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Command & Conquer: Red Alert

From PCGamingWiki, the wiki about fixing PC games

This page is for the original 1996 game. For the 2020 remastered version, see Command & Conquer Remastered Collection.

Command & Conquer: Red Alert
Command & Conquer: Red Alert cover
Westwood Studios
Expansions Intelligent Games
1995-1998 Virgin Interactive
1998-present Electronic Arts
Re-release Sold Out Software
Release dates
DOS November 22, 1996
Windows November 22, 1996
Metacritic 90
Monetization Freeware, Expansion pack, Subscription gaming service
Modes Singleplayer, Multiplayer
Pacing Real-time
Perspectives Top-down view
Controls Multiple select, Point and select
Genres RTS
Themes Europe, Sci-fi
Series Command & Conquer
Command & Conquer: Red Alert on HowLongToBeat
Command & Conquer: Red Alert on IGDB
Command & Conquer: Red Alert guide on StrategyWiki
Command & Conquer: Red Alert on MobyGames
Command & Conquer: Red Alert on Wikipedia
Command & Conquer 1995
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 1996
Command & Conquer: Sole Survivor 1997
Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun 1999
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 2000
Command & Conquer: Renegade 2002
Command & Conquer: Generals 2003
Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars 2007
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 2008
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 - Uprising 2009
Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight 2010
OpenRA (unofficial) 2010
Command & Conquer (2013) Cancelled
Command & Conquer Remastered Collection 2020
Renegade X (unofficial) EA

Command & Conquer: Red Alert is a singleplayer and multiplayer top-down view RTS game in the Command & Conquer series.

All versions of Red Alert were combined DOS/Windows releases, despite some (primarily North American) boxes displaying one or the other on the front. They differ in their default resolution and user interface, with the Windows version also supporting online multiplayer via Westwood Online's infrastructure instead of only LAN. The community gradually abandoned the DOS version once more powerful computers became more commonplace, and the Windows version is considered the de facto way to play.

The Counterstrike expansion pack was released in April 1997 with a new set of missions, while The Aftermath followed in October 1997 with new units, its own set of campaigns, and balancing changes. The expansions would be combined into the Retaliation release for the Sony PlayStation along with unique cutscenes for that platform, which were subsequently ported to the Windows release by the community, and were officially included in the Remastered Collection version of the game in June 2020.

The game received several patches, the latest batch of which (3.00-3.03) came out to a select group of testers in 1999 with rebalancing in mind (primarily for The Aftermath), but was quietly pulled by the developers for unknown reasons, yet shared small parts of the underlying code with the then-upcoming Tiberian Sun.

The base version of Red Alert was made available as freeware on August 31, 2008 to promote the release of Red Alert 3.

The Windows version has multiple issues running on modern systems without modification, ranging from installation issues due to a 16-bit installer to rendering and launch issues. The unofficial 3.03p fan patch alleviates all compatibility problems and long-standing gameplay bugs, and is integrated with CnCNet. Homepages of both projects include modified downloads of the full game, so as to simplify installation for new users, making the official freeware ISO images obsolete.

The official multiplayer service, Westwood Online, was redirected to the also community-run XWIS server in 2005 in agreement with EA's German community team[1], and using the in-game multiplayer menus lead to it without any additional configuration, but this service is presently seldom used due to CnCNet's quality-of-life improvements.

Open-source versions with continued development are found in the Vanilla Conquer repository, based on the official source code of the Remastered Collection version of the game.

