Can you help my kid hack his X-Box?
November 1, 2004 8:12 AM   Subscribe

X-Box hacking 101. My 14 year old son wants to mess around with an extra X-Box he's gotten for a song, but has no idea how to go about it. He heard from a friend that you can mod it to play Playstation games. This would make Mom really happy. Is there any truth to this, and can anyone recommend links to fun hacks that a kid could handle?
posted by iconomy to Technology (12 answers total)
Check out xbox-scene and xbox-linux.

Xbox-scene has some tutorials on modding, the cool thing is that these days you don't even need to open the box to do pretty much everything. No need to buy a grey-market chip to mod it.

I think you can play PSone games through emulation but probably not PS2.
posted by dirtylittlemonkey at 9:22 AM on November 1, 2004

there have been previous threads on this in ask.mefi.

I've heard it's possible to switch between modded and unmodded so you can still play x-box live. That would be cool..
posted by mecran01 at 9:22 AM on November 1, 2004

Response by poster: Hmm I did a search using 'x-box' and the word hack, and came up with 2 comments, but no actual posts. Oh well. Thanks for those links, dlm - can't wait to check them out!
posted by iconomy at 10:02 AM on November 1, 2004

This may seem obvious, and it's good that this is an extra X-Box you're working with, but UNPLUG THE DAMN THING before modding it. I had a friend forget to do this ... and this guy is a hax0r so l33t he scares me, he ain't no dummy ... and he blew his new X-Box up.
posted by WolfDaddy at 10:10 AM on November 1, 2004

The XBox can indeed emulate Playstation games with a varying degree of success. They can't read the retail (or backup) discs though, you need to put the disc images (bin files, specifically) directly on the XBox hard drive. You can burn the bin file onto CD and try that, but apparently it's a lot slower.

mecran01: Most recent mod chips have an external switch to turn it on and off.

back to iconomy:
I can't really recommend any hacks for children. There are two ways to mod a system: one with a mod chip which requires soldering (or pogopins, which I would not recommend), the other way is called 'softmodding' and I don't know much about it, but it's something you need to get right immediately.

Anyway, Xboxscene, as dirtylittlemonkey mentionned, is a great resource.

I'll write more when I'm not at work.
posted by ODiV at 10:53 AM on November 1, 2004

Response by poster: Thank you, ODiV, I'll check back later then.
posted by iconomy at 11:50 AM on November 1, 2004

A great introductory project would be opening up the xbox, identifying everything in it, finding out what version it is, etc.

You'll need Torx 20 and Torx 10 screwdrivers. I had them in my car toolbox, but you might have to go buy them. I've seen them at Wal-Mart and hardware stores; they shouldn't be too difficult to track down and they're not expensive.

The Torx 20 will be used to open up the case. There are screws beneath the rubber feet of the xbox and beneath the silver sticker.

The Torx 10 is used on the screws holding the components in place. You shouldn't need this if you're just doing a quick inventory of the system.

Once you've got it open, find out what's in it! What brand DVD drive is it, what brand (and size) hard drive? Can you figure out what version it is? (mine is a 1.2... I think.)

Knowing this will help determine your xbox's capabilities and limitations. For instance, certain model DVD drives are able to read more media than others (Some only read DVD-R and CD-RW, not CD-R). Also, the mod chip you can use is dependant on the version. There should be mod chip lists and such on Sorry I don't have any specific links on hand, but it's been forever since I've messed around with my xbox.

I'll write more if I can think of anything, but like I said, other than opening it up, there's not much you can do at the 'beginner' level.

Hope that helps.
posted by ODiV at 2:43 PM on November 1, 2004

Oh and if you have any specific questions or you'd like me to clarify something (reading things over, I haven't explained everything with crystal clarity) feel free.
posted by ODiV at 2:47 PM on November 1, 2004

Response by poster: That's great advice, to start just by opening it up and IDing the parts and finding out the version. Someone emailed me a site that shows the guts and labels them - I printed that out for him so that he can compare the pic to what he has. He's really excited. I hope you don't mind if he emails you if he has any questions, ODiV. Thanks for the help.
posted by iconomy at 4:52 PM on November 1, 2004

shepd apparently does this kind of thing for a living. You might email him.
posted by signal at 4:56 PM on November 1, 2004


Sorry, my internet was badly broken last night. I noticed an email which I will reply to today.

Kids should most definately get into hacking! In the future, as devices get more and more protected, this is not only going to become a great way to make money on the side (like knowing how to fix computers is right now) but it is also going to allow your children to enjoy a lot of other cultures, being that a lot of the hacks get around atificial international trade restrictions (*especially* in Canada, where most 24-hour foreign TV stations must be pirated on hacked receivers from the US).

If you want to keep this project cheap, you should equip him with a 12 pin IDC header (male and female), a little piece of vero board, and an SST 49LF020 (not a) chip with an appropriate through-pin socket (preferrably the chip would be pre-flashed with a FlashBIOS). He'll learn some good soldering skills and we're talking about $10 in parts. This simple design is also flexible enough to work in all XBOXes (although some XBOX revisions are much more difficult than others) and is common enough software and tools are easy to acquire.

The XBOX is really easy to take apart and put back together, compared to other consoles. Just remember the orientation of the various cables before removing them (for the newbie, a white and black magic marker is a godsend).

Just don't have him tinker with the power supply. :-D

I just got myself a copy of this book, and while it is very high-level, it could definately spark an interest in electronics for an interested child. It'll also give him an interest in the political, legal, and ethical aspecsts of such activity, which should help make him responsible at hacking, and may generate some direct interest on what is wrong with a lot of today's technology laws (this book was refused by various publishers due to the DMCA and nearly didn't make it to print).
posted by shepd at 12:13 PM on November 2, 2004

Response by poster: Book ordered - thanks so much! My son is sitting right next to me and he's really excited.
posted by iconomy at 5:07 PM on November 2, 2004

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