Original Thread:
The SafeDisc Issue affecting older Total War games
Author: Frunk

Safedisk issue

The SafeDisc Issue
Formerly "Total War games will no longer work at all"

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


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 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.

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 that:

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 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 all 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. 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 your own risks. I would also suggest not using command prompt or editing the registry unless you have a good idea of what you are doing.

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.

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 admistrator.
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 haven't 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 can 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.


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!