Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The full story on modding

I hate to be redundant, but now I'm finished with these mods. I want to review what happened for my own benefit.

Why did I want a modchip? I wanted to try Linux. I wanted to boot to the hard drive. I wanted to play some of the homebrew projects and use emulators for the systems I don't have anymore. I wanted to do so without swapping or using a computer. I guess being able to play backups and imports is a plus, but it's not that important.

Most importantly, I also wanted to see what else the PS2 could do since I'm losing interest in it (*gasp* go xbox!).

Anyway, since I try to find good deals, I ended up purchasing a "Matrix Infinity SE" chip from It was $30 + shipping, and claimed to have all these features (blah blah). After receiving it I realized it was only a clone of the actual "Matrix Infinity". Google research taught me that this clone would cease to function if the chip was ever flashed or the configuration changed. Oh well. It would allow me to do everything I wanted except boot to the hard drive (I think I could boot to the memory card with it though).

From there I began my first (full) PS2 disassembly. What a pain. I thought the XBox was annoying (I had replaced DVD-ROM assemblies before). didn't provide wiring diagrams as advertised, so I had to get them elsewhere. Then I realized that I didn't have the right wiring diagram. For some reason, 99% of the sites selling the Infinity SE provide the v5 diagram for the v7/v8 listing. Strange, but I eventually found the right one. With a trip to Radio Shack, I now had a 15w soldering iron and thin solder. Soldering wasn't too hard, but I have never attempted it on points this small before. So the project began.

Soldering to the BIOS chip is a pain. Its pins are so close together. I tried electrical tape in order to avoid shorting pins together. That didn't work, so I used a couple of razor blades to block solder from going to the other pins. That worked, but I really didn't have enough hands to do it efficiently. In the process, I accidently got extra solder on the end of a nearby capacitor (which at the time, I thought was a resistor).

Thinking I could get away with not using a desoldering wick, I tried to remove the extra solder with the iron itself. I don't remember what exactly happened, but the capacitor broke off and I ended up losing it in the carpet nearby (no, I was not doing this on the carpet, I was doing it on a table). I was pissed, but decided to keep going.

The last solder point I tried was in a tight space. It was surrounded by a capacitor, resistor, and a transistor. Unfortunately, this is before I realized that the tip that came with the iron was too thick. I ended up breaking off another capacitor (and ironically still losing it in the carpet), and I had excess solder in the area shorting things together. Back to Radio Shack.

I bought a desoldering wick and a thinner iron tip. I would visit the shack again shortly after for an iron holder (I burned an "M" in my forearm from the cheap holder that came with the iron). I cleaned up excess solder, and decided to try the PS2 without the capacitors (which I still thought were resistors).

Black screen. That was not a good sign. I immediately removed the modchip from the board and tried again. The PS2 Browser screen relieved my eyes. Alas, there was a problem. The unit would not read any DVD media. At least it read CD media. I figured I was lucky it worked at all after breaking parts off.

A week or so later, one of our room mates moved out and wanted to buy the computer I was letting him use. I know he didn't have any money, so I told him I'll just take his slim PS2 for it (I had about 8 computers so I wouldn't miss it). This would become my backup that I wouldn't mod.

I temporarily traded the slim for my other room mate's PS2 so I could figure out what the missing parts were. I took the resistance values of the capacitors that were missing and went to Radio Shack for parts again. After installing the resistors, my PS2 tried really hard to read those DVDs, but it just couldn't do it. After several multimeter reads on the stock resistors, I noticed the value would always rise to a certain point and then cap off. This is when I realised they were actually capacitors so I had wasted my time. I also blew the fan fuse by smashing one of the fan wires (so much reassembly leads to impatience). I gave up on PS2s for a while.

Another room mate had a modchip for his PSX that he never used. I figured I could run some stuff off my PSOne that was collecting dust, so I tried installing it. Unfortunately, it didn't work because it was made for the PSX, not the PSOne.

However, I forgot how much easier the Playstations were to take apart in comparison to the PS2s. The modchip was only 7 wires as well, compared to the 19 for the PS2. I bought the correct modchip for $6 and installed it. Needless to say, that was a walk in the park, and I was using "It Might be NES" in no time. The other chip I installed for a friend so it could play some Nintendo on his old PSX as well.

Back to the PS2 after two successful mods on Playstations...

Much browsing led me to another modchip called the DMS4 E.Z.I. Lite. Solderless! I found one on Ebay, and eagerly awaited to put it in my room mate's PS2. I finally was able to, but it black screened. I removed it, and his PS2 wouldn't play DVDs anymore. Frustrated, I inspected the laser lens. The plastic around it was melted. However, I do know that he would leave his PS2 on for days or weeks at a time. Maybe the modchip just tipped it off the edge. I put the laser from my broken PS2 in it and it worked fine (unmodded). Close inspection of the modchip DSP clip proved that it was broken. I traded my room mate back and decided to think of my next move.

