This is a bit of an unusual post for me but I've had to perform this twice within a year and a half and I forgot the particulars for the second time... they were not so easily found even with half of the knowledge!
Freelancer was and is one of my favourite Privateer-a-likes. No, not an elite-a-like, more of an elite-a-lite. ;) Anyway, it can be a bit of a pain to get working on modern computers. Win 7 actually is easier to get working than on Vista (though that is entirely possible as I've also managed it by following the below steps as well) though I've no experience with win 8+.
It was pretty hard for me to find the information the first time around as I had nothing to go on. However, the fan sites and forums do harbour this information if you know the key search terms and where to look... So, the following is as much as a reminder for myself for future play sessions as it is a repository for everyone else who's a casual player and not into the online fansites for this game.