Copy protection in French Microsoft Excel 2.1?

So I stumbled across this site the other day:

Among a few other French versions Winworld does not have, it has a download for a French language Microsoft Excel 2.1.

But looking at the images in their download, it appears this software is supposed to be copy protected!

First of all, these are supposed to be 720k images, but the files are 1.4mb in size. They just overdumped. Truncate everything after hB4000 and the images are ok. Presumably the included rawrite will only write the first half to a genuine 720k disk. No big deal there.

But when trying to run the installer, it complains (in French) that a copy protection check failed and the installaller exits.

The installer seems to look for bad/invalid sectors that are not present in this IMG dump.

Looking closer at the disk image, it seems head 0, track 4, sectors 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
and head 0, track 5, sectors 1, 2 are probably supposed to be invalid or nonstandard. Of course they were not read in by a simple raw image reading program and replaced with sector fill.

Ignoring the installer, Excel 2.1 will run from the installation floppy disk. But not the hard disk.

EXCEL.EXE will look for the presence of a hidden directory with an invalid name, and refuse to run if it does not find it.

The installer disk, which also contains excel.exe, contains two hidden directories with invalid names. If I create a directory with the same invalid name on the hard disk, then EXCEL.EXE will run from the hard disk.

So, anyway, I'm not entirely sure what to do with this. If someone wants to take a crack at cracking it, I'd consider posting an unprotected copy. Otherwise, let it be known that the French version must be dumped with a Kryoflux, SuperCard Pro, or Transcopy card.

The weird thing is that none of the other copies of Excel 2.x I have encountered were copy protected. By this point in time, Microsoft had mostly given up on disk-based protection. I wonder what made them decide to copy protect this version? Especially since Excel and it's runtime was a gateway towards making unexpecting users install Microsoft Windows. Without disk scans, I don't really know if this was a retail or some special OEM version. There may have been other 2.x French revisions that were not copy protected - I don't know.


  • As it turns out, the protection method is the same as on a recently submitted Microsoft Word 4.0 for DOS French language version.

    Since I was able to piece it together, I have posted this version of Excel here:

  • SomeGuy, you was get original media? Or you was recovery install disk?
    If you has original medias, you can made scans of floppies?
  • No, it was downloaded from the site I mention at the top of the thread. They did not have scans, and they had only dumped using WinImage.
  • edited June 2021
    How you was made KF-images? With HxC?
    KF-image working in 86box?
    I think, this version of Excel and Word4 is special versions for France. IIRC, France version has special encryption.
    I think, exist another Excel 2.10FR (without protection).
    Also exist another Word4FR (without protection). It's available in I think, Word4Fr (without protection) is a French-International (for Quebec).
  • Right, I just exported the IMG file to KF format using the HxC software, then copied in the protected track from the Word 4 French dump. Tested on real hardware, not 86box, but it should work.
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