Emulation on the cheap using original XBox – Part 1 – What it can do

As some of you may know I am not only a big fan of gaming on original systems but also like to dabble in the dark art of emulation. Yes, I know many purists will be hitting the back button in disgust – but I am of the opinion that emulation has a place in every retro gamer’s life. Emulation lets you experience games in near pixel-perfection that you may not ever be able to afford or find and from a historical perspective it is a great way to archive and catalogue titles that would otherwise disappear.

My choice of emulation tool is a self-modded original (some call it ‘classic’ now) Microsoft XBox. I have been asked on numerous occasions about how to mod an XBox and what a modded XBox is, so in this series of posts I will show you the capabilities of my 2 units and show you how to go about getting your own.

I chose to use this particular hardware after stumbling across websites run by enthusiasts and finding just how big the XBox mod scene still is and what a capable machine they are for emulation purposes. Almost every emulator ever made has been ported to XBox and in most instances has been enhanced still further by enthusiasts with the addition of video sets and artwork. Many of you will have already heard of or use XBMC on other hardware (Apple TV etc.), well it all started on the humble XBox hence it’s name (XBox Media Center). Of course you can use an XBox as a great networked Media Centre and it does many more things besides but as this is RGC I will concentrate on the subject of retro computer and console emulation.

A modded Xbox is my choice over PC/Mac emulation for the following 6 reasons:

1.  The XBox is relatively easy to mod yourself (soft-modding a standard 8gb XBox takes minutes once you know how and have the tools/software)
2.  The unit fits under your telly, unlike a PC
3.  A classic XBox is cheap, I saw them being sold with a controller for £14.99 recently at my local GameStation. eBay is another good source of cheap XBoxes.
4.  I use Macs, have done since 1988 (Mac Plus, SE-30, IIx) and as Mac users will know we are the poor relation to PC users when it comes to emulation.
5.  Unlike an Xbox 360, the original Xbox is very reliable – almost bombproof.
6.  The developer scene is still going strong and new versions of popular emulators are released weekly

A modded XBox also has the following advantages:

1.  Region free games and DVD
2.  Ability to run in HD (720p and even 1080p)
3.  You can upgrade your HDD to something larger
4.  You can save your DVD movies and games to your HDD and play from there (faster loading times)
5.  Ability to use a mouse and keyboard (great for all those point and click adventure titles)
6.  Massive development scene resulting in hundreds of ported emulators and utilities
7.  Fully networkable over LAN with any other devices you have
8.  Good alternative to a PC in a home arcade cabinet setup
9.  Once the HDD is upgraded they make decent Network Media Centres (XBMC)

My XBox Specifications:

XBox 1 – Crystal Edition v1.6

Upgraded 250Gb HDD
Boots to XBMC, internet connected

2 x Crystal controllers
DVD Remote and sensor

A7800X – Atari 7800
full ROM set
AtariXLBox – Atari XL / 5200
full ROM set
BlueMSXBox – MSX
full ROM set
Capcom System 3 771.6 mb
AdamX – Colecovision full ROM set
CoinOPS 5 complete (over 3,800 games) + full video set
Final Burn Consoles 4.06 gb
Final Burn Legends 12.20 gb + full video set
BlissX Intellivision emulator full ROM set
MednafenX Lynx emulator and full ROM set 334.3 mb + full video set
MekaX full Game Gear ROM set, full Master System ROM set, Sega SG 1000 full ROM set + full video sets 1.9 gb
NeoGeo CD 420 mb full ROM set
NeoPopX 272.3 mb Neo Geo Pocket full rom set, Neo Geo Pocket Colour full ROM set + full video set
MednafenX NES emulator 5.62 gb full ROM set + full video set
Odyssey 2 / G7000 full ROM set + full video set
Mednafen Pce – PC Engine 14.39 gb full ROM set + 99% video set
PlayStation emulator with 10 games
ScummVM 6.91 gb full ROM set
Sinclair Spectrum 276.6 mb full ROM set
Snes9XBox – Super Nintendo 7.21 gb full ROM set + full video set
Surreal 64 CE – Nintendo 64 5.77 gb 268 ROMs + 95% videos
WinSTonX – Atari ST 1.18 gb full ROM set
WinUAEX – Amiga 500/1200/CD32 emulator 5.29 gb full ROM set + full video set for hd roms
XboyAdvance – Game Boy 13.97 gb full ROM set for Game Boy/Game Boy Colour/Game Boy Advance + full video set for all
Z26X – Atari 2600 full ROM set

