Console Modding - let the lame tuning begin


#1

Yeah so… I’ve been modding, fixing, cleaning, even painting my consoles. Well… a few.
But recently I was back in Portugal and I still had 3 at my parents house. I was planing to bring them with me back to Poland and also “tune them up”, but while I was in Portugal there was a small fire in the same room where the consoles were.
Nothing to worry about. The fire extinguished itself before it did any serious damage, and didn’t even got near to the consoles. However the previously dirty and old consoles now got dirtier and smelling horribly like burnt paper and plastic.

Still, the plan hasn’t changed, and I’m going to be working on these babies. So I decided I could do a thread on the forum to show what I’m doing, and how’s it going.
So I don’t actually have a photo of the consoles before I disassembled, or even while they still had the majority of the smoke “darkness” on them.

But I do have 2 photos of them disassembled:

New photo by Decinoge Gerah New photo by Decinoge Gerah

So you probably recognise these, they are a Playstation, a Dreamcast and a Nintendo 64.
The N64 board is already clean (top photo, top left). I’ve used only alcohol (can’t remember the type but sure ain’t vodka) and some painting brushes (those for kids in school). Also used some cotton swaps, but I try not to use them because they leave cotton all around the place.
The board itself still smells like smoke -_-, but sure looks clean.

So the first plan is to clean each of the board the same way.
I’ll also be cleaning every piece of plastic with dishwasher and a plastic brush, strong enough to take all the really nasty stuff in the corners.
Finally the shielding inside the consoles… that… will be more complicated. I’ll go around researching on what to do, and when I’m confident on a plan I’ll type it here.

Afterwards… mods.
I’ll try to do at least one mod to each console. Never “mod-chips” to read burned discs… because I hate discs. Seriously, I totally hate optical disc medium. So if I can I’ll also take out those from the PSX and the DC.


#2

Oof, disc-based systems. Modding those seems like a lot of work. I’ve done a few mods on cartridge-systems which were pretty manageable. I’ve put region+clock speed switches on a Mega Drive and a Super Nintendo, and also applied a fix to the Mega Drive so it could display 60hz in colour (PAL console).

In terms of repair, I’ve replaced the headphone jack volume slider on a Japanese Mega Drive, which was quite rewarding. Also replaced the clock battery in two Dreamcasts with battery holders.

I’m not totally against mod chips - it would be nice to play my entire Saturn collection on one Saturn without needing an AR cart, etc. Lifting the IC chip off the board looks like a pretty intimidating task though, especially since some of them can have epoxy underneath.


#3

I have fond memories of chipping a playstation and flashme’ing a DS

the most recent console mod I engaged in was putting an adhesive Velcro strip on the side of my PS4 to stick a USB3 enclosure onto


#4

I’ve only ever softmodded a Wii and PSP, and had someone hardmod my PS2 (well, actually it might have been a softmod, I think he just opened it up to get at the disc and swap it). One day I’ll have to learn hardware stuff. The nature of war is changing.


#6

OOOooooooh, those look really nice.
I personally can’t get my hands on a broken/old/devalued SNES for my life. I wish I could get one, but at the same time I kinda wish I can’t because if I get one, I’ll start buying games for it (never had one) and SNES games sure take a toll on your wallet.
BTW, I would like to ask you what those wires (blue, brow and purple) are for? I imagine they are for the “color” fix under 60Hz, but I’m not absolutely sure.
Also, I assume that crystal clock you have right at the center is an overclock??? (confirm/deny)

Anyways, before anything else I’ll just state right here and now how I would love for more people to put photos of their own mods in here.

Also, I absolutely have nothing against modchips… I really only have against optical disc media.
Since most of modchip’s objectives are on “running burned games”… well… I also know pretty well that modchips also allow you to run homebrew, which is very very cool and it is always something I want for any console. But most of them do that, again, through optical discs D=.

Anyways, since @HEAVYVIPER shown his Mega Drive… well… I hope no one minds me showing a Genesis I’ve modded myself.
This console was given me by Brandon, one of the times he came to Poland… He probably had it around gathering dust. I have a Mega Drive myself but right now it’s at Takashi’s place cause it had a problem that I couldn’t detect or fix at the time.

This Genesis served as… my sandbox. I really did a number on it because I basically used it to learn and perfect soldering and whatnot. Got it fully functional, with a minor (!!!) problem that I’ll try to fix eventually. Anyways, photos… everyone loves them:

Here is how the console looks from the outside. I’ll explain what that switch on the back and the led do, but the most obvious change is the zone and speed switches. I did the 2 switches mod, not the single switch mod that @HEAVYVIPER did (I have one that I use for when the console is open), I also didn’t tried to hide them, just put them where I could access them easily (this console was never planned to look pretty).

