post music: maritumix - Datatized World

Okay, so a while back I picked up an original Xbox. I never had an Xbox before; I had a PS2 instead that I picked up off a guy for five dollars and it came with WWE SmackDown vs RAW 2006 and Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition Remix, the latter will become important later. Now, I still have my PS2 even after I phased it out in favour of my PS3, but I still had fleeting interests in the Xbox. Specifically, I wanted to hack one. Thus, I picked one up on eBay for a smooth $150 and it came with a few games. No controller, though, but that was fine I picked up an official Controller S that arrived before the console. The console also already had the notorious clock capacitor removed so I didn't have to worry about that.

Now, there are a few documented ways to hack an Xbox, both hard- and soft-modded. I was not too familiar with the chip scene, and I also didn't feel like shelling out more than what I paid for the console to chip it, so softmod it is. There are two ways to go about softmodding an Xbox from stock: save file exploit, or hotswap the HDD. Save exploit is difficult, because you need both the exploitable game and a way to get the save onto the Xbox. There is a hardware mod that replaces the second memory card slot on a controller with a USB port, but I didn't feel like modifying my OEM to do that. Sans hardware modifications, the only way is to have the exploit save on a memory card already. There is a exploit train on Reddit sending exploited saves and games around to mod consoles, but the line is long, and probably isn't worth my time or money. So, HDD hotswap it is.

What is the hotswap? The Xbox locks the HDD with an access key; this key is stored in the EEPROM on the motherboard, tying that exact HDD to that exact motherboard. Meaning that if the HDD dies, your Xbox is kaput unless you chip it-- softmodding is no longer possible. Hotswapping the HDD involves waiting for the Xbox to unlock the disk and then removing the IDE cable while the disk is still powered and connecting the disk to a computer with the disk unlocked and dropping a softmodded dashboard onto it. Of course, you need a PC with an IDE controller and connections. I took a long look around the lab to find a machine that qualified (and worked) and after looking up and down I settled on the best candidate.... the PowerEdge 2950-- OH BOY IT'S POWEREDGE CRUSADE V TI-



Traditionally, the hotswap softmod is accomplished with an old Linux-based tool called XboxHDM; however, it is antiquated and very picky about hardware. I would try this with XboxHDM and have no success. Fortunately, I found something far better. FATXplorer is a Windows-based tool for navigating an Xbox's drive as if it was a native drive. I would try that as well for a bit and it didn't work the first few times. By this point I've just about almost given up and reconsidered the save exploit method, but then it hit me. Whenever I tried to swap, I always did it with the PE off. So I tried one more thing. I powered on the PE with the locked drive connected. After Windows booted, I hotswapped the locked drive to the Xbox, powered it up, waited for the unlock, and then hotswapped the drive back to the PE.

This worked. First try. I was able to drop UnleashX onto the Xbox HDD and it launched up first try. From there I completed the softmod by sidegrading to Rocky5's, dumping the EEPROM, and then doing an HDD image and swap to a larger drive. Mod. Complete.

There was one reason why I bothered going through this. On Xbox, Midnight Club 3 allows you to use the music on your drive (ripped from CDs or FTP'd up through homebrew tools) as custom music in game. That's it. That's the whole reason. Well, that and it plays in HD on Xbox. It doesn't on PS2, even with component cables. So now I can play the definitive version of MC3 with my own soundtrack. Neat.