XBox 2 – Black v1.4

Hard-modded with Team Xecuter X3 Chip, plus Team Xecuter X3IR and serial port
Upgraded 250Gb HDD
Boots to XBMC, internet connected

2 x Black controllers
DVD remote (for X3IR)

CoinOPS 3
with 3077 Arcade, C64, Game Boy, Master System, Mega CD, Megadrive, NES, N64, PC Engine, PC Engine CD, Playstation and SNES games
Otherwise used primarily for DVD movies/net based movies

Video of XBox 1 (Crystal v1.6) in action (CoinOPS 5)

Video of XBox 2 (Black v1.4) in action (CoinOPS 3)


Click here for Part 2 – Modding your own XBox

Author: Ant Harper

Father, Husband, website developer, avid gamer since the mid-70s and collector of just about anything video game related. 8-Bit microcomputer and Sinclair specialist with a huge Sinclair related collection of his own. Blogs about retro gaming here but occasionally elsewhere when people ask. Bored of Mario and never much liked Zelda. Performs quirkafleegs for cold hard cash. Often found destroying ice crowns in the Lands of Midnight. Remembers: Lunar Lander. Plays: Steel Battalion, Gears of War

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  1. I would love to be able to do this for myself, but consider myself not very technologically savvy. I have decided though I need it. Any help where I could get someone else to do this for me, or more assistance in getting this done myself?

  2. Stay tuned and eventually I will get around to writing the follow-up article in which I will explain how to go about getting all you need (exploit and how to use it to soft-mod).

    Cheers, Ant

  3. I like what you have written up so far. There’s still an active audience for xbox mod resources, and I hope my response can give you the encouragement to continue with your articles!

  4. Cheers Alex, part 2 is on the way I promise but other commitments are getting in the way currently. Watch this space!

  5. I would very much like to setup a xbox of my own so i look forward to your 2nd article.

  6. If we send you an xbox do you MOD it? do you sell pre-modded xboxs?
    (sorry if I over looked this info… just super excited) thank you

  7. It is coming… I promise!

  8. Sorry we don’t mod Xboxes but will hopefully show you how easy it is to do in Part 2. Whenever that gets published!

  9. Anyone wanting to buy modded xbox could check ebay and searching for “xbox coinops” or going to the coinops support site and checking out the Trading subforum: http://coinopsproject.freeforums.org/the-trader-f56.html

    if you choose to get one I would recommend at least a 250GB drive, since my installation is 12,000 games in size and takes up about that much :)

  10. I completely agree with Matt, the smallest HDD I would recommend is 250GB for those with large Emu ROM collections!

  11. Hey,
    My step-dad gave me his old ‘chipped’ Xbox, but when I start the Xbox up it starts on ‘Normal’ mode. How do I change it back to ‘Chipped Mode’?

  12. Hi. Depends which chip has been used, can you give more details?

  13. I just dug out a few old xbox.

    Hooked one up to do Media Center Extender.

    Looking forward to part 2 so I can softmod the other one to be a retro game machine with network and media.

    will any old IDE drive do for upgrading ?

  14. I used to mod xbox’s. I love the idea of being able to play all my old games without digging out old systems. It’s easy but what i hate about the xbox is that modding them is different with each console. For instance. I set the files up the exact same way on two different xbox systems, but one system doesn’t want to play a certain emulator. Or one will be played under games and the other one will play under emulators. I decided to just stick with modding wii systems. It’s alot easier and i haven’t had any problems with any of the emulators, roms or iso’s.

