The Beginner’s Guide to XBOX Modification (v0.2)
Tutorial written by : Mystagogue (eMyst)
From 30,000 Feet High
When one ventures into this exciting realm, they are invariably referred to as a “newbie,” or a “n00b,” or whatever geeky version of the term the “elite” have come up with. Just remember, many of the so-called “elite” were “newbies” last week, and everybody was a “newbie” at some time! There’s nothing wrong with being a “newbie.” Why has the term become so pejorative?! There are always many who are very smart and knowledgeable about the subject and are willing to help, and they are usually the ones who aren’t so rude. So don’t get scared away! Ignore the rude folks. It’s not as complicated as they like to think it is!
What’s complicated is trying to put all the information that is out there together. To date I haven’t seen any generalized guide that educates one on the subject. Many of the authors seem to forget that they had to learn about the subject before they could do anything, and that their readers are also going to need a general idea before they can jump into such a project. I can’t imagine a person trying to modify their xbox without knowing why they’re doing it! Most of the tutorials out there are on very specific procedures. If you don’t know what they mean, how can you decide which you will need? Most of them will never apply to you! And almost all of them are step-by-step, detailed manuals, as if the reader is going to train a monkey to do it for them. This guide is not meant to teach you everything about the subject. It is not a step-by-step tutorial. The point is for you to decide what you want to do, learn how it works, and do it correctly. This is meant as a high-level introduction to how the xbox works and how xbox modification works. This is a general guide only. Think of it as a birds-eye view of the subject, and read it before you do anything! I will not answer detailed questions on how to do any of the modifications described below.
How Does a PC Work?
If you have a modem that you use to connect to the Internet over a phone-line (not DSL), then you probably have a 56k modem in place of a NIC. And if you have a CD/DVD burner then you probably know what that does.
To load something generally means to bring something from the HDD, the network, or the CD/DVD-ROM to the main memory so the CPU can work with it.
That’s just the hardware. Your PC probably also has a lot of software, the most important being the operating system (the OS). Most of you are probably using Mr. Bill’s Windows, although there are alternatives such as Unix, Linux, etc… The OS takes care of just about everything. It decides how to manage the memory, how to format and maintain the hard drive, how to manage all the other devices listed above, and the list goes on. The main idea is that nothing of interest can happen without an operating system, such as loading and executing programs. So how does the computer know what to do before the operating system is loaded? After all, the OS is a program! How can it be loaded to memory if there’s nothing to manage the devices involved? That is where the BIOS comes in.
A BIOS is a Basic Input/Output System. It is a very small amount of software basically designed to tell your computer how to load the OS. This is a very simplistic view. The term CMOS might come to mind for some of you. The BIOS is sometimes referred to as the CMOS because of the type of chip it is sometimes stored on, but let’s just stick with the term BIOS.
When you boot your computer (interestingly, this term comes from the idea of the computer picking itself up by it’s bootstraps), the first thing that happens is it tests itself at a low level. It checks that the memory is okay, everything is powered, the disks are connected, the keyboard is connected, etc., this is called a Power On Self Test (POST). If any part of this test fails, you will usually get a beeping signal from the crappy little speaker in the computer case indicating that something is wrong, and the system will halt. This will probably happen to you on your xbox at some point. If it passes the POST, it looks to the BIOS to figure out what to do. Once the BIOS tells it how to load the OS, it does that, and bing-bang-boom you’re in Windows (unless you use Win9x, in which case it’s much longer than bing-bang-boom). Usually when you press the <del> key during the POST, you can change some of the BIOS settings (processor speed is a popular one, referred to as overclocking, which is a different subject altogether).
The BIOS is stored on a non-volatile chip, which means when you turn off your computer, the data is still there. It is a ROM (read only memory), which means it can’t be changed. But these days ROM is sort of a misnomer, because it can be changed. That is what flashing refers to. To flash the BIOS means to overwrite the current data on the chip with other data. This is what we’re most interested in!
Replacing the BIOS
/* part of tutorial removed ’cause it was outdated */
I’ve Got the BIOS Replaced, Now What?
Replacing the Dashboard
Replacing the dashboard allows you to easily run programs that you can install on the HDD, backup games onto the HDD and play them from there, and even replace the original 8-10 GB HDD with a much larger one. You can also network your xbox with your PC.You can even have several HDDs installed that you can switch between. You can imagine the possibilities. For instance, you might want to take your xbox to a friend’s house, but you don’t want to lug all the game discs. You can replace the dashboard without networking your xbox to your PC, However you do it, the basic procedure is that you copy the Evox files over to your C: and replace the original dashboard file.
You will probably want to learn about the evox.ini file. This has all the settings for the Evox dashboard, including networking, menus, etc… There are many tutorials that demonstrate how to set up this file. Try to decipher them.
Replacing the HDD
There is a lot involved with this procedure, but it is not too complicated. Again, in accordance with this generalized guide, these steps are just an outline to the procedure.
Burning XBOX Discs
In order to burn an xbox bootable disc, you must first create a so-called image. An image is basically just an archive that can be written directly to a medium, a CD/DVD-RW in this case. Images are often referred to as ISOs because of the file extension. The file extension is that because of the group that came up with the standard (the International Organization for Standardization, no I did not put that name in the wrong order). The xbox, however, has its own version of the ISO image, which is usually referred to as an xISO. Get a tool to create an xISO and use NERO or some other burning software to burn it to a CD/DVD-RW. It’s that simple. If it doesn’t work, don’t fret; just get some help (see the resources section).
The disc must have a default.xbe file at it’s root in order to be booted. An XBE file is xbox’s version of an EXE file, or an executable binary file.
Now Get Out There and Do It!
IRC (Internet Relay Chat)
Tutorial written by : Mystagogue (eMyst)