Running Microsoft Freelancer on Windows 7 

Freelancer worked best on Windows XP SP3.  It did not work at all on Vista.  But it does work on Windows 7, and on Windows 8, and Windows 8.1.  Just install it normally from the CDROM and play it as normal.  However, there is a tweak that has recently become necessary.

Starting secdrv.sys on Win7, or Win8.1

In September 2015, Microsoft security update KB3086255 prevented Freelancer from running.  When you double-click on the icon, instead of running, you get a dialog box with "Access denied" and "Please login with administrator privileges and try again".

What the update did was to stop a service that the game relies on. It "basically disables secdrv.sys which is an anti-piracy copy protection that is used by many games developers and some other software companies. The driver, secdrv.sys, is used by games which use Macrovision SafeDisc. Without the driver, games with SafeDisc protection would be unable to play on Windows."  See this link for details.  The driver was basically a security hole, and so Microsoft have acted to stop it running.

Microsoft provide a workaround.  Secdrv.sys is still there, so you can manually start and stop it.  Here is the Microsoft Support note for KB3086255.

To run Freelancer:

sc config secdrv start= demand
sc start secdrv
sc stop secdrv

Probably rebooting will reset this.

Running Freelancer on Win10

The SECDRV.SYS problem affects Windows 10 as well.  Unfortunately Secdrv.sys is not supplied with Windows 10 at all.  Supposedly it isn't possible even to run it.  However there seems to be some question about this.  This link suggests that if you use the secdrv.sys from Windows 8.1, and sign it, then it will run.  (Note that I have not tested any of the following)

A workaround is to copy secdrv.sys from a windows 8 / 8.1 machine, self sign the driver, and enter into testsigning boot mode.  You can do this manually or use 3rd party programs to do it.

First copy secdrv.sys from a windows 8 machine to c:\windows\system32\drivers.  You can also download it here.  Same file as the one I got from a vanilla windows 8.1 install v md5 3ea8a16169c26afbeb544e0e48421186

Then self sign the driver.  You can use a program Driver Signature Enforcement Overrider to do this:

Or read about doing it yourself here.  You will also need to make the certificate.

Then enable TESTSIGNING boot mode by opening an admin command prompt and typing: bcdedit -set testsigning on

Now safedisc games should work.

You will get an annoying watermark in testsigning mode.  You can remove it using this program.  Or read about removing it manually here.

I tested secdrv.sys and the above programs in Windows 10 Pro x64 and confirms that it does work.

It sounds rather flaky to me.  Just another reason not to update to Windows 10.

Freelancer Mod Manager

It is possible to install the Freelancer Mod Manager, but requires a bit of ingenuity.  You will quickly find, if you just try to install, that it installs, but none of the mods will activate.  They all give an error in FMM if you try.  Worse, you will find that when you start Freelancer, your main menu screen is missing a lot of its bitmaps; if you proceed to a saved game, that the navmap is blank, and that if you try to leave the station you saved at, Freelancer crashes.

Installing flmminstaller_v1.31.exe

Get the download from the web.  Then right-click on it, and select Properties.  Click the Compatibility tab.  Then:

Then you can double-click the flmminstaller_v1.31.exe file, and install it.

Running Freelancer Mod Manager

Don't even think about running this except with the same settings as above.

So, find the actual executable -- not a shortcut -- on the Start | All Programs | Freelancer Mod Manager and right click the Freelancer Mod Manager icon.

Then do the same as for the installer:

Then, and only then, run Freelancer Mod Manager.  It should work fine.  I turned on the "battleship encounters".  

Changing permissions

I found that I had to change permissions to "full control" for all users on the following directories:

Right click on the directory in Explorer, choose Properties, then the Security tab.  Look at "Authenticated users" and hit "Edit" if necessary to give it "Full control" over the directory.  Likewise with "Users (<yourpc>\Users)".

If you do all this, and you're in the New York system near Planet Manhattan, you should run into battleship and cruiser patrols almost straightaway.


I got into a lot of trouble with this.  Even uninstalling Freelancer and reinstalling it did not fix it.  I ended up deinstalling FLMM and FL, removing all nasty-looking references to "freelancer" from the registry, doing a search on the hard disk and ditto, rebooting, and finally installing FL to a new directory.  It works fine from c:\freelancer.

What about your saved games?  These are all in c:\users\<your username>\My Documents\My Games\Freelancer\Accts\SinglePlayer\ as *.fl.  Keep a copy of the directory before you fiddle, I suggest.  Copying the contents back on a new install gave me back my old saved games.

Constructive feedback is welcomed to Roger Pearse.

Written 29th October 2011.

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