William Chow's Personal Web Page

My X-Box Modding Experience 


Alright, I know what you are thinking... If you are here expecting me to give you a newbie guide to modding Xboxs, then you may as well hit back right now. If you are here to look for the programs needed to mod an Xbox, you can hit back now. If you are here because you want to know how to mod an Xbox, and my story about learning how to mod an Xbox. While, I can't guarantee that I would be as entertaining as Penn and Teller, this is only a record of how "disorganized" the mod community is.
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Ok, the usual stuff. This page is an educational commentary of what I did and what I thought about the whole Xbox modding procedure. It in no way should be used for illegal purposes because we all know Microsoft is hurting for money. Also, if you are so foolish to believe everything I write in the steps below or believe anything anyone else says in this commentary, you are the bigger fool. As such, I will consider you warned, and thus I will not be responsible for what you do with this information, or what happens to you when you try anything that is written here, which includes destroying your Xbox. Ok, with that aside, enjoy the read, and learn.

My History

I don't consider myself a technical newbie. I worked at Radio Shack before. I did put mod-chips Playstation Ones and Sega Saturns before. But I have not done anything with this new era of gaming consoles. Playstation Twos have rather complex chips taking up to over 40 wires to do in some of them. However, I came in the problem of having 3 dead PS2s because of defective DVD rom drives. Those bastards at Sony!! Anyway, my favourite console of the new generation was the Xbox. I bought a copy of Dead Or Alive Beach Volleyball and spent over 500+ hours to complete that game and write an FAQ for getting the bathing suits. While browsing for a fix to my Playstation dead laser problem, I found a couple articles about modding an Xbox without opening it. THIS intrigued me so I read up on it. So begins my story....

Gathering The Information

Well you can imagine my excitement and surprise that the hacks figured out how to mod up an Xbox without opening it or soldering it or installing a chip. So I began reading and trying to figure out what these people are doing. There are a some fairly well written articles and there are some that are so brief, they were next to useless.

Analysis Of What They Are Saying

Well it became apparent to me from the reading that there is a rather simple "loophole" or "exploit" in the programming of the Xbox. Ahh, what other Microsoft product has this problem eh? Now with this little piece of information, the hacks built an entire process to exploit the error to the fullest. Now like most software applications, different people write their code differently. Some are more efficent, some are smaller, some are easier to perform, some are a bit more logical and easier to follow. Of course, Microsoft is not slow to react, they tried to update their bios and Xbox software to compensate. However, like good hacks, they seem to update their hacks too. So the never ending war continues.

What does this mean to the layman or newbie like the rest of us? Well, it means a very wide range of methods and softwares to be used to perform the same basic task. And of course, that is just compounded by the numerous number of updates to the method due to new bios and new Xbox software. So, this is why I am writing this "commentary" of my modding experience. Although, this may not boost your confidence in undertaking a mod yourself, or calm your anger because you screwed up your Xbox; at least you know you are not alone.

So here are the three softmodding tutorials that I found while browsing. Ok, so call me stupid for using these ones rather than something better, but I guess if they made better tutorials they sure made them hard to find. Anyway, I took these three things down and read them over.

The first mod tutorial was really brief if not wrong. First of all, it was very brief about moving the save game file into the unmodded Xbox. Also as much as he says "any serious soft modder will find them easily". Yea right. It took me 2 weeks downloading just about everything off of #xbins and I still didn't find Itools 7.5 or anything he refers to. He also syas that "now i will say this CLEARLY... use only microsoft official game save cards or this will not work...." which according some other documents, is contrary. I can say that I had to try out the hacked USB extension/Xbox controller and it worked with a USB Sandisk Crusier. So, yea, the first doc file is kinda useless.

The second tutorial was concentrating on the 007 mod. However, he does comment other types of memory cards will work. It also is very poor outlining what that UDE is. I also don't have 007, so it really didn't apply to me but it is probably similar if I used MechAssault or Splinter Cell, which I did have.