General information

Command & Conquer Wiki - A wiki for everything Command & Conquer-related
CnCNet (multiplayer replacement)
Red Alert section on
Red Alert section on C&C Communications Center
Red Alert section on
Red Alert Archive - old fansite with a lot of custom content
Steam Community Discussions


Source DRM Notes Keys OS
Disc check (requires the CD/DVD in the drive to play)
All discs, including the 2008 freeware ISO release, include both the DOS and Windows version.
Disc check (requires the CD/DVD in the drive to play)
The Windows version included in The First Decade has no disc check. The terrain editors and the DOS version still have disc checks.
Official website
Disc check (requires the CD/DVD in the drive to play)
Version that has been released for free by EA.
Bundled as part of Command & Conquer: The Ultimate Collection; includes both expansions. Pre-packaged with DDrawCompat. Included with EA Play.
Manual link for EA App purchase.
Icon overlay.png
Bundled as part of Command & Conquer: The Ultimate Collection; includes both expansions. Pre-packaged with DDrawCompat. Included with EA Play (Steam).
The game can be run without Steam if ra95.dat is renamed to an .exe file.[2]


Type Notes
Expansion pack The expansion packs includes new campaigns, maps, and units.
Freeware Released for free by Electronic Arts in 2008. Expansion packs are de facto considered free by the community and distributed without issue.
Subscription gaming service Available via EA Play.

DLC and expansion packs

Name Notes
The Aftermath

Unofficial downloads

RA1 Installer is a modified installer that can either download the game, install it from existing CDs/ISOs or patch an existing installation. Extra contents can be downloaded depending on the settings used.
Vanilla Conquer provides native source port builds based on source code released with the Remastered Collection.
OpenRA is a modernized open-source version, but with considerable changes to the gameplay which were not part of the original design.
Mac OSX Wineskin package - Mac-compatible web installer that works outside the box. Includes single-player campaign and extra contents for the single-player.

Installing CDs/ISOs on modern Windows systems

Like many 32-bit games released during the mid-'90s, the game's installer is 16-bit. This and some other issues prevents the game from being installed (using the ISOs released by EA or the game CDs) on modern operating systems and PCs.
The RA1 Installer (see above) includes an option to install games from original CDs/ISOs and patch the installation afterwards. More information available at CnCNet forums.

Essential improvements

1024x768 resolution using the 3.03p patch.
1024x768 resolution using the 3.03p patch.



Official patches are available.

3.03p Fan Patch

Patch is included in the installation via RA1 Installer (see above).
Not necessary to download when using fan-made packages, as it is already present there.
This patch contains:
  • Latest official 3.03 patch and community fixes (over 130) which range from compatibility tweaks to fixes for long-standing bugs.
  • Includes several graphics renderers, as well as support for higher resolutions
  • New optional mods (no changes to default graphics or gameplay by default)
  • Online (via CnCNet) and LAN playability up to 8 players
  • No-CD option
  • Missions from Counterstrike and Aftermath expansions if not installed beforehand (including their soundtracks and PSX-exclusive cutscenes)
Complete feature list.
In the compatibility tab for all executables, all compatibility options should be turned off except running as administrator.[3]
Supports all retail releases (including The First Decade), official freeware ISOs and The Ultimate Collection.

Game data

External general settings (for the fan patch).
External general settings (for the fan patch).
In-game options menu.
In-game options menu.

Configuration file(s) location

System Location
Windows <path-to-game>\*.ini[Note 1]
Steam Play (Linux) <SteamLibrary-folder>/steamapps/compatdata/2229840/pfx/[Note 2]
redalert.ini contains normal game settings.
ddraw.ini contains CnC-DDraw settings (present after patch).
cncnet.ini contains CnCNet settings.

Save game data location

System Location
Windows <path-to-game>\savegame.***[Note 1]
Steam Play (Linux) <SteamLibrary-folder>/steamapps/compatdata/2229840/pfx/[Note 2]

Save game cloud syncing

System Native Notes
Steam Cloud


External options menu (for the original release).
External options menu (for the original release).
External video settings (for the fan patch).
External video settings (for the fan patch).
In-game video settings.
In-game video settings.

Graphics feature State WSGF Notes
Widescreen resolution
A fan patch is required.
4K Ultra HD
Field of view (FOV)
A fan patch is required.
Borderless fullscreen windowed
A fan patch is required. Disable borders, enable windowed, then stretch the resolution in the patch configuration program.
Anisotropic filtering (AF)
Anti-aliasing (AA)
Vertical sync (Vsync)
A fan patch is required. Be sure to enable OpenGL too.[citation needed]
60 FPS
A fan patch is required.
120+ FPS
A fan patch is required.


