Rainbow color problems in older games

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Key points

Windows XP, Vista and 7 have compatibility issues with DirectDraw games using 256 color depth resulting in incorrect colors.
On Windows 7, these applications could also fully lock up the display requiring a hard reset.[1]
This color issue does not occur on Windows 8 and later; the steps below only apply to earlier versions.


This issue appears to be caused by Explorer.exe resetting the system palette, essentially overwriting the palette defined by the game (hence the rainbow colors). This is evidenced by how taking a screenshot of an affected game will show just the discoloration with black where the other game assets would be rendered and by the fix itself.

A more technical explanation: These games rely on DirectDraw, an API in DirectX which was used to render graphics which is now deprecated. More specifically, they used an exclusive palette, where they set the system palette (the colors the system can use, back when there were only 256 colors) to the palette the game wants to use. However, some applications try to set their own exclusive palette, causing conflicting colors since the game's exclusive palette is no longer actually exclusive and is set to the wrong colors. In newer versions of Windows, CSRSS and the desktop window (explorer.exe) set their own palette, which causes the odd colors.[2]


DirectDraw Compatibility Tool[edit]

DirectDraw Compatibility Tool is designed to fix color palette corruption in the old games.


DDrawCompat is a DLL wrapper aimed at fixing compatibility and performance issues with games based on DirectDraw and Direct3D 1-7. Partially supports GDI as well.


w7ddpatcher is another simple method.


PalettestealerSuspender prevents palette issues using a different method.[3]

DxWnd DirectDraw emulation[edit]

DxWnd was originally created to enable old DirectX games to run in a window. Nowadays it provides far more features: It can fix the odd rainbow color issue, enable time stretching, and you can decide between running the game in a window or in full screen.

Display Changer II[edit]

Display Changer II changes your Windows desktop width, height, color depth, refresh rate, and rotation temporarily or permanently (via a configuration file). Display Changer II can run another application in a specific display setting and return to the previous resolution when the application finishes. This feature can be used to change the color depth of the display temporarily to fix color problems

Use a graphics wrapper[edit]

Another method is using tools like DgVoodoo 2 to convert DirectDraw calls to equivalent, modern Direct3D ones.

Registry hack[edit]

Windows 7 actually has a builtin, hidden fix for this issue but requires editing the registry.
  1. Run your game at least once and exit out of it.
  2. Go to the registry and navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\DirectDraw\MostRecentApplication (if you're using 64 bit, go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\DirectDraw\MostRecentApplication)
  3. Take a note of the name, game.exe, and the ID, which looks similar to this: 0x02e41c67
  4. Remove the '0x' part of the ID and separate the values into pairs, like this: 02 e4 1c 67
  5. Take the pairs and reverse their order, like this: 67 1c e4 02
  6. Open Notepad and add the following. Change NameOfGame to whatever you want, leave Flags alone, enter your own ID keeping commas intact, and change game.exe to whatever it is.

32 bit only

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00


64 bit only

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00


7. Save it as fix.reg and run it to import it to the registry.

Not the best method for new users as editing the registry incorrectly can damage your OS.

Kill Explorer with batch script[edit]

Paste the following into a text editor and save as a batch script. Run it from the game's folder:

TASKKILL /F /IM "explorer.exe" 
start /w [insert executable name here].exe 
start explorer.exe
If script fails/crashes before it restores the Explorer, you will be left with a blank desktop screen and will have to manually restart the process by the windows key+R to bring up the run dialog and typing "explorer.exe"

See also[edit]