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Why it is here? In fact, I'm huge fan of PlayStation2 game console; I think its hardware just amazing considering how long it was on the market, and how appealing its top titles are. I own two slims myself (though they say, slims are for pussies), and about 60 games. And now I got *phat* one as well :-P


The weak point of PS2 is DVD-drive, sometimes it becomes really annoying with its noise; fortunately, there's way to reduce DVD usage to minimum (thus prolonging its life as well) - smartest people on the net developed and shared wonderful software that allows you to place copy of your game on the network drive and run it from there. Network is not the only option for DVD-off playing, but most desirable in my case since it's much faster than USB-connected hard disk, and IDE HDDs are not supported by slims - how to make your PS2 load games from network share.

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One day I went to some local conference, "Retro Game Show", it's annual meeting of collectors and sellers of classic videogames, with gaming zone, contests and auction (site, in Russian). I was lucky and bought PS2 Fat SCPH-50008 (V10/V11), in very good condition, unmodded, for about $80. Owning PS2 Fat gives you more perspectives of softmodding, such as using FreeMCBoot, and HDLoader (actually, OpenPS2Loader), to play games from HDD on PS2 Fat.

How to make your PlayStation2 load games from network share?

There must be hundreds of similar questions answered on the net, with video tutorials and such; however none of these could satisfy my inquisitivness for details (and overcome my dumbness). Besides, I hate You-tube. Anyway, here is number of points I came up with when tried to solve the task.

  • It seems like the only way to boot latest slim PS2 with third-party software (such as game loader) is original Swap Magic DVD (not one you'd burned yourself from ISO image). Swap Magic allows you to run arbitrary executable from USB stick, memory card or hot swapped DVD.
  • The most advanced game loader is Open PS2 Loader (OPL, forum). OPL works with game disk images on the SMB network share ("Windows Shared Folder") without the need to particularly handle them except properly naming.
  • In order to use OPL off the memory card (without USB stick permanently presenting in colsole) you need something with file browsing capabilities, such as uLaunchELF (uLE, forum).
  • It turned out that not every USB stick can be used with PS2/Swap Magic, at least in my case: 4GB SanDisk couldn't be recognized no matter which partition size and type I set; so I bought Sony one, and it worked out.

Here's the checklist.

  • PS2 (obviously); got slim SCPH-90008 PAL (BIOS v2.30), some local online retailers still offer it here.
  • Swap Magic DVD (site); got Swap Magic Coder v3.8 PAL version, ordered it from SHOP 01MEDIA (site) for $35, they kindly shipping in Russia through conventional post service (registered mail), for $23.
  • OPL v0.9.2; downloaded it from here.
  • uLE v4.42b; downloaded it from here (btw - great site with a lot of info).
  • USB stick; ended up with Sony Micro Vault Classic USM8GR, with factory defaults such as single partition, size 7801 MB, system id "0xc", W95 FAT32 (LBA).
  • PS2 memory card; used non-originals, EXEQ 16MB and DVTech 16MB, both worked well.
  • SMB share; got NAS Buffalo LinkStation LS-XLdied WD My Book Live 1TB, it's pretty quiet; actually, you can use any shared folder on PC (Windows or Linux), but I'm finding it rather pointless - having to start a PC to play a game on console.

In all the rest steps below it is assumed that you're on some UNIX-like system with command line interface.

To copy your game from DVD to shared folder, first mount it and look for some file on it named similar to "SLES_XXX.XX" - use it as the first part of the output filename, followed with short (under 32 characters) title of the game you would like to appear in OPL launching menu, e.g. "SLES_537.55.CCOD.iso" for "Castelvania: Curse Of Darkness"; the crucial point is to have leading game code ('SLES_') in uppercase with underscore, and trailing '.iso' in lowercase. Then mount your SMB share:

# mount -t cifs -o username=ps2user,password=ps2passwd // /mnt/smbmount/

Make 'DVD' folder on the share:

# mkdir /mnt/smbmount/DVD

And copy the whole DVD to it:

# dd if=/dev/sr0 of=/mnt/smbmount/DVD/SLES_537.55.CCOD.iso

You have to be root to perform these actions.

Now prepare the USB stick.

Put USB stick into the PC; supposing it's mounted as /media/Sony_8GR/, make in the root of it folder named SWAPMAGIC (all uppercase):

$ mkdir /media/Sony_8GR/SWAPMAGIC

Next, from downloaded OPL and uLE archives copy into it files named OPNPS2LD.ELF and BOOT.ELF respectively:

$ cp /tmp/OPL\ 0.9.2/OPNPS2LD.ELF /media/Sony_8GR/SWAPMAGIC/SMBOOT0.ELF

$ cp /tmp/uLE\ v4.42b/BOOT.ELF /media/Sony_8GR/SWAPMAGIC/SMBOOT3.ELF

These are two files now that can be launched from Swap Magic menu. If you want something to be started automatically when PS2 boots with Swap Magic DVD, you should place it as SWAPMAGIC/SWAPMAGIC.ELF instead, either on USB stick or memory card, but for now it is just less handy. Numbers at the end of SMBOOT names are slots for the launcher menu, 0-3.

