How best to choose an x-box modchip?
April 24, 2006 8:51 AM   Subscribe

I'm having trouble deciding on a modchip for my xbox. Like any normal person, I'd prefer to keep my costs low. But, I'd prefer to do that by simply not purchasing features or options I don't need.

I've been playing around with MythTV on the HTPC in my living room, and am close to happy with it. Once I'm at that point, I'd like to move that machine into my utility closet and use my non-360 X-Box for a frontend. I've tried the softmod, but I don't have the right combo of games/hardware/dashboard, etc to get it working properly.

So, I'm going to purchase a mod chip, but I'm confused by all of the varieties and options that are out there. I'm just not sure what I need. There are some that are highly recommended, like the X3, but they also seem to be overkill for my needs. Here's what I'd like:

- To continue to be able to play Xbox games, including Xbox Live.

- Install a larger hard drive, with Linux as an option.

- Be able to boot the thing into either Linux or Xbox without a lot of complexity (READ: so my gf doesn't complain that it's too complex).

- If possible, install it without soldering (my skillz ain't so mad). I'm 99% sure I don't have a v1.6 Xbox, but will confirm before I actually purchase the chip.

So, if anyone could suggest some reading material on how best to choose a chip, and/or suggestions on a chip, I'd appreciate it!

posted by Spoonman to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
it has been a while since i was in the know about these things. i have performed a couple of soft mods and hardware mods a couple years ago though. at that time there was no sure fire way to install linux and have a machine you where guaranteed to be able to play live on. yes i know there are mod chips that can be turned on or off; however, even when they are off it is possible for microsoft to check to see if your drive is the correct size or if it has new partitions. at least that was the fear.

im sorry if this fear has been dispelled since i last followed the scene, if it has not i cant imagine a mod chip that could prevent it though and just wanted to make sure you where aware of it.
posted by phil at 10:06 AM on April 24, 2006

I'm not part of the scene, but from what I understand it is difficult to impossible to mod an XBox and continue to have Live work. The other stuff sounds feasible, though. Isn't there some game with a buffer problem that lets you install Linux with a specially corrupted save file?
posted by danb at 10:09 AM on April 24, 2006

i believe there are 3 games actually. 007 agent under fire, mechassault, and splinter cell, which emerged a while after the others. unfortunately i thing there was a bios update toward the end of 2003 that prevents this method from working anymore (on newer xbox's anyway).
posted by phil at 10:17 AM on April 24, 2006

If we have to, we can list Live as a "nice to have" feature, then.
posted by Spoonman at 10:22 AM on April 24, 2006

All the information you could ever want about XBox modding is at BTW.

I actually just researched and answered this questions for a co-worker, and I recommended:

-Xecuter 2.6, with the option of a no-solder kit.
-HyperX is a no solder option, though its installation can be tricky
-DuoX2 is a very cheap and reliable solution.

I don't run Linux on my box but I think that if you want to be able to run Linux, unsigned XDK code, and XBox Live, you should choose a chip that supports multiple BIOS regions - meaning the DuoX2 is out of the list above.
posted by chuma at 10:34 AM on April 24, 2006

danb: some chips come with on-off switches, when the switch is off then the chip is totally disabled. Assuming you haven't replaced the MS dashboard with another dashboard program, Live will work fine.
posted by chuma at 10:37 AM on April 24, 2006

Besides Xbox-scene, read up on Xbox-Linux. I recently decided on an X-Changer 2.5 for $20, but I wasn't trying to retain the ability to play Xbox games, let alone Xbox live.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:46 AM on April 24, 2006

chuma: if someone has put a larger hard drive in to support linux is that no longer something that can be detected? i was under the impression that extra partitions where could get you banned from live

also i second chuma recommendation of xbox-scene, there is no better source for xbox related information
posted by phil at 11:00 AM on April 24, 2006

I have heard that you can do the following:

1. Buy an xbox which has never been modded, and never been used on Live
2. Mod it
3. Connect to Live with a never before used Live account.
4. Play your modded Xbox on Xbox Live.

But I've never done it myself. Perhaps someone can affirm or deny this for me.
posted by Hildago at 11:29 AM on April 24, 2006

I can answer questions about the Xenium and the Xecuter 3. I've installed both via the solder method in a variety of xbox versions. They're of comparable difficulty (which is honestly, not that difficult).

If this is your first chip, I'd recommend using the Xecuter 3. Be sure you're getting the newest version of this chip, since many retailers are trying to get rid of their older ones. The Xecuter team has been around since the beginning - their BIOS is very useful, and the chip has tons of features, most of which you won't use, but honestly you're not exactly paying by the feature. The chips all have some kind of switch, either software or hardware, to disable them and allow the box to boot normally. This allows you to play Xbox Live games, provided of course you actually own the original game disc. There is no reason to try and play xbox live games that you haven't bought - this will result in you being banned sometime or another.

The installation can be a little more difficult on a version 1.6 xbox. If you already have the xbox, open it up and step through this guide to identify which version you have.

If you can solder, you can install any of the chips yourself. I'd highly recommend not going with a no-solder chip, since they rely on precision pins and springs, and can easily be jostled out of alignment.
posted by odinsdream at 11:58 AM on April 24, 2006

Just a little addendum: You'll definitely want to go with a chip that has a backup failsafe bios installed. Xecuter 3 is such a chip. If you ever screw up flashing a new bios, you can boot in the failsafe mode to recover. Chips without this feature aren't worth your time, because it's too easy to turn them into paperweights for tiny, tiny papers.
posted by odinsdream at 12:00 PM on April 24, 2006

I have an X3 -ICE, though it is expensive, installation was a breeze (no solder option, took me 20 minutes) (load bios, comes with built in FTP, load XBMC). XBMC loads on boot (if no disk inserted) so the GF can use it too. I don't have MYTH TV integrated though - not sure how the interface is there.

To boot to non-modded xbox, hold power button in for 1 second, then release. There is a light which comes with the modchip you can stick on the outside, which will tell you what state your modchip is in (working, not working, flashing , etc.) so LIVE works just fine.

Enjoy, and good luck!
posted by defcom1 at 12:12 PM on April 24, 2006

Here's the deal with Live:

Xbox live detects if your hard disk stats have *CHANGED* since you originally registered the box/live account with the live service.

So - If you take an xbox that has never been on live, mod it and put in a larger HDD, then take it on live with a brand new live account, you're fine.

If you take an xbox that HAS been on live previously, mod it and put in a larger HDD, then that xbox will be banned when you next connect to live.

I'd 2nd the recommendation about going with a soldered chip. This is from personal experience, having modded about 30 xboxes. Solderless sounds like less work up front, but they are fiddly to get set up initially and they can get bumped out of alignment. The Nth time you open up the box to re-align the chip you'll wish you had spent the time up front to solder it.

I'd also 2nd the recommendation for an Xecuter 3 (X3) chip. The slow power button press/fast power button press for mod disabled/abled is an elegant solution. The newest version of the X3 is the X3 CE (not ICE).

I've had great service ordering chips from this store (no affiliation other than they're reliable and prompt, qualities a lot of merchants in the "scene" lack):
posted by de void at 4:44 PM on April 24, 2006

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