The Force is With Me! TIE Fighter 95 on Windows 7 x64

I’ve mentioned before how I was looking forward to trying many of my old games on Windows 7.  I was delighted to learn I could get my most favorite game working, Star Wars: TIE Fighter.  This game was released for DOS, when I first played it, and then on a CD collection for Windows 95, when I played it some more.

TIE Fighter wouldn’t work on Windows XP for anything I tried.   When Lucasarts said that the game would never work on XP and would never be fixed, I figured that was it.   I was crushed.  I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of the install CD.  As with Duke Nukem, I had hoped someday I’d get it going on a leftover copy of Windows 98.

I knew, over the years, Microsoft was releasing new application shims for XP, and I had intended to try the Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT).  I never got to it.

In 2004, someone did!   Craig Perry created a compatibility shim for both TIE Fighter and X-WingIt’s on the Lucasfiles web site.  (UPDATE:  Use my shim instead:  xwtie95v2.zip)   It doesn’t feel right for me to use it unless I can understand how it works—I should have figured this out in the first place!  I’m stupid!

Quoting Microsoft, the application compatibility infrastructure works like this:

You can circumvent the compatibility problem by using the Compatibility Fix infrastructure to target a specific application fix, for a particular application (and typically for particular versions of that application). The Compatibility Fix infrastructure implements a form of application programming interface (API) hooking, which uses the inherent linking ability of the APIs to redirect from Windows code directly to alternative code that constitutes the compatibility fix. The Windows Portable Executable File Format includes a number of headers that contain the data directories that are used to provide a layer of indirection between the application and the linked file.

There are many compatibility fixes, or shims, exposed in the ACT, most of which are not in the standard compatibility mode UI that you see in the properties tab of a shortcut or an EXE file.   The shims for an application (which may cover more than one executable) are bundled into a .SDB file and placed in the Windows directory \Windows\AppCompat.  Here is the SDB file for TIE Fighter, XWTIE95.SDB:

After installing the ACT, and running Compatibility Administrator on this SDB, we can see this fix applies to two applications, Star Wars TIE Fighter 95, and X-Wing 95.  The right pane displays specific settings for TIE Fighter.   There are shims for two programs, TIE95.EXE and TIESTART.EXE.  (X-Wing 95 is similar, so I won’t describe that application.)

TIESTART, the game launcher, has two fixes applied, CorrectFilePaths, and SingleProcAffinity.  The latter is a common fix—it tells Windows to keep the application on one processor.  Until very recently, there were almost no home PC’s with multiple processors;  XP Home, the host for most modern PC games was only licensed for one processor and in any event you could not buy, let alone afford, a multi-processor board that supported a 3D video card, sound or even game controllers (analog, in those days.)   Almost all PC games are single-processor;  there may be some newer games that now take advantage of multicore CPU’s, but since I seldom run contemporary (read: expensive) games, I wouldn’t know.

CorrectFilePaths fixes the Windows path for the executable so that it sees Windows 95 file paths.

TIE95, the main executable, has the most important fixes as far as the game is concerned.  In addition to SingleProcAffinity, it has EmulateCDFS;  this allows Windows 95 apps to see  the CD (now DVD) drive in the way they expect;  there were many changes to the CD filesystem drivers between 9x and XP.  But two more fixes really make this game work.

IgnoreException instructs Windows to ignore specific runtime exceptions.  In TIE Fighter’s case it is set to READ_ACCESS_VIOLATION.  The game would often crash when launched, and this fixes that without affecting the rest of the executable too much.

MapMemoryB0000 is the most important fix for the game.  Microsoft:

Some applications require that a block of memory be mapped at B0000 as it is on Windows 9x. This compatibility fix will map a block of memory at the B0000 address for the application. Applies to: Windows 95, Windows 98.

Without this fix, it was impossible to run TIE Fighter with 3D hardware.  Fix this and the game runs.

Am I all set?  Not quite.  I run 64-bit Windows (7 Ultimate).  TIE Fighter and many other Windows games use a 16-bit installer which won’t work in 64.  Windows has code for some 16-bit installers but not this one.

Fortunately, many games, unlike most applications, don’t have complicated installations:  Just a directory copied off the install CD or uncompressed from packages into \Program Files, a Start Menu shortcut, and installation of redistributables like DirectX and other common libraries.  Many games never use the Windows registry and store their configuration data separately from Windows.

Easier still, a guy in Austria has made MSI packagers for the Star Wars series;  all you need to do is get game patches and the Microsoft Visual C++ 2008 redistributables, plus the original CD, and copy all the files to a directory to slipstream a new install CD.   Markus Egger’s site has install patches for TIE Fighter, and all of the Laurence Holland games (X-Wing, TIE Fighter, X-Wing Vs. TIE Fighter and X-Wing Alliance.  Did I mention I own all of these?!)

The Totally Games forum has tips on getting this series of games to work on modern Windows.

I’ve successfully run TIE Fighter and the other games, though all of them have their individual compatibility quirks, some of which are fixable, others not.  Many newer video cards don’t support older video modes (320×200) correctly, which is a problem for a good number of old games.  X-Wing Alliance is notorious for distorted fonts (there is a replacement fonts package available.)

Amazingly, TIE Fighter and the other Star Wars games work and play great with the XBox controller—the games even default to useable control bindings even though gamepads were not originally made for the PC, let alone with analog controls like modern pads.  (I have not bought or used a traditional joystick in years.)

This is already a long post, so I’ll just close with one last screenshot:

In this training mission,  my commanding officer is about to have a really bad day.  It’s actually one of the mission goals that you take over for your flight leader if he’s taken out of the action.  The game doesn’t say exactly how that’s supposed to happen…then again, it’s just a regular day in the Imperial Navy.

