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#1 Grospolina

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Posted 10 June 2004 - 04:18 PM

Hotswap FAQ

I've seen a lot of tutorials and advice on hotswapping, and they're always different. There's a lot of conflicting information, and sometimes some unnecessary steps. I'd like to compile a proven method, and dispel some of the myths associated with hotswapping.

1. What is hotswapping?

A retail Xbox hard drive (HD) is normally locked. Whenever the Xbox boots up, it must unlock the drive with the HD password in order to use it. It will stay unlocked as long as the power is on.

If we want to access the hard drive on a PC, then we need to unlock it somehow first. If you have the HD password, then you can disable the password with either Xbox software (e.g. EvoX, ConfigMagic), or PC software (e.g. UnLockX, hdunlock/hddisabl). However, if you don't have the HD password and can't get it, then you need to hotswap it.

The term hotswap refers to "swapping" the IDE cable from the Xbox with an IDE cable on your PC, while the Xbox is "hot" (power is on) and the HD has been unlocked.

2. Why should I hotswap?

If you'd like to copy files to or from the hard drive, then you can hotswap. The main reasons for hotswapping are:
- To copy dashboard or gamesave exploits to the hard drive in order to softmod it or flash the TSOP
- To repair a failed softmod

3. Can I damage my Xbox or PC by hotswapping?

Yes. Since you are swapping cables while the power is on, this can possibly cause electrical damage. Also, there is a difference in ground voltages (this can be over 100V!). NB: A good safety precaution is to connect the metal chassis of the Xbox to the PC case with a wire (i.e. alligator clips).

If you plan to do a lot of softmods, then I recommend using a memory card and exploitable game, instead of hotswapping all the time. You can use a gamesave exploit to get FTP access to the drive.

4. When exactly does the Xbox HD become unlocked?

The hard drive is unlocked at every bootup. This happens just before the MS logo fades in under the big X logo.

5. When does the Xbox HD become locked again?

The hard drive is automatically locked when power to the hard drive is lost, or if the Xbox is rebooted. This includes some error screens, since the Xbox actually quick reboots before showing the error.

6. Do I need to wait 5-10 minutes for the hard drive to spin down?

No. This is an unnecessary step.

7. Do I need to be able to load the dashboard or a game?

No. The HD can be hotswapped any time after it is unlocked (see question 4).

8. What is the basic method of hotswapping?

Here's the method I use to hotswap. I've found this to work the best for me.

1. Open the Xbox and set it close to the PC. Plug it in.
2. Open the PC and make sure an IDE cable is free and can reach the Xbox HD.
3. Turn on the PC.
4. Before the PC BIOS looks for hard drives, hit the Pause/Break key. It should pause.
5. If you are planning to use xboxhdm, insert the CD to your PC CD-ROM drive. (Make sure you haven't unplugged the IDE cable to your CD-ROM drive!)
6. Turn on the Xbox.
7a. When the MS logo appears under the big X, remove the Xbox IDE cable and quickly plug in the PC IDE cable.
7b. If the MS logo doesn't appear, then swap just before the error screen shows up instead.
8. Hit space bar to continue booting the PC. If it takes a long time to boot (several minutes), then the HD has not been unlocked.

9. Can you hotswap in Windows?

Yes. Here's the method I use for hotswapping while in Windows. I've only tried it in XP.

1. Open the Xbox and set it close to the PC. Plug it in.
2. Open the PC and make sure an IDE cable is free and can reach the Xbox HD.
3. Turn on th PC and start up Windows.
4. Turn on the Xbox.
5a. When the MS logo appears under the big X, remove the Xbox IDE cable and quickly plug in the PC IDE cable.
5b. If the MS logo doesn't appear, then swap just before the error screen shows up instead.
6. Go to Device Manager (Control Panel -> System -> Hardware tab -> Device Manager) and go to Action -> Scan for hardware changes. If it takes a long time to detect (several minutes), then the HD has not been unlocked.

10. Can I hotswap to another modded Xbox?

Yes. I'll add in details later.

11. Can I hotswap while the Xbox is on and the PC is off?

Maybe. It may depend on the PC. I've tried it once or twice and it didn't work for me.

12. Can I hotswap after BIOS detects the hard drive?

Yes, but I find it's more reliable when the PC BIOS detects the correct type of hard drive first.

13. After hotswapping, can I access the hard drive like a Windows drive?

No. The hard drive uses a different file system called FATX. This file system is not supported natively under Windows. You need a FATX-compatible program like HDD_Driver to access it. However, HDD_Driver is very buggy and has limited functionality. I highly recommend using xboxhdm (CD-based Linux) instead.

