Windows 10 comes with the Microsoft Solitaire Collection, a solitaire game that requires you to watch 30-second-long full-screen video advertisements to keep playing. Ad-free solitaire costs $1.49 per month or $9.99 per year. That’s $20 per year if you want both ad-free solitaire and ad-free minesweeper. But there’s a better way.
Microsoft has jumped on board the “free-to-play” bandwagon, which means these games are no longer actually free but have become quite expensive. Microsoft is now making money by nickel-and-diming players with in-app purchases. That helps explain why Candy Crush Saga is automatically installed on new Windows 10 PCs, too.
Solitaire and Minesweeper Have Gone “Free-to-Play”
WIth Windows 8, Microsoft removed the old desktop Solitaire, Minesweeper, Hearts, and other games from Windows. No games were included with Windows 8, but you could download the Microsoft Solitaire collection and Microsoft Minesweeper from the Windows Store for free.
With Windows 10, Microsoft includes the Microsoft Solitaire Collection app out-of-the-box. But they’re not doing this out of the kindness of their hearts. This Solitaire game will show you banner ads as well as full-screen video advertisements, making money for Microsoft.
Opting out of those ads requires a $1.50 per month or $10 per year fee, and that’s just for the “Microsoft Solitaire Collection Premium edition.” The Microsoft Minesweeper app, not installed by default but available in the Windows Store, also has its own entirely separate $1.50 per month or $10 per year fee to upgrade to the “Microsoft Minesweeper Premium edition.”
Aside from wasting your time and subjecting you to advertisements from playing a casual game that used to be free, this game ties together with the “advertising ID” used in Windows Store apps to track you across different apps you use, building a better ad profile and targeting ads to you while you play a once-free game.
Really, this is just nickel-and-diming behavior from Microsoft. Windows 10 may be a “free upgrade” to most people at the moment, but it’s still a paid product. Windows 10 costs over $100 if you build your own PC, manufacturers have to pay MIcrosoft for Windows 10, and business organizations are on pricy volume-licensing contracts and don’t get a free Windows 10 upgrade. It’s just free for the users who wouldn’t normally bother paying for an upgrade license, anyway.
This is nothing new for Microsoft. Windows 10’s Weather app was packed with ads during the development process until user outcry led Microsoft to remove them. Windows 8’s included Weather, News, Sports, and various other apps also included ads.
How to Get Ad-Free Solitaire and Minesweeper Games
Rather than suddenly paying for an ad-free solitaire subscription, you can put that money to better use and play a free solitaire game instead.
It’s possible to get the old Windows desktop games from Windows 7 back, although Microsoft has made this a hassle. You can’t just drag-and-drop the old .exe files onto your new Windows 10 system because those games check to ensure they’re only running on Windows 7. You’ll need to either modify the .exe files to remove the Windows version check or download modified versions someone has already removed the check from. (No, just setting Solitaire.exe to run in Windows 7 compatibility mode won’t help. Microsoft really doesn’t want you using these old games.)
We previously offered instructions for modifying these games so they would run on Windows 8, and the same process should work on Windows 10. The WinAero blog also offers a link to a “Windows 7 games archive” file containing modified versions of these games, and they seemed to work for us.
Warning: Download archives like this one at your own risk. Watch out for the horrifically misleading ads from the MediaFire if you do this. They’ll try to trick you into downloading the obnoxious, probably malicious, software instead of the file you actually want to download. Don’t download any sort of “downloader” — just the “Windows-7-Games-For-Windows-8-8.1-32-and-64-bit.zip” file.
You could also skip the classic games and get another version of solitaire. The best alternative to Microsoft’s Solitaire game on Windows — and there are few, because no one has needed to bother coding up a replacement for Solitaire before — seems to be the open-source PySolFC. It’s unfortunately still hosted on the not-completely-trustworthy SourceForge hosting service, but it seemed to be free of additional offers and junk software when we downloaded it.
Play Solitaire in Your Browser
You could also just play browser-based solitaire games, too. We’ve put up completely free Solitaire and Minesweeper games on URLs that anybody can access in a desktop browser. And there are no ads.
If that isn’t good enough, just performing a web search for “Solitaire” will bring up a page with a variety of solitaire games you can play in any web browser. Sure, most of them will be ad-supported. But those will probably just be banner ads instead of full-screen video advertisements you have to sit through. Web-based Minesweeper games can be found in the same way. Don’t feel like searching? Here’s an ad-free web-based Minesweeper game.
In response to complaints, Microsoft noted that this is the same way the Microsoft Solitaire Collection app functioned on Windows 8. But Microsoft looks a bit petty in ripping out the old desktop games and replacing them with a new one that requires full-screen video ads or a paid subscription.
At the very least, these games could at least be part of a general subscription that offers additional benefits across Windows 10 instead of a per-app subscription. These are “Xbox”-branded games, after all — why not at least make them part of Xbox Live Gold? Microsoft could also just offer ad-free solitaire and minesweeper for a single purchase rather than a recurring monthly or yearly bill.