Preparing to play with an Xbox 360

I made a deal with one of my friends as I bought my new HTC One X. It was a rather simple deal really, I would give him the old HTC Desire HD and he would give me his old Xbox 360 Arcade, as he just got a new Xbox 360 Slim 4GB for doing a show somewhere during the Beep 2011 conference in Copenhagen.

It’s been 3 to 4 months since we did the swap and I have yet to actually get the console, as we keep forgetting it, so I’ve been reading up on what I need to do to actually use the console like I want to.

HDD replacement:

The thing with the Xbox 360 Arcade, is that it only has 256MB of memory on an internal flashcard, which you can’t change. You could splash your money on an official HDD from Microsoft, but that is an expensive solution.

I really want a 320GB HDD, as I will probably fill up it rather quickly with anything from games, demos, music and what not. It seems that it’s not possible to get one for the old Xbox 360 Phat consoles here in Denmark, so I’m going to make one myself. This means that I need to buy a 320GB HDD, I’m going to buy a Western Digital Scorpio Black 320GB or to be even more technical a WD3200BEKT. It’s priced at around DKK 400 ($66) and then you’ll need a casing for the HDD, to make it fit on top of the Xbox 360, which is priced at around DKK 120 ($20).

The trick is that you have to flash the firmware on the Western Digital HDD, so that it matches the security bit Microsoft wants to have so that the Xbox 360 will recognise the drive. This is done by following this great guide by InsaneNutter at Digiex, which means that you’ll have a nice 320GB HDD to put into the Xbox 360. This means I’ll be able to play newer games, which you couldn’t due to the measly 256MB of memory on the Xbox 360 Arcade before.

To sum up the difference between doing it yourself and buying a real Microsoft HDD:

320GB Hard Drive HDD for Xbox 360 with shipping to Denmark – DKK800 / $132

320GB Western Digital Scorpio Black 7200 RPM – DKK400 / $66
Xbox 360 Hard Drive Casing Grey – DKK120 / $20

Total: DKK520 / $86
Difference: DKK280 / $46

There is also an added bonus to doing this swap myself, as the original Microsoft HDD is only running at 5.400 RPM and the Scorpio Black is a 7.200 RPM HDD. You could actually splash the money for a Western Digital VelociRaptor drive running at 10.000 RPM, but they are really expensive over here so it’s not an option. I myself have chosen to go for the Scorpio Black as opposed to the Scorpio Blue, which is running at 5.400 RPM, as it’s actually cheaper.

After this change I’ll be able to run the newer games on the Xbox 360 Arcade. But that does not mean that I’m done fiddling with the Xbox, as I want to do some more changes to it before it’s running as I want it to.

Replacing the stock fan:

Many people who’ve had the pleasure of playing around with an Xbox 360 knows that it tends to be a noisy beast. The worst sinner here is the DVD-drive, but it’s not one that you just can change to a normal low-noise variant. But we can do something about the general noise problem with the stock fans inside the Xbox 360. It’s a special made unit, with two fans melded together and it’s running at an amazing 0.8 cubic meters per minute and at 41 db(A) which is loud.

I’m going to swap it out, as I have another hack where I have to go into the Xbox any way, with a Talismoon Whisperfan with nice green LED-lights. According to the manufacturer it’s running at 1.3 cubic meters per minute and at a lower 38 db(A), which is a bit quieter: The new Talismoon Whisper Xbox 360 Replacement Fan moves 58% more air than the original, yet is 7% quieter.

The Whisper Fan is not very expensive, sitting at DKK 140 / $23, so it’s a cheap and painless swap for a lot more airflow and a little less noise. The guide I’ve found to do this swap is this one from 2008 at ExtremeTech. It seems easy enough to follow if you have a little technical know-how and the right tools and as mentioned before I have another hack I want to do where I need to open it up any way.

Installing an xk3y:

Console games are expensive, yes it’s true, and you can save a little money if you have a tainted conciousness or if you simply just want to put your original games onto a HDD, with this little mod-chip, the xk3y. The xk3y is a so-called optical drive emulator, which have the ability to spoof your own DVD-drive. The install procedure is rather complex, so if you don’t have the technical know-how to open a console/computer, connecting your Xbox 360 DVD-drive to your computer an getting the DVD-key from it and so on, that you might want to think about getting someone to do it for you.

The xk3y sits at DKK 800 / $132 and the tools you need varies depending on which optical drive there is in the Xbox 360 or if you have a Phat or Slim console. As I have (or will have) a Phat console, I’ll need a V2 Toolkit for Xbox Phat, to open it op. The price for one of those is DKK 100 / $16.

Now, the installation of this, as I mentioned, varies a lot depending on which drive you have inside the Xbox, but at the official xk3y forums, you can find a very good video guide made by OzModChips, which will tell you have to install the chip itself.

I’m not certain what I’ll find inside the Xbox 360 Arcade when I actually open it up, but from there I’ll have to find out how to extract the key from the DVD-drive to put it on the xk3y SD-card, so it can emulate my drive.

That is what I’m waiting to do the Xbox 360 Arcade when I finally manage to get it with me (maybe we should drink less will playing World Cup 2010) and I will do some updates, with pictures and such when I actually open up the beast and start customising it.