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Thread: The SafeDisc Issue affecting older Total War games

  1. #1
    Frunk's Avatar Form Follows Function
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    Default The SafeDisc Issue affecting older Total War games

    The SafeDisc Issue
    Formerly "Total War games will no longer work at all"
    Now a Scriptorium featured article! (13/10/2016)

    Contents:
    1. Background
    2. The problem
    3. The very easy solution (for Medieval 2 players)
    4. The easy-ish solution (for Rome, Medieval, Shogun and non-Kingdoms players on W8.1, W8 and W7)
    5. The cool new solution (for all players on W10)
    6. The un-cool solution
    7. Not a solution
    8. Conclusion

    Background

    When Windows 10 was rolled out in July and August 2015, many of us quickly discovered that while we could successfully install our old disc copies of Medieval 2 Total War, Rome Total War, Medieval Total War and Shogun Total War on the new operating system, we could not get these games to launch. The wider online gaming community quickly discovered that this was due to the disabling of a driver called secdrv.sys. Initially, this issue was confined to Windows 10, but when Microsoft released a security update called KB3086255 for Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, the problem soon began affecting users of these operating systems as well.

    Before digital game distribution platforms like Steam came along, games were distributed as discs. In an attempt to combat piracy, video game companies included various third party copyright protections on their discs. In the case of Total War games, one of these methods is SafeDisc encryption. When a user tries to launch a game, SafeDisc will first verify that the disc being used is legitimate and not pirated. Once this process is completed, the game will launch. However, SafeDisc requires a specific driver to be both present and functional in order to run and complete its check: secdrv.sys.

    The problem

    The problem is that since secdrv.sys is disabled, SafeDisc cannot run, and therefore neither will the game, as the SafeDisc check must be completed. So even though in most cases, users can install their Total War games, the games lay idle no matter how the user tries to launch them (whether via the .exe, shortcuts, Autorun or the Launcher).

    Mircosoft disabled secdrv.sys functionality by default in W10 upon that operating system's release, while later in September 2015, KB3086255 was rolled out on older operating systems (namely W8.1, W8 and W7) through Windows Update. According to Microsoft, secdrv.sys needed to be disabled because its presence on operating systems causes a security vulnerability which a hacker or a virus may be able to exploit in order to gain complete control of a user's computer.

    Quote Originally Posted by Microsoft
    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 turns off the service for the secdrv.sys driver. This may affect the ability to run some older games.

    To learn more about the vulnerabilities, see Microsoft Security Bulletin MS15-097.
    The very easy solution (for Medieval 2 players)

    I need to note that while I own MTW and RTW, I only play M2TW these days, so my focus has been entirely on the game that I play.

    I installed Medieval 2 on my brand new W10 OS and it did not run, however, I also installed the Kingdoms expansion pack, and found myself able to run and play the Kingdoms campaigns, plus any installed mod, without any issue. So, go ahead and install both Medieval 2 and Kingdoms and I suspect you will be able to at least use the kingdoms.exe. It has also been reported here that M2TW Gold Edition also runs without issue. A bit more on why that is so:

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    I theorise that between the release dates of Medieval 2 (November 2006) and Kingdoms (August 2007), SafeDisc protection was phased out and not included on the newer discs. Gold Edition was released in February 2008. Another possibility is that SafeDisc was not included on my Kingdoms disc because game developers assumed no one would pirate the expansion without pirating the main Medieval 2 game, but this seems less likely and would not explain why Gold Edition also doesn't have it (unless indeed it was phased out after Kingdoms was released but before Gold Edition).

    It was in November 2007 that security concerns with SafeDisc were first identified.
    Those that want to play the original, Europe-wide Grand Campaign of Medieval 2 can still do so even without medieval2.exe functionality. Simply download and install Gigantus' Bare Geomod Kingdoms, which is the Grand Campaign in the form of a mod folder. Like most other mods and the Kingdoms campaigns, it uses the kingdoms.exe, not the medieval2.exe. It is normally used as a base for modders, but unaltered it is the original Grand Campaign you know and love. When you see him, please give Gigantus a rep for his fantastic work.

    So Medieval 2 is lucky. Being a newer game, it is not as drastically affected by this problem as the older games, and we are able to play it easily.

    The easy-ish solution (for Rome, Medieval, Shogun and non-Kingdoms players)

    As I said above, I claim no expertise regarding these games, but as they are older, the Medieval 2 solution cannot be applied to them, unless you can locate a more recently released (post-2007) disc. I do not know if such discs even exist.

