Softmodding the Original XBox with an Android Phone or Tablet

In this guide I'll be showing you how to softmod an original xbox using an android device. For this you will need:



  1. Original XBox console (not the 360 or the One, must be original)

  2. Rooted Android device

  3. Xbox Controller to PC USB Adapter Cable

WARNING: Don't plug your android into the XBox until you have the drivedroid app running and serving a file. It's possible (not likely, but possible) the XBox could format your android, bricking it in the process if you just plug it into the XBox. This is because the XBox (Thanks, Microsoft, for being Microsoft.) will format a memory card WITHOUT WARNING if you plug it into it and it has anything on it other than game save files. It will format it first, and THEN tell you your memory card has been erased AFTER THE FACT. If the XBox determines the memory card is not compatible it will just tell you the memory card might be damaged. (If this happens, fear not, it's not really damaged, it's just incompatible.)


  1. On your android device you will need to install an app called drivedroid. This is a free app. There is a paid version you can get with some extra features, but you won't need them. The app does require your android to be rooted. Essentially, what the app does is it takes over the device's USB port and serves a file via USB to emulate a USB flash drive. The computer or, in this case, XBox, will see the android as a USB flash drive. Actually, the XBox will see it as a compatible memory unit of 16MB.

  2. This file: xbox-ntsc.img or this one: xbox-pal.img, both of which are in the compressed archive: gamesaves.7z, depending on whether you have the NTSC or PAL XBox and games. Actually, I believe some of the exploits work on either NTSC or PAL, but a couple of them require specific versions of the exploit, so I divided them into 2 separate files for you. Both of the files contain all the game saves for all 4 games listed below. You might need 7-zip free program to extract the .7z files.

  3. Original XBox game disc of one of the following titles:

    1. 007: Agent Under Fire

    2. Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell

    3. Mech Assault

    4. Tony Hawk Speed Skating 4

    Note: Try to find the original (not Platinum Hits) versions if you can. I believe all of the original editions will work whereas some of the Platinum Hits versions might or might not work. I used 007: Agent Under Fire. On that particular game there is a serial number printed on the disc itself. It's about 8 digits and ends with 07, 17, or 27. The 07 (original) and the 17 (Platinum Hits) will work, but the 27 (Platinum Hits) will not work.

Basic Softmod Process

In a nutshell, you will copy the appropriate file (NTSC or PAL) over to your phone, install the drivedroid app, and use it to serve the disk image file. Plug the android into the XBox, copy the game save exploit over to the XBox's hard disk. After that, you startup the game, and load the game save exploit using the load game option inside the game. The setup (credit to Rocky5 for putting it together) is straight forward, just follow the prompts.

Detailed Softmod Process

First step is to download the appropriate .IMG file above and put it on your android. Once you've installed drivedroid (and granted it root permission) tap the + button in drivedroid, navigate to your IMG file and tap it to begin serving it. You might need to go through drivedroid's settings and tell it to use the folder you stored the IMG file in, e.g. /sdcard/downloads. You will have 3 options once you click the IMG file, USB read/write, USB read only, and CDROM. Either of the USB options should work, but by selecting read only you might be able to prevent the XBox from formatting the IMG file should it have a mind to.

If all goes well you should now be ready to plug your phone/tablet into the USB adapter in one of the XBox's front panel controller ports. With luck, the XBox will recognize the device as a compatible memory unit with a few game saves on it. You will need to copy the game saves over to the console because I don't think any of the exploits will work directly from the memory unit. You might need to delete any game saves you already have on the XBox for the particular game you wish to use as an exploit. If you want to save those game saves one way to do it would be to make a copy of the IMG file you downloaded from me here, serve that file with drivedroid, delete the game saves off it from the XBox's dashboard, and then copy the game saves you wish to preserve over to that backup IMG file.

One problem you might run into is copying the game saves over to your console from the memory unit. Microsoft's interface leaves something to be desired when it comes to ease of use. You have to select the memory unit, then select the game, then use the right arrow on the d-pad to move over to the selected game save. Otherwise, the only option you will see is to delete the game save.

At this point you should have successfully copied the game save exploit over to the XBox console's hard disk. The next step is to put your game disc into the dvd-rom and start up your game. Each exploit works slightly different. With the 007:AUF game save you have to first begin playing a game before loading a game save. Otherwise you will probably end up staring at a blank screen wondering what you did wrong. First, select a new mission, then skip through the cut scenes, and get to the point where you are standing on the helipad ready to use the decrypter to get inside the building. Press START to exit that game, then B again to exit to the main screen, and now select Load Mission. I don't think playing a game first is required with the other games, but it won't hurt to do it just in case.

