Microsoft’s 3D Pinball Space Cadet game was included in Windows XP and previous versions of Windows, going right back to Windows 95. The latest XP version was one of the most popular free Windows games but, sadly, it was never included in Vista or later versions.
According to a Microsoft blogpost, the reason they dropped Pinball completely was that they were not able to successfully port it across to 64bit versions of XP.
However, the game plays fine in Vista and later versions of Windows as long as the 32bit version of Pinball is used – there seems no real reason why that version of the game was not included, right up to Windows 10…
For those with fond memories of the game or who want to relive past glories, here are 2 methods to get the old 3D Pinball Space Cadet game running on Windows 10, 8, 7 or Vista:
1. Copy the 3D Pinball Space Cadet folder from XP
For this method you will need access to an XP computer (preferably running Service Pack 3).
Copy the entire Pinball folder located in C:\Program Files\Windows NT\Pinball\ on the XP PC to a USB flash drive or similar – the folder is tiny, less than 3MB in size.
Now paste this Pinball folder from the USB flash drive into any suitable location on your Windows 10, 8, 7 or Vista computer.
3D Pinball Space Cadet is effectively a portable program i.e. that Pinball folder contains the whole game so there is no need to ‘install’ it.
Just run the Pinball.exe program file within the folder to start the game. The game itself played fine in my testing (including the sounds and music if required) but see the notes on Configuration lower down this page.
Tip: for future quick access to the game, why not create a shortcut? Right click on Pinball.exe and select ‘Send to’ then ‘Desktop (create shortcut)’ to create a shortcut to the program on your desktop.
2. Download a Ported copy of 3D Pinball Space Cadet
An enterprising developer has ported the 3D Pinball Space Cadet code to run as a portable program on later versions including Windows 10, 8, 7 and Vista – both 32bit and 64bit versions of Windows are supported.
Download the installer from the developer here (the first version is smaller at 1.33MB and suitable for all users). Install the program, accepting the default destination folder of ‘Program Files\Microsoft Games\Pinball’ to make it easier to find the program afterwards.
After installation, run the program from the new desktop shortcut or from the Start button \ All Programs \ Games folder.
Note: there is no uninstall feature – to remove the game just delete the desktop shortcut and the one in the Games folder and the whole of the Pinball folder – within C:\Program Files\Microsoft Games if you accepted the default location during installation.
The game itself played fine in my testing (including the sounds and music if required) but see the notes on Configuration below.
Tip: if Pinball has brought back happy memories, why not see our article on how to play the free Bejeweled Classic gem-swapping game in Chrome or on mobile/tablet.
Configuration / Notes On Playing
F1 (Help) hotkey – doesn’t work but there is little need for a help file anyway. You probably remember how to play but, if you need a reminder of which keys do what, press F8 to display the Player Controls menu.
F4 (Full Screen) hotkey may not work if you have Windows Aero enabled in Windows 7 – the screen resolution will go wrong (press ESC to revert back to the standard sized game window).
To fix this problem and enable full screen mode in future, close the Pinball program then disable Desktop Composition (i.e. Windows Aero) only for this program by following these steps:
- Navigate to the location of Pinball.exe within the Pinball folder – wherever you saved it in the first method above or in C:\Program Files\Microsoft Games if you followed the default installation of the second method.
- Right click on Pinball.exe and select ‘Properties’ then select the Compatibility tab as shown below:
- Tick the Settings box to ‘Disable desktop composition’ as shown above then press OK to finish.
The next time you run the program, the Full Screen (F4) option should work ok as it will now bypass Aero.
3D Pinball Cheats
If you really need them, there are a few cheats for the game listed here.
It’s a shame that Microsoft didn’t include this classic Windows Pinball game after XP but it is easy to play it in all later versions of Windows if you want some nostalgic table top action!