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A solution for SafeDisc-protected classic PC games: introducing SafeDiscShim

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In context: SafeDisc was a copy protection designed to hinder or block unauthorized duplication of PC games released on optical disks. The controversial technology was retired in 2009, and modern Windows editions aren’t officially compatible with the DRM solution, making life for retrogaming enthusiasts much harder than it should be.

When it was first released back in 2015, Windows 10 brought some new headaches for gamers because of its inability to run games protected with SecuROM and SafeDisc by default. Modern, internet-based DRM solutions like Denuvo don’t pose the same issue, and DVD releases of newer games are essentially extinct in the mass market.

SafeDisc can still be a significant issue for users trying to run one of those disk-based games, though. The anti-copy protection created by Macrovision Corporation in 1998 works by detecting “burned” and illegal disks, running the insecure driver “secdrv.sys” to check if said disks weren’t manufactured by the original developer.

The secdrv.sys “Macrovision Security Driver” is not supported in Windows 10 and later Windows editions, though resourceful users can resort to some workarounds to ease the pain a bit. SafeDiscShim is a new open-source tool designed to increase compatibility with SafeDisc-based game releases with no need for cheap tricks or insecure drivers anymore.

The program does not bypass the security mechanisms employed by SafeDisc, the developers say, and users will still need to have their original CD or DVD in the optical drive for a particular game to run. SafeDiscShim automatically loads in memory when a SafeDisc-protected game is launched, intercepting any communication request by a game’s encrypted executable file seeking the original driver’s response.

Once installed on the system, SafeDiscShim should automatically run when a SafeDisc-based game is loaded in memory. “Most” protected games are compatible with the new driver bypass method, the developers explain, while a few releases using older SafeDisc v1 tech may not work without first deleting the “drvmgt.dll” file they have installed alongside other game’s data.

Before a tool like SafeDiscShim came to be, gamers interested in revisiting classics such as Command and Conquer: Generals, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, and XIII were either forced to install the insecure secdrv.sys driver or download a “cracked” exe from potentially dangerous online sources. SafeDiscShim should make both of these questionable solutions completely useless.

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