Minesweeper: Restoring The Classic Windows Games In Windows 8

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minesweeper windowsBring the default games in Windows 8 back to the desktop. If Metro-style, full screen apps aren’t what you want when you play Solitaire, Minesweeper or Free Cell, you’re probably disappointed with Windows 8-only fullscreen versions of these games are offered in Microsoft’s latest operating system.

So these games, which have more or less been the same since Windows 3.1, are not included by default in Windows 8– and the versions you can get all run in the Metro user interface. Sure, they offer new features – the new Minesweeper, for example, offers daily challenges and an adventure mode – but some purists prefer their simple, desktop-based classics. If that includes you, keep reading.

I’ve shown you how to replace the terrible Windows 7 games with the classic XP ones, and this tutorial is similar to that one, except I’ll outline how to grab the games both from an existing Windows XP install and a Windows XP CD. I assume most people don’t have access to a working version of XP anymore.

Let’s get to work…so we can distract ourselves.

From An XP Install

minesweeper windows

If you have access to a computer with Windows XP installed (or a VirtualBox install of Windows XP) the process will be easy for you. Fire up XP and open Windows Explorer, then head to “C:\Windows\System32″. Do not change any files in this folder: you’ll break things. We’re just here to copy some files. They’re called:

  • cards.dll
  • freecell.exe
  • mshearts.exe
  • sol.exe
  • spider.exe
  • winmine.exe

minesweeper for windows 8
Copy – do not move – these files to a single folder, which you can transfer them to your Windows 8 computer however you like. USB, emailing yourself – it doesn’t matter.

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These games will all work fine in Windows 8, so feel free to put this folder wherever you like on your Windows 8 computer. You can even right-click one of the games and pin it to the taskbar:

minesweeper for windows 8

Enjoy, and remember: MakeUseOf is not liable for any productivity losses directly resulting from these games. Use responsibly.

From an XP Install Disk

Of course, you probably do not have a computer with Windows XP handy. It’s possible to grab the old games from a Windows XP CD, but it’s a little more complicated – and involves the command line.

Don’t panic: it’s not as hard as it sounds. Let’s do this together now.

Insert your Windows XP CD into your Windows 8 computer, then open Windows Explorer. Open the “i386″ folder – we’re going to find some files here. They’re similar to the files above, but named in all caps and ending with an underscore instead of the last letter. The files are:

  • CARDS.DL_
  • FREECELL.EX_
  • MSHEARTS.EX_
  • SOL.EX_
  • SPIDER.EX_
  • WINMINE.EX_

You can quickly find any of these files by searching.

minesweeper for windows 8

Copy these files to a folder on your desktop – in this tutorial I’ll call it “oldgames”. Once you’ve got them all open the Command Prompt – you can find it by clicking the Search charm and typing “Command”.

minesweeper windows 8

To begin, type:

cd Desktop\oldgames

Then hit “Enter”. This will bring the Command Prompt to your oldgames folder. Now we need to extract the games. Let’s start with CARDS.DL_.

expand CARDS.DL_ cards.dll

minesweeper windows 8

To explain: the word “expand” tells the prompt what you want to do: expand a file. The word “CARDS.DL_” tells the prompt which file you want to expand. The last word, “cards.dll”, tells the prompt what you want the expanded file to be called. Shortcut: hit the “Tab” button after typing the first few letters of an existing file – the prompt will figure out which file you want.

The above command cannot create an .EXE file, so we’re going to need to cheat for the rest of the files. Let’s start with Freecell:

expand FREECELL.EX_ freecell

This command will create a file called “freecell”. Simply rename that file by right-clicking it, then add “.exe” to the end – “freecell.exe”. Assuming you’ve already extracted cards.dll you’ll have a working version of the game:

minesweeper windows 8

Repeat the process for the other games – once you’re done, feel free to delete all the files that end with an underscore (that is, this: ” _” ). You now have a folder full of your favorites:

Right-click any of these files and click “Pin to Taskbar” if you want quick access to them. They’ll be at the bottom of the screen every time you’re in desktop mode.

Conclusion

So you’ve now got your favorite old games from Windows XP working in Windows 8. I’m not sure why Microsoft doesn’t offer these on their site somewhere – it would have saved me some time in writing this, and you some time in finding the files.

minesweeper windows

I suppose they want fans of the games to get used to Metro – to learn how to use it. Microsoft has a history of using games to teach people user interface principles: Solitaire was initially included in Windows to teach people how to click and drag, for example. So these games are once again playing the role of teacher.

Maybe you don’t want to learn, however – maybe you like the way things worked before. At least it’s possible to do things your way with some tweaking: you can use Classic Shell to add a start menu to the Windows 8 desktop or add Aero effects to Windows 8 with free tools. Check out all of our Windows 8 articles for more tips like that.

What else are you doing to make Windows 8 comfortable? Let me know in the comments below, or simply share your top scores in Minesweeper.

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Comments (25)
  • Leonis

    Exactly what I did when I installed Windows 8.1.
    I liked the FreeCell in Vista better than the one in XP. There you could undo with CTRl/Z until the beginning of a new game, whilst with XP you could undo only once. Boohoo.

    • Justin Pot

      That’s a lot of undoing, but I could see how it would be helpful for really learning your way around the game.

  • Jim

    My personal record for the Expert level is 75 seconds. I still have my XP computer and would like to transfer my times. Are the games’ statistics stored in the registry (e.g. HKCUSoftwareMicrosoftwinmine)? What about Help and any other files (although not must haves)?

    • Justin Pot

      That’s an absolutely amazing high score, and I understand wanting to preserve it, but I must admit I’ve no idea where Windows stores the scores or how to go about transferring them. Some Googling revealed there should be a file called winmine.ini with the scores, so perhaps search your machine for that?

    • Justin Pot

      Wait, that’s only for earlier things. Looks like in XP it was indeed in the registry.

  • Debra

    Thank You! You are a gentleman and a scholar, and you have made my boss very happy! (Not to mention making me look good, too!) This works like a charm!

  • - V -

    Thank you very much!

    I have a version of windows XP installed on my old desktop computer but my laptop has windows 8. Now with the help of this tutorial, I’ll be able to enjoy old XP games on my laptop! It’s kinda nostalgic for me, I first played Minesweeper on windows XP when I was 10 and now it’s fun to do it again!

    Thanks again…

  • Windows8KindaSucks

    Thank you. I recently downloaded the freecell app for windows 8. It was annoying beyond belief. I could only undo one move at a time, all the games were set on easy, and all cards automatically went into the unretrievable pile. Unless I payed for it. Its not much but come on! Anyway can’t wait to do this.

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.