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Atari 8-Bit Computers: Frequently Asked Questions
Section - 9.3) How can I copy my copy-protected Atari software?

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This section by Russ Gilbert.

Almost all commercial software for the A8 is/was copy protected.

For boot disks, this usually involved a large number of special formatting
that couldn't be copied using ordinary sector copiers.  Usually the boot
process involved checking to see if a certain sector error occurred, then
proceeding. If the error did not occur, the disk was a copy and would not

Alphasys adds (2009.03):
  Some protection schemes involved special sector skewing, which involved
  special timing during loading, duplicate sector numbers with differing
  content, or tracks with more or less than the usual number of sectors.
  With duplicate sector numbers, I mean physical duplication, involving
  sector header code that is read by the drive only, not any part of the
  sector data transferred to the computer.

For carts, usually the method of protection was to write to the cart area of
memory and see if the value changed.  If the value changed, the cart program
was in RAM, not ROM and would fail to operate.

For tapes, again a fair number of schemes were used.  Some varied the speed at
which the tape loaded.  I'm not familiar with tape protection schemes.

With all software media (cart, tape, disk), there may be program encryption,
which must be decrypted before the program can run.  This to make more
difficult disassembly of the program.

There were/are a number of products to defeat copy protection/allow copying of
protected software for the A8.  The most common way to defeat copy protection
was to disassemble the software and revise sections of code so that the copy
protection was defeated.  A software with defeated copy protection is called a
'cracked' software.  The basic procedure is to understand how cart/tape/disk
software initializes, loads and runs.  Usually make a file out of the software
and 'follow the code', starting with loading of the program, to decryption to
the actual running of the program.  Today, it is unnecessary to copy original
commercial A8 software because it has already been defeated and may be found
at a few FTP sites. 

Besides 'cracking' software, there were/are hardware devices to copy
commercial protected software.  The Happy 1050 and the Archiver, and probably
other modifications to the 810, or 1050 allowed 'bit image' copying and
reproduction of the special formatting that copy protected disks had.  

  Alphasys (2009.03):
  For the Speedy, there is a special program called Speedy Backup, which can
  copy about 80% of the protected disks.

Using these archiving disk drives, a copy of the original disk, including all
special formatting and the original code is copied, thus making a copy
protected copy, not cracked, just like the original.

For carts, copying could involve cracking or again there were/are products to
reproduce the cart and simulate a ROM.  Or the cart might be copied and burned
on the correct type of EPROM, to make a plug in cart.  'The Impersonator', the
'Pill' are two cart copy schemes copy the cart to a file, then don't change
the code, but use a 'dummy cart' to fool the software into thinking there is a
ROM present.

Basic tools for copying, then cracking, carts and disks are a sector editor
and disassembler.  Carts are usually most easily dumped using a special OS,
like Omnimon, to interrupt the cart and dump memory to disk.  There are a few
pd cart copiers that have the user plug the cart in when the program is
running, I don't believe these pd cart copiers are very good or very wise to

So, the basic answer to 'how do I make a copy of my copy protected commercial
software' is don't bother.  Find it on the net.

There is one exception, in that this 'solution' involves a minimum of effort
and is relatively safe.  I refer to 'Chipmunk' and 'Black Patch' software to
make cracked boot disk copy of commercial disks.  HOWEVER, even if you use
these two commercial archival tools, be sure you write protect your originals,
and be careful not to accidentally write to the original disk.

Finally, I'll mention a very modern (I mean 1997) product.  The APE ProSystem,
by Steven Tucker, in the registered version of this shareware allows making
disk images called 'Pro' images.  APE (Atari Peripheral Emulator) requires a
cable, called the SIO2PC cable, that connects the A8 13 pin serial port to a
serial port on the IBM PC clone.  To make 'Pro' images, a special adapter
cable is needed, not just the 'standard' SIO2PC cable.  The 'Pro' image can
'capture' the copy protection of an original commercial disk.  The 'Pro' image
can then be loaded into an A8 using the APE registered version software, thus
backing up your original disk software.  Note the 'Pro' image will only be of
use to person(s) owning registered APE software and 'Pro' adapter cable.

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