Now 2 photos. Here is the console when it’s running. Now that… rather huge switch on the side serves the purpose to turn on the power supply inside the console itself. You can see on the second photo how the console only needs a figure 8 cable to power the console, and there is no more need to drag around the huge block of 9v power supply. The switch to turn it on has to be a specific one for the european power lines (if you don’t cut the live wire, it will still get some power going… so you need to cut both lines with a DPST switch. I really wasn’t able to find a smaller one. The blue led on top indicates if the power supply is ON or not, and well, the white led is… the one that used to be red.
You can also see how the SCART cable come directly out of the console without any kind of plug. yeah… decided to just take the plug off and connect a small cable directly to it. Bad decision? Well… probably but serves it’s purpose.


Ok, here is it all opened up. You can see how the power line goes to the switch, then to the power supply, and finally divides into supply led, and console. You can also see that the power supply actually has shielding to avoid noise to the console. The power supply shielding touches the other shielding to get contact. This shielding is done with aluminium from… a beer can. You can also see how the switches on the top of the console don’t need to come off to open the console cause… I did a thing there (dunno how those are called). Works perfectly. I only had to make one of the holes on the console’s original shielding a bit bigger so it can all come out without any problem. I might need some hot glue on the figure 8 plug because it’s not holding too well.

With the shielding out… well… I really did a number on this one. I’ll go piece by piece but I just want to call the attention to the Video cable. A bunch of hot glue in there just to make it safe. And it is… unless you give it a really hard yank =P.

First the controllers plugs. I changed them because… well… specially on the Model 2 this console… they really do suck. Flimsy plastic ones, and most of the times you think the controller is not working properly, it is actually these that are not making a correct connection. The plugs themselves are very simple and standard 9 Pins D-Sub, so I got some good metallic ones, and soldered them to the board. Only had to do 2 those for them, because the outside holes of the original one were on the exact spot for these standard ones. The side screws to get the connection fixed are not necessary or bother the connection of the original controllers.

Now for the interesting part. This is a Minimega Amp. I assembled this small board myself. Ordered the board from oshpark.com, bough all the components, and assembled it myself. Basically this amplifies the console’s sound, which is the problem with the “megadrives with bad sound”. So this fixes it. This Model 2 didn’t had the worst sound, but… well… I just wanted to do this mod, and makes the sound better, clearer. It’s a somewhat more advanced mod because I had to take out a bunch of capacitors from the board, and make some really weird connection. Also there is the detail that each different board, each different sound chip needs specific components on the Mega Amp, so I really had to know the components I had, and where to connect the board.

This is an RGB Bypass. You can get your info about it on the usual place RetroRGB. Again assembled by me, same thing as the MiniMega Amp, with the difference that this bypass is the same on every console model.
Now this mod is actually really worth it. The clarity in pixels is amazing, and not a single jailbar on the screen on every colour my games produced. I did a small change on the board after some more digging to the RetroRGB. Instead of using the THS7314 I used the THS7316. This chip does the same but without a low pass filter. Since I use the console with a OSSC, RetroRGB explains that the less filters you have to go digital, the better. End result… looks amazing.

Now here is the power supply. This is a 7.5 Volts and 3 Ampere power supply. I’ve chosen 7.5v and not like the original 9v for a few reasons. First because this console needs a linear power supply. These tend to get pretty big the more voltage they pull out, so I needed something to fit it. But the console needs only 5v to work. I actually tried it with various mobile chargers, taking out that regulator on the right (that lump of metal that cools the regulator, basically takes extra voltage and converts it in heat, and gives out a very stable and very clean voltage on the other end). That didn’t work cause the console needs very stable voltage, otherwise stuff like sound and picture get all weird (kinda funny to check), and saves don’t work _at all.
But the regulator (changed for a new one, they always die eventually) needs 7v to actually work and give out 5v for the console. So I found this power supply. The advantage is quite obvious. Since the voltage that goes into the regulator is smaller, so is the heat that the regulator gives away… which is always super nice when you plan to play for many hours. Also, the power supply is not only very clean, but also safe, which means I won’t have horrible voltage spikes to warm up the regulator. In the end… it all worked out.

Now the final photo. These are the boards for the MiniMega Amp and the RGB Bypass that I ordered from oshpark.com. I still have a Mega Drive where I will use one one of each, and the final one I will use on a friend’s console. Unfortunately the schematics and chance to order these specific boards from oshpark.com were taken from the site. It really sucks… I would love to install them on various consoles if I could… but… oh well =P.

Anyways, that is all. I also have a Playstation 2, a Gamecube, couple of GBA SP, and a Gameboy Color with hardware mods. If you guys wish so, I’ll add posts like this for each of them. I promise they won’t be as big =P. This was really the console I did more work on.


#7

WEW lad. You have gone to town on that thing. Very impressive! I have a PAL MD2 lying around myself, so maybe I should look into gearing that one up, too.

The blue, brown and purple wires were already there when I opened up the console. I assume they’re small fixes applied at the factory after manufacturing. Maybe something to do with it being a PAL board?