External input settings (for the fan patch).
External input settings (for the fan patch).

Keyboard and mouse State Notes
A fan patch is required.
Mouse acceleration
Mouse sensitivity
For DOSBox set in the DOSBox configuration file.
Mouse input in menus
Mouse Y-axis inversion
Controller support
For DOSBox use the DOSBox Mapper (see the glossary page for other workarounds).
Controller types


In-game audio settings.
In-game audio settings.

Audio feature State Notes
Separate volume controls
Surround sound
Closed captions
Mute on focus lost
Royalty free audio


Language UI Audio Sub Notes
Partial audio support; fan translation, see Language add-ons.
Fan translation, see Language add-ons.
RA patch also adds support for Language add-ons.


Multiplayer types

Type Native Players Notes
LAN play
8 Versus
Uses IPX protocol. Use 3.03p fan patch or IPXwrapper to work around this.
Alternatively, the CnCNet client includes its own workaround.
Online play
8 Versus
Lobbies point to XWIS by default since October 20, 2005 as part of an agreement with EA.[1] CnCNet is a more popular alternative, and uses the 3.03p fan patch to re-enable support alongside a wide range of other features (spectator mode, private games, alliances, spawn location selection and more).

Connection types

Issues unresolved

This list assumes that the 3.03p fan patch is installed. If you experience a new game issue, please make a support thread on the CnCNet forums.
  • Flickering mouse under cnc-ddraw
  • Left-handed mouse setups have problems with selecting multiple units.[4]

Issues fixed

General fixes

Checklist for general troubleshooting[citation needed]
  • Install the patches properly.
  • Disable all compatibility mode settings except for running the game and associated executables as administrator.
  • In the configuration executable, check the "Back buffer in video memory" and uncheck "Allow hardware filled blits".
  • In the configuration executable, change the renderer until a satisfactory performance is achieved.
  • Enable/disable the singlecpu value in <path-to-game>\ddraw.ini.

Crash after overheating

Edit ddraw.ini and enable singlecpu[5]

Game is laggy after installing the patch

Change the renderer in the fan patch's configuration tool[6]

"Unable to set video mode" error

Possible fixes[citation needed]
There are 3 ways how to fix this error:
  • Change the resolution.
  • Change the renderer in the fan patch's configuration tool.
  • Enable windowed mode.

No music in the portable version

Go to CnCNet lobby and download the music in the settings[citation needed]

No videos after installing the patch

Download the videos separately[citation needed]

If the game was installed manually from the CD or official ISOs, the no-CD option in the fan patch's configuration tool is ignoring the movie files on the disc, in which case they need to be copied to <path-to-game>.

Cannot Alt+Tab

From the fan patch's configuration tool, set the renderer to either OpenGL or Direct3D 9.

Other information


Technical specs Supported Notes
DirectDraw 3
DOS video modes MCGA, VGA
Executable 32-bit 64-bit Notes


Middleware Notes
Cutscenes VQA
Multiplayer Westwood Online


CnCNet includes its own online map folder.
Map editors can be downloaded inside CnCNet's game options.

System requirements

Minimum Recommended
Operating system (OS) 5.0
Processor (CPU) Intel 486 66 MHz
System memory (RAM) 8 MB
Hard disk drive (HDD) 40 MB
Video card (GPU) VGA or MCGA (256 colour) video card
Minimum Recommended
Operating system (OS) 3.1, 95
Processor (CPU) Intel Pentium 75 MHz
System memory (RAM) 8 MB
Hard disk drive (HDD) 40 MB
Video card (GPU) PCI video card
1 MB of VRAM
DirectX 3 compatible
ISA video cards are not supported


  1. 1.0 1.1 When running this game without elevated privileges (Run as administrator option), write operations against a location below %PROGRAMFILES%, %PROGRAMDATA%, or %WINDIR% might be redirected to %LOCALAPPDATA%\VirtualStore on Windows Vista and later (more details).
  2. 2.0 2.1 Notes regarding Steam Play (Linux) data: