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Developer(s)Sony DADC
Initial release1998 (1998)
TypeOptical disc copy protection, digital rights management

SecuROM is a CD/DVD copy protection and digital rights management (DRM) system developed by Sony DADC and introduced in 1998.[1]: 11  It aims to prevent unauthorised copying and reverse engineering of software, primarily commercial computer games running on Windows. The method of disc protection in later versions is data position measurement, which may be used in conjunction with online activation DRM. SecuROM gained prominence in the late 2000s but generated controversy because of its requirement for frequent online authentication and strict key activation limits. A 2008 class-action lawsuit was filed against Electronic Arts for its use of SecuROM in the video game Spore.[2] Opponents, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, believe that fair-use rights are restricted by DRM applications such as SecuROM.[3][4]

Since 2015, games protected with SecuROM no longer work with Windows Vista, 7 and 8, due to Microsoft releasing the MS15-097 security update on those OSes.[5] Additionally, SecuROM-protected games are natively unsupported on Windows 10 and later versions of Windows.[6][7][8] The only way to play such games today are with cracks and patches that circumvent SecuROM at the binary level.


SecuROM limits the number of PCs activated at the same time from the same key and is not uninstalled upon removal of the game. SecuROM 7.x was the first version to include the SecuROM Removal Tool, which is intended to help users remove SecuROM after the software with which it was installed has been removed.[9] Most titles now also include a revoke tool to deactivate the license; revoking all licenses would restore the original activation limit.[10] As with Windows activation, a hardware change may appear as a change of computer, and force another activation of the software.[11] Reformatting the computer may not consume an activation, if the Product Activation servers successfully detect it as a re-installation on the same set of hardware.[12] The activation limit may be increased, on a case-by-case basis, if the user is shown to have reached this limit due to several hardware-triggered re-activations on the same PC.

Known problems[edit]

  • SecuROM may not detect that the original game disc is in the drive. This can occur on virtually any configuration, and reinserting the disc or rebooting the computer usually resolves the problem.[13]
  • Under Windows Vista, SecuROM will prevent a game from running if explicit congestion notification is enabled in Vista's networking configuration.[14]
  • Software that can be used to bypass copy protection, such as disk drive emulators and debugging software, will block the launch of the game and generate a security module error.[13][15] Disabling such software usually fixes the issue, but in some cases uninstallation is required.[13]
  • SecuROM conflicts with other software, the best-known being SysInternals' Process Explorer (prior to version 11). Use of Process Explorer before an attempt to run the protected software would produce an error caused by a driver that was kept in memory after Process Explorer was closed. This is solved by either ensuring that Process Explorer is not running in the background when the game is launched, or updating Process Explorer.[13][16]
  • SecuROM has a hardware-level incompatibility with certain brands of optical drives. Workarounds exist.[13]



Purchasers of BioShock were required to activate the game online, and users who exceeded their permitted two activations would have to call to get their limit raised. The limit was raised to five activations because an incorrect phone number had been printed on the manual, and because there were no call centers outside of the United States. Separate activations were required for each user on the same machine.[17][18] 2K Games removed the activation limit in 2008, although online activation was still required.[19] The game is now available completely DRM-free.[20]

Mass Effect[edit]

EA announced in May 2008 that Mass Effect for the PC would use SecuROM 7.x and require that the software be reactivated every 10 days.[21] Customer complaints led EA to remove the 10-day activation, but SecuROM remained tied to the installation, with its product activation facility used to impose a limit of three activations. A call to customer support is required to reset the activation limit. Unlike BioShock, uninstalling the game does not refund a previously used activation.[22] A de-authorization tool was released for the main game, but EA's customer support must still be contacted to deactivate the downloadable expansions.


