as soon as I click the freespace icon (or choose play from the launcher) it just instantly crashes... any ideas how to get this to run?
try the basic diagnostics like checking 'run as administrator' or fiddling the compatibility mode for the application
if that doesn't work ... are you tied to playing FS1 vanilla? You can download the open source engine (FSO) which works like a charm on modern systems and looks very pretty (a new iteration of the engine is supposed to be released soon in fact). You can play the Freespace 1 campaign through that - the FS1 campaign is called FSport. The engine is a large download (especially if you download all the mods too), but I think worth it. Aside from being a large download the installation is not too bad. There is an automated installer here (http://scp.indiegames.us/bnr_installer.php
) and instructions here (http://www.hard-light.net/wiki/index.php/FreeSpace_Open_Installer
However, FS1 vanilla *should* work in Win 7, so you can try to get that working as well.