How to get Command & Conquer The First Decade to Work in Windows 7

Command & Conquer is perhaps the greatest PC game franchise in history, and Electronic Arts in one of its most surprising moves released an unadulterated collection of all the franchise games up to that point–before subsequently ruining the whole thing with C&C 3 and Red Alert 3. I ran across a clean copy at the local thrift shop, so I picked it up for a few dollars. (Yes, I know that technically, I could’ve downloaded the game from EA for free, except that it’s probably not still available, or–if it is–it’s surprisingly difficult to locate the original download links.) Here’s how to get Command & Conquer The First Decade to work in Windows 7.

Command & Conquer The First Decade
Pictured: Four of the best PC games ever made, One fun little RTS, and a forgettable FPS
The problem

The problem here is that I’m playing a twenty-year-old game written for a twenty-year-old operating system on a 21st-century version of Windows. One consolation is that Windows 7 has a pretty decent level of compatibility with applications written for older versions of the OS, and that is our saving grace.

The solution

The trick is that we’re not going to run any of the games through the launcher that EA installs; we’re going to do this old-school, via good ol’ Windows Explorer. For the older titles in the franchise, we’re going to need to take one more step that I’ll elaborate on in a moment. For each of the titles in the series, you’ll need to set the compatibility settings for the game’s executable.

For C&C, original Red Alert, and Tiberium Wars, the exe file should be set to Windows 95 compatibility, and all the check boxes should be marked (640×480 resolution, 256 colors, disable visual themes, disable desktop composition, disable display scaling). Also, you’re going to need to kill explorer.exe to prevent any funky colors from accidentally showing up in the game. This is where our batch file comes in. Open Notepad and type the following code:

taskkill /f /IM explorer.exe
C:\"Program Files (x86)"\"EA Games"\"Command & Conquer The First Decade"\"Command & Conquer Red Alert(tm)"\"ra95.exe"
start explorer.exe

Note that this points to the default installation location of Red Alert. If you’ve installed to a different location, make sure to use that instead!

Save this file as “RA95.bat” or something easily recognized. On running, the code will force-quit Windows Explorer (the Windows “shell”, or operating environment), run the game, then reopen Explorer when finished.

Red Alert 2 only needs to be run in compatibility mode for Windows 98/2000, no other settings need to change. Renegade should work in 98/2000 mode as well, though I have yet to verify this.

Generals should be run in Vista SP2 compatibility mode, with no other settings changed.

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