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Locking a replacement Hard Disk for the Xbox (v0.3)

Tutorial written by : -opjose

Important: This document is outdated.
It is only kept online for historical reasons.

**note: this is the original , manual way to lock your harddrive - xbox software has now been released by Team Assembly (ConfigMagic - no downloadlink here 'cause build with XDK) that can do this for you automatically**

The OEM Xbox hard drive comes from Microsoft in a “locked” condition. This is a privacy mechanism which was intended to prevent you or hackers from looking at the contents of the original disk.

If you place the OEM drive into a PC, the PC bios will be unable to unlock the drive, and the drive will not enter a “ready” state that the PC can deal with.

It should be also noted that if the drive were to be unlocked the PC would still not understand the drives formatting mechanism so it would still be unable to display its contents. Even imaging programs such as Norton Ghost will fail to read or duplicate the drive.

 

Why lock (or unlock) the drive?

If you elect to put a new hard drive in your Xbox you MUST first already have a “mod” chip in the machine that supports hard drive swapping.

The normal bios and first and second generation mod chips were never designed to support drive swapping. The original unmodified bios code for handling the drive is contained on those bios chips.

As you will see later, locking a drive requires that the Xbox be first able to utilize an unlocked drive.

As a result DO NOT proceed unless you know that your bios/mod chip already supports hard drive swapping.

If you have a mod chip and replacement bios which does support the “hard drive swap” there is no immediate compelling reason to lock the hard drive. Your Xbox will actually operate just fine with the replacement drive.

It has also been found that XboxLive works quite well with modified Xboxes, though there are some dashboard issues which I will not cover here.

This being the case, why are you still reading?

Probably because you are a bit paranoid and believe that you MUST put the Xbox back into it’s pristine state to get XboxLive to work. You don’t really have to though.

You may also have a Matrix type Mod/Bios chip and want to utilize the dual boot function that makes your machine revert back to the original BIOS. You could merely elect to disable this function by setting the chip to “mode 2” that always keeps the flashed bios on.

 

What does locking accomplish?

Locking the drive permits the Xbox to utilize a replacement drive in the same manner as an OEM drive. During startup, the original “protected” bios will temporarily unlock the locked drive during the boot (flubber animation) phase and be none the wiser. When the unit is powered off, the drive goes back into its fully locked state.

With the original BIOS enabled, any additional space seemingly disappears. As far as the Xbox is concerned it is still running on an original 8 gigabyte hard drive. You do not loose the information contained therein though!

This may be a very good thing down the road if the powers that be decide to implement something new.

When used in combination with the Evolution-X BIOS releases such as Evo 2.x,ybox or Evo 2.x,evox, locking the drive permits you to quickly switch between a “virgin” Xbox and a wide open device.

 

What is ybox?

The normal OEM Xbox BIOS initializes and unlocks the hardware upon startup and then attempts to launch a user interface from the C:\ partition on the OEM hard drive.

This interface is what you see once the Xbox is fully operational. It is the “green” control panel that comes up if there is no DVD game in the machine after it is turned on. This interface is referred to as “the dashboard”.

The name of the file that contains this program is called “c:\xboxdash.xbe”. An XBE file is an Xbox Executable program.

The ybox bios has an additional modification in it which causes it to instead look for and use a file called c:\yboxdash.xbe instead. If you have one of these bios/mod chips you can then install the Evolution-X dashboard to the hard drive with the name “yboxdash.xbe”.

So if you have a hardware switch or a Matrix Mod set to enable multi-boot, it is possible to quickly flip between the original protected BIOS and dashboard, or the unprotected bios and the evolution-X dashboard. Cool huh?

 

A bug in the ointment.

However there is that one bug in the ointment, your replacement hard drive!

When you boot up the Xbox using the original bios, with a replacement but unlocked drive in place, you will inevitably see the “your Xbox needs servicing” message.

This is because the bios attempts to unlock the drive with a UNIQUE code and expects a reply from the drive indicating success. If it does not get the reply the Xbox assumes that something is wrong with the drive, shuts everything down and issues the error message.

 

The Lock codes

The OEM bios generates the unlock key “on the fly”. That is it generates a unique key or password which is dependant upon several things.

This password is generated by looking at your Xbox’s unique serial number, configuration, revision level and the information obtained from the currently installed hard drive itself.

This in turn means that you cannot simply use a password from another drive or Xbox when locking a new drive. Instead you must figure out what the Xbox is going to use as an unlock password for your new replacement drive.Fortunately the Evolution-X hackers gave us a wonderful tool to do this very thing.

This “tool” is built into the Evolution-X dashboards “backup” command. The “backup” command figures out what password the Xbox will use to unlock the currently installed drive. It places the password/key into the C:\Backup directory in a file called hddinfo.txt.

This is why Evolution-X must be installed and running on the Xbox and drive that you intend to lock first.

 

What do I need?

Before proceeding be aware that you will need the following.

* A working modified Xbox with a replacement hard drive ALREADY installed.
* The Evolution-X 1.8.2xxx dashboard installed to the Xbox.
(note if you are using 1.8.4xx you are using an old version!)
* A PC that you can open and access the IDE cables. (not all PC’s work however!)
* Some floppies
* ATAPWD.EXE (found here)
* HDDUNLOCK.ZIP (found here)
* FlashXP
* A working network configuration and you should already be able to have your PC talk to the Xbox.
* Tools to open the Xbox and remove and re-insert the drive.
* Berg Jumpers for the Cable/Select Master/Slave configuration.