    For W8.1, W8 and W7 users, there is the option of uninstalling KB3086255 via Windows Update, which will restore secdrv.sys functionality, or you can use command prompts, or edit the registry. Disclaimer: Restoring secdrv.sys may leave your computer vulnerable to security breaches! Microsoft would not have gone to the trouble of disabling secdrv.sys functionality if there was no real threat.* Therefore, if you take either of the following options, you do so at your own risk.

    To uninstall KB3086255, watch the following video:

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    To restore secdrv.sys via command prompt or the registry, follow the instructions on Microsoft's KB3086255 page, starting at "Known issues in this security update". Microsoft recommends turning secdrv.sys back off once you are finished with it, but if you play the game(s) regularly you may find that tiresome. If you choose to leave secdrv.sys turned on, I reiterate that you do so at risk to your system. I also suggest that you not use command prompt or registry editing unless you are competent or familiar with these functions.

    W10 users do not have the option to uninstall KB3086255 or reactivate secdrv.sys because the driver does not even exist on that operating system.

    *Conspiracy theorists might believe Microsoft is in league with video game distributors in an attempt to force users to buy new games, rather than continue playing old ones...

    The cool new solution (for Windows 10 users)

    I hadn't heard about this solution until I decided to review what's happened in the past 9 months since KB3086255 was released, and the credit goes to this makeuseof article. This solution involves placing secdrv.sys on W10 and using a third-party program, Driver Signature Enforcement Overrider, to make secdrv.sys "trusted" by the system. There are 10 steps below, but fear not, I've broken it down into baby steps and it's very simple.

    Step 1: Download secdrv.sys, or copy it from an older version of Windows, and paste it in this folder: c:\windows\system32\drivers
    Step 2: Download Driver Signature Enforcement Overrider. It does not require an install and will run straight from downloading. Close the program, because you need to run it as an administrator.
    Step 3: Go to the DSEO file, right-click and select "Run as administrator".
    Step 4: Follow the prompts (Read the introduction, click "Next", then read the Software License Agreement, click "Yes").
    Step 5: Select "Sign a System File", click "Next".
    Step 6: Type "c:\windows\system32\drivers\secdrv.sys".
    Step 7: Click "OK".
    Step 8: Once the driver has been signed, restart your computer.
    Step 9: Run the DSEO file again, this time selecting "Enable Test Mode".
    Step 10: Attempt to launch Total War. It should be able to load secdrv.sys and run like it used to!

    I have not tried it myself, but it seems very straightforward. Presumably, with secdrv.sys present on your W10, you will be vulnerable as per the previous solutions, so once again you are at your own risk.

    The un-cool solution

    Another possible solution comes from Gigantus (seriously, the great man deserves a lot of reps), who has created a tutorial on how you can convert your Medieval 2 disc installation to a Steam installation. I believe this can also be applied to Rome, but I am unsure if it can be applied to Medieval and Shogun (I'm trying to find out).

    Alternatively, you could simply purchase any of the games on Steam.

    The downside to converting to or purchasing Steam copies of the game, is that they are on Steam. Some people like Steam, some people don't. I fall into the latter category, but, it is an option and hence I've shared it here.

    Not a solution

    You may or may not be aware of the existence of cracks. These files replace or alter a game's .exe in order to skip the SafeDisc check. Altering the .exe in any way would violate the game's License Agreement, which is illegal, and furthermore condoning the use of a crack would violate the Terms of Service of Total War Center. Also, cracks often come packaged with concealed malware which can infect your computer. Therefore, cracks are definitely not a solution, no matter what anybody else says or writes.

    Conclusion

    The SafeDisc Issue is not Microsoft's fault. Microsoft has done its due diligence by fixing the security issue caused by secdrv.sys. The onus must now fall back onto game developers to restore functionality to old games, in the form of the patch which removes the need for the crude SafeDisc check to be completed. Other video game developers have reportedly done so, but SEGA/CA have not, nor have they signalled any intention to do so.

    Hopefully one of these solutions will suit your needs. Let me know how you get on, and feel free to ask any questions or provide any new information!
    Last edited by Frunk; October 25, 2016 at 06:51 AM. Reason: Scriptorium link added.
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  2. #2
    MasterOfNone's Avatar RTW Modder 2004-2015
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    Default Re: Total War games will no longer work at all

    Thank you for the explanation. Maybe more players will switch to Steam because of this? I already know of one person who has done just that after the update a couple of days ago. I saw a post from a CA rep on the official TotalWar forums stating that SEGA had solutions for CD owners if they fill out the contact form on their site...
    "One of the most sophisticated Total War mods ever developed..."