The last tutorial has the details I needed for the last part because so many of the tutorials skip over it.

Step One: Making The USB memory/Xbox Connector

Ok, so like the tutorials seem to indicate, the first step I need to do is load some "files" on to the unmodded Xbox "somehow". Ok, the easiest thing to do would be use a modded Xbox, FTP the files to the modded Xbox, and then copy it to a regular Xbox Memory card, then thus copy this on to the unmodded Xbox using this memory card.

However, there was a lot of talk about taking a regular USB cable and hacking a Xbox Connector. Ok, curosity kills the cat. I have to find out if this trick really works. The instructions seem to indicate that I can cut an Xbox cable and cut a USB cable and match the wires and it should work. Sounds too simple to be true.

I had a dead Xbox controller and I had a USB extension cable A (male) to A (female) which is are dirt cheap at LinHaw. Ok, take out the trusty wire cutters, and chop them both. It reveals that Xbox does have 5 wires (red, white, black, green and yellow) and the USB cable of course has 4 (red, white, black, and green). Hmm... close enough to kill a cow? Yup. I joined red to red, white to white, black to black, green to green. I left the yellow wire of the Xbox dangling. I started it up and plugged in my USB Fuji 256MB memory stick. I booted up the Xbox and went to the memory options of the Xbox dashboard. It did detect my stick but it said the memory card was "defective". Oh oh! Did I screw up? Well, I had to do some more research. I found a project to convert an Xbox Memory Card to USB, a project to convert an Xbox to a $150 PC, and a USB memory compatibility Chart. Well, article one was very good in that it showed me that indeed it was as easy as matching the colours up. The yellow wire was Video Sync so that was useless, which is fine for this purpose. But the gem of information that was necessary was the list of USB devices that work on the Xbox USB. Sure enough, the Fuji Film 256MB stick was NOT, ugh I repeat, NOT compatible. Ahhhh Damn you!!! Ok, the game wasn't over yet. I read down the list and wandered off to Office Depot and bought myself a SanDisk USB Crusier 256MB Jump drive. Sure it was a bit big, but that is all they had, and who cares, I had a left over $25 gift certificate from Christmas that needed spending.

So, I plugged this sucker in, and TA-DAH!! It worked. The Xbox saw it as a memory card in a controller. It didn't matter which slot it was in, it worked as controller 2 and I also tested it as controller 4. It all worked. Step 1 complete, I have the wire.

Step 2: Loading The FILES On The Memory Card

Ok, now armed with my brand new invention, and a trusty USB jump drive, it is now time to load this thing with the files needed to do the exploit. Ok, I first needed the files and I needed the way to get the files on to the memory card. When I plug the jumpdrive to the back to my Win2K box, it sees the USB stick, but it thinks it is blank, when I have a "normal" MechAssault save on it. Ahhh, I do some research and find that the file format is in FATX, so I will need Linux or Mac OSX. Well, I stuck it in my iBook G4, and it didn't come up on the desktop. Ahh, probably have to go down to Unix prompt which is beyond me, so I won't go there. Not today.

Alright do some more reading, it seems there is a program called OzMemory to transfer the files over. I go to #xbins again, I download it. However, the operation of the program was not like a file manager. It was more like a memory block or bios type of program. Obviously this was the wrong tool for the job. Ok, another program people were using was the Action Replay software used by the AR memory card. At this point, I didn't bother going this route because it was costing me a lot of time to R&D it.