The crystal clock is the “60hz colour fix” I mentioned. When you mod a PAL MD with a region switch, it displays 60hz in black and white through composite out. It happens because the video encoder chip works out the NTSC color burst frequency from the MD’s crystal oscillator, and because PAL consoles use a crystal that runs slightly slower than NTSC consoles, there’s a mismatch. So in this case, I found a diagram for a small circuit that feeds the video encoder the NTSC frequency it needs. This is only required if you’re using the composite out, though - if you’re running RGB, there’s no colour issue at all.

RE: portables, you reminded me that I put a new backlit screen in one of my model 1 GBAs, so that’s one more notch I can put on the belt, I guess.


#8

I don’t even dare to turn up with lame fan-mod for the X360, and reapplying the thermal paste for the PS4 itt, but love what is shown here, that’s almost R-Rated stuff, kudos!


#9


I do have to admit I would do almost everything to put pretty lights on everything I own.

@HEAVYVIPER, I also did the same, but to SPs. I can’t remember but do you also have to put a small voltage step-up just to get the 12v those chinese screens need?


#10

I bought a screen last year from a Chinese eBay seller that came with a pin adapter (that I had to specify) and a wire already soldered to it. I had to clear out the plastic mounts for the previous screen, then solder the wire from the new screen to the leg of a transistor on the mainboard for power. Was pretty straightforward.


#11

I see @HEAVYVIPER, so the console does have some place with 12v. That’s the thing with the SP frontlit SP, it simply doesn’t have a place where you can suck 12v for the screen. So you have to also install a 3v step-up converter to 12v. Those things are tiny, easy to come by, and also rather cheap.
I did something like this on my Zelda and NES versions SPs: LINK
I also just finished doing to a friend’s SP, but it’s one of the first models. Those don’t have the path that you cut as shown on the link above, stupidly goes under the screen strip connector.
What I did was take out the pin that you solder on the strip connector, and have the 12v be fed from the converter, go along with the strip, and solder it to the back of the screen (dunno if you noticed, there’s 2 solder points there, one is for 12v to lit the screen, and the other is a ground). I watched a couple of videos on the mod for the original GBA, looks pretty solid and fast to do. If I had one I would do it as well, and probably also put a USB chargeable battery just for good measure (did it on the Gameboy Color, used a Nokia battery =P).

As for the consoles I am working with right now, I cleaned the plastic and board as well as I could. But some dirt just doesn’t comes out on the plastics, also there’s scratches and stuff… Really don’t know how to hide/fix the scratches. As for the board they look pretty good (except for the power supplies… too many tight spaces). But they still stink like smoke D=. Almost made me want to just dip them in water with dishwasher D=. Anyways… photos:


Now I better start planning on the mods to do. And I’ll just start with the one that actually interests me the most, the Dreamcast.
There’s is an incredible number of mods that you can do, as you can see just by looking at the mmmonkey’s Dreamcast mods page. So lets start a list:

  • Internal VGA output: I actually don’t have a video cable of any kind… so… yeah I really need this one. [GUIDE]

  • SD Card slot: you can buy a cheap adapter, but I’ll try to do it one myself. There’s guides out there. I’ll need this mostly for the Dreamshell OS. I’ll probably put a version on the BIOS, but I’ll need this for updates, or I’ll just put a loader on the BIOS and always use the SD to have the OS files and run it from the SD. [GUIDE] sorta - [And This]

  • Piggyback Region free BIOS mod: this is a seriously weird one. You actually put another chip on top of the BIOS chip. This will allow me to completely take out the GDRom (disc reader). Once this mod is complete, the BIOS itself will look for the HDD and the SD for the Dreamshell files and run directly from that. [GUIDE]

  • HDD MOD: Ok, this is the one I want to get at. I could start with this one but I feel everything will run much smoother if I do the other ones previously. So yeah, this is to run games from ISO (actually GDI but it’s all the same) files. NO… MOAR… DISCS.
    I’ve seen people put a IDE to CF Card adaptor on on the end of the IDE strip, and then even put a CF to SD adaptor on the IDE to CF adaptor. This sounds quite convoluted and I don’t know if I’ll run down that road. But I’ll consider at least have the IDE to CF adaptor once I compare the prices between the adaptor + nice CF card and a 2.5" IDE disc (yeah, you really need a 2.5 to fit inside the console). [PAGE with… erm… links] [And this]

  • Change cooling fan: The fan was making an incredible amount of noise. I’ve seen people changing the fan to a bigger one replacing the plastic that “directs” the air flow. I can’t really say if this is more efficient or not.

  • Put pretty LEDs everywhere I can think of: Yeah I really wanna do this… hell if I could I would put LEDs all around the house. Love them.

  • Paint Job: And finally this. I’ll really have to learn how to properly paint plastics. If anyone has experience or knows how to do it, please do write here a post of some kind (even if anyone who reads this knows someone else, or a video, please do tell).

