Windows 7: Program launch deferred by Games Explorer

Yes, I’m still very fond of the good, old Windows 7. Although being a Linux user at heart, I know that I can’t completely live without Windows – unless I want to be in a lot of hassle. It works well and doesn’t consume a lot of resources.

Almost well –  because I have an annoying problem for a while now. Some programs need 20 seconds of thinking time before anything happens and I can’t use them during that period. Most of them are games, all other programs can be run immediately.

So I wanted to dig deeper and find out why this happens and chose the game No One Lives Forever as an example for that. First I downloaded Process Monitor and set the filter to only show the actions NOLF.exe is doing:

processexplorer

 

 

 

 

One can easily see, that 3 seconds of time had been wasted with connecting to the IP 65.55.162.26. Since that happens multiple times, it adds up to a nice waiting time.

The IP can be opened up in a browser, so I looked at the certificate and found out, that it was issued for games.metaservices.microsoft.com.

Now the cause for this issue is abundantly clear: There is an annoying software in Windows 7 called “Games Explorer”, which can be started via the button “Games” in the  Start Menu. It automatically downloads icons, covers – and other stuff Microsoft deemed useful – from the internet, whenever a game is started.

The Games Explorer has some settings to disable these online features, but they didn’t do anything in my case – they were still active and I had to wait for my games to run.

So I tried to delete the registry key

HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\GameUX

only to find out that it will be recreated when starting a game, effectively changing nothing at all.

Then I removed gameux.dll and GameUXLegacyGDFs.dll from the  system32 directory. It made programs start a little bit faster, but still wasn’t enough of a solution for me.

The final resolution: Deleting C:\Windows\AppPatch\sysmain.sdb. This database contains compatibility setting for a lot of programs and it looks like all games contained in this database (like NOLF.exe, lithtech.exe) are always scanned by Games Explorer, regardless of the settings you made.

This database was severely extended after installing KB2492386 and caused this abnormal behaviour. After uninstalling it, the settings are not deleted from the system. Thanks, Microsoft.

Now everything works fine again. 🙂

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