How to Use Lakka to Play Classic Video Games on a Windows PC

Original Mario with mushroom

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Many of us grew up on console video games, with the type of system depends on the era we were raised in. For men and women of a certain age, nothing sparks nostalgia quite like playing our favorite titles from yesteryear.

Whether you got your kicks with the original Nintendo or your go-to was a Sony PlayStation, gaming was a big part of life.

In this article, we show you how to turn back the clock and play those games once again and all you need is a spare PC, a flash drive with at least 512MB capacity, a Wi-Fi or hard-wired internet connection and a USB game controller to do so. This can be achieved by utilizing Lakka, a distribution of the Linux operating system configured specifically to run as a retrogaming console.

This process will delete any files or data that exist on your spare PC, so back up anything you need beforehand.

Downloading Lakka

Before you can get started, you need to download Lakka. You should choose between the 32-bit version or the 64-bit version, depending on the CPU architecture of the PC on which you intend to install the OS.

If you aren't sure which type of chipset you have, check out our article on how to tell if you have Windows 64-bit or 32-bit.

After downloading, you'll need to first uncompress Lakka's installer files using Windows' default utility or an application such as 7-Zip.

Creating Your Lakka Installer

Now that you've download Lakka you'll need to create your installer medium using the aforementioned USB flash drive. Plug the drive into your PC and take the following steps.

  1. Download the Win32 Disk Imager application from SourceForge.

  2. Run the Disk Image setup wizard by opening the downloaded file and following the prompts as directed. Once the installation is complete, launch the application.

  3. The Win 32 Disk Imager application window should now be visible. Click on the blue folder icon, found in the Image File section. When the Windows Explorer interface appears, locate and select the Lakka image that was previously downloaded. The Image File edit field should now be populated with the path to this file.

  4. Select the drop-down menu in the Device section and choose the letter assigned to your USB flash drive.

  5. Click on the Write button. Please note before doing this that all data on your USB drive will be completely wiped out.

  6. Once the process is completed, remove the USB drive.

Installing Lakka on Your Spare PC

Now that your installation medium is ready to go, it's time to install Lakka on your destination PC. The reason we recommend a spare PC is that it is ideal if the device you are installing Lakka on be dedicated solely for this purpose and nothing else.

Once your Lakka-bound PC is connected to a display monitor, plug in your USB flash drive, game controller and a keyboard. After powering on the PC you may have to enter the BIOS and modify the boot order so that it starts up with the USB flash drive.

Next, take the following steps to install and configure your Lakka gaming console.

  1. After booting to the USB drive Lakka's bootloader screen should be visible, featuring the following prompt: boot:. Type the word installer and hit the Enter key to get started.

  2. The Installer will appear after a short delay, featuring a warning that the installer should be used at your own risk. Click on the OK button.

  3. The main menu will now appear, displaying a number of installation options. Select Quick Install and click on OK.

  4. A list of hard drives on the PC will now be provided. Select the destination HD and click OK.

  5. At this point, the necessary installation files will be transferred to the PC, after which you'll be prompted to reboot. Click on Reboot and instantly remove the USB flash drive.

  6. Once the reboot is complete Lakka's Main Menu screen should be displayed, containing a number of options including those to add or load content.

Adding Games to Your Lakka Console

Lakka should now be up and running, which means it's time to add some games! In order to do so, the console PC and your main computer need to be on the same network and able to see each other accordingly. For a wired setup, make sure both computers are connected to your router via Ethernet cables. If you have a wireless configuration, enter your Wi-Fi network details in Lakka's settings. Next, take the following steps.

  1. Access the Services section of Lakka's settings interface and click on the ON/OFF button accompanying the SAMBA Enable option so that it becomes activated.

  2. On your main PC, open Windows File Explorer and click on the Network icon. You may be prompted to enable Network discovery and file sharing, if necessary.

  3. A list of available network resources should now be displayed. If you followed the above instructions correctly, an icon labeled LAKKA should be shown in the list. Double-click this option.

  4. All main-level folders within your Lakka installation will now be presented. Copy all game files that you wish to make available into the ROMs folder. For cartridge-based games, ROMs should be a single file and preferably zipped. For CD images, Lakka's preferred format is BIN+CUE, while the preferred file format for PSP games is ISO.

  5. Now that you've added games to the appropriate folder on your new system, use the USB controller to navigate to the final tab via the plus (+) button in Lakka's file interface.

  6. Choose the Scan This Directory option.

  7. After scanning is completed, a new tab will be created on the Lakka screen. Move to this tab to see a list of all available games, each launchable by simply selecting its respective title and choosing Run.

Where to Get ROMs

Your new retrogaming system should now be all setup and ready to go. If you don't have any game files (or ROMs), however, then what's the point? This is where it gets tricky, though, as downloading ROMs for games that you don't actually own the physical cartridge or disc may not be legal. Mixed messages about the legality of classic game ROMs are prevalent throughout the web, and the purpose of this article is not to distinguish what is accurate or not on the topic.

A simple Google search will unearth thousands of ROM repositories for most retro consoles. While some may be reputable and safe, others could have different ideas in mind. Therefore we recommend that you utilize common sense when searching, and download at your own risk.