PunkBuster is an anti-cheat engine used by many games. It monitors a system for pieces of evidence that the player is illegally using anything to improve his online gaming experience. There will be two processes of this engine, PnkBstrA.exe, and PnkBstrB.exe. These processes run in the background on the system. If PunkBuster detects anything suspicious, then it will kick-out the user. This program aims to separate cheaters and prevent them from disturbing the legitimate games.
The program was developed in 2000 by Even Balance founder, Tony Ray after he was fed up with cheating in the game Team Fortress Classic. It was first introduced with Return to Castle Wolfenstein in 2001. It is available for Mac, Linux, and Windows. PunkBuster will automatically install when the game that uses it, is installed.
This engine runs in the background on the system. PunkBuster scans the memory of the system for “hack” or “cheat programs” when you are playing a multiplayer online game (that uses PunkBuster).
PunkBuster will automatically update its databases to “new definitions” for new cheat/ hacks programs. It works similarly like an antivirus program but it will scan for “aimbots”, “map hacks” and anything that helps the player in getting an unfair advantage in playing the game. Although, it will ignore cheats/hacks in single-player games. The anti-cheat engine is designed to connect to the Internet and adds a Windows Firewall exception.
PunkBuster also checks the integrity of game files to ensure they are not modified. As the name suggests, it is designed to bust the cheating “punks”. After all, it is unfair to be stomped in an online game by a cheater. If you are using a game that uses PunkBuster, then you will have PunkBuster on your system.
Usage of PunkBuster
PunkBuster is only activated when a user plays a PunkBuster-enabled game on a PunkBuster-enabled server. Remember that it is the choice of the administrator of the games server to use PunkBuster or not. Games must be designed to support PunkBuster. When you’re connected to a PunkBuster-enabled server, it will scan your system in the background to check if you are cheating or not. The server administrator can use a variety of tools to check on the system. He can take screenshots of the game you are playing and view information about your system.
If anything, suspicious is noticed by PunkBuster, then you will be banned to use that server. You may receive a warning, but you can also be permanently banned based either on the CD key of the game or the hardware details of your PC. As a result of the ban, you will not be able to play PunkBuster-enabled games on that PunkBuster-enabled server.
Is PunkBuster Safe?
PunkBuster engine will have a process PnkBstrA.exe in the Task Manager and PnkBstrA service in the Services, both of these will run in the background.
PunkBuster will only hop-in when you play a game that uses PunkBuster, otherwise, it will be doing nothing most of the time, except downloading new definition updates. So, no need to worry, it is not a virus,
PunkBuster was integrated into Battlefield Hardline in 2015, since then, PunkBuster has not been integrated into big games. Modern games have largely moved to other anti-cheat tools like Valve Anti-Cheat System (VAC).
Following is the list of the major games that still use PunkBuster:
- America’s Army Proving Grounds
- Medal of Honor Warfighter
- Battlefield Hardline
- Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad
- Battlefield 3
- Blacklight: Retribution
- Far Cry 3
- Battlefield: Bad Company 2
- Battlefield 4
- Ghost Recon Future Soldier
- Medal of Honor
For a single-player mode, you do not need PunkBuster, but for multi-player online modes, you will need to keep PunkBuster on your system.
How to Uninstall PunkBuster
If you do not take part in multiplayer online gaming, then you certainly can uninstall PunkBuster, if you want to.
To uninstall PunkBuster,
- Press Windows key, type “Control Panel” and in the resulting list, click on Control Panel.
- In Control Panel, click on Uninstall a Program.
- Now select “PunkBuster Services” in the list of installed software, and then click the “Uninstall/Change” button.
- Follow the instructions displayed on the screen to complete the uninstallation process.
Do note that since PunkBuster is used by many games to catch cheaters/hackers and uninstalling it will render some games useless or unplayable.
If you want to reinstall PunkBuster, then visit the official download page to download and install PunkBuster. And then you will be able to play PunkBuster-enabled games.