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What is PunkBuster Services and Can I Uninstall It? (Updated!)

by Lisa Hayden
What is PunkBuster Services

Wondering what is PunkBuster Services and how to uninstall it? Let's find out...

Have you seen PunkBuster on your computer and wondered what it was? Don’t worry, it’s not a virus. If you just let it be, it won’t even harm your computer. But of course, you’re still curious about what it is and what it does. Here, you’ll know all about PunkBuster and how you can uninstall it if you don’t want it anymore. 

What is PunkBuster?

What is PunkBuster

First of all, what is PunkBuster? Is it a virus, an app, or an extension? As mentioned at the start of this post, there’s really nothing to worry about this program because it’s not what you think. PunkBuster is a program made by Even Balance, Inc. that checks your PC for cheats or hacks that are used in the games that use PunkBuster. 

PunkBuster was created two decades ago and the first game that used it was Return to Castle Wolfenstein way back in 2001. When you play this game and other games with PunkBuster, the program goes over your PC and matches any cheats and hacks that are found in their “definitions”. Definitions is the term the program uses for its library of cheat codes and programs. 

Most people worry about safety and privacy with PunkBuster because the conception is that it “spies” on your computer when you play a game using it. However, PunkBuster is 100% safe and it doesn’t touch areas that don’t involve cheats and hacks. If you aren’t using any of these, then there’s nothing to worry about. 

How Does PunkBuster Work?

PunkBuster works with games that use it. For example, you download a game that requires PunkBuster to run. Most of the time, when you install the game, PunkBuster is already included in the installer and set of programs. When you play the game, the program will run and start scanning your PC. If you’re connected to a server that uses PunkBuster, the program also starts to monitor your PC. 

PunkBuster gets installed on your computer as PnkBstrA.exe. If you take a visit to your Task Manager, you’ll see the program’s name under the Extended Services section. It will also show if it’s running or not. 

Is it like an antivirus? Well, if you think about how it works, yes, it does act as an antivirus, except that it focuses on cheat codes and programs. However, if the game you’re playing doesn’t use PunkBuster, then this program won’t go active and really just stays there in your storage. It won’t run and it won’t spy on your activities if that’s what you’re worried about. 

As you play the game, PunkBuster checks for signs of cheating. If it sees evidence of cheating, then it can send you a warning. Sometimes, there isn’t any warning - you’ll just be automatically banned from playing the game. When you get banned, the CD key of the game gets banned and blocked. Take note that these bans are permanent.

What Games Use PunkBuster?

What Games Use PunkBuster

Unfortunately, ever since 2015, there aren’t a lot of games using PunkBuster. Some games have moved on to use other anti-cheat programs such as VAC or Valve Anti-Cheat System. There are some games that have their own built-in anti-cheat programs, too. 

More popular games that still use PunkBuster are Battlefield and Call of Duty. It’s also used by Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, Medal of Honor, Far Cry 3, Ghost Recon Future Soldier, Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad, and America’s Army Proving Grounds. If you still play these games, then PunkBuster will still do the same thing it did with older versions of the game. Unless you remove PunkBuster, it will remain on your computer.

Can You Uninstall PunkBuster? 

The good thing about PunkBuster is that you can uninstall it. Since it’s not running in the background when you’re not playing a game, there’s really no use for it. Of course, the implication here is that when you play a game that uses PunkBuster, you have to reinstall it. 

So how do you uninstall PunkBuster? Fortunately, it’s easy to uninstall and you can do it yourself. First, press the Windows logo on the button of your screen. Type ‘Control Panel’ on the search bar and press enter. This opens your Control Panel window. At the bottom of the options, you’ll find Programs and right below it is the option that says ‘Uninstall a program’. Click that. Look for the PunkBuster Services name in the list of programs. Click it and then press “Uninstall/Change” at the top of the list. A new window will show walking you through the steps for uninstalling. 

If you’re using a Mac, there’s also a way to uninstall PunkBuster. You can search for it directly through the spotlight search (by pressing the command button and the spacebar simultaneously) or you can look for it in your launchpad. If you can’t find it, go to System Preferences, and search it in the search bar there. Once you see the PunkBuster logo in the launchpad, you can just click the icon for a few seconds and the icons will start to shake. Click the ‘x’ button at the top of the logo to uninstall. 

What Happens When You Remove PunkBuster?

What Happens When You Remove PunkBuster

If you’re not really using a game that uses PunkBuster, there’s nothing that will change in your PC save for the space that will be freed up once the program is not in your list. 

You’ll only notice a change when you still play games like Battlefield and Call of Duty (and other games mentioned above). When you launch the games, you will be prompted to download PunkBuster or you’ll get an error message saying that you can’t connect to the game. When the latter shows up, don’t panic, as you will only need to reinstall PunkBuster.

To install PunkBuster, you can go directly to PunkBuster’s website and look for the Downloads section. Here, you’ll be given options to download the installer for Windows, Mac, or Linux. When you install, a window appears guiding you through the whole installation process. 

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