CD-locked games

Almost every big game you can buy today is CD-locked. This means that the publisher tries to ensure that you have bought the game by forcing you to have the CD in the CD-ROM drive or the game won’t run.

Unfortunately, this is a poor deterrent that can be circumvented quite easily and mainly annoys paying customers. People that don’t pay for their games download a pirated version where the CD lock is removed anyway – so it’s actually a more pleasant experience to play a pirated version than one you have bought! Wtf?

For those of us that buy games, this is annoying. What if I want to play a few different games as well as listen to some audio? Swapping the CDs in and out of the drive is annoying, and the incessant checking of the CD takes time, too. Fortunately, there is an easy way to work around it – it works for all the games I have bought recently, including Sims 2, Doom 3 and Unreal Tournament 2004 (on DVD), but there are of course no guarantees.

Here is how to do it:

  1. Use a program that can make an image of the CD, including information about any bad sector errors and other standard-breaking mechanisms used by software publishers. I use Alcohol 52%, which knows most of the schemes employed and can emulate them just fine.
  2. Once the image has been created (it takes a while), “mount” the image as a “Virtual CD drive” using an emulator. There are several out there, but I have had nothing but success with DAEMON tools.

DAEMON tools is both free and powerful, and has a bunch of free plugins that makes it even nicer to use. You can tell it to create as many “virtual” CD drives as you like, and mount a separate image on each drive. And best of all, the games all think the original CD is in there, so the CD swapping has been eliminated!

Make sure you use this only on games you have bought and where you have created the images yourself. If you use a pirated game, your machine is at risk because the pirated version may include spyware, viruses or other undesirable code – surely it’s not worth saving $50 but risking all your data, your bank details, and everything else that resides on your PC?

Copy protection schemes

Almost every piece of software implements some form of copy protection, presumably intended to ensure that people do not pirate the software that they use.

What actually tends to happen is that real customers get hassled with complicated password and key-checking schemes that do not work, and that people who would not buy the software anyway simply download a patch, crack or key.

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