Installing the softmod is as simple as following the onscreen prompts the rest of the way. Once installed dig around through the menus and familiarize yourself with the available options. Find the network options and make sure you're set for DHCP. You'll also want to select the Start FTP option. I suggest you set the AUTO RENAME option to YES when you find it. If you ever try to upload a file with an invalid or too long filename, this will automatically rename it for XBox compatibility. Otherwise you would get a failed transfer in your FTP application. When you connect your XBox to your router with an ethernet cable you'll be able to FTP files to and fro to your heart's content. I recommend FileZilla as a good open source free FTP application, but there are plenty of them that will work very well for this purpose. You can also FTP directly from your android over your WiFi using AndFTP.

Upgrading your Hard Drive

You might find you will want a bigger hard drive now that you can use it for things other than just game saves. The one that comes with the XBox is usually either 8GB or 10GB. In this section I'll show you how to upgrade it. Unfortunately, it's not as simple as just swapping it out with a larger one. You'll need to clone the original one to the new one, and for that you'll need another file: Download Chimp and extract it. Then FTP the chimp2618 folder and all of its contents over to the E:\apps folder. It should look like E:\apps\Chimp2618 when you're finished. Also, copy the linuxboot.cfg file over to E:\ (putting it in the root directory of drive E:\). It's critical that you put the Chimp2618 folder in exactly the right place in order for it to work.

To execute Chimp you need to navigate using the File Explorer you found while digging around the menu options to E:\apps\Chimp2618\ folder and select the default.xbe file. This will bring you to a boot screen where you can select the DVD (which would boot linux from the DVD if you have a compatible burned boot disc in it), FatX (the one you want), and a couple network boot options we won't cover here. Selecting FatX will boot you into the LPARTX utility where you can clone the drive. Take the cover off the XBox (6 screws on the bottom beneath the rubber feet and labels, google for more details). The XBox requires that you boot with the DVD-ROM attached (or else you get a message saying the unit needs service), so you have to boot into the modded dashboard (UnleashX) first, before you can disconnect the DVD-ROM and temporarily attach the new hard drive using the DVD-ROM's PATA/IDE cable. You will also need another means to power the new drive, such as a Link Depot 4 Pin Molex Y Cable Adapter Single to Dual - NEW - because the (thanks, Microsoft) DVD-ROM's power cable is proprietary and won't fit the new hard drive. I believe it's possible to use a SATA drive, but you would need a sata to ide adapter. I put a 30GB IDE drive I had in a box in the closet that I had acquired somewhere along the way, don't remember where or when. You'll want to save the original drive so you can do this again should the new drive ever fail or should the softmod become broken at some point due to filesystem corruption. Your original drive will be the ticket to getting your XBox up and running again, so hang on to it.

At this point, you are in the UnleashX dashboard with the cover off the XBox. Don't boot into Chimp just yet. Go ahead and hotswap the new drive as a slave (don't forget to move the jumper to the slave position on the new drive, should be a diagram on the drive label showing the proper configuration). Leave the DVD-ROM powered up, but disconnected from the data cable. The new drive will be connected into that cable as a slave. Now boot into Chimp as discussed above. Select the option to scan the IDE drives, and make sure your new drive shows up (scroll down to see it) as the slave. If it's not showing up you might have the slave jumper wrong or you might need to remove the cable select jumper or the new drive might not be compatible. Sometimes 2 IDE drives are just not compatible with each other, and sometimes you can set one as the master and they'll work together, but in this case you really need to keep the original drive as master for now because Chimp has no option to clone from slave to master. If the scan isn't finding the new drive, hook the DVD-ROM back and try booting again.

At this point, you have a compatible IDE drive connected as the slave and the scan physical IDE devices option finds and identifies both drives. Select Clone Master to Slave. You might need to hook up a USB keyboard if you want to change the default options, but I believe the defaults should work for you. You'll want to clone drives C and E. Don't worry about F and G for now, we can come back and format them later, if necessary, using the Format extended partitions (F and G are extended partitions) of the Master drive. After the cloning process is complete (I recommend using the slower method with the process indicator) the last step is to lock the slave drive. If it's not locked I don't think the XBox will boot. Just use the motherboard as the EEPROM source when you lock it. DO NOT play around with locking and unlocking the drives. I read somewhere some drives can only be locked and unlocked a limited number of times. Not sure if that's true or not, but no point in risking it. The slave is the only one you need to lock. The other drive will automatically lock itself on power off, as will the slave from now on, presuming it's compatible with locking.

