SafeDiscShim Is Here To Sidestep Obtrusive DRM In Classic Games On Windows PCs

Compact Disc Underside
Today, playing a game is as simple as downloading a few (or many) gigabytes of data over the internet, but in the past, we had to get our game data from optical discs. If you've still got some of those lying around, you might be able to put them to use even if they've got the discontinued SafeDisc DRM. A new project called SafeDiscShim seeks to unlock these games for modern Windows PCs, and it's totally free (and arguably legal).

SafeDisc was introduced in the late 90s to combat a kind of piracy you rarely see anymore: disc cloning. With any number of desktop programs, you could create a disc image from your official game, and then burn a copy of it to a new disc. Where there was one copy of the game, there are now two. SecureDisc could detect those fakes in your disc drive, so the game wouldn't start if you had a cloned copy. Many popular older games were saddled with SafeDisc, making them difficult to play on modern PCs. Some of the most notable SecureDisc titles include Command and Conquer: Generals, Black and White, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, and XIII.

There were ways to circumvent this DRM, of course—it's much less sophisticated than modern DRM products like Denuvo. But playing by the rules became impossible in 2015 when Microsoft blocked the SecureDisc driver (secdrv.sys), which had been languishing un-updated since 2009. The driver had several glaring security flaws that made it dangerous to run on a modern PC, but that had the side effect of making classic SecureDisc games unplayable. That left the law-abiding with few options. Manually running the insecure driver was an option, but that's a bad idea. Likewise, downloading cracked executables from shady corners of the internet is extremely risky.

Morrowind might not look as good as you remember, but you can play it with your original disc again.

With SafeDiscShim, all you need is your original game disc. The creator says SafeDiscShim does not bypass any copy protection, so there should be no issues with legality because you're using your official game disc. Yes, you still need to pop the disc in an optical drive, but SafeDiscShim will intercept all the calls to the SafeDisc driver to send the appropriate responses, allowing the game to start normally.

The tool is available on GitHub, so you can peek at the source code if you want. Just download and install it on your PC, and SafeDiscShim should automatically insert itself into most SafeDisc games. Some particularly old titles might complain, but deleting the drvmgt.dll in the game's directory should solve that.
Tags:  Gaming, DRM