  • General Fixes: On mmmonkey.co.uk has a page just dedicated to minor fixes done to the console. Minor defects that can be fixed with minor changes. I guess I’ll do that as well. [GUIDES]

  • Battery Holder Replacement: This comes last because I’m not too sure I’ll make it. It’s working so far but hey… I might indulge myself. [GUIDE]

Ok that pretty much gather it all up for what I want to do. And like always this means that I’ll have to buy materials for this. I’ll do yet another list here with all the materials I need, according to the guides I found for each modification (I’ll just copy paste the lists I find).

  • VGA Mod
    • [V] 1x Stripboard
    • [V] 1x Double Pole, Double Throw (DPDT) switch
    • [V] 2x 1N4148 Diodes
    • [V] 3x 220uf Capacitors
    • [V] 2x 4K7 ohm Resistors
    • [V] 2x 150 (or 100) ohm Resistors
    • [V] 1x female HD 15 socket
    • [V] 1x 3.5mm audio socket/2 phono sockets (something for Audio!)
  • SD Card Mod
    • [V] 1x Stripboard
    • [V] 1x Electrolytic capacitor 47uF 25V
    • [V] 1x Decoupling ceramic disc capacitor 0.1uF 50V
    • [V] 1x Metal film resistor 470ohm 0.6W
    • [V] 1x 3mm LED
    • [V] 1x SD card interface
  • Bios Mod
    • [V] 1x Flash Chip 29LV160TMC-90
    • [V] 2x 10k ohm Resistors
    • [V] 1x SPDT Switch
  • HDD MOD
    • [V] 1x IDE 40pin Strip Connector
    • [V] 1x MOLEX Connector
  • Replace Fan
    • [V] 1x 5v 29.5mm Cooling Fan (D= this will be hard).
  • LEDs
    • I GOT THEM.
  • Misc.
    • Various ferrite filters… to put along the cables

[X] Don’t have
[V] Have
[O] Ordered

And I think that is all of it… I’ll be editing the list above as I get the components or find them on my personal stash (for personal order purposes).
Ok, this was a really long post… sorry guys =P.


#12

Just going to leave this link here, because it presents some pretty good advise on painting console’s plastic.

LINK

[edit] Arquive Purposes… (probably should literally copy/pasta the text… I’ll think about doing that and adding it here) [/edit]


#13

And another archiving post, this time for cleaning shielding:
LINK

I imagine you could just clean, and then apply some WD-40. Gets all greasy, but if it is the last thing you do before you close the console… I imagine that is fine. It might gather more dust though, and you would have to clean always with WD-40 in the future.

BTW… I probably already fucked up the HDD mod, cause one of those tiny solder points for the IDE connector strip, just came out when I was trying to test solder the IDE strip there. Those small exposed copper points… yeah the copper came out. But I still have a minuscule whole in between the path that leads to that solder point… and if that doesn’t work… I can simply just follow the path and solder to the origin of the path that ends on that solder point. Hopefully it will all work out.


#15

Ok, haven’t been updating for a bit, but I’ve actually did a few things along the way.
For starters I decided to clean the Mega Drive cartridges that were also involved in the fire at my parents place. They didn’t had any serious damage, they were simply dirty with smoke.

Here’s a photo of before (Yeah there’s an eraser there which I used to polish the pins):

And then afterwards:

The X-Men cartridge was on top (which I didn’t even remembered that I had it before looking through my stuff at my parents place) so that was the one that got worst. They were all staked.
I used Mr. Magic for the labels, it’s a window and general surface cleaner that goes all foamy. It works pretty well if you’re careful not to wet the labels too much. You can even rub with some strength without damaging the labels. No damage was done.
For the plastics, board, and all the rest I used cleaning alcohol. Buy those by the litter since I use it a lot to dissolve soldering flux, and Kasia to clean her “cosmetics/chemistry doing stuff” (she doesn’t do meth though D=)

However, you might be wondering “where is that awful looking Sonic 3D cartridge”?
Well… this happened:

I knew the cartridge was crap from the start, but it was so dirty cheap (less than $4) that I said “why not”? But I wasn’t expecting that which looked like dirty was actual damage done from crappy glue applied to the back of the label. Tried to heat (hairdryer) the glue to… put the label back or at least take it off (that’s how you do with labels). It doesn’t do a thing… and not even alcohol. Those scratches were done with my nail. But I’ll find a way to get the label in place somehow.


So getting back to the Dreamcast. I didn’t had the components the entire weekend, but I decided to work on it and get things ready for when those arrive.
I started with the SD card board because… well… I had most of the components (even had the 470ohm resistor, just not the best I could get). First I had to cut the board to the smallest possible size to do what it needed to do. Since I don’t still have a plan for how these will go inside the console, better do them small so they can fit various places. Came out with this:

And after following this instruction: LINK
I got this:


I already have everything connected to the right Serial Port pins, and can go all the way to the front of the console. I’ll cut and re-solder the cables if necessary. Those green and yellow cables that come out of the board are contacts for the LED that will light as it works.
All I need now is to get the SD slot, connect all the right pins to the board, and it’s done (and replace that lame resistor).