My understanding is the F: drive can only be a maximum of 137GB (or maybe it's the entire drive that can be 137GB). If you have a bigger drive you can put the remaining free space on the G: drive. I have a 160GB drive I was thinking of putting in the XBox, but it has some backups of my notebook computer on it. If you do use F and G you'll want to dig through the system and settings menus to find an option for using F and using G partitions. I think the default is on for F and off for G. You might or might not also need to go back into Chimp and format those extended partitions. When I was doing mine my original 10GB drive had some hardware failure issues reading certain blocks. The cloning would stall out on drive E: about 67% of the way through. The drive would make a horrible clicking noise, leading me to conclude it was a hardware error. Anyway, I went ahead and did the swap and everything seems to be working just fine, so evidently the defective block wasn't holding part of any important files.

Benefits of Softmodding

Why bother with a softmod? There are a number of legitimate (and a few illegitimate) reasons you might want to do it. For one, it's kind of fun to unleash the full capabilities of a piece of equipment. The stock dashboard is so limited in what it can do compared to UnleashX. For example, you can play around with putting linux on the XBox. You can install emulators and play some of those old games from back in the day if you're in the mood for a nostalgia kick. More importantly, you can backup your original DVD discs and play your games directly from the hard drive. This saves wear and tear on both the original game discs and on the DVD-ROM itself. A big failure point on these old XBoxes is that DVD-ROM, in particular, the laser reader module. The less you use that laser the longer it's likely to last. And, of course, if you have kids playing on it they're very likely to lose / break the game discs, some of which you might have spent $60+ for when you originally bought them. On the subject of discs, when buying a used game be sure to check it carefully for scratches. The ones on the bottom don't matter as much as the ones on the label, counterintuitive as this might be. It's the underside of the lable where the actual content is stored. Take a bright flashlight or hold it up to a bright light source (not the sun, we don't want to damage our eyes) and look for holes in the label.

Random Musings

Clock Capacitor (not applicable to 1.6 systems)

Another failure point (aside from that DVD-ROM) commonly (universally, actually) found on many of these old XBoxes is damage to the system board caused by leakage from a capacitor on the board. The clock capacitor will almost always be leaking. There are videos on youtube that detail this issue. Once you have the softmod installed it will tell you the version of your XBox, which will be somewhere between 1.1 and 1.6. The 1.6 models don't have this problem, but the earlier ones do. Some of the symptoms of damage to the board include Xboxes that won't come on or turn off via the power button, but will come on with the eject button. Mine has this issue. Another symptom is the XBox will decide to turn off all on its own while you're in the middle of a game. If yours is exhibiting these symptoms you will need to disassemble, remove the offending capacitor (no real need to replace it, IMO, just break it off and toss it), and clean the motherboard. I used white distilled vinegar on a cotton swab. You could also use water on a cotton swab. The traces (little wire runs printed on the system board) can be repaired by using a wire as a bypass and soldering to points on the system board, not for the faint of heart because too much heat can end up causing more damage than you already have, but if it's not working as it is... Don't forget to take the system board all the way out and get at the bottom side, too. Chances are, the leakage has made its way to the bottom, and in fact that's really where the thin traces are that are suceptible to this type of damage. If you don't get it all out it's gonna come back to haunt you later on. Take a close look at the traces with a magnifying glass. Some minor damage might be fixable with an Electric Paint Pen. I haven't tried that product, but it looks interesting. Can't hurt, might work. If you're going to try something like that, you will need to carefully (repeat, carefully) scratch off the protective coating with a hobby knife. Acetone might work, too. The important thing is to get down to the bare copper.
There are also some DIY instructions to make your own conductive paint online. The one I saw used Elmer's white glue and ground up graphite (such as from the brushes from an electric motor). I've got my doubts on whether this repair would work, but soldering on the board can be risky, particularly if you don't have a lot of experience soldering on electronic circuit boards. If it doesn't work you can always try the soldering as a plan B. (UPDATE: I repaired mine by soldering a jumper wire to bypass the damaged trace. It worked, but it was tricky soldering because there's so little room between the traces. Luckily, my damage was limited to the outermost wire trace at the bottom. The key to successful soldering is to use a little bit of flux, which will encourage the solder to stick to the copper. Now I have a useable power button and [fingers crossed] it hasn't spontaneously shut down on me while playing yet.)

