Xbox Softmodding/Upgrading the HDD

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Upgrading the HDD[edit]

The Xbox comes packaged with an underwhelming 8GB HDD. 8GB is plenty for game saves, but if you plan to take full advantage of your softmodded Xbox, you're going to need extra space to store games and media files.


The Xbox uses a standard 3.5" IDE HDD, the same type you would find in a desktop computer back in the day. Finding a replacement HDD is easy, but preparing it for use as an Xbox drive is a long, tedious process due to a few caveats:

  • The Xbox uses a unique file system that neither Windows nor Linux can recognize. Special software must be used to read, backup, and prepare an Xbox drive.
  • The HDD is locked with a key generated from the Xbox's EEPROM data that changes from Xbox to Xbox and HDD to HDD. This means you need a HDD that is lockable (most are), and you need extra software to generate a new key. The software used to lock/unlock the drive must be run from a bootable MS-DOS disk.
  • Extra steps must be taken to use a drive larger than 137GB.
  • Although you can upgrade the HDD without having already softmodded the Xbox, you must be able to boot EvoX using either 007 Agent Under Fire' or MechAssault.

Before getting into specifics, I will outline in general the steps needed to upgrade the HDD:

  • 1. Dump your Xbox's EEPROM data using EvoX.
  • 2. Unlock the original HDD in DOS and use Windows to make a backup.
  • 3. Lock the original HDD and set it aside.
  • 4. Connect the new HDD and use LiveInfo in Windows to generate a new key.
  • 5. Restore the backup of the old drive to the new one.
  • 6. Lock the new drive, connect it to the Xbox, and hope for the best.



  • A replacement HDD - It must use an IDE connector and be lockable. Most 3.5" IDE drives will work.
  • IDE connection on motherboard - Used to connect the HDD's to your computer.
  • Bootable, removable media - You need to be able to create a bootable MS-DOS device in order to run the applications used to lock and unlock the hard drives. Floppy disks will absolutely work. CD's and USB flash drives are being tested.


  • Windows XP (32-bit) - This must be a real installation of XP; a virtual machine will NOT work. The reason is that you must use software which directly accesses your motherboard's IDE controller, which is not possible with a virtual machine.
  • LiveInfo Beta 3 (Windows) - Generates an HDD key
  • HDD_Driver (Windows - Creates and restores backups for Xbox HDD's
  • atapwd.exe (DOS) - Reports the status of a HDD (whether it's locked or not)
  • hdlock.exe (DOS) - Locks a HDD
  • hdunlock.exe (DOS) - Unlocks a HDD
  • hddisable.exe (DOS) - Disables the lock of a HDD. If you unlock a HDD and then power down, it will automatically lock itself. This program keeps the HDD unlocked after powering down. Note: because of DOS's 8 character filename limit, the filename will appear as HDDISA~1.exe.


  • T20 screwdriver - Used to open the Xbox's case
  • T10? screwdriver - Used for the screws which hold the Xbox's HDD in place

Future goals[edit]

  • Remove the need for Windows XP - Currently, XP is required to use the LiveInfo and HDD_Driver software. The only other Windows I've tried is Windows 7 Professional (64-bit), but no matter what I did, I could not get those programs to recognize any IDE drives. For now, XP is necessary to generate HDD keys and to backup the Xbox HDD.
  • Allow the use of an external HDD enclosure - This, in my opinion, is the holy grail of simplifying this process.