safedisc was a DRM method that shipped on older CD-ROM games in the mid-aughts. Some well-known games that use this scheme include Battlefield 1942, Sim City 4, and Grand Theft Auto III. As we reported last month, Microsoft removed support for SafeDisc and some versions of Securom DRM in Windows 10, citing a possible loophole for viruses. Now Microsoft is closing the same loophole for older versions of Windows, locking users out of their games.

Why this matters: The blame here isn’t so much on Microsoft—which understandably wants to keep its operating system secure—as it is on publishers, who’ve created such deeply-embedded DRM that it now poses a security risk. It’s just another example of DRM locking out legitimate customers, and it’s a practice that hasn’t stopped as DRM moves from discs to online servers that are susceptible to downtime.

How to get games running again

Fortunately, Microsoft has published a workaround for Windows Vista, 7, and 8, letting users temporarily or permanently re-enable their games:

The temporarily solution is to launch the Command Prompt (Click Start, click Run, type “cmd,” right-click Run as Administrator), then enter the following command:

sc start secdrv

After playing, close the security loophole by opening Command Prompt again and typing the following:

sc start secdrv

Alternatively, Microsoft has posted a system registry tweak if you want to permanently want to keep the DRM service running (albeit at a greater risk to security).

Note that these tweaks will not work with Windows 10. Some games (such as Sim City 4) may still allow you to redeem a digital copy, but otherwise your only options are to break the DRM with a no-CD crack, or buy the game again.

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