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XBox Modchips

Ryan FB

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Well, after a good bit of mulling about and being a big wuss about diving in to my next-gen consoles and modding them silly, I finally decided to take the plunge. This thread is meant for intelligent discussion about legal modchip use, and as an easy introduction to XBox modchips for people new to it, written by someone completely new to it himself. If you're timid or interested about XBox modding, but aren't really sure how it all works (like me!), feel free to read the large chunk in the middle. If it's old hat to you, or you just want to get to the non-Xenium-specific discussion bit, go ahead and skip straight to the last few sentences. :)


After some research, I decided on getting a Xenium modchip from OzXodus, so this mini-tutorial will be rather specific to that chip. I also got a nice solderless adapter with it, bringing the price up a little but saving me from having to risk messing things up further with my relatively untested soldering skills. Basically modding my XBox was relatively easy, and if you've ever installed something in your PC I'd wager you could do it. You have to unscrew a few external case screws (you'll need a Torx T-20 for the outside screws and a T-10 for the internal screws), then detach the HD power/IDE cables, remove a screw and put the HD aside. Once that's done you can detach the DVD IDE/power cables and remove two screws to pull out the DVD assembly. From here, you basically have access to the XBox motherboard. If you have a solderless adapter (like me), you'll just need to remove one more screw here near the LPC header. Then you just line up the adapter, making sure the D0 wire is resting in the proper place, and screw it down so the pins are firmly in place. Attach the modchip to the exposed prongs and you're almost done. Now all you need to do is realign the DVD and HD assemblies so that the screw passages are proper (otherwise the top of the XBox's case will not go back on, I found this to be the most frustrating part of the install) and screw them back in.


Now that you've got the chip in, you're ready to plug your XBox back in (you did unplug it, right? ;)) and try things out. I got a strange power-cycle/error problem at first, but later discovered that this was due to my use of the HD pack with the outdated firmware that comes on the modchip. Make sure you use the standard (composite video) cables that came with your XBox at first, otherwise it won't boot properly (don't worry, this can be fixed later). If all went well, you'll see the LED on the Xenium light up and your XBox will boot XeniumOS, the modchip's firmware. Press the white button on your controller to advance to the main menu. Feel free to twiddle about and see what's going on. :D


Now that you've had a little bit of time to get comfortable with your new frankenbox, I'd suggest upgrading XeniumOS. As of now, the current version is 1.1 and all Xeniums still ship with 1.0. The new version seems to have a few important fixes, notably, it works with the HD pack (however, the firmware menu's itself and whatnot are interlaced rather than progressive with the HD pack) and can boot while you have a wireless controller plugged in. Download the update from the OzXodus site, burn it to a CD-R or CD-RW, put the disc in your XBox and select "Recovery mode" from within the XeniumOS menus. It should find the update on the CD, give you a message, and flash the eject LED on the XBox. Once it's loaded the new firmware, you can go ahead and reboot.


Now that we've got a nicely modded XBox, you might be saying "dear God, I hope this doesn't screw my Live account". Not to worry. If you boot straight to the original BIOS/Dashboard (top option when you boot up with the Xenium), your XBox will play just as if the chip weren't there at all. Live can sign in with ease and you won't get blocked. You can always tell the state of the Xenium by looking at the left side of your XBox case, if there's no glow it's probably safe to go on Live.


So, what do we do now? Well, to take advantage of the fact that you have a modchip, you'll need to flash a new BIOS to one of the memory banks of your Xenium. I decided to go with the EvolutionX BIOS. You'll find instructions for creating a BIOS CD and flashing it to the Xenium on OzXodus's site. Now that that's done, you might have booted to your new BIOS and said "hey, nothing's different". That's because you're still runing Microsoft's dashboard. There's a few different alternatives around, I decided to try out the EvolutionX dash as well (note that the dash and the BIOS are two different things, but they do work together). First off, you'll need to create an EvolutionX boot disc. You can do this by making a directory that contains evoxdash.xbe renamed to default.xbe, an edited evox.ini file, and the skins directory. You need to edit the evox.ini file to reflect your network settings - I set mine to StaticIP = Yes so it wouldn't get my DHCP server's information and access the internet (leaving a gap open for accidentally contacting Live), as well as giving it dummy IP's for the gateway and DNS servers. Once you have the proper directory layout, you need to make it into a bootable disc image using a tool called xISO. I'd also suggest adding a 100mb or so dummy file (anything big will do) to help your XBox DVD drive read the disc. Burn the resulting .iso file with Nero, using DAO/96 for the write mode. Put the disc in your XBox, boot up, and select your new EvolutionX BIOS bank from the menu. It should load the EvolutionX dashboard from the CD. Well, that's good and well, but it would be a hassle to do it this way every time. With your XBox up and running the EvolutionX dash it loaded from CD, you can now FTP to your XBox from your PC and load the file's to your XBox hard drive. Use ftp://xbox:passwordfromevoxini@ipaddressy...boxinevoxini:21. Rename default.xbe back to evoxdash.xbe in the folder you used to make the ISO, then upload the same files you used to make the xISO (minus the dummy file) over FTP so the directory structure is preserved, and evoxdash.xbe and evox.ini are in the top directory of your C drive on the XBox. Now when you select the EvolutionX BIOS from the Xenium, it will boot the EvolutionX dashboard (no CD required!), and when you select the original BIOS from the Xenium, it will boot the original XBox dashboard.


With the EvolutionX dash running you can now upload any number of free/open source applications to your XBox on the E:\apps path. The most useful I've found is XBox Media Center. It plays back all sorts of files, either from the XBox HD/DVD drive, or across the network using Windows/SMB shares or any number of streaming protocols. Definitely very cool, and a lot better than burning everything to disc so I can play it in my Bravo D1. There's also a number of emulators ported over as well.


So, now that I've given a long-winded random-ass recount of how I modified my XBox, anyone else have any information/tips/thoughts/questions about their XBox modding experiences? Good applications to try?


Keep it on the high road and follow the forum rules, please. I'd like to see this be an ongoing thread/resource for the mentally disturbed few among us who feel the need to bollocks up a perfectly well-functioning piece of hardware. ;)

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I wanted to add a bit more info since I know you put some work into this post and no doubt spent some time getting it together hoping for a good discussion. Unfortunately any kind of modding on the Xbox etc. may in fact be found illegal by the DMCA and therefore discussion of mods in general are prohibited. Again we do apologize and you no doubt meant well but as Joey noted this is not a topic we can discuss on the forum.


Thank you.

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