Now assemble Swap Magic DVD, USB stick prepared and memory card together with PS2 and turn it on.

If PS2 boots successfully with Swap Magic you should see its splash screen.

In the menu select SMBOOT button.

The launcher menu lets you choose from four custom executables; OPL would be under SMBOOT0 if you want to test how it runs, but we start uLE (SMBOOT3) to copy OPL to the memory card.

Select FileBrowser in uLE menu.

Navigate to the memory card (mc0:/) and create new folder through R1 menu (note the button legend on the screen bottom).

Name it SWAPMAGIC, all uppercase, and check it well - 'W' and 'M' letters look almost the same on TV.

Now go back to USB stick (mass:/SWAPMAGIC/) and copy SMBOOT0.ELF (which is OPL) through R1 menu.

Navigate again into mc0:/SWAPMAGIC/, and choose Paste, then Rename action in R1 menu.


Now remove USB stick and reset the console; if all went well you should see OPL splash as it loading.

On the initial start OPL goes straight to its settings.

Change 'ETH device start mode' to 'Auto', and 'Default menu' to 'ETH Games' in general options.

In the network configuration you should use static IP, OPL doesn't contain DHCP client. To make my home network consistent, I reserved on the router IP addresses given to my PS2s and NAS (with SMB share). According to share mapping example above, in the -PC- section you should choose '' for 'IP', 'ps2share' for 'Share', 'ps2user' for 'User' and 'ps2passwd' for 'Password'. As soon you push 'OK' OPL will try to connect to the host specified, and let you know if anything went wrong.

Don't forget to Save changes in the main menu; now when you reboot your PS2 with Swap Magic DVD and memory card in place (and the network share online), you will see your game list.

By default OPL uses debug colors during game load, filling the screen with solids for various stages, it can be switched off from its main menu.

OPL provides much more functionality, read further on psx-scene about what you can do with it, particularly how to use Modes in Game settings if your game won't start.

PlayStation2 Fat and games on HDD

Once again, tutorials which I could find on this matter were rather incomplete, or vague in some aspects, so I've decided to write down all necessary steps as I progressed through the task. What I tried to achieve - to make PS2 Fat boot from memory card and load games from internal hard disk drive. As before, some points to notice.

  • In order to attach an IDE hard disk drive to PS2 Fat you have to obtain another piece of hardware called Network Adapter for PS2; it's installed along with HDD into expansion bay at the back of the console. There are several Network Adapter models available, the original (which is manufactured by Sony) supports only IDE HDD, and some third-party, with SATA HDD support. I got some spare IDE HDDs and rather little faith in third-parties, so tried hard to find the original one.
  • I have two IDE HDDs (IBM 60 GB, Seagate 120 GB), both worked well; you may find some compatibility list with HDD models, but most of them should work fine.
  • To put your games on the HDD you need some additional software, and the drive must be formatted first. People suggest WinHiip for this, but I don't have a PC with Windows host, besides it may happen your modern system lacks an IDE connector. Instead, you may format the drive attached to the console with uLE tools, and put your games on it either from DVDs, or through the network with additional client, running on Windows; I used the latter.
  • It's a good idea to test your HDD before use; I did it with Linux PC and smartctl utility to read SMART status from the drive and run some tests. Of course you need some PC system with IDE interface on the motherboard for this. Also, native PS2 software (ELF executable) exists which is doing almost the same.
  • I couldn't set up FreeMCBoot on noname memory card 16 MB, and had to find the original one; although that noname worked fine with games.

Here's the checklist.

  • PS2 Fat SCPH-50008 PAL, got it for $80, used but unmodded, and with few games and EyeToy!
  • Network Adapter for PS2 SCPH-10281, got it completely new (sealed) from EBAY for $20 plus $27 for delivery; it's a North American model (for NTSC consoles) and my console's region is PAL, but since I didn't planned to use the original Sony software wich comes with the adapter it wasn't the problem.
  • Swap Magic DVD, the same as used in previous topic.
  • USB stick Sony USM8GR, the same as used in previous topic.
  • PS2 memory card SCPH-10020 E, it's a SONY original 8 MB memory card.
  • uLaunchELF (uLE) v4.42b, the same as used in previous topic.
  • FreeMCBoot Installer v1.94; downloaded it from here.
  • HDLoader Game Installer (HDLGameInstaller) v0.808 and Windows client for transferring your games through the network (HDLGManClient); downloaded it from here.
  • OPL v0.9.2, the same as used in previous topic.