FTP with FileZilla

Once you get the softmod installed you'll want to be able to FTP files to the XBox. The FTP application I like to use is FileZilla. Here's how you would go about configuring FileZilla to work with your XBox. You can easily find the IP of your XBox on the dashboard in UnleashX. It will typically be something like 192.168.0.x or maybe 192.168.1.x, where x may vary from 0 to 255. In my case the router assigns as my XBox's IP address on the local area network. The default username is xbox and the default password is xbox. The default port is 21. In FileZilla you would go into the Site Manager (CTRL + S) and create a new connection. For host you would enter the IP (e.g., 21 for the port (or just leave it blank), choose normal for the logon type, username xbox, password xbox. After that, go into the advanced tab and ensure you're only allowing 1 connection at a time to the server. The XBox can't handle too many simultaneous connections, which FileZilla might otherwise try to do in order to speed up the transfer process. I recommend you keep a backup of the entire contents of at least drives C and E, so they can be restored in the event you ever need to. You can backup F: and G:, if you use them. You will typically leave C: alone, and just put applications on E:. F: and G: would be where you store the larger files and folders, such as game backups, emulator ROM's, etc.


The hard disk has to be locked to the system board in order for the XBox to boot. That's why you can't just swap out hard disks without cloning them. The key (a long hexadecimal number) is contained in the EEPROM chip. Should the hard drive fail you would need that key in order to have any hope of rebuilding a new drive from scratch. There is software to do just that, but it was designed for older computers with the old IDE/PATA hard drive interfaces. These days all modern computers will come with SATA interfaces, which the old software will not work with. But even if you have an old computer it won't do you any good unless you also have that password key. Luckily, now that you have the XBox softmodded it's easy to acquire that key, it's contained in a file called EEPROM.BIN. Look for that file and make sure you have it backed up somewhere safe should you ever need it. Otherwise, you would need to resort to doing something like hooking up an EEPROM reader to the system board to try to get at that key. You should be able to find the file in E:\dashboard\backup\eeprom.bin. You would use a program called ndure to create a bootable disc image using the contents of another file called XBHDM (XBox Hard Drive Manager) and your own eeprom.bin file. You would then burn the ISO ndure creates to an optical disc, boot from it in one of those old computers, and use it to rebuild from scratch a new drive for your xbox. Cloning a new drive with the XBox is a much simpler and easier way, read on.

Keep the Original Drive

The softmod exists entirely in the form of files on the hard drive. I don't know if it's recoverable if the new dashboard becomes corrupted, such as a power outage during the middle of writing some change to it. If UnleashX won't boot, and neither will the original MS dash, there's no way to get into the system to re-install the softmod. And it's not like you can just pull the drive, hook it to your computer, and run chkdsk on it. It's another reason to clone to a bigger hard drive and keep the original in storage as a backup. You can always put the original back in and clone again using Chimp if all else fails. Also, see my paragraph below on Linux on the XBox. It might be possible to boot into Linux (even if you need to do it from the original drive with the new drive connected via the DVD-ROM's cable) and correct the issues from there by deleting and recopying the affected files without doing a re-clone. The new drive (remember to set its jumper to slave) would probably be identified as /dev/hdb, perhaps /dev/hdb1, /dev/hdb2, etc., or perhaps /dev/hdb50 through /dev/hdb55. I'm not sure, but most likely it would be /dev/hdb. You could try running fsck on it, but I don't know if fsck will recognize and know how to deal with fatx filesystems or not. Worth a shot if the partition is already corrupt. If it doesn't work you can always do the re-clone.


It's a good idea to create a folder on your computer to store your XBox's current contents. You can set FileZilla to automatically open that folder when you connect to the XBox. If you have an extensive collection of game discs, obviously you might not want to include those backups on your computer because of all the space they will use, but the contents of C: and E: are fairly small, relatively speaking. As a general rule you will want to leave the C: drive alone, and the E: drive should only be for apps, like Chimp, Linux, and emulators. F: and G: will be where you would put the game backups and ROM's for the emulators. There are also X:, Y:, and Z: drives, but you don't want to put anything on those drives, which are used by the system for caching during game play and application execution. The XBox only has 64MB of RAM, so my guess would be those partitions are being used for page swapping, virtual memory more or less.

