Well I’ve been modding my Xbox, and not just for fun either. I bought a Xenium mod chip and installed it in about 30 minutes using the solderless adapter. The kit was $60 from modchipman.com. You don’t need to remove your motherboard, just the DVD and hard drive, which don’t even need to be unplugged. You can just set them aside and leave the connectors alone. I just tore it down for the heck of it.
I would hate to have to install a mod chip using solder. What a mess. the Xbox motherboard has miniscule connect points. I would go blind just trying to focus on one in order to solder it, assuming I could even do that! more likely I’d get solder all over the board and ruin it!! The solderless adapter just screws down at a certain spot on your Xbox mobo, and there’s a little d0 wire that’s springy so it pushes down on the d0 point (I don’t exactly know what this is, but I found it using oxZodus illustrations).
Once screwed in (using an existing mobo mount hole), the Xenium can just be plugged right into the solderless adapter. You can remove it at any time. One real confusing part is figuring out which Xbox version you have. They don’t all work with the same mod chip! It’s nightmarish to a certain degree. If you bought your Xbox before April-04, you are good to go. But Xboxes produced after April-04 are totally, absolutely differnet, redesigned from ground zero, and contain totally different chips! Installin a mod chip on a 1.6 Xbox requires soldering wires…ugh. So, I don’t recommend it. In fact, I would just not even try to mod a newer Xbox at all. Buy a used one for $100! It’s better that way.
Once you have the Xenium installed, firing up your Xbox is a whole new experience. For one thing, this mod chip totally circumvents the Xbox bios. You get a groovy looking Xenium menu instead of the old Xbox boot video. There are 8 bios slots where you can install bins on the Xenium (including the original Xbox bios). Xenium also lets you install a larger hard drive, which can then be used to store all your games internally. Imagine that, playing all your favorite Xbox games without zero boot time! Whoa….
In order to do that, you have to get illegal. That’s the part I don’t like. Mod chips are legal. But the software that lets you really use the mod chip is illegal. Why? Because it was developed using the official XDK (Xbox Development Kit–licensed by MS). EvolutionX was the first dashboard replacement, and is considered the best. But good luck finding it! You can’t download it, because the uber-hackers who wrote it are afraid of Microsoft! There’s a hacker ethic for you…. If it’s not legal, don’t give it to anyone… You can find EvolutionX and other dashboards if you search hard enough. I’d prefer to stay legal and use tools that haven’t been built with the XDK, but there don’t seem to be any….the Xenium OS doesn’t have any features to copy games to the HD.
XOS will transfer all your saves and everything off the old hard drive onto a new hard drive (and will format it for you). Another awesome feature of XOS is the built-in Samba, Telnet, and FTP servers. You can easily transfer files and browse the Xbox hard drive file system from your PC. After that, it’s all a matter of getting software to get the most out of your modchip. It’s really unfortunate that no one has been able to write a custom Xbox dashboard without XDK, then it would be legal. Oh well. I guess EvolutionX is sort of a requirement, legal or not, if you want to use your Xbox for more than just booting retail game discs.
I, for one, really want to use a large hard drive to speed up boot times on my games. It’s too bad I have to use illegal software to do that. However, EvolutionX also lets you play MP3s, MPEGs, and do a lot of other cool stuff. It sort of turns your Xbox into a weird little PC. Yes, you can use a USB keyboard (the Xenium kit comes with a USB adapter), but it’s mainly driven with a controller or the IR remote.
So anyways, this is what I’ve been doing lately, and it’s a lot of fun. I guess EvoX is a necessary evil until OpenXDK becomes more mature and useful, then perhaps EvoX can be compiled legally. Back on the hardware side, I’ve been having a blast tweaking the case, adding controller and jewel lights, installing LEDs here and there. This is especially neat with a see-through case like the Halo special edition green case and the Crystal case (sold only in Europe, available on ebay–be sure to just get the case, not the whole system, as you want to install an NTSC board).