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Locking a Replacement Hard Disk for the Xbox (v0.3)

Published by -opjose on 2003-05-31
Category: Modchip | Page Views: 8,654


This is the original , manual way to lock your harddrive - xbox software has now been released by Team Assembly called "ConfigMagic that can do this for you automatically.

The OEM Xbox hard drive comes from Microsoft in a locked condition. This is a privacy mechanism which was intended to prevent you or hackers from looking at the contents of the original disk. If you place the OEM drive into a PC, the PC bios will be unable to unlock the drive, and the drive will not enter a ready state that the PC can deal with. It should be also noted that if the drive were to be unlocked the PC would still not understand the drives formatting mechanism so it would still be unable to display its contents. Even imaging programs such as Norton Ghost will fail to read or duplicate the drive.

Why lock (or unlock) the drive?

If you elect to put a new hard drive in your Xbox you MUST first already have a mod-chip in the machine that supports hard drive swapping. The normal bios and first and second generation mod chips were never designed to support drive swapping. The original unmodified bios code for handling the drive is contained on those bios chips. As you will see later, locking a drive requires that the Xbox be first able to utilize an unlocked drive. As a result DO NOT proceed unless you know that your bios/mod chip already supports hard drive swapping. If you have a mod chip and replacement bios which does support the hard drive swap there is no immediate compelling reason to lock the hard drive. Your Xbox will actually operate just fine with the replacement drive. It has also been found that XboxLive works quite well with modified Xboxes, though there are some dashboard issues which I will not cover here. This being the case, why are you still reading? Probably because you are a bit paranoid and believe that you MUST put the Xbox back into it's pristine state to get XboxLive to work. You don't really have to though. You may also have a Matrix type Mod/Bios chip and want to utilize the dual boot function that makes your machine revert back to the original BIOS. You could merely elect to disable this function by setting the chip to “mode 2” that always keeps the flashed bios on.

What does locking accomplish?

Locking the drive permits the Xbox to utilize a replacement drive in the same manner as an OEM drive. During startup, the original 'protected' bios will temporarily unlock the locked drive during the boot (flubber animation) phase and be none the wiser. When the unit is powered off, the drive goes back into its fully locked state. With the original BIOS enabled, any additional space seemingly disappears. As far as the Xbox is concerned it is still running on an original 8 gigabyte hard drive. You do not loose the information contained therein though! This may be a very good thing down the road if the powers that be decide to implement something new. When used in combination with the Evolution-X BIOS releases such as Evo 2.x,ybox or Evo 2.x,evox, locking the drive permits you to quickly switch between a virgin Xbox and a wide open device.

What is ybox?

The normal OEM Xbox BIOS initializes and unlocks the hardware upon startup and then attempts to launch a user interface from the C: partition on the OEM hard drive. This interface is what you see once the Xbox is fully operational. It is the green control panel that comes up if there is no DVD game in the machine after it is turned on. This interface is referred to as the dashboard. The name of the file that contains this program is called "c:/xboxdash.xbe". An XBE file is an Xbox Executable program. The ybox bios has an additional modification in it which causes it to instead look for and use a file called "c:/yboxdash.xbe" instead. If you have one of these bios/mod chips you can then install the Evolution-X dashboard to the hard drive with the name "yboxdash.xbe". So if you have a hardware switch or a Matrix Mod set to enable multi-boot, it is possible to quickly flip between the original protected BIOS and dashboard, or the unprotected bios and the evolution-X dashboard. Cool huh?

A bug in the ointment

However there is that one bug in the ointment, your replacement hard drive! When you boot up the Xbox using the original bios, with a replacement but unlocked drive in place, you will inevitably see the "your Xbox needs servicing" message. This is because the bios attempts to unlock the drive with a UNIQUE code and expects a reply from the drive indicating success. If it does not get the reply the Xbox assumes that something is wrong with the drive, shuts everything down and issues the error message.

The Lock codes

The OEM bios generates the unlock key "on the fly". That is it generates a unique key or password which is dependant upon several things. This password is generated by looking at your Xboxes unique serial number, configuration, revision level and the information obtained from the currently installed hard drive itself. This in turn means that you cannot simply use a password from another drive or Xbox when locking a new drive. Instead you must figure out what the Xbox is going to use as an unlock password for your new replacement drive.Fortunately the Evolution-X hackers gave us a wonderful tool to do this very thing. This tool is built into the Evolution-X dashboards "backup" command. The"backup" command figures out what password the Xbox will use to unlock the currently installed drive. It places the password/key into the C:Backup directory in a file called hddinfo.txt. This is why Evolution-X must be installed and running on the Xbox and drive that you intend to lock first.

What do I need?

Before proceeding be aware that you will need the following.

* A working modified Xbox with a replacement hard drive ALREADY installed.
* The Evolution-X 1.8.2xxx dashboard installed to the Xbox.
(note if you are using 1.8.4xx you are using an old version!)
* A PC that you can open and access the IDE cables. (not all PC's work however!)
* Some floppies
* ATAPWD.EXE (found here)
* HDDUNLOCK.ZIP (found here)
* FlashFXP
* A working network configuration and you should already be able to have your PC talk to the Xbox.
* Tools to open the Xbox and remove and re-insert the drive.
* Berg Jumpers for the Cable/Select Master/Slave configuration.

Locking the drive Start by making sure that you can access the Xbox via your Network. Also be sure that you have a working bootable DVD/CD-RW that you can using to access the Xbox if you make a mistake. If you ever accidentally make a mistake in renaming a file or in the evox.ini file you'll need this disk to recover from problems. You should also have a full backup of the C: & E: partitions

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