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 Windows 8 Version Of Minesweeper Includes Themes, Adventure Mode Windows 8 Version Of Minesweeper Includes Themes, Adventure Mode Play a new version of Windows classic Minesweeper, complete with XBox achievements and a brand new adventure mode. Yep, I'm writing an article about Minesweeper. And why shouldn't I? It's a game that's been included... Read More – 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 Replace The Terrible Windows 7 Games With The Classic XP Ones Replace The Terrible Windows 7 Games With The Classic XP Ones Ditch the shiny and slow. Get old-fashioned but familiar Windows XP games working on your Windows 7 computer. They're ugly, but they work the way you're wired. Solitaire, Minesweeper, Hearts and Spider Solitaire remain a... Read More , 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.

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:

  • SOL.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:

Minesweeper: Restoring The Classic Windows Games In Windows 8 win8classicgames folder

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.


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 Make Windows 8 Suck Less With Classic Shell Make Windows 8 Suck Less With Classic Shell Make Windows 8 usable for people who think it's not. Add a start menu to the desktop and tweak the way Explorer and Internet Explorer behave, all thanks to a piece of software called Classic... Read More or add Aero effects to Windows 8 with free tools Windows 8 Doesn't Come with Aero - But You Can Add It With These Tools Windows 8 Doesn't Come with Aero - But You Can Add It With These Tools Whichever way you look at it, Windows 8 has been a controversial release. The latest version of Microsoft’s domestic operating system has built in touch and no Start button on the Desktop view, something that... Read More . 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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  1. Edward
    September 19, 2017 at 10:28 pm

    My complaint about Win 8.1 games (free) is the ads that slow the game down. Maybe I should just buy the ones I want, but getting the old classic Windows games back is a cool move. Thanks.

    The only drawback with these old classics is the screen resolution on new monitors makes the games tiny and I don't want to be changing resolution every time I want to play a game. I guess I might be coughing up the small pocket change to get a Win 8.1 game without ads.

    I bought my desktop years ago with Win 8 and then upgraded to 8.1, however, when Micro Soft offered Win 10 I tried downloading but it said I didn't have a legitimate version of 8.1. I like 8.1 well enough so that's what I'm sticking with. Thanks again.

  2. Valerie George
    December 26, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    Thank you very much indeed! Works perfectly.

  3. Sean
    August 31, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    What about Tinker?

  4. Anonymous
    April 27, 2016 at 8:48 pm

    Hi, I upgraded my windows 7 to windows 10 on my laptop and my favorite Solitaire game is gone. I hate the games on windows 10, have tried many places to find it to no avail.
    I still have windows 7 on my desktop and the game is still there, but I don't know how to transfer it. Can you help?

  5. Alix
    March 1, 2016 at 4:14 am

    Do you have a way to do exactly this for Windows 10? I loathe the new versions of games. I don't have access to an earlier version of the games (old computers gone).

    • Justin Pot
      March 1, 2016 at 6:24 pm

      I don't know how to give you access if you don't have an old Window CD handy, sorry.

    • Nathan Long
      April 3, 2016 at 11:36 am

      You can get a CD-ROM (or .iso) image of Windows XP and virtually mount it on Windows 10.

      Disk Image: http://pcriver.com/operating-systems/windows-xp-iso-download/

      Just download it and mount it by double clicking it.

  6. Leonis
    April 27, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    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
      April 27, 2015 at 5:07 pm

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

  7. Jim
    March 2, 2015 at 1:44 am

    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
      March 2, 2015 at 6:32 am

      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
      March 2, 2015 at 6:34 am

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

  8. Debra
    January 14, 2015 at 2:33 am

    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!

    • Justin Pot
      January 14, 2015 at 4:08 pm

      Your boss must really love Minesweeper!

  9. - V -
    December 13, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    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...

  10. Windows8KindaSucks
    September 3, 2013 at 6:35 am

    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.

  11. Ryan Nematz
    July 2, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    I made a convenient installer for all of the XP games. Works on ME-8.1.

    • Arjbu
      February 17, 2015 at 1:00 pm

      Thank you Ryan! I love to multitask and intermittently play games on the desktop not on a whole “only play screen”… but being computer challenged I do THANK YOU for sharing your installer!

  12. T
    June 13, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    Thanks for the article. I'll enjoy this for a while and then see if I can get the Vista versions on here too.

    In the meantime I have the following problem:

    "expand SPIDER.EX_ spider" gets a response "Can't open input file: spider.ex_"
    I tried deleting the first copy and moving it over from the CD again but no change.

    Any ideas?

    • Justin Pot
      June 13, 2013 at 8:22 pm

      I've no idea what might be causing that. Are you certain the terminal is operating in the proper directory?

      • T
        June 13, 2013 at 9:21 pm

        I would think so. Every other file from cards to winmine worked exactly as described and Freecell now has a score of me 6, computer 0.

        • Justin Pot
          June 13, 2013 at 9:38 pm

          Weirdness...wish I could help but I don't know what else to try. Hmm.

  13. Ted
    June 11, 2013 at 2:05 am

    Thanks for posting this article. I was able to get these games to work. However I actually prefer later versions of these games. I have exe files dated around 2009 but they don't work... perhaps the dll file is not the answer. Any thoughts?

  14. jpendle
    May 23, 2013 at 1:45 am

    I don't have an XP disk, but was perfectly happy with the Windows 7 version of these games. Is there a comparable process for importing them (from my Windows 7 machine to Windows 8)?

    • justinpot
      May 23, 2013 at 3:58 am

      See if you can find the files. If you can find the files, you're probably in luck.

  15. etnguyen03
    May 21, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    I tried expanding FreeCell with the following command: "expand FREECELL.EX_ freecell.exe" and it actually worked!

  16. Nevzat A
    March 29, 2013 at 7:11 am

    I think the modern versions of these games that are specifically built for Windows 8 are far superior than the old versions. I see no reason for installing the old versions. The new versions brings superior 3D effects and advanced gameplay. I love Microsoft games for Windows 8, they are brilliantly designed and addictive.

    • justinpot
      March 29, 2013 at 5:04 pm

      I don't disagree, but if people want the old games they've got a choice!

    • one
      September 24, 2013 at 6:58 am

      New versions for windows 8 are (very) slow to start, need to be downloaded from the store (not default), include publicity, try to connect all the time to your xbox account, ...

  17. Catherine M
    March 29, 2013 at 12:32 am

    OOPs, I forgot that I liked those games. Hmmm, what to do, what to do!

  18. Billybob Timm
    March 28, 2013 at 11:41 pm

    My sister didn't like what came with Vista, so I had to do the same thing for her,