My Xbox’s DVD Drive has been playing up for a while now. I install all of my games to the hard drive so it is rarely used. However I need to at least read and recognise the disks to be able to start any retail games. For the last month or so I’ve resorted to hitting it squarely on the head a few times to get it to read the disks. I’ve not uncovered the exact cause of the problem but this rather noisy solution at least works 95% of the time.
Thank you Youtube.
Whilst over at ours recently, Rich finally convinced me to actually try and fix this bloody thing. So, after failing to transplant the circuit board from my old drive to another working spare – and breaking both of them – I looked into recovering the firmware from my original drive and ordered a refurbished replacement for £20 from eBay. After a few days waiting for it to arrive it only took 30 minutes to flash my original firmware on to the new drive and put it all back together. My baby is finally back.
This article is here to point out where I went wrong along the way to save heart-ache and, more importantly, money.
The DVD Drive I have is the BenQ model (VAD6038 – firmware 64930C) which is one of the newer drives in the non-slim Xboxes. You can use this image to identify your drive without even opening your console:
The problem with replacing your Xbox DVD Drive is that all DVD Drives are locked to their respective motherboards. This is done using a secret key that only that motherboard and that DVD Drive have. If you use another Xbox DVD Drive in your Xbox it will still read disks but will deliberately recognise Games as DVD Movies instead.
One of the easiest ways to replace your DVD Drive and get around this issue is to swap out the circuit board from your faulty drive into a new drive. However, you need to make sure that you use exactly the same model of DVD Drive as the one you own. They key is kept on a chip on this board, so as far as the xbox is concerned nothing has changed. Whist this is a very simple procedure for the Hitachi and Samsung/Toshiba Drives (you only need to disconnect two ribbon cables and then reattach them) in the BenQ drive you need to de-solder and resolder 9 wires too. Again this isn’t particularly difficult and I am fairly comfortable with my soldering skills but somehow I managed to mess it up!
I suspect that I either damaged the lens during my soldering or caused heat damage to components on the circuit board. Both units now seem to be mechanically sound and also seem to have all data connections intact but will not read any disk. After testing and fiddling about for hours I managed to eliminate everything else – but I can’t work out what isn’t working correctly with the DVD unit itself.
I gave up on that route and then proceeded to recover the key from my DVD drive. This required reading the firmware from the drive. Jungle Flasher was the key to this process. A wonderful piece of software created to bring all of the DVD modding tools for the Xbox 360 under one GUI controlled umbrella. After a few false starts I ended up using this PDF guide to get me to the point where I could read my firmware. I highly recommend it.
Things that you will need to read (and then write) your firmware:
- Jungle Flasher Software
- Power for the DVD Drive (either your Xbox 360 or a kit from Team Xecuter)
- A SATA port (ideally an external VIA VT6421 – they are cheap on ebay)
- A SATA cable
I highly recommend using the VIA card (if you have issues) as that is what everybody else uses and has the most success with. Make sure you do not install the drivers for it (or un-install them if you are already using them) as they get in the way of JungleFlasher.
Connect your Xbox’s DVD Drive to your PC, power it on and start up JungleFlasher – then select the MTK Flash 32 tab. From this point on I will assume that the DVD Drive is a BenQ as I have no experience with any other drives. However this should still be helpful no matter what drive you have.
If at any point JungleFlasher ask you if you want to auto-load or use iXtreme firmware say no! This is custom firmware for unlocking your xbox and if you want to keep a legit box you want to stay away.
After choosing your drive via the I/O Port drop-down you are ready to get your drive’s key.
Usually you should be able to press the BenQ UnLock button and JungleFlasher will send 32 magic keys to your drive and put it in vendor mode so that you can get the firmware (I think it even does it for you automatically). However this didn’t work for me so here is the alternate method.
Click the Intro / Device ID button to attempt to introduce Vendor Mode. This will fail and you will be prompted to press yes to try again. Press Yes and then whilst the dots are moving across the dialog at the bottom of the form you need to power-cycle the drive. Pull out the power cable from the DVD Drive and quickly plug it back in again. Your Drive should now have entered Vendor Mode. Now you can click the Read button and then save your firmware to your Computer somewhere.
If you have any problems in this area (I certainly did) then here’s what I would recommend:
- Have you got a video cable plugged into the xbox (if you are using that for power)? This can cause the Xbox to turn off after about a minute. Plug in a cable to the back of the box – it doesn’t need to be connected to a TV or whatever.
- Are you using a VIA VT6421? If not consider buying one as they are about a tenner. Or maybe a teccy mate has one.
- Are the VIA Drivers installed? I could enter vendor mode but couldn’t read my firmware until I removed the drivers.
- Is the UnLock button not working? Try the Intro / Device ID button and power cycle the DVD Drive as detailed above.
You now have the secret key that can make any DVD Drive work with your Xbox. Either get another drive the exact same as your current one (including the firmware revision) and write your saved firmware to the new drive. Or you can extract the key and inject it into the firmware of the new drive. I figured that using the same drive would ensure that Microsoft won’t have anything to complain about – so that’s what I went with. As before this guide will now assume you are swapping a like for like drive.
After the drive was delivered I first tested it in my Xbox to make sure it could read disks. All was good so far. I then plugged it in to my PC as I had with my faulty one and fired up JungleFlasher again.
You need to get this new drive into vendor mode too. This time the BenQ UnLock button worked for me. Once in vendor mode I took a copy of the current firmware just in case.
To write your original firmware to your new drive you need to switch to the FirmwareTool 32 tab and click the Open Target Firmware button. This will allow you to select you firmware that you saved to your computer. Once loaded go back to the MTK Flash tab and after ensuring you are still in vendor mode click the Write button. This will write and then check the firmware is OK. It may inform you that you haven’t spoofed your drive – you don’t need to so proceed forward. If it is all right then click the Outro / ATA Reset button and you are done.
Place your DVD Drive into your Xbox boot it up and you should now be able to play a game again.
In short I would recommend the firmware route first. See if you can read your existing firmware. If you can then you should be able to write to another drive just as easily. Only then should you risk the fragile insides of your DVD Drive. I expected the firmware route to be messy but it was actually relatively painless. I would definitely recommend spending money on a VIA SATA card before buying a soldering iron – but if you have the iron then the decision is yours to make. If I had been unable to recover my DVD Key I would have been forced to attempt a motherboard recovery of the key (I’ve been there, burnt that on the original Xbox) or to buy a whole new 360 for ~£120.
Consider this potential cost before you solder up – especially if you think you are better at soldering than you are – like me.
A few interesting links to help broaden the subject if this wasn’t exactly what you were looking for:
- http://team-xecuter.com/ – Custom firmware for your Xbox 360’s DVD Drive
- http://www.jungleflasher.net/ – Jungle Flasher’s Home Page
- http://www.llamma.com/ – Repairing your Xbox 360 DVD Drive
- http://www.llamma.com/ – Opening your Xbox 360