Afterwards I started working on the RGB mod. I haven’t done anything of the board itself, but I already soldered the cables to the DC board. Results:


Instead of doing all the solders at the bottom, and having no good place to bring them all back up close to the source, and end up having to use very long cables that will eventually be noise magnets, I found this: LINK
This shows some alternative solder points for RGB and both sync signals, as well as the 5v feed.
Sound and VGA switch still have to go under. But I’m using these really thick wires. I just ordered a bunch of fun coloured Kynar wires. If I’m able to make all this fit close to the video output itself, I’ll solder everything under again because the Kynar wires can easily pass on the space between the board and the plastic.

Now finally the HDD mod, since I already had the 40pin IDE connector (or ATA? I can never remember). So this is how it went:

While soldering I actually plucked out both solder point 8 and 9. So what I did was trace them back to the source. The solder points were tiny so I used Kynar wire on them, and connected the strip wires to those. Here’s to hope that it works.


And that was what I ended up doing during the weekend.
And today… Taahdaaaaaah:


Bought some extras, in case… well… I need this stuff for anything else I guess.
So yeah, I’ll be doing some stuff today =D.


#16

Sad Story time guys… really sad.

So I was working on the mods, and like I said I started with the VGA one.
At first I wasn’t getting anything. Finished the mod as per the instructions, and nothing.
Decided to take it slow and to at least get some sound when the console turned on (Dreacast logo sound at least).

I wasn’t getting anything. But here’s the thing, I didn’t had neither the fan nor the CD drive attached to the console. And I had already blown up the fan.
This was very unfortunate because the DC literally doesn’t work if the fan doesn’t send a signal to the console saying “hey there motherboard, everything is fine here”. The same happens with the CD drive.
Fortunately on the same page where I’ve shown the alternative solder points for the VGA mod, it also had a tinny mod that would allow to send this signal back to the board without the original fan. The original fan has 3 cables, and a tinny board. One of those cables probably sends the signal back, but with a small solder on the back of the motherboard, it was possible to bypass the fan completely.
After doing… the console still wasn’t working, even with the CD drive attached. So for the purposes of using a multimeter on the board, I had to arrange some cables that somehow would allow me to power the board without having to mount the actual power supply on top of it, and the entire shielding and whatnot. Did so, measured the voltage on the fan signal mod place, all was ok… so it had to be something else.
I decided to install the new fan, just to make sure it wasn’t that. Did so, with 2 nice pins (only positive and negative, the third was the signal that I did the mod for so no longer needed), and the console did it’s sound.

Yay… happy times the console was working.
Decided to advance with the VGA mod… did it all over again… and nothing once more.
Sure I had the sound, but no picture. Since I wasn’t trusting my work with the actual VGA mod board, I decided to do another one. Did it all over again, and all started working…

YAY… more happy times. As you can see I also took this chance to change the wires directly to Kynar wire, and it all comes out on the space between the board and the plastic case pretty easily. The problem with the mod was actually on the output, the VGA socket. I shifted both syncs wires 1 place to the left on the VGA socket. So I ended up with 2 small VGA board… like this:

Then I started thinking and said to myself “I won’t need anything else beyond VGA, because I don’t have any other cable”. Also OSSC has a D-Sub 15 female that I’m not using at the moment, so this would fit nicely in it. So OFF with the VGA switch… useless thing.
And all was working well, even added some hot glue to make sure nothing would come out of place. I always use the hot glue that comes out with just alcohol, and not that black ugly stuff many people are using lately. This holds things in place pretty well, and doesn’t damage the board even when coming out. Seriously just some alcohol and it starts losing it’s grip to whatever it is attached. Results:


I had to buy that game to test the console, it was the cheapest I saw for sale (about $3).
So I proceeded with the next mod, SD card slot. Before even starting with it I needed some CD with the Dreamshell OS for the DC, so I could even access the serial as SD card.
Took me 3 tries to get a PC at home that could actually burn the CD properly, but all worked out in the end. This last version of the Dreamshell even has the BIOS stuff to install on the Piggyback mod. All well.

Finished the mod that I started before, tried it out… no SD. After a few tries… still nothing.
The mod was ok, nothing out of place… So I decided to hell with it, I would try a simpler version of the mod that I also found around the interwebs. One that solders the SD adaptor pins directly to the Serial Port pins. Did so and still wasn’t working.
I was getting mad, so I decided to try all SD and Micro-SD cards that I had around the house. Eventually… success:

After looking into it a bit, I discovered that this was the only SD card that I had formatted in FAT32. I can’t say for sure that is the what made it tick, but even the formal FAT ones weren’t working. Most obviously I decided to try a game:

More success… I was on fire. I was super happy, things were finally coming along nicely.

But there comes where my story takes a 180 turn, and all this hard work turns to waste. The Piggyback BIOS mod (DOOM DOOM DOOOOOOOOM).
I already explained before, but I’ll do it again for the sake of refreshing the memory, this mod requires for you to put a flash memory chip on top of the original, and solder almost all of the pins of the top one to the original one. They don’t even reach the chip bellow, leaving like half millimetre between each pin, and that is enough for the solder not to go from one to the other and leave breaches. You have to do some soldering mumbo-jumbo and pray for not damaging any of the chips.

