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Thursday 11 November 2004

Exile In A Wilderness Of Xboxes [DrDave]

Modded xboxes... marvellous things. Play emulators, re-enable the progressive scan mode, use it as a media centre, even stick a copy of Linux on it and use it as a capable server. Some unscrupulous cads even use it for playing "backups" obtained illegally across the interweb - hellions! Okay, it's true that Microsoft like to ban modified xboxes from connecting to their online gaming servers, but they have to catch you first and the addition of a simple switch was the perfect antidote to this heavy handed piece of facism.
See, the thinking always went like this: if you turn the chip off, then there's no way on earth that MS can detect a modification. The chip simply isn't there as far as they're concerned. So a generation of happy modders enjoyed the best of both worlds. After all, who was really losing out? Playing on Live requires the chip to be off, so modders were forced to actually (*gasp*) buy original titles. It seemed like the perfect arrangement...
But MS are rich and clever. Since March, they've been keeping lists and checking them twice. When you first connect to Live with an xbox, MS record your HD serial number and your xbox eeprom version number. MS have rather cleverly realised that the first thing a modderdoes is put a new HD in their xbox - to facilitate all that lovelypiracy see? The bounders. So... in theory, if the eeprom number doesn't match the HD number, then they've netted themselves a modder. They don't even need to see the chip, because the only way you can use a different HD is in conjunction with a mod chip. Three suckling pigs and a comely maiden - pure and true - to the MS drone who came up with that plan!
For some reason though, they never did anything about it. The modders continued to enjoy the benevelence of MS and everybody put in a pre-order for Halo 2 - the game destined to be the best reason to take your xbox online.
Then a few nights ago, somewhere deep within his orbital headquarters, Bill Gates stroked his long haired cat, sighed a long sigh and issued the command: "Ban them, ban them all."
A button was pushed, a dial tweaked, a lever engaged and from then on, anyone connecting to xbox live with a modified box that had been used online in its unmodified state previously... was banned. No appeal. No chance of reversing it. The entire box, blacklisted. The only possible solution: buy a new xbox.
Gentlemen, let this be a warning.... I was caught out. Yes, I thoughtmyself so clever as I cocked-a-snook in Redmond's direction. But they had my number, they were simply toying with me as a cat toys with a mouse.
I turned on my xbox last night to load my pristine, shrink-wrapped Halo 2 only to be greeted with an "unable to connect, modified xbox detected" message. Go to jail, do not pass go, do not play Halo 2.
Am I bitter? Nah. Am I angry? Nope. Do I feel cheated? Not really... I knew the Terms and Conditions when I signed up. I have the contented, if a little sore, feeling of having been buggered by a true pro, a real bedroom gymnast. Microsoft have played their hand admirably on this one - store up the information, bide your time, wait for the Halo 2 transactions to go through and the money to land in Bill's current account, then WHAMMO!
MS: I doff my cap to you.


  1. I've never had my modded xbox on live, so it should be fine when I hook up since they've no data on my 120gb drive beforehand?
    There'll be folk like slim, shudder, that their orig HD failed and MS replaced. Would they be banned too?

  2. It's all speculation about how they do it at the moment. If you cut through the noise though, it seems that in this round of bans, the one common factor is that everyone who went online after March, then modded their box (specifically adding a hard drive), will get banned.
    However, a few weeks ago, they did a round of banning in which people who had been previously banned were re-banned. This was apparently due to differences in the bios.
    I reckon you should be okay for now, but since MS seem quite determined to eradicate modders I think it'll just be a matter of time. After all, there are many ways they can detect a modded box. Existence of dashboard, existence of F partition, etc etc.

  3. The thing is that when you connect to XBL, the box sends your *current* EEPROM and HDD info to MS's servers, and therefore you can only be safe if you turn off your modchip and put back in the original drive.
    It's also rumoured that MS can track if the HDD has ever been unlocked and then locked again (I suspect they check the master password or something, Evox uses "TEAMASSEMBLY" as HDD password when locking a drive).

    The thing to keep in mind here is that they ban the Xbox connecting, not the XBL account itself, so a purchase of a pristine new Xbox, a transfer of the XBL account via memcard or LAN, and you're up and running again.

  4. But come the MS revolution, when the Earth is renamed "Bills place", they know who to look for first.
    they have your address and CC details, you've modded an xbox ergo you're a dirty filthy pirating warezhound.
    Or at the least, merit a quick investigation and stocktake.

  5. Xboxes are as cheap as chips now (sorry!) so surely the tip here is to buy an Xbox for live usage and then have another one for all the *ahem* other things you can do with a modded XBox....

  6. Assuming your house is big enough.