What is PunkBuster and can I uninstall it?

PunkBuster is an anti-cheat program installed by some PC games. It includes two processes, PnkBstrA.exe and PnkBstrB.exe, that run in the background of your computer. PunkBuster monitors your system for evidence of cheating in online games.

What is PunkBuster?

PunkBuster, developed by Even Balance, Inc., has a long history. It was created in 2000, and was first integrated into the 2001 Return to Castle Wolfenstein. It’s currently available for Mac and Linux, as well as Windows, so even Mac or Linux gamers may notice PunkBuster running in the background. PunkBuster installs automatically when you install a game that uses it.

This software runs in the background on your PC. If you are playing an online multiplayer game that uses PunkBuster and you are connected to a secure PunkBuster server, scan your PC’s memory for evidence of known «cheating» or «hacking» programs. PunkBuster has an auto-update feature that downloads a database of new «definitions» of known cheat programs.

In other words, it works similar to an antivirus program, except that it scans your PC for cheat programs instead of malware. Specifically, PunkBuster is looking for utilities like «aimbots» that aim for you in shooter games, «hack maps» that show you the full map in online games, tools that let you see through walls, and anything else that gives you an unfair advantage by breaking the rules of a multiplayer game. It doesn’t matter if you cheat in single player games.

PunkBuster not only looks at the processes running on your PC, it can also check if you have modified the game files. It is designed to detect cheating players. After all, it’s no fun getting trampled in an online game by someone who’s cheating.

When is PunkBuster active?

The anti-cheat features are only activated while playing a PunkBuster-enabled game on a PunkBuster-enabled server. Games must be specifically designed to support PunkBuster, and it is up to each game operator to choose whether or not PunkBuster is required. But, while connected to a server that requires PunkBuster, it will monitor your PC in the background to make sure you’re not cheating.

While connected to the server, the server administrator has a variety of tools they can use to monitor your system, including taking screenshots of your game and viewing information about your key bindings.

If PunkBuster notices something fishy, ​​PunkBuster-enabled servers can ban it. Sometimes you’ll get a warning, but you could also be permanently banned depending on the CD key of the game you’re playing or the hardware details of the PC you’re playing on. These permanent bans could prevent you from playing PunkBuster-enabled games on any PunkBuster-enabled servers on that PC.

Is PunkBuster spying on me?

If PunkBuster is installed, it always runs in the background on your PC. This is why you will see the PnkBstrA.exe process in Task Manager and the PnkBstrA service in the Services app.

However, PunkBuster is doing nothing most of the time. It is only activated when you are playing an online game that integrates with PunkBuster and you are playing on a PunkBuster enabled server. If not, PunkBuster will do nothing but download definition updates.

What games use PunkBuster?

PunkBuster is not as common as it used to be. Modern gaming has largely moved on to other anti-cheat tools, such as the Valve Anti-Cheat (VAC) System built into Steam. Blizzard games like Overwatch also have a built-in anti-cheat feature. However, if you have installed some games on your PC, chances are good that PunkBuster is running in the background anyway.

The last big game to integrate PunkBuster was Battlefield Hardline, released in 2015, but it’s also integrated into many older Battlefield games. PunkBuster is also a part of old Call of Duty games like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, as well as games like Far Cry 3 and Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag.

However, PunkBuster hasn’t been integrated into a new online game since 2015. If you’re playing an online multiplayer game released in the last couple of years, it doesn’t require PunkBuster.

Can I uninstall PunkBuster?

You probably won’t be actively playing a multiplayer game that requires PunkBuster’s anti-fraud software, so you can uninstall it if you wish.

To do this, go to Control Panel > Uninstall a program. Select «PunkBuster Services» in the list of installed software and then click the «Uninstall/Change» button.

If you need PunkBuster for any reason, you will see a PunkBuster-related error message when trying to connect to an online multiplayer server in a game. You can always head over to the official PunkBuster download page to download and install it on your system in the future.

This will allow you to reconnect to PunkBuster-enabled servers once you’ve installed PunkBuster.