I think I didn’t prayed enough. Took me a long time just to get the first try going, I was nervous, it was the first time I was trying something like this, and I was constantly being interrupted. I even had to remove the first chip and start it all over again.
It was probably on this second run that I toasted the original BIOS chip.
I do the piggy back, and decide to try just the original one.

The console would give me the logo, but no animation, no sound… and wouldn’t move beyond that. The CD was also turning kinda freakish, making weird sounds.
I decided to take the Chip on top once more, and to make all the original solders pretty again.
Still the same result… nothing… same result. Logo without animation or sound… and stuck in it.

I BRICKED MY DC. This is pretty much death to the console, it simply won’t start. It has no way to start at all.

I still have one last hope. Three actually:

  • Check if there are any PAL DC motherboard out there for sale on ebay or something. Even if they don’t work, the BIOS chip might be OK and I could simply get that one.
  • Check if people are selling PAL DC BIOS chips. Some people do the MOD I wanted by programming the CHIP on the PC, and then completely replacing it. There might still be people with the original PAL bios stored someplace.
  • And finally, do the replacement BIOS mod. Buy a pre-programmed homebrew BIOS chip for the DC, and replace the old toasted one. This might work if I haven’t damaged anything else beyond the BIOS chip, but I really can’t say if the chip doesn’t work.

Oh well… I really hope this is not the end for my adventure with the DC. And I would like to keep the motherboard to be honest. This is a console I really like, and this specific machine gives me great memories because I used to go to my cousin’s house just to play it.

Anyways, that’s all for now, I really hope I have more news in the next few days or weeks.


#17

Yup! Modding disc-based systems is an adventure all right.

RiP DC. :<


#18

IT LIVES…

I’ll keep this short because I’ll still rather busy with… stuff.
The BIOS is actually fine, it was (again -_-) the CD Drive. if it is not connected properly… the console doesn’t run… I’ve said that already.
So yeah, after working on the BIOS, sounded logical that it was a BIOS problem… when NOT. It was actually the CD Drive. I tried to turn on the console again after reversing the MOD, and eventually it worked… when I held the drive in a specific way… I really have these optical disc drives. Special SEGA ones with board that you absolutely need for the console to even start.

I kept trying to get the mod done, but eventually I destroyed one of the original BIOS leg… and the solder pad under it -_-… I really keep screwing this up =P.
But I got it working again, literally destroying a small piece of the BIOS chip, enough to expose part of the leg that goes into the chip, and applying solder to it. Then soldering some wire to it, and to the point where that leg was connected… A clusterfuck which I will eventually take photos of and post it here.

However, this is not the end of my mistakes and clusterfucks…

When I was about to finish the final soldering to try the BIOS mod once more, as always I was working with an exposed power supply… which this particular time I forgot to unplug from the power socket… Idiot me all around.

Anyways, the console main board is OK (I think and hope), but the soldering wire I was using kinda touched a screw on a transistor… and blew it up… actually did make a small explosion.
Anyways, the transistor is dead and so is the main fuse on the power supply (which makes me believe the rest is ok… that’s what the fuses are there for).

But now I had to order a few more components… and I have to wait for them a few more days, till I finally fix the power supply and I can finally… once again… get back to the mods.

I’m a real screw up at this crap =P… but in the mean time I’ll try to upgrade a figure 8 cable (use them for every console I can) for having a switch midway… so I don’t have to keep pluging and unpluging from the console. It will have a small switch with a light that will hopefully warn me every time I leave the power supplies connected to the power.

Hopefully that will help me in the future.

[edit]
I’ve also scratched the back of the only CD I was able to burn and work with the Dreamshell OS… So that’s also a downer.
[/edit]


#19

Nooo… Nop… it is dead. I am terribly sorry to everyone who values these hardware, and I am totally ashamed of myself. This piece was working properly, with all the original parts… This had value (I could have sold it to someone who would value a console on it’s original condition, and bought a faulty one for myself… the leftover money might even allowed me to buy a Optic Disc Emulator).

The thing is… yes I did provoked that short on the power supply, the fuse blew, and I thought the mosfet transistor the solder touched just blew. Without even testing it I ordered equivalent new ones. Look at me all happy with the new pieces:

Small mistake (these were cheap, and I can always use the fuses, pretty standard). When I replaced, the new fuse also blew up. Something was wrong there alright, but it wasn’t the actual piece that provoked the short… maybe something else provoked it?

So I decided to take the same approach as I did with a PS2 Fat power supply (also died, eventually found out that it was a Zener Diode… tinny piece in the board, but took the opportunity to replace all the caps… erm… because I could). Dissemble the entire power supply, and test each of the components individually.
This is what I got:

That’s a lot of flux on the lower part of the board, the top “dirtyness” is flux, with alcohol, and still smoke from the fire. So since I had to test each of the components, why not wipe them all and the board clean? Did so… Glorious cleaning:


All pretty. Each of the components has that yellow tape with the alpha-numeric code for it’s placement on the board. You can see those written in black on the upper part of the board. This is really necessary so you can put everything back in place, specially when you don’t have schematics, and you don’t understand much about electronics.

