Introduction: Original XBOX Softmodding

In this Instructable I will describe the steps I took in softmodding an original XBOX and setting it up as a media center using XBMC  as the dash.

***** DISCLAIMER ******

I am in no way affiliated with Micro$oft, the Xbox or XBMC or any of the associated trademarks, products or people. I do not, nor have I ever possessed a copy of the XDK or compiled any source code for the Xbox therewith. I am not responsible for any damages to your person or property as a result of following the instructions contained in this Instructable.

Step 1: Tools & Parts

To complete this instructable you will require:

Essential Parts:
An original XBOX
An original XBOX "breakaway" cable
A male-to-female USB cable
USB key
A copy of Splinter Cell

Soldering Iron & solder
Electrical Tape
Wire stripper
Helping hands (not absolutely necessary, but the sure do help)

See step 5.

Gather your tools, the breakway and USB cables and clear a workspace. You might want to set down newspaper or a protective covering as you will be soldering.

I ruined the expensive and terrible USB cable pictured here that I purchased from The Source. I then bought one at the dollar store for a fraction of the cost that ended up being of much better quality. Lesson learned.

Step 2: Prepare the USB Cable

Cut the usb cable. Only the end with the female connector is needed; Set aside the other end for another project. If you're like me I recommend leaving plenty of room for error (I cut the cable in half) in case you need to restrip or recut the wire.

Strip the outer rubber shell of the wire with the wire stripper, leaving as much space as you think you'll need (usually 0.5-1.5 inch but as you can see I left a lot). Carefully strip each individual wire a similar distance from its end. Neaten the ends and remove and extraneous filler (shielding, string, fiber, etc).

Get our your soldering iron and carefully tin each wire, using the helping hands if available / necessary.

Step 3: Prepare the Breakaway Cable

Now we similarly prepare the breakaway cable. 

Cut the breakaway cable between then end and after the sleeve, about 1-2 inches from the end.

Prepare the end of the cable for soldering as was done for the USB cable in Step 2:
Strip the end, leaving 0.5-1 inches. Strip each individual wire, tidy and tin.
The yellow wire is 12v which is used to power the rumble in controllers and is not needed.

Step 4: Connect the Cable Segments

The next step is two join the two cable ends to create a female USB to XBOX cable capable of connecting a USB key to the system.

I believe there is a standard cable colouring system for USB which has red, green, black, and white wires (correct me if I'm wrong). Unfortunately my dollar-store USB cable did not adhere to this convention which made some thinking and the use of a multimeter necessary to determine which wire to connect to which. You may be required to do something similar. Just make sure the wires from each pin of the connector on one end of the cable match up to those corresponding on the other end.

Step 5: Acquire Necessary Software

An FTP client will be needed. I highly recommend Filezilla as it is free, open source and an excellent, mature program.

You will require a certain save file or two for Splinter Cell to proceed. Later in the instructable will also require a build of XBMC which runs on the console. More information can be found on via Google.

Step 6: Format USB Key

Plug a controller and the cable into two controller ports on the XBOX. Plug an empty USB key (preferably a small, cheap one you don't care about) into end of the cable you made. If you've joined the wires correctly the USB key should light up be recognized by the system.

If not, you've either wired the cables incorrectly or haven't established a good enough electrical connection with the soldering. If the former is the case, you've probably toasted your USB key. Either way you'll need to go back and repeat Steps 2-4 after restripping the wires. 

If all has gone well the XBOX will recognize the key as a memory card and state that there is an error. The key will then be reformatted by the system into the FATX format.

Addendum: It's been pointed out to me by several readers who have attempted this that not all USB keys will work. I was fortunate in that the second key I tried was compatible (the first got toasted). A comprehensive list of USB key compatibility and issues by manufacturer and model is maintained at the XBOX Linux project (kudos to them). I used a Sandisk Cruzer 1GB (in photo) and experienced no issues.

Step 7: Transfer Save Game to USB Key

If you are a Windows lackey, you should be able to transfer the files to the USB key using the Action Replay software (again, Google it) and the associated driver. I can't comment on this as I haven't tried it.

If you are comfortable in a real operating system you can download a Xebian LiveCD and boot your computer with that. At the prompt type 24 to load kernel version 2.4 with FATX support. Mount your hard drive (or another usb key containing the save files), and then mount the formatted usb key in FATX using mount with the -t fatx option. Copy the save files to the usb key and unmount it. Make sure you copy the save directories (below UDATA) into the root directory of the key.

Step 8: Transfer to XBOX and Load

Reconnect the USB key to the cable and power on the XBOX. In the dash go to Memory. Select Controller 2 (or whatever port the USB key is plugged into). Select the save game and select copy. The save game will be copied to the hard drive.

Insert the Splinter Cell disc and reset the system. From the menu in Splinter Cell load the save which you have copied to the hard drive.

Step 9: Install Softmod

When the save loads you should get the dash seen in the first photo.

Follow the prompts in the dash - first back up the eeprom, then do a basic install. I installed the UnleashX dashboard, though it doesn't really matter, as later in the Instructable the dash will be set to XBMC.

Step 10: Copy Files and Set XBMC As Dash

If you have not already done so, connect your XBOX to your network's router with a network cable.

Using Filezilla connect to the XBOX (using its IP as the address) with the username and password specified in the new dash (usually found under Network in settings).

Copy XBMC to a suitable folder such as E:\Apps\xbmc.

Follow the instructions from to set XBMC as your dash.

Step 11: Reset and Enjoy!

Reset the XBOX. If all goes well the XBMC dash should load up and you now have a versatile media center at your disposal!

I hope you enjoyed the Instructable and found it useful. As always I welcome your comments.