Homebrew on an Original XBOX

Modding older generations of video consoles is a great way to maximize their usability in the modern age. I also use collecting and modding older consoles to experience the magic of those systems I missed out on for their original run. When I was growing up I had a Super Nintendo and a Nintendo 64, then high school, college, and full time employment started and I became busy with other things. It wasn’t until I was full into adulthood that I started looking back at the gems I might have missed.

The original Xbox is interesting because it had a relatively short lifespan, only four years until it was superseded by the Xbox 360. It was also different in that it was little more than 2000 era PC with built in controller support. The original Xbox also revolutionized the way we play games online. Because of the Xbox, nowadays almost every game comes with some form of online play. Even though OG Xbox Live has been deactivated for years, people still find a way to play with each other using VPN tunneling applications on the internet.

I bought my Xbox at a thrift store for 10 dollars. While softmodding an Xbox is relatively easy there are still a few additional things you’ll need to purchase before you can finish.

  1. Torx screwdrivers. To open the case, you need t20 size and to remove the hard drive I had to use a t10 as well so it’s best to get one with variable bits.
  2. An Xbox game that you can use to install the homebrew software. I used the original Splinter Cell game since it’s also a pretty good game.
  3. A cable you can use to plug in a USB flash drive into the Xbox. You can make one yourself by taking apart an Xbox controller cable but I found it easier to order one from China for a few bucks.
  4. A very old USB flash drive. Think something smaller than 2GB. I had a 256MB one lying around which was the first USB drive I ever had and it worked fine. Generally anything old will work as long as it’s not too fancy.
  5. (optional) A molex power cable splitter and an IDE hard drive. It’s simple enough to upgrade the internal hard drive to a bigger one if you have a spare compatible hard drive. However, not all hard drives will work. Also keep in mind Partitions can’t be larger than 137GB so if you have a 500GB hard drive it will need to be split up.

You can find tutorials easily on the internet and there are multiple ways to go about it. This article is just a reflection on my experience after doing it successfully within a couple hours. The process reminds me of softmodding a PS2 in that you need an actual game disk to get it to work. Although the end result is much more polished than the PS2 homebrew scene. Through the network you can easily FTP files onto the Xbox and the new expanded hard drive. Apps are installed by copying the files into an apps fold and games into a games folder. The whole thing is simple and intuitive. You can rip games from DVDs and play them easily without swapping discs around. I tried playing a couple games off the hard drive and performance was good.

There’s many good games for the original Xbox I plan on playing. And there’s many more things a modded Xbox can do that I don’t have time to go over here. If you can get your hands on one for cheap I definitely recommend you give it a go. For $10 and some change I’ve definitely got a cool (big) machine that I should be able to get hours and hours of entertainment out of. Just because it’s 1/50th the cost of a new Xbox One doesn’t mean it’s 1/50th the fun.