So I started testing the basic components. Capacitors, Resistors, Diodes, Transformers, Coils and what not. I’ve actually learned to somewhat test each of them with a multimeter. It isn’t accurate at all, but you can at least check if they are blown or not. Even if they are not working properly they can still hold their own and they shouldn’t blow fuses.
Everything checked out… So all that was left were the Transistors (the things on the metal plates, and similar to them), and those kind of Chips on the board that I didn’t even desoldered.
Now where this requires some explanation.

This power supply is smaller, and more complex than a fat Playstation 2 one. Check this out (best picture I could find, closest to my own):

In plain numbers, the Dreamcast power supply has more components. It also exports three different voltages, 12V, 5V, and 3.3V, as you can see on this LINK. These are basically the same voltages as a Tower PC power supply (those are huge because they produce A LOT of current). As you can also see the Playstation 2 has two transistors, that actually are plain and normal transistors. On the Dreamcast it has 6, and only 2 are normally transistors, and can be tested so.

So I tested what I could, even learned how to test Mosfet Transistors with a multimeter, you know the one that I suspected. It was working fine… not blown at all. So one of the others had to be at fault. But only one of the other five tested normally. I was very confused.

I decided to buy replacements for all the other 5 on the board that I still haven’t replaced. Now that was a HUGE problem. Searched and searched and I couldn’t find them selling anywhere. Also neither me nor Takashi (he helps me with this stuff) knew enough about electronics to find any equivalents. This is all very very sad… It’s actually pretty hard to restore one of this power supplies very close to the original if one of these components is gone. I bet someone who actually knows about these stuff would be able to get equivalent ones after some study of the board, but definitely not the casual “fixing guy”.

So a new strategy was necessary. One of the things that are sold now, or are about to be sold, is the Dream PSU. These look real cool, and look how they show you how smaller it is, and it actually doesn’t heat. However… you don’t immediately see but you actually need a power brick on the outside, when the original power supply only needed a figure 8 cable. That’s a bit of a disappointment right there, another brick to the already completely brick filled power sockets? Also it is obviously that it doesn’t do any heat, because the heat is being done by the power brick. Also the cost… If you check it HERE, these cost 50 bucks. Wow… and no power brick??? Seriously???

However many might think “But there’s nothing else… what can you do?”. Well… in fact these kind of “voltage converting gadgets” are nothing new. I’ll have to admit these are pretty clean, and to go nicely inside the console… But to many people who build a PC, you already know about the Pico PSU. These go directly to a motherboard though a Molex connector. As a PC mother board needs, guess what, 12v, 5v, and 3.3v… just like the Dreamcast. They also are powered by a 12V Switch Power Supply… just like the Dream PSU. The only thing you need is a big of creativity, know where the correct voltages comes out, and some Molex connectors and cable to make those fit just right on the Dreamcast. They even come with other power cables so you can properly feed mods or whatnot… just like Dream PSU. It’s less cleaner but it also goes inside the console… so who cares? One only has to be careful not to put the wrong voltages on the wrong place.

Also, the Pico PSU exports as much current as the machine demands… so you can even buy an accordingly low current power brick. IMO… this is a perfect solution for these disc reading consoles if you want to replace the power supply. I personally got three Pico PSU, and three 3A Led Strip power supplies (yeah… for those Led strips that people how a days use to make cool light around their houses… they are 12V switch power supplies, and they come in many currents outputs… perfect for these). These were pretty cheap on Aliexpress, and they come from China… like everything else =P. I am sure I’ll use 2 of those for sure. One for a Saturn Takashi will give me because it has no power supply and no reader. And another for the N64 that I also saved from my cousin, and also was on the parent’s house fire (cause I have no power supply, and I trust more this configuration than a 3rd party N64 power supply… which is actually hard to get).

Anyways… I had a plan… Things were looking brighter again. Then here is when my personality crashes with what I try to do. Impatience IS NOT a good thing for when you are working with electronics. I still wanted to work on the Dreamcast while I waited for the new power supply (you know these orders from Aliexpress, they really take time to get to arrive). So what alternatives did I had?

Like I previously said various times, the voltages necessary for the Dreamcast are the same as on a Tower PC. I have one lying around… So yeah, lets connect that huge old beast to the Dreamcast. You know what? Of course it worked. Even the worst PC Tower power supply with a huge fan is standard enough to produce good voltages, at least good enough to make the console work, and you can again only suck the current you need. All was going well, I was excited, so there I was trying again to work with the BIOS, back to the basics.