14. What is this xboxhdm? How do I use it?

Please see this thread:
Why Use Xbox Hd Maker (Linux)?

15. What do I do when I'm done?

Shut off your PC, shut off the Xbox, and put it back together. The hard drive will automatically be locked.

Edit 1: Added question about hotswapping to another Xbox. Also added info about locking on error screens.
Edit 2: Added question about damaging the Xbox or PC.
Edit 3: Added link to xboxhdm FAQ.

---

Comments, further questions, and suggestions are welcome.

Edited by Grospolina, 07 July 2004 - 02:34 PM.


#2 krayzie

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Posted 10 June 2004 - 04:30 PM

Well this is some nice usable info. I just like to add that the hd does also lock again after it goes into an error screen and not only when power gets cut off. Some people say it stays unlocked at a dvd drive error screen (the one where you unplug the dvd ide cable) but it didn't led to succes with me.
Also maybe nice to know you could also hotswap with another (modded) xbox. I used this a couple of times and saves me all the pc hassle. I just boot my modded xbox with an evoxcd and quickly hotswap the unlocked hd while the dvd drive spins on the modded xbox. This is offcourse only usable if you have a fully modded xbox besides the one you want to fix.

Edited by krayzie, 10 June 2004 - 04:31 PM.


#3 Grospolina

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Posted 10 June 2004 - 04:40 PM

Okay, thanks. I've added it in. I'd like to find out a bit more about Xbox-to-Xbox hotswapping before completing it. I've heard of a couple methods with that too.

#4 Funkadelik

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Posted 10 June 2004 - 04:50 PM

brilliant... helped me TONS...

#5 krayzie

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Posted 10 June 2004 - 04:57 PM

Maybe also nice to add that you can hear the xbox being unlocked an accesed. The first accesing would be just before the M$ logo, after you hear the clicking hd noise the drive is unlocked and you can hotswap after that, if you boot into an error screen after that you can hear clicking sounds a few seconds later when it's locking again.

#6 denky

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Posted 10 June 2004 - 05:13 PM

XBOX and PC have different electrical ground because PC are grounded whereas Xbox have a floating ground.

Because of this difference you can damage your xbox or pc when you hotswap.

Safe step to take is to connect a wire between the xbox metal casing and your PC casing when they are both switched off and only disconnect it when everything is done and powered off.

#7 krayzie

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Posted 10 June 2004 - 05:38 PM

QUOTE (denky @ Jun 10 2004, 07:13 PM)
XBOX and PC have different electrical ground because PC are grounded whereas Xbox have a floating ground.

Because of this difference you can damage your xbox or pc when you hotswap.

Safe step to take is to connect a wire between the xbox metal casing and your PC casing when they are both switched off and only disconnect it when everything is done and powered off.

I don't think this can harm the hdd as longs as you don't touch any electrical parts, components and or traces on the mainboard or the hd while powered on.

#8 denky

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Posted 10 June 2004 - 06:14 PM

It is not the danger of accidently touching something I am warning about.

If a sizable voltage potential difference exist between your PC and Xbox ground, you risk damaging electrical surge/shock because the act of hotswapping - disconnecting and connecting IDE cable - you are actually forcing the ground to equalize between the 2 device.

So by connecting both device chassis beforehand when they are both switch off, you will ensure there is no potential difference and you can safely hotswap.


#9 krayzie

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Posted 10 June 2004 - 06:38 PM

I understand your point on the potential difference but unless something is shortcircuited or elctrostacly charged the ground would be currentless so there won't be a potential difference between the two.

#10 ldots

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Posted 10 June 2004 - 06:44 PM

Great stuff Grospolina. You know your stuff, and you know how to pass on your knowledge.

This is not really on the hotswapping topic, but this could turn into a xbox HDD specific thread, so just to elaborate. :
  • The HDD status is handled by the HDD firmware on a chip. Formatting at any level will not let you access the drive and "erase" the HDD password.
  • Actually, the HDD will not not accept any "standard" commands unless the HDD is unlocked. That is why windows will hang for severel minutes if you try to boot with an locked HDD attached.
  • Only commands the HDD will accepts are the ones in the ATA Security specifications. You can get the status/security level of the drive, and the HDD model and serial number, which luckily is all that is needed to generate the correct HDD password if you have your xbox eeprom. Credit goes to Speedbump for figuring out the HDD password generation algorithm.
  • The HDD firmware will only accept a limited number off attempt to unlock the drive. After that the drive will freeze, and you cannot attempt to unlock it unless you reboot.
  • Unlocking and password disabling are different things (different commands). When the xbox is running the HDD is unlocked, but locking is still enabled. Therfore on shutdown the drive will relock. The ATA specification has a command that disabled the HDD password altogether. When unlocking with Unlockx, both the unlock and the password disable command are sent to the drive. The hdunlock/hddisable tools seperate these functions.