I resorted to "using the modded Xbox method". I FTP'ed the save game file for MechAssault into the Xbox save game area. I used the Xbox Memory function to copy it from the Xbox to the Memory card. Then I booted up the unmodded Xbox, and loaded the save game on the hard drive using the same Xbox Memory function. I booted up my copy of MechAssault, started a scenario, I DID see the save game I loaded name "Install Linux". So I clicked on this save game file to load and....... It didn't work! What the FUCK! I started to check my programs in my MechAssault Softmod Package that I downloaded from #xbins. I also checked to make sure that the MechAssault was not a "Platinum Hits" version. It wasn't. Or was it... I found this on www.xbox-linux.org:

" When i go to champaign and go to install linux i get this error: Unable to load <Install Linux> press A to continue, so i press A and nothing!!!
I had this problem too and it turns out I had the wrong version of the game - it had been patched. Mechassault serial # MS02308L-MS-L1 is BAD; MS02301L-MS-L1 is GOOD. (The serial is a hologram on the inside ring of the disc) For MA, it's not just the platinum hits that has been patched, it's also the holiday bundle one."

I check my copy of MechAssault and what do you know. It is was a BAD one. Oh what the hell!

Alright, fall back method. I went to my copy of Splinter Cell. I went back to #xbins, and downloaded the softmodding package for Splinter Cell. Repeated the process of loading the save game through the modded xbox. The interesting quirk I noticed was the save game file was in 2 pieces, but that was ok. I started up the game, I started Campaign and saw the save game file called "Linux". I started it up and .... Ta-dah!!! I was in. A copy of the Evo-X dashboard was loaded... The rhetorical "lock" has been "picked", now what do when you are "in the house"? Stage 2 : Completed.

Step 3: Installing the Mod

When I read the first few FAQs about how to softmod the Xbox, many of the documentation was very very lacking. For example, using the Itools1.0 from above, it says to select "Install UDE". Well, there is no option for that in Evo-X. So that documentation is useless. I looked around some more came across this: SoftMod Deluxe 1.0

"4. Once the Installer has boot, I strongly suggest to make a backup of your C Drive and maybe your Eeprom as well. Use the "Create C Backup" option to backup your C drive.   To back up the Eeprom you'll need to use the Evolution X dashboard. The Eeprom backup is  stored at C:\Backup (this can't be changed unfortunately) so please remember this.

5. Install the Softmod. Please note this deletes the MS Dash from C Drive, hence why you   have been told to use the backup feature."

First of all, "backing up C" was rather vague. Does he mean use FTP and copy the files to your computer? I am pretty sure it isn't use the Evo-X because there is no "Create C Backup" option and the Eeprom back up doesn't store it in "C:\backup". Well, at least not in the Softmod Deluxe 1.0 package. Second problem, "Install the SoftMod". Isn't that a little vague? I mean, I can "Install Windows", and know what "Install a wood door" means, but what is the SoftMod? This is like "Go to school", or "Get A Job". Not very descriptive about how one would go about it.

So I do a bit more reading, and I found starters guide and guide for kernals5838. The starters guide was great for explaining the logic of what softmodding actually is, without going into any great detail about how it is done. The second was the file I needed because it was very detailed step by step.

So I booted up my unmodded Xbox and went to the dashboard, and looked at the System/ System Information. You have to wait for the stupid Microsoft disclaimer and copyright crap. The only thing more ANNOYING than this was the opening for Team Ninja games like Dead Or Alive 3 or Dead Or Alive Beach Volleyball. Anyway, buried in the crap scrolling on the screen is the Kernal number of the Xbox which shows up as K:xx-5838-xx. In my case, it was 5838, but yours could be between 3944 - 5838. This is perfect, because this within the guidelines of the UDE2 (Ultimate Dashboard Exploit 2) method of Softmodding.

In the 5838 instructions, I have already done the first part so I can skip down to Section 4 - Preparing the Hack. I read this section and again it requires a host of weird softwares which I didn't have including the Slayers Installation disk nor the Update XBE program, the font packs I managed to find a 6.1 and 7.1 version of the font hacks but the file names were a bit different. And I found NKpatcher. All these I found on #bins with the exception of the Slayers Disk.

Now here is were the details are important because so many of the FAQs out there were so lacking...