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    Frunk's Avatar Form Follows Function
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    Default Re: Total War games will no longer work at all

    Quote Originally Posted by MasterOfNone View Post
    Maybe more players will switch to Steam because of this?

    I saw a post from a CA rep on the official TotalWar forums stating that SEGA had solutions for CD owners if they fill out the contact form on their site...
    Converting to Steam is certainly an option, but personally I'm not a fan of it. I haven't seen the post you mention, but I assume it would include instructions on how to convert to Steam.
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    UndrState's Avatar Centenarius
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    Default Re: Total War games will no longer work at all

    Don't mean to be unhelpful, but I've got the disk version, which I installed fresh on my windows 10 and I'm not having any troubles...

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    Frunk's Avatar Form Follows Function
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    Default Re: Total War games will no longer work at all

    There's no such thing as unhelpful. Everything I know is only based off what I've read (admittedly from dozens of sources by now) and what has worked for me. Every new bit of information is great.

    I've seen a few others say things along the same lines, for Rome Total War, though. To confirm, your medieval2.exe works out of the box?

    I speculate that the release date of the version of disc is a factor. Do you know what version of the game you have? i.e, the copyright date on the back of the case is a hint.

    Presumably, later releases had SafeDisc or SecuRom removed. That's what I base my reasoning on Kingdoms working but not Medieval 2, in my case.
    Last edited by Frunk; September 15, 2015 at 11:42 AM.
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    Default Re: Total War games will no longer work at all

    Quote Originally Posted by Frunk View Post
    The disc versions of Med2, Rome1, Med1 and Shogun1, that is.
    Yes and no, it is just about SafeDisk, the coppy protection of the executeables. I think many of the older players here know that there are plenty of sources for executeables without SafeDisk. In fact you can make any game with SafeDisk run on Win10 if just SafeDisk is the problem. Or one of the other copy protections.

    And before a mod wants to close it. There are even legal executeables with removed SafeDisk. At last for Rome (Gold) and afaik for Medieval 2. Bot where released as on the DVDs of some gaming mags. I just own the Rome variant. But the install readme tells to copy to files from the disk to replace the installed executeables. Both are simply modified executeables.
    I don't know if CA just took the files from various sides or if they realy did it on their own too, but that where official files.


    And sorry, I don't think Steam is the solution to get away from a local DRM. Its more like walking from the desert into the hell in my eyes...

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    Frunk's Avatar Form Follows Function
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    Default Re: Total War games will no longer work at all

    Quote Originally Posted by nickname View Post
    Yes and no, it is just about SafeDisk, the coppy protection of the executeables. I think many of the older players here know that there are plenty of sources for executeables without SafeDisk. In fact you can make any game with SafeDisk run on Win10 if just SafeDisk is the problem. Or one of the other copy protections.

    And before a mod wants to close it. There are even legal executeables with removed SafeDisk. At last for Rome (Gold) and afaik for Medieval 2. Bot where released as on the DVDs of some gaming mags. I just own the Rome variant. But the install readme tells to copy to files from the disk to replace the installed executeables. Both are simply modified executeables.
    I don't know if CA just took the files from various sides or if they realy did it on their own too, but that where official files.


    And sorry, I don't think Steam is the solution to get away from a local DRM. Its more like walking from the desert into the hell in my eyes...
    I'm well aware that cracks are available, but unless they are officially released, endorsed or approved by CA, they are illegal and therefore should not be considered an option.

    That said, indeed, it is certain that there are official versions of the games which do not include the various protections.

    I'll agree completely with you when it comes to Steam, though.
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    UndrState's Avatar Centenarius
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    Default Re: Total War games will no longer work at all

    Quote Originally Posted by Frunk View Post
    There's no such thing as unhelpful. Everything I know is only based off what I've read (admittedly from dozens of sources by now) and what has worked for me. Every new bit of information is great.

    I've seen a few others say things along the same lines, for Rome Total War, though. To confirm, your medieval2.exe works out of the box?

    I speculate that the release date of the version of disc is a factor. Do you know what version of the game you have? i.e, the copyright date on the back of the case is a hint.

    Presumably, later releases had SafeDisc or SecuRom removed. That's what I base my reasoning on Kingdoms working but not Medieval 2, in my case.