Most Microsoft Thing Ever?

Microsoft made a great product with the XBox. From a hardware standpoint the only issue I really have is with the leaky clock capacitor. But some of the executive decisions leave you scratching your head. I already mentioned the really bad user interface when it comes to copying the game saves to and from the XBox and Memory Unit. If you don't manually select the first entry (even if it's the only entry) by using the right arrow button on the D-Pad your only option is to delete the game save, no option to copy it. But that's not even a candidate for my MMTE award. In the blue corner, weighing in at 800 lbs. is the decision to require customers to buy an extra device (remote control and infrared receiver) in order to be able to watch DVD movies on the XBox. MS could have simply allowed customers to use the game controller as there were plenty enough buttons on it for basic PLAY, PAUSE, STOP, REW, FF, etc. functions. Had they just made the remote control kit an additional option that would have been fine, but NOOO, they had to force customers to buy the remote. (By the way, there's a movie player application for the modded XBox that will let you play DVD movies using the game controller, should you fancy doing that.) In the red corner, weighing in at 1,000 lbs. is the decision to name their 3rd generation XBox the "XBox One". Why in the world would you name your 3rd generation device the "One". To me, that has to be the most Microsoft thing ever. Are they trying to confuse their customer base? Thanks to this decision we can't refer to the XBox Original as simply the XBox 1 because of the ambiguity. Instead, we have to use 3 whole extra syllables. I get why they named the 2nd generation device the 360, that was good marketing, but with all the possible names they could have come up with for the 3rd generation device they would choose the word "one".

Legal Gray Areas

I'm not a lawyer and cannot give legal advice, but I don't believe anything about softmodding your XBox is illegal. You own the hardware and can do whatever you want to do to it and run whatever you want to run on it. Backing up your games is perfectly legal. Where you get into the legal gray areas is when you start sharing those game backups with others, who do not legally own the original game discs or if you download game ISO's for games that you do not own. With emulators, the emulator program itself is free, but the ROM's would work the same way as the game ISO's. If you download ROM's for games that you never bought you're getting back into that legal gray area again. The ROM's from old games that are no longer in production could be considered abandonware, so who's to complain? Chances are, the only ROM's you would be interested in are the ones that you played growing up, which would be the games you bought, otherwise there's no nostalgia for playing a game you never played before. For example, I remember paying $40 back in the 80's for an Atari game (Defender), so I have no qualms downloading the Defender ROM and playing it on an Atari emulator on my XBox. Ditto for games like Pacman, Adventure, Space Invaders, and Yar's Revenge, just to name a few, all of which I bought and paid for with hard-earned (even if my daddy was the one who did the hard-earning on some of them) money.

Tray not Opening

This is a very common issue with these old XBoxes. The DVD-ROM tray will not open. Luckily, this is also a very easy thing to fix. If you're browsing for old XBoxes on eBay and they say the tray won't open, it's probably one that can be repaired. There are videos on youtube (one of the greatest resources on the internet) showing you how to do the repair, but you really don't need a video to do it. Just open up the DVD-ROM and replace the little black belt, actually just a rubber band will do as a replacement. You can also just try cleaning the belt, even if it doesn't appear dirty. Wash it with soap and water, dry it off, and put it back on. Chances are that's all you really need to do to it, but if it has become old and stiff or stretched out you might need to replace it. Get a bag of assorted sized rubber bands and choose one that's way too small. It should be able to stretch over and pulleys and get the job done (at least for a little while). I think you can also buy the actual replacement belts by the bag full on eBay. You might be able to find an o-ring of suitable size down at the local hardware store, too.

Laser Module Issues

Another issue common with these old XBoxes is the DVD-ROM can no longer read discs. Tray not opening, clock capacitor leakage damage, and laser module burnout are the 3 most commonly found issues with these old XBoxes. The laser module in the DVD-ROM can be replaced, but it's a job to do it and they're not easily found. You can replace the entire drive, but only with DVD-ROM's that were designed and built exclusively for the XBox. I already mentioned the proprietary power connector, but this would be easily circumvented with a Y-splitter to borrow power from the hard drive (if that were the only reason, which it's not). But the good news is you can replace the DVD-ROM with any of the brands/models of DVD-ROM's that were built for the original XBox. For example, if you originally have the Samsung model, it can be replaced with the Thompson model. I think there were 3 or 4 models, not sure exactly. Mine has the Samsung drive. It is flakey when it comes to reading discs, sometimes it works, sometimes not. I cleaned the lense with some rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab, added some more lube to the guide rails and worm gear, and adjusted the 2 pot screws (youtube has a video or three on this). These things helped, and now it works more often than not whereas originally it was way more likely to not work than work. This is another reason to do the softmod. That laser module is going to give up the ghost at some point. Softmod, upgrade the hard drive, and copy your game discs to the hard drive. It will save wear and tear on the laser module by playing them off the hard drive, and serve as insurance for when it does finally fail.