Section 5: Installation

39. FTP into your xbox (Using the Mech Assault and Game Save again)

OK, I am using Splinter Cell, but as shown in Part 2, I can do this easily enough now.


40. In the C folder rename xboxdash.xbe to org-xboxdash.xbe

(Note: If you DO NOT have a "Fonts" directory in the root of C:, then you have a pre-xbox-live dash and the original fonts are in the root of C: Skip to step 42

41. Rename the Fonts directory to F0nts (that’s a zero not the letter O)

42. Create a new folder called Fonts.

  (Note: If you are modding a 5530 kernel use the generic 6.0 bert font for the next step)

Alright, just backing up the two main programs that needs work to restore the Xbox.

43. Within the new fonts directory copy Bert-<your kernel-version>-01.xtf and Ernie.xft from DIRECTORY X to it.

Ok, first problem. The font pak 6.1 and 7.1 didn't have this file named this way. Obviously, they are looking for a Bert an Ernie combination. However, when looking for a Bert5838-01.xtf file, I kept finding silly things like Bert-and-Ernie-Reloaded, and Bert-is-cheating-on-Ernie, and Bert-on-top-of-Ernie. All these as funny as they are, I am sure are newer variations to the font hack. I tried a couple of these but they ultimately didn't work for me. The usual problem, the documentation failed the program.

Anyway, with some searching through older mod complete packages, I managed to find a "generic" Bert file buried inside the SoftMod Deluxe 1.0 package (not the 1.1 package). So I used this generic bert.xft file and the Ernie.xft file that was in the Softmod Deluxe and that worked fine.

44. Go to DIRECTORY X and move xboxdash.xbe to the C folder of Xbox.

Ok, next problem. This is copying that UpdateXBE version of the Slayers dashboard. I was unable to find either of these programs. However, I did find some stray xboxdash.xbe files (and font files) in the save game file of the Splinter Cell. Yea, strange place but yea, the files I needed were already on the unmodded Xbox, but they were located in the e:\udata\ directories where all the save games are stored. So for kicks, I just took one of those and copied it to the C:\ from e:\...whatever... In all good fortune, they were the files I needed.

45. Back out of C and go to

46. Copy default.xbe from DIRECTORY X into the root of E. --OR-- Copy the contents from DIRECTORY X\MEETOO into the root of E.

Ok, this default.xbe was suppose to come from that NKpatcher thing. But again, I did see a stray default.xbe file in that save game file too. So what the heck, I copied that default.xbe from the e:\udata directories to e:\

47. Extract the Evox files (you should have a skins dir / evox.ini / default.xbe or evoxdash.xbe)

48. If it contains default.xbe simply rename it to evoxdash.xbe.

49. Copy all three of those items right to the root of the C folder.

Ok, they want the Evo-X files installed into the c:\ drive. Well, in the Splinter Cell save game file I got, there was a directory called FILEs, and it had a evox.rar file in it. I just extracted this and FTP'ed the files to the c:\ as listed. I am sure you could have downloaded Evo-X and did the same thing.

Ok. you are done. Press eject to get your Splinter Cell disc out of there and power off the Xbox. Wait 5 seconds. Start it back up again. If it worked right, you will get the Evo-X dashboard. If it didn't you will get a big error screen. If you get the error screen, you will need to boot the Splinter Cell again and do the trick to get FTP access back again. If this hack fails, it will most likely be the fonts and/or the xboxdash.xbe file that needs to swapped out and changed with something else.

So, if it worked, grab out your AutoInstaller Deluxe Disc for the Xbox and start installing your dashboards, media centre, HDDloader and Emulators. Otherwise, you will have to do them one by one using whatever method the programs say to use.

So I only destroyed one Xbox in this learning process, but I can say Stage 3: completed.


This was a great learning experience. I will no doubt add modding with hard drive later on but for now, I am happy with the results.

In the future, maybe I will find something for the PS2 or Game Cube. But for now, Xbox is still the best!!!