 

Locking the drive

Start by making sure that you can access the Xbox via your Network. Also be sure that you have a working bootable DVD/CD-RW that you can using to access the Xbox if you make a mistake.

If you ever accidentally make a mistake in renaming a file or in the evox.ini file you’ll need this disk to recover from problems.

You should also have a full backup of the C: & E: partitions of the Xbox’s hard drive for safety.

I can’t stress this enough! Burn it to CD and put it away.

Since the new password file for the hard drive will be written to the same folder Evolution-X is initially run from, Evolution-X itself must be booted from the hard drive. You cannot use DVD/CD-RW.

With Evolution-X installed, select the “Backup” command from the menu. You will see a sideways smiley face to let you know that the files were created in C:\Backup.

Use FlashXP to copy over the C:\Backup\hddinfo.txt file to your PC and print it out. You’ll need the hardcopy later.

The file will look something like this:

Disk Serial Number : "WD-WMA8C1313646"
Disk Serial Number : "WDC WD1200JB-00CRA0"
HDD Key : 65:fd:29:ca:25:4d:78:cb
f4:41:f7:b8:c3:69:15:0f
dd:dc:97:a9:00:00:00:00
00:00:00:00:00:00:00:00

On the page you printed write down the HDD Key numbers in this format:

65fd29ca254d78cbf441f7b8c369150fdddc97a9

omitting the zeros and the colons. This is the actual password that the Xbox will use to unlock the drive, and that you need to utilize to lock it with.

Shut off your Xbox, unplug it and remove the hard drive from the machine carefully. You should already know how to do this.

The drives arrive from the factory jumpered for “cable select”. Make a note of how your working drive is currently jumpered as you need to restore the Berg jumpers back to the same settings.

On your PC create a DOS floppy boot disk, preferably using Windows 9x or below. Make sure that there are no IDE/CD or SCSI drivers installed and that Himem.sys and any other memory managers are not on the floppy.

Copy the following files to the floppy.

ATAPWD.EXE
HDLOCK.EXE
HDUNLOCK.EXE

There should be ample space left over for text files on the floppy when you are done.

Connect the drive you removed from the Xbox to your PC’s PRIMARY IDE channel. You may want to remove your existing drive from the IDE cable for safety.

If you have no other drives on the primary channel cable, jumper the Xbox drive to be “only drive” or “no other drives present”. If you do have another drive on the IDE cable jumper your new drive to be either MASTER/with slave present, or Slave accordingly.

Don’t forget to provide power to the drive.

With the drive installed boot your PC up from the floppy you created.

 

ATAPWD

At the DOS prompt type ATAPWD.EXE

You will see a nice screen listing the detected drives on your system. At the far right you will see a column with the heading:

S E L F X V

Under each letter you will see either a plus sign “+” or a minus sign “-“.

Verify that the “S” has a plus sign under it and that the ALL of the other entries are minus signs. If you see a plus sign under the “F” this normally indicates that your drive arrived “frozen” from the factory and it cannot be modified. This is extremely RARE.

If you only see a single minus sign under the “S” and nothing else, then your hard drive does not fully support the ATA command set. E.G. it is not an ATA66 or better hard drive and is too old to use.

Any other combinations indicate that your motherboard may not be communicating with the drive properly and you may need to perform this procedure on another computer.

Exit out of the ATAPWD program and return to the DOS prompt.

 

HDlock

At the DOS prompt type HDLOCK.EXE

The detected drives will be listed.

Select your Xbox hard drive by pressing 1 or 2 accordingly.

You will be asked for the PASSWORD to use to lock the drive.

Enter the password in the format you wrote down before. Double and triple check your work before you hit the enter key.

In this case I would enter:

65fd29ca254d78cbf441f7b8c369150fdddc97a9

Note that it –IS- case sensitive and you should be using all lower case.

Also if you make a mistake DO NOT try again, read below.

If the drive accepted the lock command, you will receive an acknowledgement and will be returned to the DOS prompt.

If it failed you will either see a “drive not ready” message or “command not accepted” or something similar as I do not remember the exact error message.

In any case DO NOT run this program again. Each time the program runs it creates a new text file called hddpw.txt on the floppy. This contains the password that the program thinks you entered.

Copy or rename this file before attempting to run the program again!!!

After locking the drive you can run ATAPWD again and verify the “USER LOCK” status. Normally the E and/or L will show a plus sign if properly done.

Note: This procedure seems to be very picky about the motherboard, bios and version of DOS you use. I have been unable to get it to work on some Intel 850 and 845 Pentium 4 motherboards, while others report success.

I ended up resorting to utilizing an old Gigabyte 440BX motherboard before I observed the correct results.

PRINT OUT the locking password and TAPE it to the drive for safety (just do not cover any air holes or you will ruin your drive).

 

Re-installation

Remove the drive from the PC and put your computer back together.

Jumper the new drive back to CABLE SELECT and re-install it into the Xbox.

Verify that your Xbox boots with the mod chip after locking. If it does you should actually be ok.

Verify that the default Microsoft dashboard is named xboxdash.xbe and switch off your mod chip or restart the Xbox using the eject button.

Your Xbox should boot up to the Microsoft dashboard while utilizing the OEM bios now.

Congratulations you’ve fooled the security mechanism.

Tutorial written by : -opjose


 

 

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