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What's the easiest way to use my Mac to mod an xbox and install XBMC?
October 24, 2008 3:17 AM   Subscribe

What's the easiest way to use my Mac to mod an xbox and install XBMC? I don't have access to any of the old games, and don't really want to have to buy a USB to memory card convertor for this. Suggestions?

Just to clarify, I've been reading about all this for days, but the information seems a little all over the place. Things I've discovered:

1. I probably want to hotswap to mod it. I don't have access to the old games needed and I don't want to buy a USB to memory card converter anyway.

2. XBOXHDM is suggested as a good way to mod w/ a hotswap. It's basically a Linux LiveCD which is fine, but most tutes then tell you to download ndure and run the installer (windows-based) to install it into the ISO image before you burn it. This is obviously tricky for me. I have an old desktop PC, but it's not running XP and I'm not keen to install the whole OS just to run one installer!

3. Every tute I see wants you to change the dash, but from my reading I don't see WHY you'd do this. Can't you just install XBMC as an application running from the MS Dash somehow? If this is the case, do I even need to mod, or can I just get access to the HD via a hotswap and copy XBMC across somewhere.

Please help me AskMe. As you can see I am lost in a sea of forum posts, howto's and FAQ's, but nothing seems to give me an easy blow-by-blow guide to using my Mac to do this!

posted by ranglin to Technology (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Damn. I should clarify that the Mac is a Macbook. I want to hotswap from the old desktop PC using something like the XBOXHDM Live CD, not from the Mac (which would be extra tricky!).
posted by ranglin at 3:19 AM on October 24, 2008

have you ruled out a hard mod? it really is easy, especially if you have a pre 1.6 xbox where you need no soldering (you can see what model your xbox is here). i used the xenium modchip. i don't know if they still sell the one i got (it was a while ago). very quick install, just open the machine and snap the chip in place--at least these days you're not going to invalidate any warranties. the xenium os is nice too, although don't rely on its ftp server. you can easily switch between using the default xbox dash and the xbmc dash using xenium os. my set up is as follows: xenium os/modchip, xecuter bios, and using the t3ch xbmc cvs builds (search for it). iirc you don't need windows to set things up and once you're going all you need is a ftp client from your mac to xbox. you've probably already looked there but was the place where i learned this all up.
posted by iboxifoo at 6:44 AM on October 24, 2008

It's not exactly clear to me if you have to run an "installer" to actually install some windows program that does something to your xbox or if you just call the .exe file you need to run "an installer", but in the latter case you could use crossover (, there's a trial version you can use) to run it on your mac.
posted by Skyanth at 6:46 AM on October 24, 2008

Seconding the suggestion for a hard mod; it's pretty simple. When I modded my old Xbox the only thing I needed a computer for was to burn a normal CD-ROM. The rest was all handled by the mod chip.

The reason you install your own dashboard is so that in the future you can conveniently access your Xbox again. Ie, most dashboards install an FTP server so you can upload new applications to the Xbox easily. You'll still be able to launch the original dashboard, although you probably won't bother unless you want to try to go online.
posted by Nelson at 7:50 AM on October 24, 2008

I've modded a number of Xboxes, and at this point, I'll tell you that the chips are SO cheap now, I'd do the hardmod (if I didn't have access to an original 007 Tomorrow Never Dies disc/Raincoat game save for modding -- w00t!).

If you want to go the hotswap route, why not use a friend's XP PC to do the hotswap? That would definitely simplify things for you, so you don't have to mess with your old PC. (Good suggestion on crossover, btw, Skylanth, though I've never used it.) I'm a Mac user, too, but have pretty much given up on being able to do any of that stuff on it (esp. since I have a 007 to mod with -- can I say w00t again?).

As to why you would NOT want XBMC as your dash, I'm not sure. XBMC is the absolute shizznit to work with -- and there is no way from the regular MS dash to access it. You have to run something as a dash in order to access apps on your Xbox; I've used several of them, and none makes life as simple as XBMC to access the movies on my file server for playback, or to utilize any of the games/apps/etc that I've got installed. It's skinnable, and easy to use/configure/etc.

And yes, you have to mod if you want to install anything on your Xbox and be able to access it. Msg privately if you have any questions I can help with.
posted by liquado at 8:47 AM on October 24, 2008

I wouldn't rule out a soft mod quite yet. You don't necessarily have to transfer the savegame to a memory card using a USB adapter yourself. Anyone with a hard or soft-modded Xbox could copy the savegame file their xbox using ftp and then copy it to one of your cards. It took only a couple of minutes to softmod mine.
posted by globotomy at 9:42 AM on October 24, 2008

As far as I know, there's no way to boot another dash from the MS dash. I have my Xbox configured to boot into XBMC if I power on using the power button. If I power on using the eject button, the MS Dashboard comes up and is configured so I could play online using that one if I wanted to.
posted by globotomy at 9:45 AM on October 24, 2008

Don't feel bad. I'm a big ol' geek, and the array of xbox modding tutorials had my head swimming, too.

1 & 2. So far as I can recall, there aren't any choices besides modchip, hotswap (e.g., with xboxhdm), TSOP flash, or softmod with one of the specific games that allows it.

Like everyone says, you'll probably be happiest longterm with a modchip. I'd be willing to mail you an xapter solderless modchip adapter. Of course, a big reason I never used it is because everyone says that it's flaky and fragile and you're better off with just soldering your modchip on. (My soldering sucks, so I found a teenager on Craigslist who'd install it for $20.)

Once it's modchipped, life gets easy, especially if you don't care about playing Xbox games, and just plunk a larger hard drive in before you install XBMC. Load a BIOS over the network; burn a CD with Slayer's EvoX or whichever installer; boot it in your Xbox, and you're off.

You don't need ndure to hotswap. There are other exploits, like UXE, that just need copying some files over while you're hotswapped. But I didn't do this one, so I'm not that familiar with it.

Note that with anything other than a modchip (or TSOP flash), changing to a larger hard drive after the fact would become a big chore again (and you couldn't use just any IDE hard drive, but would need a lockable one.) With a modchip, it's easy.

3. Ndure does some funky stuff that breaks the stock MS Dash. So far as I know, other softmod/hotswap approaches should be able to let you run it. I think everyone recommends replacing the dash just because all the replacement dashes are so much better for modders, allowing, for instance, an FTP server that lets you access the hard drive freely over your home network. If you want an XBMC box, letting it be the dask is just a convenient way to have it run at startup. Is there anything you want from the MS Dash that the alternatives don't offer?
posted by Zed_Lopez at 4:43 PM on October 24, 2008

Hi All.

Just to close this thread off, I ended up taking everyone's advice and taking the xbox to a fellow to do a hard-mod for me. He was also able to sell me a component cable and a DVD remote, so there was the added bonus of getting all the right pieces in one place. It was a good decision I think, and it worked really well!

I've now installed the latest XBMC (he installed a version from 2005, believe it or not), switched to the mediastream skin and connected it to the wireless network using an Apple Airport Express connected to my network using WDS mode. It streams media from the SMB share on the main media machine in the bedroom (a Mac Mini also running a flavour of XBMC called Plex) and works flawlessly, as well as looking pretty much identical as far as the interface goes (which definitely helps with the WAF (wife acceptance factor)).

Now I'm just looking to find a cheap universal remote to control it and I'm happy as a pig in mud... :)
posted by ranglin at 2:55 AM on November 5, 2008

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