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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How-to: Get Knights of the Old Republic Working in Windows 7

In my opinion, Windows 7 is really the greatest, most intuitive, most responsive, and most fun to use operating system on the planet today. However, as great as Windows 7 is, the downside to upgrading to this superlative computing experience is that some older, legacy software titles do not function as expected. One of those titles is BioWare's 2003 epic Knights of the Old Republic. Recently, we here at SRV wanted to take a nostalgic tour through Knights of the Old Republic, but were stymied by the fact that it would only run for about 5 minutes of gameplay, then crash to the desktop. After much googling, we determined a set of steps that seems to get the software working under Windows 7 - or, at least we haven't had a problem yet, anyway*.
*(generic disclaimer: As with any "How-to's" on this blog, this info is provided as a general public service, and we aren't responsible for anything you do to your own computer. We do not endorse anything on websites linked from this blog, and anything you download from those sites, you do at your own risk. Also please note that this fix isn't guaranteed to work on all systems, and we're not experts on this sort of thing to begin with, so don't blame us if your computer goes **poof** because you followed any of the procedures you see here.)

We eventually found what we needed to know at this excellent comprehensive post over at the LucasArts forums. Here are the steps that we followed to get it working on our own systems:

Step 1: Apparently Windows 7 allows fractional screen refresh rates (i.e., 59.35 Hz) where previous versions of Windows forced those numbers to be integers (i.e., 59 or 60). So, you have to set your monitor refresh rate to be 60 Hz, the only setting that KOTOR recognizes. I know my monitor is rated to 70 Hz, so this isn't a problem for me, but your mileage may vary. Find the display properties tab and override so that the refresh rate is manually set to 60 Hz.

Step 2: Install KOTOR from the original installation disks. Note that I did not run the setup as administrator and I haven't had any problems. Some of the advice I saw on the internet suggested that you run the installation as administrator.

Step 3: Patch the game to 1.03, which adds new higher resolution display options as choices.

Step 4: Download the unofficial Vista/7 KOTOR fix and replace the mss32.dll file in the KOTOR directory with this unofficial!!! fix file.

Step 5: [Optional] Supposedly, installing a no-CD crack can help to keep the game from locking up. I didn't do that and it works fine, but I bring it up here out of completeness.

Step 6: In the main KOTOR directory, edit the swkotor.ini file. In the [graphics options] section, add a line:

Disable Vertex Buffer Objects=1

Step 7: We currently have NVIDIA graphics systems here at SRV, so this step will obviously not help those with ATI graphics. You Radeon users are on your own at this point. However, NVIDIA users should open the NVIDIA control panel, select the 3D settings tab and click "add program". Select swkotor.exe. Set "Vertex Sync" to "Force on".

Step 8: Right click on SWKOTOR.exe. Select "Properties." On the compability tab, for the compatibility mode, select "Windows XP SP 3" Also check the following items on the compatibility tab: "Disable visual themes", "Disable desktop composition", and "Disable display scaling on High DPI systems".

Step 9: Make new shortcut to SWKOTOR.exe and use this new shortcut to start the game.

That should do it! We followed these steps and the game has been agreeably stable in Windows 7 64-bit.

On my soapbox: I do feel constrained to point out that KOTOR is still being sold as part of the "Star Wars: Greatest PC Hits" compilation in brick-and-mortar stores as well as a direct download from Steam, so I would humbly suggest to LucasArts that they might want to invest some resources in coming up with a Windows 7 patch for the game. If KOTOR had been "abandoned" and was no longer commercially available, then I would completely understand that people play it at their own risk on modern systems. However, I feel strongly that if something is available in the marketplace, vendors have a responsibility to the end-users to make things as easy as possible. This is especially true for PC Gaming, which, after all, is supposed to be, y'know, fun and whatnot. Generally, complicated 8-step procedures that involve twiddling with important system settings culled off the webbytubes isn't as fun as playing the game that you were looking forward to. Still, it's worth it to be able to play KOTOR again!

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