#11 Angerwound

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Posted 10 June 2004 - 07:23 PM

Excellant job Grospolina! There was definately a lack of informationon Hotswapping and I think you totally cleared up all the gray area for anyone that had questions.

#12 denky

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Posted 11 June 2004 - 12:43 AM

QUOTE (krayzie @ Jun 10 2004, 08:38 PM)
I understand your point on the potential difference but unless something is shortcircuited or elctrostacly charged the ground would be currentless so there won't be a potential difference between the two.

I am not sure if you really understand my warning. I measured a 100V difference between my PC and xbox.

Maybe I am not clear enough, so I will refer all to a well-known xbox hacker's site, hopefully Numbnut (Andy Green) can explain it better, he certainly knows this stuff.


On his mainpage, http://warmcat.com/milksop/index.html
QUOTE
Crucially important note:  The X-Box chassis floats.  Bad things will happen if you hook your PC to it without connecting it to Earth Ground first.  See the Milksop page for more information.  DO NOT IGNORE THIS WARNING.


and more info on his Milksop page, http://warmcat.com/milksop/x.html
QUOTE
Note on safety

Your X-Box floats - it doesn't have an earth connection.  There is quite a difference in potential between a standard X-Box and earth ground; I can make little sparks by touching the chassis of the X-box with my eath-ground scope probe ground clip.  You will likely damage your PC if you attempt to connect it without ensuring that the X-Box agrees with your PC about the relative potentials of 0V and Earth Ground.

For a while I clipped a couple of scope probe ground clips to the chassis and made do.  But today I was indirectly connecting my beloved laptop to the X-Box, so I took a precaution I strongly recommend to anyone doing the same.

I cut off the mains plug from the X-Box power lead and substituted my own non-moulded one, then added a thick wire from the earth pin of the mains plug, neatly tie-wrapped to the mains cable, and bolted the other bared end on to the chassis of the X-Box.  (If you are not sure which pins are which in a mains plug, please do not experiment, go get someone else who does know to do it for you).  Take care to bolt the wire in such a way that it cannot fall into the switchmode powersupply, ie, on the outside of the chassis, not the inside.

Edited by denky, 11 June 2004 - 12:47 AM.


#13 krayzie

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Posted 11 June 2004 - 02:24 AM

Well out of curiousness out of this statement you make I took out my multimeter and measured it also and was shocked to see difference of 108 VAC. Then I measured from xbox to xbox and also 108 volts.
That would Indeed mean that when you hotswap the difference in voltage is over the ground of the xbox hd feed and the pc IDE cable. I don't know the direct consequences of how the hdd react to this though. I (almost) never heard about anyone messing up their harddrives during a hotswap. Well maybe the connection from xbox to pc chassis isn't a really bad precaution if you want to be completely sure.

#14 Mullacy

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Posted 11 June 2004 - 02:56 AM

This needs to be added to the Tutorial thread... I tried hotswapping for two hours yesterday and I didn't get the damn thing unlocked grr.gif ...but maybe these tips will help, if I try again.

It's interesting what's been said about the need for the xbox to be grounded - I was connecting the Xbox to my PC's secondary IDE cable, where I normally have my DVD and CD writer (which is dead so I don't care about having both running), but now when I connect the (working) DVD drive to the plug where I had the Xbox hotswapped to, the PC, during the hdd detection, gives an error like 'ide cable no 80 connector grounded' or something.

It doesn't matter because I can plug the DVD drive into the other plug, but would the Xbox have used that plug as a ground and fried it? The odd thing was, during my later hotswapping attempts with the Xbox connected to the (fried?) connector, it detected it in Device manager, but it wasn't unlocked because XP took ages to boot up.

So, I'm going to leave hotswapping alone because frankly I'm worried about frying both the Xbox and PC (I could just ground the damn thing, but hey), and get a mod chip. Partly because of the voltage differences but also because my dashboard is trashed and the MS logo seems to come up and half a second later the Error 21 screen comes up - there is no way I can swap the cables in this time. This is all a bit much for me...

Edited by Mullacy, 11 June 2004 - 06:38 AM.


#15 krayzie

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Posted 11 June 2004 - 12:50 PM

the error might have to do with the type of ide cable. The old ones only have 40 leads and the new ones have 80 leads as wherin all of them are connected to ground seperately.




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