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Adding a modchip

First, I bought a faulty Xbox on eBay for €75 (about $88 USD) including postage. The description said that it wouldn't boot, however I knew that this wouldn't be a problem as I would be installing Linux. When I received the box and powered it up, the Xbox logo would display for some time and then it would come up with an Error Code 09 and would FRAG (the LED on the front Flashes Red And Green).

The Xbox has a BIOS just like a PC, however it is write protected. So in order to install Linux you must use a special BIOS - we will be using Cromwell. There is a way to overwrite the MS BIOS using a hack known as a 'soft mod', however I decided to buy a modchip and install the BIOS instead.

I purchased the Duox-2 modchip (Figure 1) for about €15 / $18 USD mainly because it was cheap, but also because it has two BIOSes on it. So if you ruin one of them you can use the other to repair the faulty one.

DuoX 2 Xbox Modchip

Figure 1: DuoX 2 Xbox Modchip

It also works with all versions of the Xbox (1.0, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4 & 1.6, mine is a 1.1). Note that the 'DuoX-2 Cromwell Edition' comes with the Cromwell BIOS pre-flashed on one of the chips.

With the modchip in hand, the first thing we need to do is take the top of the Xbox. This page has an excellent description.

Once the top is off, remove the motherboard, then install the chip as per the instructions here (make sure you get the correct version for your box). Note that I found it easier to install the D0 cable to the alternative solder point on the back of the motherboard. Once the modchip is installed correctly, it should look something like the photo in Figure 2:

The DuoX 2 installed

Figure 2: The DuoX 2 installed
(click image to enlarge)

Make sure that you put the switch on the modchip to position 0 so that it boots from the Cromwell BIOS. When you now apply power to the Xbox you should be now be presented with this screen:

Cromwell boot screen

Figure 3: Cromwell boot screen

If the Xbox tries to boot normally, or the LED doesn't blink, then you have not soldered the pin header properly. It took me 4 or 5 attempts before I eventually got it to work, so don't be too disheartened if it doesn't work straight away!

There are some optional tasks you might want to consider while you have top off:

  1. Replace the thermal compound between the CPU and its heat sink. The regular stuff is like chewing gum and is terrible.
  2. If you will be wall mounting your Xbox, now is the time to drill a couple of holes in the bottom.

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