Getting Started with Modding a PlayStation 2

I recently decided to buy a used PlayStation 2 and try my hand at modding it to play backups. Unlike the original XBOX, which has loads of good articles on modding, the PS2 was very lacking. Not that there isn’t some good information out there, just nothing boiled down into bullet points for a country boy such as myself.

Step 1: Get a PS2

Ebay was my first choice. Premodded PlayStation 2s go for 6-7 times what an unmodded PlayStation goes for. This is a little sad as what you need to do the mod costs very little. You’re pretty much buying a PS2 with a memory card when you buy one premodded.

You need a PS2 which has a model number that does NOT start with a 9. These unmoddable PS2s are ‘slims’ and have a shiny top.

I bought a SCPH-39001 from Ebay, commonly referred to as a fat PS2. It came with two controllers and a memory card.

Step 2: Do the Mod

Free McBoot is an exploit/mod you install on a PS2 memory card. It allows you to run unsigned code on the PS2, meaning you can run what ever you want, like game backups.

Long story short on this one, buy a memory card that already has the mod installed.

I bought a pre-installed memory card from Ebay. 

Step 3: Buy some other stuff

You’ll want the PS2 to look its best on your TV. Buy some component video cables. This is the same cable a PS3 uses for component out.

With what you purchased in steps 1 and 2, you can load games from a burned DVD or a USB hard drive. Having a ton of burned discs laying around is lame and since the PS2 only has USB 1.0 ports, a USB hard drive is going to be very slow, slower than a disc. You want to buy a SATA hard disk interface.

The SATA hard drive interface is normally part of a network adapter, though you can buy just the drive interface alone. Get a SATA interface, not IDE. With IDE you’ll be relying on old used drives, while SATA drives are modern and easy to buy new. Don’t bother with an SSD, its expensive overkill.

I bought a SATA adapter with no network interface. I also bought a 320GB SATA hard drive. Outside of my cheapness, there was no reason I could not have went with a larger drive.

Step 4: Using It

Modding the PS2 is simple enough, insert your Free McBoot memory card. That’s it. You’ll see a Free McBoot splash screen on boot and the main menu will have some more options, one of which will be Open PS2 Loader. This is the program you’ll use to launch backup ISOs from your hard drive.

You’ll need to get some backups of your games. The easiest way is to make a copy using ImgBurn. This is identical to the process you would use to make an ISO of any CD/DVD you have laying around.

Next up you’ll format your hard drive and load some ISOs onto it. For this you’ll need Winhiip and some way to connect the drive to your PC. I used a SATA to USB adapter.

Get your drive connected and run Winhiip. The first thing is you’ll need to do is to format the drive for 48 bits. After that load your ISOs.

Now plug the drive into the PS2, start Open PS2 Loader, hit O, and you should see your games.

Tip: R1+R2+L1+L2+Start+Select restarts the PS2. No need to get up to change games.

Step 5: Nice clean silence

The PS2 I purchased was dusty as hell. Gross even. The cooling fan was also loud. After taking the PS2 apart and giving every thing a good dusting and cleaning, the fan was still loud. 

I replaced the cooling fan with a Noctua 60x25mm fan. I followed this guide. I deviated from it some and connected the fan to the power supply to motherboard connector. This causes the fan to run whenever the rear power switch is on, but the fan does get the full 12v… sort of. Directly connecting the fan to the 12v made it run louder than I liked. I ended up using one of the noise suppressors that came with the fan. This made it silent. I probably could have saved some effort and connected it to the original fan’s leads.

The fan’s connection to the power supply connector.

The End

All said I spent less than $75 and took about three hours start to finish. Not too shabby.

 

One thought on “Getting Started with Modding a PlayStation 2

  1. I’ve waited until now (18 years after the PS2 came out, and until Sony finally announced they’ll discontinue support) before getting serious about doing this. The PS2 Slim I inherited has a dead controller port, and as far as I can tell the “fat” model is the only one with replaceable parts. Thanks for posting this and giving me a starting point.

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