    After close scrutiny, no year on the box, but on the disk it's 2006. This is M2TW GOLD w/Kingdoms. And yes, worked out the box.

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    Gäiten's Avatar Protector Domesticus
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    Default Re: Total War games will no longer work at all

    This sucks

    I do have the problem and am somewhat lost what to do.

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    Frunk's Avatar Form Follows Function
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    Default Re: Total War games will no longer work at all

    Quote Originally Posted by Gäiten View Post
    This sucks

    I do have the problem and am somewhat lost what to do.
    Which game(s) do you have?
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    Gäiten's Avatar Protector Domesticus
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    Default Re: Total War games will no longer work at all

    RTW Gold edition.

    MTW2 works properly.

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    Frunk's Avatar Form Follows Function
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    Default Re: Total War games will no longer work at all

    I've been focusing my attention mostly on Medieval 2 as that's the only one I really play, but this thread has various possible fixes for Rome users.
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    Genuine_Intrepid's Avatar Foederatus
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    Default Re: Total War games will no longer work at all

    I am vehemently opposed to digital copies of games, I have no sense of ownership and I don't want a client getting between my OS and the games I install. I know I am going against "progress" but it stinks. For me the only acceptable workaround is to revert to win 7 again (I was suckered into the win 10 upgrade, but got rid of this malware after only 1 day of use) and block this "update" from getting near my machine.

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    Frunk's Avatar Form Follows Function
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    Default Re: Total War games will no longer work at all

    Quote Originally Posted by Genuine_Intrepid View Post
    I am vehemently opposed to digital copies of games, I have no sense of ownership and I don't want a client getting between my OS and the games I install. I know I am going against "progress" but it stinks. For me the only acceptable workaround is to revert to win 7 again (I was suckered into the win 10 upgrade, but got rid of this malware after only 1 day of use) and block this "update" from getting near my machine.
    I share your opposition to Steam and the like. The only alternative that one could possibly explore is buying newer disc versions. It seems that around 2007 SafeDisc was phased out. This explains why my copy of Kingdoms works, but not Medieval 2. I've read similar things from Rome players who've had no problems on Windows 10, presumably using whatever "Gold Edition" or similar pack was released later. I'll try and find out if later releases exist for Shogun and Medieval 1 and report back.
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    paradamed's Avatar Praepositus
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    Default Re: Total War games will no longer work at all

    Ok, I gave up. My game is not working after updating to windows 10. I tried everything except the registry changes which Im not very fond of. I had the same problem with RTW; Weirdly, cracks worked on RTW but not on M2TW. As far as I know it is not illegal to use a crack of a game license you own.

    I used my key to activate my kingdoms on Steam. Not a big fan of steam but since I already have all titles with teh exception of RTW and M2tw on steam maybe it was inevitable. A sad day for the M2tw community. My only non steam title from now on is RTW : (

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    Green Warrior's Avatar Libertus
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    Default Re: Total War games will no longer work at all

    I had similar problems installing M2TW and Kingdoms from disk on a new Windows 7 laptop. Once I deleted the offending Windows update file, everything worked just fine!

    Just uninstall Windows update KB3086255 and restart your computer. (If the restart takes an extraordinarily long time -- as mine did -- simply force a restart.)

    Many, many thanks to Mr. Funk for disclosing the source of the problem!! (Can't stop the FUNK.)

    Here is a link showing how to locate and uninstall KB3086255.


    Here's the link:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmjFfgE5gDk
    Last edited by Green Warrior; April 02, 2016 at 11:09 AM. Reason: Forgot the link
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    Frunk's Avatar Form Follows Function
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    Default Re: Total War games will no longer work at all

    Glad I could help Green Warrior. I've been meaning to update the OP as it's a bit messy, so I'll check out that video and also see what's been said around the Internet in the past few months, and have a go at it tomorrow.

    Just to confirm, you could not even install Medieval 2 and/or Kingdoms prior to uninstalling KB3086255? That would be new information to me as so far I've only heard of problems with launching the game, after it installs successfully.
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    Default Re: The SafeDisc Issue affecting older Total War games

    I've completed update the OP, including info on a new solution for Windows 10 users!
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    Default Re: The SafeDisc Issue affecting older Total War games

    Thread moved from General TW Discussion.
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    Default Re: The SafeDisc Issue affecting older Total War games

    I tried the "cool new solution" for my rom total war, which was not working but it did not do anything for me sadly.
    Last edited by Frunk; October 30, 2016 at 05:00 AM. Reason: Post "split" between 2 threads.

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