  15. I have only had one Xbox so far out of about 10 that I’ve modded that just refused point blank to run certain emulators. I do know what you mean though, there was no rational explanation for it, it was functioning just fine otherwise. I have modded my Wii and found it a very simple exercise in comparison to the Xbox, but still prefer a modded Xbox personally over a modded Wii, although if I’m honest I couldn’t give you a reason why.

  16. Ha, I am about to do a similar thing. Not 2 hours long though!

  17. Great Article, Ant! I have a softmodded Xbox with a 500GB SeaGate drive + games installed, but it’s nowhere near as impressive as the ones that you have shown. A couple questions for you, if you don’t mind…

    1)Can I get everything (Roms, ISO’s) that you have through the links that you’ve provided?

    2)If so, can you point me in the right direction as far as obtaining ALL of the video sets for each emulator? I would love to have FULL Romsets + the video preview sets. I want it all! :)

  18. The links in Part 2 give you most everything you need. ISO Zone is the place to go. Have a rummage around there and you will find most stuff. I may have got some from elsewhere but its been years since I compiled that lot so I’m not sure now. I do know most was from ISO Zone though.

  19. For CoinOPS downloads try megaups.me and go to the coinops section.

  20. Yeah, since UG got shutdown by the powers that be, that’s the place to go. Thanks for the update Avant.

  21. Brilliant article and thank for finishing the second part. I’m a gamer with 11 consoles (GB,GBA,NES,SNES,N64,WII,XBOX,XBOX360,PS1,PS2,PC) and a collection of games I’m finding hard to find space for. I can’t bare to part with any of them, so thought I would be best emulating my xbox to hold all my games (and some games such as japanese games that never went over seas i.e. slayers royal). I have a friend who has offered to take my xbox and upgrade it, do you know which emulators would be best to get all my console games and some original japanese games?

  22. Take a look through the list of emulators I have installed on my Crystal Xbox, most of those would probably suffice. :)

  23. I really want to have this games in my Xbox but I don’t really have and idea how to do it, is any place where I can go so someone do it for me I live in L.A.

  24. Hi! I’ve noticed that you actually can use keyboard and mouse for the emulators. I’ve recently made a usb cable to plug my keyboard, but I can’t get it work! The keyboard is functional, I can type, control the dashboard, etc.
    BTW My emulators are Xports. I’ll appreciate any help. Thanks.

  25. Wow, amazing stuff. I’ve been ‘off the scene’ for a while now. Where do I find Vision? Cheers for sharing Avant.

  26. No idea how to get keyboard inputs to work with Xport emulators, although I do run a few so I’ll look into it for you.

  27. You’ll find Vision in “megaups.me” forum (doesn’t work with keyboard :P)
    My emulators are “Madmab Edition”, “Xport”s are older, sorry my mistake.
    I want to use a keyboard with an MSX emulator mainly, BlueMSXbox doesn’t work, at least for me.

  28. You can find out about Vision on the CoinOPS forum as it is made by the save developer. It’s very flexible so you can pretty much make your own custom interface, the video is one such example.

    About keyboard and mouse I use this wireless keyboard:

    with and plug the wireless receiver into a usb to xbox adapter.

    I’ve not tried using a mouse so far, they seem to be much more hassle to find a good working one. There used to be a list on the xbmc website wiki but all the models stated were from the early 2000s when xbmc was new…

  29. My buddy has been posting on facebook all the old school nintendo games. I remebered I had a soft modded Xbox. I am trying to install emulators on a soft modded Xbox but its not allowing me to play the games. My soft mod is Softmod Installer Deluxe 3.1 or Unleashed X. I did everthing in the video. Is there somewhere I went wrong. I see the games on the Xbox hard drive but its not working.

  30. What emulator are you using to play the SNES ROMs? It could be any number of things preventing them from running.

  31. I am using Super Mario Bros. (E)

  32. Not quite understanding you. That’s the game, but what emulator are you using to run that ROM?

  33. I am using Jnes emulator.

  34. Should be as easy as FTPing that to your games directory then copying whatever ROMs you want to play into the ROMs folder within the Snes9Xbox folder itself.