You can find plenty of these old XBoxes for sale on eBay. You can buy one with a bad DVD-ROM and still softmod it by temporarily borrowing your working DVD-ROM to do the softmod. As long as the XBox can find the DVD-ROM and verify it's existence it really doesn't matter if it actually works or not because you can get all the files onto the XBox via FTP once the softmod is done. But if it has a bad hard disk you probably will want to pass. The only way to build a new hard drive for it is if you have the password key (contained in that EEPROM.BIN file), which is inaccessible unless you can hook an EEPROM reader to the system board and somehow read it. This is possible and there are guides out there on doing it, but it's not the kind of trouble I'm personally going to go out looking for. Sometimes you can find them bundled with a lot of games and extra controllers. These extras, like the power wire, video cables, game discs, and controllers can really add up if you have to buy them separately, so it might be worth a few extra dollars to just buy a complete system. The extras could come in handy down the road if you come across a console for sale by itself. Beware of the shipping costs and factor that in, too. One eBay tip, check buy it now items sorted by most recently listed. If there's a good deal that has been listed within the last hour or so, you might be the first to see it and be able to jump on it.

Installing Applications

The typical way to install an XBox application is to just copy the entire folder (after extracting it if you got it as a .zip or .rar) over to the E: drive. You can put it in the E:\apps folder, but this is not strictly necessary (except for Chimp and perhaps a few others). I would suggest just staying away from C: altogether unless you have a special reason. (If you delete the wrong file on C: you could end up with a non-functional XBox with no way to get into it to fix it.) E:, F:, and G: are the partitions you will be using for your purposes, for the most part. Don't put anything on X:, Y:, or Z: as these are for system use. Open the folder with the file explorer and look for .xbe files (XBox Executable, I suppose). Default.xbe is a typical name, but it could be something else. If you see multiple .xbe files and one of them is default.xbe, try that one first. If your system hangs or if you can't find any other way to exit out of an application you can often hold both triggers while simultaneously pressing Back and Start to reboot UnleashX and get back to the main menu.

Hardmods are better than softmods?

Not really. In the old days some of the hacks used involved the audio system or the kernel fonts, some of which could brick the XBox if they depended on the particular dashboard version in use and that dashboard got updated, such as by opening the Live menu in some newer games, which would automatically update the dashboard. At this point, there will be no more additional dashboard updates forthcoming, and the game exploit softmods work by bypassing the original dashboard anyway.

Copying Files via USB

You don't have to use FTP to get your files onto your XBox. You can also just copy them from a USB device, such as a flash drive, which will appear as a drive P: (or maybe sometimes as drive L:) in the file explorer. Sometimes a particular USB device might be incompatible with the UnleashX file explorer, but will work under linux. If you can find a compatible USB flash drive it might be possible to play games directly off the USB drive, thereby reducing the need to upgrade the original hard drive. You might (maybe) even be able to get a USB DVD-ROM to work, which would be a more reliable means of reading burned discs than the original DVD-ROM in the XBox. But don't get your hopes up on that score. Also, another thing I've noticed is copying files via USB is S-L-O-W. Could be those are USB 1.1 ports, not 2.0, but I'm not positive on that one.

Linux on the XBox

If you want to experiment with Linux on the XBox, here's a file to get you started: XDSL_and_Chimp2618.7z You'll need 7-zip to extract the files. The reason I bundled Chimp and XDSL together is because they'll be sharing the same linuxboot.cfg file. Extract the file and copy it to your E:\ folder. You should have


in your E:\folder. This will give you the option of either booting into Chimp or XDSL after selecting FatX in the boot options menu. You can get to this boot menu via the LPARTX option in the Applications main menu, or one of the default.xbe files in either KNOPPIX or Chimp2618 folders.

XDSL is the Xbox version of Damn Small Linux, which evidently is no longer under development (last update was 2012 for DSL, probably a few years earlier than that for XDSL). I've included a README file with instructions, but I will repeat them here.