I bought a PS2 motherboard off Ebay in attempt to replace my broken one. Unfortunately, it had blown fuses and didn't work at all. I even replaced one of the main fuses, but it just blew. This left my original board with yet another bad part. Thankfully, the seller allowed me to return it. However, I'm still waiting for my refund.

Hopes fading but not gone, I bought another motherboard and another working PS2 off ebay. This way, I'd have a PS2 without extra solder (for the DMS4) and had a good laser in case I wasn't able to fix my original PS2. Thankfully, it worked as the seller had promised, although it was missing a screw and a couple support pads. I think one of the screws was the wrong type as well. No big deal though.

The PS2 worked great, but the motherboard was the wrong version (v9); it had a different reset/eject cable plug. It's funny that all three of these PS2s are version 8's, which is supposed to be the rarest. One of them did have a gapped BIOS though (my room mate's). Anyway, I couldn't return it because I couldn't test it.

This was getting ridiculous, so I bought new BIOS and DSP clips for my DMS4 modchip. I installed it in my working PS2. It would let me disable the chip, but it wouldn't boot "Beats of Rage" or any of my emulators. Some googling taught me that the DSP clip may not be making full contact. I took extreme care in remove the DSP clip in order not to break it. Once removed, I bent the pins on it slightly outward with a razor blade. Reinstallation and success!

One thing I have to note is that the DMS4 E.Z.I. is an extremely tight fit. The backside of the DSP clip is pushed down by the ground plate. The eject PCB is also pushed down by the ground plate. I'm sure the BIOS clip is clinched in as well, but I'm not sure. This fit lead me to taping the wires down to the board as flat as possible. I also recommend putting 1 layer of thin electrical tape over the actual modchip. Do NOT put tape over any white connectors on the modchip or the eject PCB. I didn't trust the ground loop, so I soldered the ground wire in (which isn't hard, solder to the same ground in the regular DMS4 diagram). If you ever plan on installing an E.Z.I., be sure to read through the DMS forums first.

I really like the options on the chip. However, if I had to mod again, I would get the DMS4 Pro (solder type). Then I could load ToxicOS which has more features than ToxicBIOS.

At this point I was left with one good modded PS2, one slim PS2, and one half-working PS2. My room mate traded the slim PS2 because he says that the PS2 I gave back to him was skipping on DVDs. I watched a movie on it without a problem, but it did seem to start up a little slow. I just figured I could sell it, because now I want to mod a slim PS2!

So now I had 1 good modded PS2, 1 working PS2, a half-working PS2, and a v9 PS2 motherboard. I figured I might as well remove parts from the v9 motherboard in attempt to fix my original PS2.

I marked the capcitors with a sharpie so I wouldn't mess up the orientation when soldering them into the board. Desoldering the capacitors didn't really work, so I had to break them off carefully as not to lose them. I put them on tape so I wouldn't lose them. However, soldering them directly to the other board was going to be next to impossible with the equipment I had. Instead, I soldered short wires to the capacitors and soldered the wires to the board. Much easier. I covered the capacitors with tape to prevent shorts.

The smoke test was definitely smoke free. It still wouldn't read DVDs, so I tried adjusting the DVD laser voltage. No dice. I figured the DVD portion of the laser was shot, so I put the original laser back in the PS2. It worked 100%, and there was no slow startup. Needless to say I was happy. I went back and replaced the fan fuse as well, and decided to resolder in the Matrix Infinity SE modchip. Since at this point I knew what I was doing, I was successful my first try.

My current result is 2 good modded PS2s and 1 half working PS2. The one that isn't fully functioning is my room mate's old one with it's original laser. All it needs is a new laser and it should be good to go.

Good thing this is fun for me; sounds frustrating, doesn't it?

Review of Costs:

Matrix Infinity SE $30
15W Soldering Iron $8
Thin Solder $4
Soldering Tips $8
Soldering holder $13
v8 Motherboard (used) $30
v9 Motherboard (used) $22
DMS4 Lite E.Z.I (used) $48
DMS4 E.Z.I. clips $28
Resistors $6
PS2 v8 w/ network adapter (used) $80

Total: $277

Potential refunds:

Bad v8 board $20
PS2 with Matrix Infinity SE $200

Estimated Total: $57


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Suddenly, I remember why I never bothered with mod chips and just used Swap Magic and the independence day exploit.... I also cut up the case on my FAT PS2 and added hinges to make my own fliptop, and the slim PS2 I just got was even easier to set up for booting with swap magic. Any game that won't boot using swap magic on my slim PS2 will usually work just fine using HDloader on my FAT PS2. The FAT one stopped reading DVDs, which is fine, since all I need it to read is the PSX game that stays in it 24/7, and triggers the ID exploit.

4:32 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

Yeah, I look back now, and that original PS2 doesn't read original DVD9 game discs anymore. What a pain. It's just not worth it. The other PS2 only works horizontally, and doesn't always boot burned media (have to reset 0-4 times to get it to work.

When it comes down to it, Sony just used poor lasers in almost all of their PS2's except the last couple of versions (v13+).

4:49 PM  

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