  35. This may be a dumb question but I am able to format my USB for FATX – but then how can I load the exploited saves onto the USB once it’s been formatted? My computer doesn’t want to recognize the FATX and wants to first reformat before copying the files.

  36. This is great news! Keep us informed :)

  37. Thanks for putting this together Ant! I’m getting a bit confused on all the different emulators offered.

    I’ve played around with Coinops 6 full and Final Burn Legends 1.11. It appears there’s a lot of overlap in the games they offer. Isn’t that a waste? Is there any reason to have both these programs on my xbox?

    I notice your xbox has individual emulators installed, Coinops itself has arcade and a bunch of console emulators built in already. Any reason to keep a SNES emulator like Snes9XBox if Coinops already has SNES games on it? Can you just put all those SNES ROMs in Coinops and play it through Coinops instead of Snes9XBox?

  38. No problem. It is true that I could probably put most of my ROMs in CoinOPS now, but I was using all the other emus before CO came along and if I’m honest I’m just too lazy to see which ROMs will work and which won’t. Plus a lot of the dedicated emus offer fine tuning and console specific visuals and options that CO doesn’t so I prefer to use those still. Nothing wrong with bunging everything in COs ROM folder and running them from there though. Go for it.

  39. There are some configuration options for most systems that benefit/need it. Here are some videos I made showing config options for C64/Atari 8 Bit/ Amstrad CPC games:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcLy5DRhdjA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcLy5DRhdjA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuq4fPlmE4Q

    Standalone emulators will still offer more power, but I really like that with CoinOPS I can set each game how I want it to be and then it will always play in that way until I change the config.

    The issue I found with standalone emulators is that as a retro gamer I never usually want to play just one platform. I might be playing a spectrum game and then want to check the C64 or arcade version. Or suddenly remember a Mega-CD game that I played around the same time as an old DOS game. With CoinOPS I don’t need to leave the interface to change systems. That and the full screen video previews sealed the deal for me. However I can’t deny the power you get from a standalone emulator – I just find myself not using them anymore now I got used to using CoinOPS.

  40. i was wondering where you got all the video previews for your emulators. i’ve been looking for them for a long time now but no idea where to get them. i tried googling it and it brought me to your site.

  41. A LOT of trawling of the internet. 😉

  42. Woah, sick mods! 😀 Really cool stuff. And thanks for the tutorial from Part 2 :)

  43. Hi, looking for some help. I have a soft modded original xbox with about 10 additional emulators besides Coinops installed. Most of the emulators work fine (7800X, A26, Colecovision) but other give a a strange video display (unreadable pixelated and appears multiple times across screen) this happens on Atari Lynx, Turbographics, MSX, Sega Master system and other. I’ve tried changing the video setting on Xbox but no luck. This also happen with alot of my XBOX DVD too, Some play great (Bloodwake) some give same video problem (Panger Dragroon Orta). The XBOX games are NTSC but could non-working emulators be PAL?How to tell? Any help/suggestions is appreciated

  44. I have moded crystal, but really struggling to find rom sets ?? And when I do I can’t seem to get them to work! I’ve managed to get Atari 2600 rom set working, game boy and X spectrum but when I load a certain Tom in the screens blank and no idea what to do ?? Any help would be great!! Thanks.


  45. Did you check out Part 2 of this article? There are a few links on there that might be useful.

  46. Thanks will check it out!! Managed to to get some zx spectrum roms working which I grew up with aswel as Atari 2600 so well happy just need to work out snes etc… And n64 works but roms are a bit glitchy, sound etc…

    Again thanks for reply.

  47. Hi ant!!, managed to get a few roms working on different emulators : snes, I have full rom set for Genesis which works great. Atari 2600 with full rom set etc. Only 2 I’m having trouble with is sega master system, no roms seem to work at all ? And n64 is not working properly. I have a PlayStation emulator but have no idea about the iso thing ?, I’m assuming it’s an image but how to ftp to my Xbox is another matter!! Havin said that I’m happy with what I’ve achieved. So thanks for ya help.


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