First, let's prepare the USB stick with all the software required. As before, it's assumed you're on some UNIX-like system, with command shell. Connect USB stick to the PC; supposing it's mounted as /media/Sony_8GR/. Make in the root of it folder named SWAPMAGIC, all uppercase:

$ mkdir /media/Sony_8GR/SWAPMAGIC

Next, from downloaded OPL and uLE archives copy ELF executables; this time I will use OPL without VMC support, though there's nothing special about it:

$ cp /tmp/OPL\ 0.9.2\ \(NO\ VMC\)/OPL\ \(NO\ VMC\).ELF /media/Sony_8GR/SWAPMAGIC/OPLNOVMC.ELF

$ cp /tmp/uLE\ v4.42b/BOOT.ELF /media/Sony_8GR/SWAPMAGIC/SMBOOT2.ELF

Create folder for FreeMCBoot installer, and copy files from archive:

$ mkdir /media/Sony_8GR/FMCB

$ cp /tmp/FMCB-1.94/FMCBInstaller.elf /media/Sony_8GR/FMCB/

$ cp -rp /tmp/FMCB-1.94/install /media/Sony_8GR/FMCB/

$ cp -rp /tmp/FMCB-1.94/lang /media/Sony_8GR/FMCB/

Create folder for HDLGameInstaller, and copy files from archive:

$ mkdir /media/Sony_8GR/HDLGAINS

$ cp /tmp/HDLGameInst-0.808/HDLGameInstaller.elf /media/Sony_8GR/HDLGAINS/

$ cp -rp /tmp/HDLGameInst-0.808/lang /media/Sony_8GR/HDLGAINS/

Now you have to configure game installer with network parameters; create configuration folder on USB stick, and make a file within it with selected values. You have to specify IP address for you PS2 console, network mask (usually default) and IP address for the default gateway; below I'll set it up for my home network.

$ mkdir /media/Sony_8GR/SYS-CONF

$ echo "" > /media/Sony_8GR/SYS-CONF/IPCONFIG.DAT

Later, after booting PS2 with SwapMagic and running uLE, you'll have to copy this config file to the folder with the same name on the memory card; for more details please refer to the corresponding README coming with HDLoader Game Installer.

After finishnig with USB stick, you may assemble PS2 together with Network Adapter and HDD, don't forget to set the latter to master mode with jumpers.

Plug in all the necessary cables, including Ethernet one for Network Adapter, put in the Swap Magic disk; insert USB stick and memory card; turn the power on. Don't panic if you're expecting to hear your HDD drive working, and hear nothing - it will spin up later, after loading the required modules. See the previous topic for details on how to boot into uLE from USB stick (choosing slot 2 in SMBOOT menu since uLE was copied as SMBOOT2.ELF).

If PS2 boots OK with uLE, navigate to FreeMCBoot installer folder on USB stick (mass:/FMCB/) and run its ELF.

Setup asks for some options, such as selecting from Normal, Cross-model or Cross-regional install; I chose Normal, other cases useful if you're making memory card for a friend.

After FreeMCBoot installed successfully, you may remove Swap Magic disk, and reboot PS2; now your console is able to boot and run ELF execurables with only memory card in place. To tell the difference, you should see (briefly) FreeMCBoot logo as it boots, and then additional menu items in your browser.

Select uLaunchELF, and then navigate to MISC pseudo-folder. There will be number of utilites, choose HddManager to launch.

This is the moment when your HDD should spin up if it's wired correctly and Network Adapter is working. You should format your HDD here for PS2, use R1 menu.

Now go back to uLE and copy configuration file IPCONFIG.DAT from USB stick to memory card into corresponding folder.

It's time to run HDLGameInstaller, from USB stick (mass:/HDLGAINS/ folder).

To make sure your network configuration is used, press SELECT to check network status.

As far as I know, there's only Windows client for HDLGameInstaller exists, so I had to use Windows XP on virtual machine. The only important thing to consider when launching HDLGManClient is network settings, that is PS2 IP address assigned through IPCONFIG.DAT file is reachable from your Windows machine. Type the PS2 IP address in the server address field and press Connect button.

You should see the following on your PS2 TV if the client is able to successfully connect to HDLGameInstaller (it enters "Remote administration mode").

Now you can manage contents of your PS2 HDD through the network, it should be empty for the moment, so simply add one of your game. On the screen below I'm installing my Shin Megami Tensei: Lucifer's Call from disk, but you can do it from ISO image as well. Btw, several PS2 games I bought as used are pretty worn, and it's almost impossible to use them in conventional way. So I copied them with Linux ddrescue utility and playing them either from network or local disk drive.

One major drawback when installing games through the network is lengthy copying time, it could take more than half an hour for single game, I guess that's where WinHiip is a winner. But you're doing it once per game, so it's not that big problem for me comparing with the the need to set up Windows host, and swapping HDD every time whenever I decide to add/change a game.

After the game is successfully installed, you may disconnect the client; HDLGameInstaller enters local mode where you can edit game title, options, or even delete it.

You should create copy of OPL on memory card to free USB stick from duty (I did it in the folder arbitrary named APPS), and change configuration of FreeMCBoot so that OPL could start automatically when PS2 boots.

Choose the conguration item in the browser menu.

Select [Auto] option in [E1 Button Settings] section and make it pointing to the copy of OPL (mc0:/APPS/OPLNOVMC.ELF).

Don't forget to save updated FreeMCBoot configuration.

Finally, in the OPL settings change [HDD device start mode] to Auto, and [Default menu] to HDD Games. Now, if everything went well, when PS2 started, you should see OPL displaying list of your games installed on the internal HDD.

IDE HDD sometimes can be noisy, but not that much like DVD drive trying hard to read scratched disk.

1 Constructive Solid Geometry

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