Spore, released by EA on September 7, 2008, uses SecuROM. Spore has seen relatively substantial rates of unauthorized distribution among peer-to-peer groups, and with a reported 1.7 million downloads over BitTorrent networks, was the most user-redistributed game of 2008, according to TorrentFreak's "Top 10 most pirated games of 2008" list.[23] Journalists note that this was a reaction from users unhappy with the copy protection.[24]

EA requires the player to authenticate the game online upon installation.[25] This system was announced after EA's originally planned system, which would have required authentication every 10 days, met opposition from the public.[26] Each individual product key of the game would be limited to use on three computers.[27] This limit was raised to five computers, in response to customer complaints,[28] but only one online user (required to access user-generated content) can be created per copy.

A class-action lawsuit was filed by Maryland resident Melissa Thomas within the U.S. District Court against Electronic Arts over SecuROM's inclusion with Spore.[29][30] Several other lawsuits have followed.

Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3[edit]

Red Alert 3 included SecuROM until February 19, 2009, when it was removed from the Steam version. Non-Steam editions still include SecuROM.[31] Despite this, every serial key can only be activated up to 5 times, and activations could be revoked for individual systems through the game's auto-run feature as of patch 1.05.

Dragon Age II[edit]

Reports emerged in March 2011 that EA's Dragon Age II included SecuROM, despite assertions from EA to the contrary.[32] On March 12, 2011, a BioWare representative stated on the official Dragon Age II message boards that the game does not use SecuROM, but instead "a release control product which is made by the same team, but is a completely different product"[33] which was later revealed to be Sony Release Control. The consumer advocacy group Reclaim Your Game has challenged this claim, based on their analysis of the files in question.[34]

Final Fantasy VII PC re-release[edit]

In early August 2012 an updated version of Final Fantasy VII was re-released for PC. The updated version included SecuROM software, which was discovered when an early purchase link was included in the Square Enix store. Users who purchased and downloaded the game were unable to activate the game due to the activation servers not recognizing the activation key for their purchased games.[35]

The Sims 2 Ultimate Collection[edit]

EA released The Sims 2 Ultimate Collection as a free download until July 31, 2014, but did not mention that the download also came with SecuROM included,[36] which was later revealed by the site Reclaim Your Game.[37] SecuROM was removed on November 1, 2017, more than three years after it was last offered on Origin.[38]

Tron: Evolution[edit]

In 2019, due to Disney's decision to end its SecuROM license, Tron: Evolution, which relies on it to authenticate its installation and startup, was rendered unplayable and pulled from the Steam store nearly a decade after its release. Disney claims that efforts are being made to re-release the game without SecuROM, but there has so far been no further assurance of or timetable for such an action.[39]