Happy Star Wars gaming!

(UPDATE:  Once again, I’ve revised the SDB file.  Get it here.  And read my updated post.)

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28 Comments on “The Force is With Me! TIE Fighter 95 on Windows 7 x64”

  1. Doug says:

    I think I did permanent damage to my hand playing tie fighter with a mouse under dos 5. I still have the disks but thought I\’d never be able to play again. Can\’t wait o did them out and have a go!

  2. Makes says:

    Thanks for sharing this info !. I have xwing-vs-tie fighter and never thought I would be able to play it again after many years. I will try your suggested solution for Win7

  3. Nicolas says:

    Thanks for the link to the fix. Unfortunately, I am unable to change the 3d video card, even with the patch installed and running the Collector’s Edition. So the game work, without the enhanced graphics. Any solution?

    • Scott says:

      Use dosbox

      • davidcmoisan says:

        DOSBox would work for the original game, which was DOS based. There was a Windows edition on CDROM released later on, which is what most players bought since it had X-Wing and Tie combined and it ran on Windows 95 natively. More importantly, it had a graphics facelift and hardware 3D support to match the quality of X-Wing Vs. TIE Fighter, which was released around the same time.

        That will not work on DOSBox. If by chance, you have X-Wing or TIE Fighter on the original DOS disks, it is worth trying.

  4. wahaj says:

    same problem with my setup, x-wing and tie fighter show massive graphical corruption in 3D mode, don’t even run in software mode; tried the 3D patch from lucasarts without success;
    tried looking for Riemer’s fix on the net but no success yet;
    read somewhere that Nvidia cards might be more compatible than an ATI card (which is what I have now)
    don’t want to get a new video card to play a 15 year old, even if it’s better than most of the stuff coming out now;

    burns me up that lucasarts are just sitting on this, they should do the right thing and release the source code so the community can fix the issue themselves

  5. -p- says:

    Awesome thanks for sharing this, I’ll try this our.

  6. George says:

    Hello!

    How can I open xwtie95.sdb in windows 7 32bit? I have tried the solution but the compatibility manager toolkit doesn’t let me in, cause xwtie95.sdb appears to be an 64 bit database file

    Thanks in Advance

  7. THANKS!! carpal syndrome here I come (once again…)

  8. john hoskins says:

    when I try the 32 bit ACT, it says that I need to use the 64 bit version to open the file. When I use the 64 bit ACT, it says that I need to use the 32 bit version. any ideas?

    • davidcmoisan says:

      I’ve recreated the SDB file and will probably post an update soon; ACT 5.6 may not like that old SDB version. However, you don’t need to download and run ACT to apply the shim. Not necessary.

      Just insert the file in \windows\apppatch and if Windows doesn’t pick it up, from an elevated command prompt do: sdbinst xwtie95.sdb

      Make note of this: The app shim to get the game running and the 64-bit install issue are NOT related. The shim is the same on x86 and x64; in fact, 64-bit Compatibility Administrator won’t let you make a shim for 32-bit programs. If you’re running TIE Fighter on x86, you probably got through the install OK until you ran it (and it died.) But the program’s there. Whether it runs good or not is a different thing.

  9. dan says:

    +1 request for a new SDB file, on Windows 7 32 bit the installer does run but attempting to play the game results in a crash. Compatibility admin does not show the SDB file as it does in your screenshot… I got my USB gamepad all hooked up, can’t wait to play this game!!

  10. rich says:

    any ideas for getting rebellion to install and run on win 7?

  11. finbar says:

    I appear to be having problems downloading your shim, has the file been taken down?

  12. Tim says:

    I did everything as instructed, downloaded all the patches and fixes, got the updated installer and the shimm, created a profile for Tie95, but game crashes a few seconds into flight? Running Win7 64bit with Nvidia.

  13. I truly tend to go along with almost everything that ended up being posted
    throughout “The Force is With Me! TIE Fighter 95
    on Windows 7 x64 David Moisan’s IT”. Thank you for all the actual details.Regards,Hilda

  14. I personally was initially hunting for recommendations for my very own blog and observed ur blog,
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  15. sasnooskin says:

    Using the instructions you provided, I was able to get the game to load. However, it crashes back to desktop whenever I try to enter a mission. Argh.

  16. Starwars says:

    This is a interesting post by the way. I am going to go ahead and bookmark this article for my brother to read later on tonight. Keep up the good work.

  17. I had to run sdbinst manually from an elevated command prompt because the batch file automagically and silently failed for reasons unknown (with the v2 shim). As soon as I did it manually, it worked perfectly and let a client play a game he loved. Due to illness he can’t fly planes any more, so flight sims are great for him. He’s extremely happy and grateful, as am I. Brilliant, thanks!

  18. […] CD-ROM that is usually available via Amazon or eBay. A guide for running it on modern hardware is available here. It’s worth the […]

  19. […] CD-ROM that is usually available via Amazon or eBay. A guide for running it on modern hardware is available here. It’s worth the […]

  20. […] CD-ROM that is usually available via Amazon or eBay. A guide for running it on modern hardware is available here. It’s worth the […]

  21. Rickard Lejonklou says:

    Hello
    I played this game when i was very little and as you can tell by my spelling i’m not first hand english, but could you please make a step by step description of how to get this working.
    I have win 7 64-bit thats not the problem, but i lose the “red tape” in your story thats why i need the step by step.

    Sincerely Rickard Lejonklou

  22. […] method, as I’m lazy and it seemed easier.  You can find the DOSBox method here, and the other method here. Now I do have the Collector’s Edition CD-Rom, it seems that does have an impact on which […]


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