Microsoft tries to kill older disc-based PC games (including SC4) with KB3086255

It’s been in the news for a little while that the latest operating system from Microsoft, Windows 10, prevents the disc version of SimCity 4 from running, by virtue of lacking the drivers to handle the game’s SafeDisc protection system, requiring users purchase a digital download copy.

However, they’re now doing an end run around this with a new Windows update that affects Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 users.  The update in question is KB3086255, released on September 8, 2015.  This update is billed as a “security update for the graphics component in Windows”, but disables secdrv.sys, a critical file required for software with SafeDisc to run in Windows, thus zorking not only SimCity 4, but a number of other older, disc-based games (many of which, unlike SC4, may lack digital download versions).  The official write-up from Microsoft on this update can be found here.  Cyclone Boom, a moderator at Simtropolis, has also written up a nice synopsis of the issue, which can be found here.

If you haven’t installed KB3086255 yet, you’re safe.  It is also possible to remove it (though Microsoft, of course, does not recommend this), and there are methods for re-enabling secdrv.sys with the update installed (as unlike Windows 10, the file is still present post-update), as noted in the “Known Issues With This Update” section.  The first, involving the command prompt, appears to only be a temporary solution that must be redone each time you start Windows.  The second is a more intensive registry editing operation.

This latest development is disconcerting on a number of fronts, especially considering that the latest version of Windows is designed to force automatic updates (at least not without somewhat unwieldy and ever-shifting workarounds).  If any new issues of this sort pop up, I’ll make note of them here at SimTarkus.