  1. ^ Block, Debbie Galante (June 2001). "Key2 the kingdom: Sony offers copy protection for CD-R". Emedia Magazine. 14 (6). Online, Incorporated: 10–11 – via ProQuest.
  2. ^ Pigna, Kris (24 September 2008). "EA Hit with Class Action Lawsuit over Spore DRM". 1UP.com. Archived from the original on 1 October 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2009.
  3. ^ "Electronic Frontier Foundation's website's DRM section". Archived from the original on 2011-06-03.
  4. ^ Lohmann, Fred (November 21, 2008). "Apple Downgrades Macbook Video with DRM". EFF. Retrieved September 4, 2017. So this is just another example of the way in which the MPAA companies use DRM not to stop piracy...but rather to control those who make devices that play movies.
  5. ^ "MS15-097: Description of the security update for the graphics component in Windows: September 8, 2015 - Microsoft Support". support.microsoft.com. Retrieved 2024-06-11.
  6. ^ "Games protected with SafeDisc or SecuROM won't run on Windows 8, 7 or Vista now either". Neowin. 2024-03-01. Retrieved 2024-03-02.
  7. ^ John Callaham (2015-09-24). "Recent update to Windows 7, 8 and Vista won't run games with SafeDisc or SecuROM". Windows Central. Retrieved 2024-03-02.
  8. ^ Andy Chalk (2015-09-23). "Security update disables SafeDisc games in Windows Vista, 7, and 8". PC Gamer. Retrieved 2024-03-02.
  9. ^ "SecuROM Removal Tool Information". SecuROM.
  10. ^ "2.5 What is revoking?". SecuROM. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  11. ^ "2.4 What happens if I change my hardware (e.g. I bought a new graphics card)?". SecuROM. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  12. ^ "2.7 I have formatted my PC without revoking the application before, does that mean I have lost an activation?". SecuROM. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  13. ^ a b c d e "PC Game Piracy Examined: Page 9". Tweakguides. 2008-12-14. Archived from the original on 2019-11-05. Retrieved 2011-11-25.
  14. ^ "Casual Friday: Why Spore Won't Work". PC World. 2008-09-12. Archived from the original on 2008-09-26. Retrieved 2008-09-16.
  15. ^ "SecuROM troubleshooting website". SecuROM. Retrieved 2009-01-12.
  16. ^ "Process Explorer Blacklisted". Sysinternals. 2007-03-17. Retrieved 2009-01-12.
  17. ^ "2K: Tell your brother to buy his own Bioshock, you didn't buy it for the whole family". Maxconsole. 2007-09-04. Archived from the original on 2007-10-13. Retrieved 2007-11-12.
  18. ^ "One copy of BioShock per family (member)?". Neoseeker. 2007-09-05. Retrieved 2007-11-12.
  19. ^ Linde, Aaron (2008-06-19). "2K Games Lifts BioShock PC Install Limit, DRM". Shacknews. Retrieved 2008-06-19.
  20. ^ "Buy BioShock from the Humble Store". Humble Bundle. Retrieved 2016-11-01.
  21. ^ "Mass Effect, Spore To Use Recurring Validation". 7 May 2008. Retrieved June 3, 2008.
  22. ^ "Electronic Arts Responds to Copy Protection Outcry, Removes 10-day SecuROM Check for the Troops". Archived from the original on June 14, 2008. Retrieved June 3, 2008.
  23. ^ "Top 10 Most Pirated Games of 2008". TorrentFreak. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  24. ^ Schonfeld, Erick (2008-09-14). "Spore And The Great DRM Backlash". TechCrunch. washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2008-09-16.
  25. ^ "Copyright row dogs Spore release". BBC News. 2008-09-10. Retrieved 2008-09-17.
  26. ^ "Spore, Mass Effect PC to Require Online Validation Every Ten Days to Function". Shacknews. 2008-05-06. Retrieved 2008-09-17.
  27. ^ "Ars puts Spore DRM to the test—with a surprising result". Ars Technica. 2008-09-16. Retrieved 2008-09-17.
  28. ^ "EA retools 'Spore' DRM activation features". CNET. 2008-09-19. Archived from the original on 2011-06-17. Retrieved 2008-09-20.
  29. ^ "EA Faces Class Action Lawsuit Over Spore DRM". gamepolitics.com.
  30. ^ "PDF copy of the court file against EA's use of SecuROM DRM in the game Spore" (PDF).
  31. ^ Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3#SecuROM
  32. ^ Webster, Andrew (2011-03-11). "Dragon Age II features hated SecuROM, despite previous EA claims". ARSTechnica. arstechnica.com. Retrieved 2011-03-11.
  33. ^ "BioWare: Dragon Age 2 PC doesn't use SecuROM". Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  34. ^ "RYG News: Connecting Dragon Age 2's "Release Control" To SecuROM". Reclaim Your Game. Archived from the original on May 10, 2015. Retrieved June 11, 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  35. ^ "Final Fantasy VII PC released early, then pulled".
  36. ^ "Report: EA Snuck SecuROM DRM in Free 'The Sims 2 Ultimate Collection'". July 28, 2014. Archived from the original on March 11, 2015. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  37. ^ "Reclaim Your Game — Sims 2 Ultimate Collection and SecuROM". Reclaim Your Game. Archived from the original on July 30, 2015. Retrieved 22 October 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  38. ^ "Sims 2 Ultimate Collection Update removes SecuRom". Crinrict's Gaming World. 2017-10-31. Retrieved 2018-10-13.
  39. ^ Geigner, Timothy (6 December 2019). "Disney's Decision Not To Renew SecuROM License Bricks 'Tron: Evolution'". TechDirt. Retrieved 8 September 2021.

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