Retroarch Not Working? Here Are Some Fixes for You

For a growing number of people, Retroarch is the ultimate hub of everything emulation-related. It doesn’t do Retroarch justice just to call it a “frontend” for every console emulator imaginable because all the great emulators can be integrated into it, downloaded and loaded up as “cores” within seconds. Such a vast platform with so much going on inevitably runs into problems however. Roms may fail to scan, emulators run too slowly, and controllers don’t get detected.

Here, we’ll run through the most common Retroarch issues, and fixes to get it working again.

When you want to add ROMs or games to Retroarch, you should first make sure the databases are up to date by going to Online Updater from the Main Menu, then selecting Update Databases. This will ensure that Retroarch has the latest information when it comes to detecting your roms.

Another possibility is that if you keep your games in compressed formats (7z, RAR and so on), you’ll need to download a core capable of reading these formats, like MAME. It’s something the devs are working to fix, but in the meantime, counter-intuitively, you may need to download a MAME core even if you’re trying to find your compressed N64 games. (You do this by going to “Load Core -> Download Core” then finding MAME under the ‘Arcade’ category.)

It’s tough to address such a broad issue without writing an essay about it. There are so many reasons why Retroarch may crash that we’ve decided to pick out some of the most common ones so that they hopefully apply to a wide spectrum of people.

    • Update your graphics card drivers.
    • This one applies particularly to people on mid-lower-end systems, which may struggle with the fact that Retroarch runs on the OpenGL graphics API by default. You should go to the “retroarch” config (CFG) file in your Retroarch directory, open it with Notepad (or, to make the information clearer, Notepad++), and change the “video_driver” option from “gl” to “d3d,’ then save your change. You won’t be able to use the slick XMB-style Retroarch UI anymore, but more importantly, you should be able to run games.

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      • Another option for people on older operating systems or with older hardware is to download the “MSVC” versions of Retroarch instead of the default MinGW version. MSVC2005 is designed for pre-Windows XP systems, while MSVC2010 is from Windows XP onwards, but some people have reported that it helps them even when using Windows 10 on older machines, so it’s worth a pop.

So you’re trying to download the cores/emulators for all your favorite home consoles, but it’s not working. There’s a chance that the core updater in Retroarch isn’t linked to the place where it sources its cores.

Open the “retroarch.cfg” file in your Retroarch directory (again, Notepad or Notepad++), then one of the first options should be ‘core_updater_buildbot_url=”http://buildbot.libretro.com/nightly/x/x/x” where the x-es represent whatever system you’re on.

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If this is blank, you need to manually enter the URL that you want to source your cores from. Go to “buildbot.libretro.com/nightly/” in your web browser, then navigate to the directory on the site that corresponds to your system (/windows/x86_64/, for example).

Eventually, you’ll reach a folder called “latest.” Click this to see all the cores available for your system, then copy the URL into the Retroarch config file. (If you want, you can actually download cores directly from here, and stick them in the “cores” folder in your Retroarch directory.)

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Save the change in the config file, and Retroarch should now be able to download cores for you.

Of all the cores on Retroarch, the PS1 ones are probably the trickiest to get working. It’s not too complicated, but there are a couple of things to bear in mind. First up, you’ll need to track down and download three very specific BIOS files for the PS1. (Just do a Google search.) The ones you need are SCPH5500, SCPH5501 and SCPH5502, and you need to chuck them in the “system” folder in your Retroarch directory.

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Note: the SCPH files need to be named just as they are above. If the file is called “SCPH_5501” or whatever, that won’t do. You just need to rename it to “SCPH5501.”

Another thing is that the PSX games need to be extracted and have both the “bin” and “cue” files in the same folder to work properly.

These fixes are just the tip of the iceberg for getting Retroarch working again, and we accept that there are probably problems that we haven’t covered here. If you run into any Retroarch trouble, let us know in the comments, and we’ll research fixes to add to this list in the future. Happy gaming.

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