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Xbox modchips are electronic devices that modify or disable the built-in restrictions of the Xbox. The Xbox has gone through several generations of modchips each using different methods to disable built-in restrictions. A majority of the modchips developed connect to the LPC bus pads that are located on all of the different revisions of the Xbox Motherboard. These Xbox modchips are capable of circumventing region coding and copy protection. This allows users to play games created in different regions and load burned discs. This has opened up the opportunity for the use of third-party homebrew software and legal backup discs.
First Generation Modchips
These modchips were the very first modchips to appear on the Xbox console. These chips resulted from the initial work eavesdropping on the HyperTransport bus of the Xbox. Common features of this generation of modchips include basic abilities such as burned discs, removal of region restrictions and removal of Macrovision protection from video DVDs. One major issue that occurred with this generation of modchips is that it only worked on the first revision of the Xbox motherboard which was labeled v1.0. Another issue was that it required one to solder around 29 wires onto the Xbox motherboard. This increased the chance of damage to the Xbox motherboard due to improper installation by inexperienced technicians.
Second Generation Modchips
The second generation modchips improved upon the first by reducing the required number of wires to just 11. In addition to this, the second generation modchips added a few extra features such as the ability to prevent the Xbox from resetting when you eject a disc from the drive. This allows one to swap discs for purposes of loading different data into the Xbox while running some piece of software (Ex. Loading a disc of TV shows to play on a homebrew media player). In addition to this, some games would be able to detect first generation modchips and thus crash or prevent the game from running. The solution to this was to copy the game to a computer and apply a piece of software to strip out the check. The second generation modchips do not require this and can prevent the check from running automatically. By this time users were interested in performing additional modifications to their Xbox such as replacing the internal 8GB hard drive with something larger and running their own dashboard (Xbox operating system). The second generation modchips did not have the capability to enable these functions. In addition to this, the next revision of the Xbox v1.1 started to become more and more prevalent in the field. The second generation modchips were still unable to run on these Xbox consoles.
Third Generation Modchips (Non-Flashable LPC Modchips)
This generation of modchips improved upon the previous generation in many different ways. The first major improvement was the fact that now you could swap the hard disk with any other one as long as it was at least 8GB in size. In addition to this, the design of the modchips allowed it to be soldered directly to the top of the points on the motherboard. This cut down the required wires to just 1. This is due to the discovery that you can solder the modchips to the LPC bus of the motherboard. If a user did not want to use this method they could still use 10 wires to install the chip. This generation also introduced the option of installing a switch to actually turn the modchips off. This allowed a user to play games online which is normally blocked due to the modchip being detected by Microsoft. Some of the chips in this generation allowed installation on v1.1 motherboards. As a result of the release of modchips which support v1.1 motherboards, Microsoft counteracted by releasing the next revision of the Xbox motherboard, v1.2. As a result, all of the modchips were rendered useless again by this new motherboard. This resulted in the need to be able to update the software on the modchip so it would be able to work on new revisions of the Xbox. This generation of modchips was not designed with the ability to update the software.
Third Generation Modchips (Modchips based on cheapmod)
Around this time a new type of design for the Xbox modchip was released called “cheapmod”. This design allowed one to reduce the cost of manufacturing the chip and allow users to update the software on the chip. As a result, this worked on many versions of the motherboard such as 1.3, 1.4, and 1.5. They were very similar to the third generation design so as a result, they were called the Third generation b.
Fourth Generation Modchips
The final generation of Xbox modchips focused on improving features already available from other modchips. The biggest improvement is adding more memory to the chip to allow multiple Xbox firmware versions to reside on the same chip. These different firmware variants can be selected by using several buttons included with the modchips. The purpose was so people could test firmware made by different groups since each version operated slightly differently. The Xbox’s lifespan was ending around the time these chips were released so this was the last generation of Xbox modchips.
- Huang, Andrew (2003). Hacking the Xbox: an Introduction to Reverse Engineering. San Francisco: No Starch. p. 125. ISBN 978-1-59327-029-2.