Security update disables SafeDisc games in Windows Vista, 7, and 8

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We learned in August that Windows 10 does not support SafeDisc and SecuROM DRM technology, meaning that games making use of them won't run. That in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing, given their various problems and security flaws, but it is potentially an issue for owners of those games, who will have to either re-purchase them digitally or, ironically, download a crack. Now it's come to light that something similar has happened to Windows Vista, 7, and 8, through a security update that was rolled out earlier this month.

"In addition to the changes that are listed for the vulnerabilities that are described in Microsoft Security Bulletin MS15-097, this security bulletin addresses a defense-in-depth update for the secdrv.sys driver, a third-party driver," the update summary states. "The update turns off the service for the secdrv.sys driver. This may affect the ability to run some older games."

The update only impacts games which use SafeDisc, which makes use of the secdrv.sys driver, so SecuROM games will presumably continue to operate as they always have. For anyone who happens to need it, Microsoft has also provided a workaround, although it notes that making use of it "may make a computer or a network more vulnerable to attack by malicious users or by malicious software."

Because the security update simply switches secdrv.sys off rather than killing it outright, it can be turned back on by opening a command prompt and typing "sc start secdrv". To stop it again, which Microsoft recommends doing once you've finished running your SafeDisc-based game, type "sc stop secdrv" at the prompt. (If you're unsure what a command prompt is, you're probably best to forget the whole thing.)

To be clear, this is not a hyper-urgent or devastating situation, as the update will obviously only impact a very small number of users. But if you're in that boat, especially if you rely on auto-updates and don't pay much attention to what's going on under the hood, it's worth knowing about. More information, including how to automatically enable the driver if you've already updated and didn't really want to, is up at the Microsoft support site.

Thanks, RPS.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.