Choose one of the XDSL options, such as XDSL 640x480. This should boot you into Joe's Window Manager (JWM). You might want to attach a USB keyboard to make typing easier, but there is an onscreen keyboard app that you can control with your game controller. But, of course, if you only have one USB adapter and you have to choose between the keyboard and the flash drive, you'll have to choose the flash drive. The USB adapter might work with a USB hub, but I don't know. It probably will, I just haven't tried it. Open the terminal application by selecting the Term tab at the bottom of the screen in JWM.

sudo su (to become super-user with root privileges)
mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/sda1 (presumes your USB drive was recognized as /dev/sda1)
mount -t fatx /dev/hda55 /mnt/hda55 (mounts drive F: if you have a drive F: to mount)
emelfm /mnt/sda1 /mnt/hda55 (opens emel file manager with both window panes populated with the USB drive and F:)

One thing I don't like about emel file manager is it doesn't show progress updates when copying files, so you might be left wondering if it's finished of if it's still working or if it ever started at all. Using the command line might be better for larger transfers:

cp -Rv /mnt/sda1/myroms/* /mnt/hda55/myroms/ (would copy the files from USB:/myroms/ to f:/myroms/ while giving verbose updates.)

If you get an error saying the mount point doesn't exist you just need to make a directory in /mnt for the appropriate mount point. Example: mkdir /mnt/hda55, then try the mount command line again. Note the -t fatx option is only necessary when mounting a drive (such as the XBox hard drive) that contains the fatx filesystem. Mount should be able to recognize your USB drive's filesystem no matter what type it is, such as FAT32, NTFS, etc. I don't think it will recognize ext4 because that filesystem came out after this kernel version.

I'm not sure there are any speed advantages in copying from USB versus FTP, but it seems like it ought to be faster. I did a test copy of a file that was about 143MB, and it seemed to me it took longer to do the copy than it should have. Your mileage may vary. In my limited experience it seems like it's much faster to use FTP, but if that's not an option for you, slow USB is better than nothing.

XDSL comes with firefox web browser installed, and it actually works. You can browse the web on your old XBox. But be advised the firefox version is way out of date and NOT SECURE, so don't enter any passwords or do any online banking with it, or any of that kind of stuff. There is another version of linux called Xebian out there you might want to try. It's based on Debian, hence the name. Since Ubuntu is also based on Debian, anything that works on Ubuntu might (or might not) also work on Xebian. Might be possible to use apt-get to update installed packages if you can get Xebian and apt working. I've filed that into the not-worth-the-effort folder. There's really no reason to actually use the XBox for anything other than playing games, IMO.

Don't get Triggered

I didn't get triggered by it, but UnleashX's file explorer tool did have me scratching my head for a little while trying to figure out the copy command. (Press start, or CTRL+Enter with a keyboard, will bring up a context menu, from which copy is an option for the selected file or directory.) Turns out if you press the right trigger it selects the right window pane, while pressing the left trigger puts you back in the left window pane. It makes copying and moving files and folders a snap.

Here's another trigger tip for you. If you're in an app (such as file explorer or text editor or an emulator or whatever) you can *usually* get back to the man UnleashX menu by pressing both triggers and start and back all at the same time. It's also a good way to force a refresh of the main menu if you've recently added new folders, games, apps, etc.


I've read somewhere some XBoxes come with Pentium III's while others (including mine) come with Celeron's. I don't think there's much difference. One difference is the Celeron's all maxed out at 66 Mhz front side bus speeds whereas some of the PIII's could do 100 or 133. I think the PIII might also have better internal cache memory, though both are limited to 128K, if memory serves. Bottom line, if you have a PIII you *might* get a little better performance out of it.

Final Thoughts

These old XBoxes are still useful and can be fun to tinker about with. The graphics on the newer systems will blow away the capabilities on these old boxes, goes without saying, but in their own right they were actually quite decent, especially in their day. It's really a shame the way Microsoft limited their capabilities, but I understand why they did it -- profits. You can unleash the full power of these old boxes with a softmod. Put an emulator on it and experience the nostalgia and/or introduce your kids to the old games you played growing up. Who knows, you might even be able to find a game you can actually beat them at, for a while anyway.

I can be reached at MWGANSON AT HOTMAIL.COM. Put XBox in your subject line. I welcome all comments/suggestions/flames.

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