However… the disc reader was still not connecting properly to the board. Every time I tried the Piggyback BIOS mod, with switch and all… I couldn’t get it working. And as soon as I reverted the mod (it was only one solder actually) it still didn’t worked, unless I would go around moving the reader on the fit till it found the right connection >_<. It was absolutely annoying.
I was getting mad and more impatient because I had to:

  • turn off the power supply
  • disconnect the cables that feed power to the mainboard through the shielding on the top
  • take out the reader that was supported on the top shielding, without the shielding the reader had no where to support itself, and even with support was giving me troubles because it wasn’t screwed
  • and finally take out the top shielding to expose the motherboard.

I was fed up with things not working… and obviously I made a mistake. The way I was connecting the power supply to the board was simple… actually too basic and prone to mistakes. I soldered 4 cables to the power connection on the power supply, and I was simply sticking 4 cables with exposed tips with solder (to make them tough) into the Molex connector.
I was using a 24 pins one, for the people who know, there final 4 sockets were the voltages I needed plus ground. I did a nice square “connection” with some hot glue and thick cables.

But… obviously… the impatience, and one of the going back and forth, connecting and disconnecting the power… I went and connect all the wrong voltages and KAPOW. Something on the board exploded.

That… is embarrassing, it’s a waste of great hardware… I felt like shit. Sure I am also doing these stuff to learn but it is a real shame to learn from such valuable machines >_<. It was a very stupid mistake and from now on I will be taking much more care to what I am doing when doing these kind of modification. But so far… absolutely stupid, and I hate myself.

Anyways, since I blew a Dreamcast, I decided I could only compensate buy recovering one that was being sold with problems. By pure luck, I did found one. Housing in terrible state, reader is close to dead, missing cables, random resets (this is the power supply not connecting properly), and most importantly… very cheap (bit over $30) with 1 controller. These usually disappear even here in Poland (console are really not a thing, BIG PC scene from very old days). But I was lucky to get my hands on this one.

So this new console will be arriving today or tomorrow (early morning here), and I’ll start the modifications all from the start, and proceed in a different order. VGA, Bios, SD and finally HDD.
I’m still holding to the old board, and I really hope that what blew was a fuse of some kind… those really tiny ones, but I can’t see it anywhere. But I’ll still try.

Anyways… terrible post this time, and took my sweet time because I was busy at first, and then I went and got sick with the addiction of inflamed back muscles, so just sitting on a chair is agony for me. Been 3 days lying in bed reading online comics D=.

Please don’t hate me guys for ruining a perfectly good console.


#20

Better for it to go out with a bang while aiming for greater things than fizzling out in a dark closet.

RiP DC. :<


#21

Ok, kept putting back doing this post. But the more I delayed the more stuff I would get done, so more stuff I would have to post, and less I wanted to post. Vicious cycle (and good story).

Anyways, “new” DC arrived and well, it was clean. The plastic was rather scratched and the controller cable had tape in it. I haven’t even tried it to be honest, still using the one I had before. Also no composite cable, only the old rc cable… which pretty much sucks and I had no where to plug it in (also I really didn’t wanted to sync the channel and all that crap).
So the plan was like before to get the VGA mod done to get some picture going.

Opened the console and realised the previous owner was a jackass. Sure he cleaned the inside pretty well but… he used some crap to clean the motherboard that basically took quite a bit of the green solder mask. The result is that the paths and holes are more exposed than they should… this is really not good for corrosion. Jackass. Still I proceeded to prepare the console for the mods. After learning my lesson, I wouldn’t take risks this time and I would make appropriate precautions so I wouldn’t again mess up the power supply or anything similar like soldering with it connected. So I decided to do this:

PSU in a box. The cables on the PSU are exposed and have solder on them to make them tougher and conductible with the PSU holes. Then they go all the way to a female 12pin (2x6) molex connector. I was about to start the working around the console and realised that wouldn’t really work well. The molex connector was a bit too tight for the motherboard pins. It was hard to take out the connector. That would probably result in an accident that could crack the motherboard. I did not wanted that. So I decided to solder cables also to the motherboard, and have those get a male molex connector. Also the fact that I only have 6 pins, and I have a 12pin connector, would mean that I could simply put them all in one side and never go wrong. Like this:

Also added some hot glue to the switch… cause I got a nasty 230V zap from it. Covered all the exposed metal.

Anyway, proceeded with the VGA mod, same as before:

And tada:

However the reader was pretty much almost dead. First I tried the one from the console I broke, and it was presenting the same problems as before, only worked if you moved around. So I decided to take the reader from the first broken console, and slam it into the new board. And guess what… worked like a charm. The reader worked perfectly, first time, and afterwards I took it out and put it again many times and worked fine every single time.

Ok, this mod was a success and the console was ready to proceed to the more complex stuff.
Decided again to take precautions and added some hot glue to the solders I did on the motherboard so a pull from the cables wouldn’t accidentally rip any of the copper on the board where the cables were soldered. Also prevents accidental shorts from being on top of any conducting stuff:


Can you see there on the traces and near the small copper holes how the green is almost gone? Seriously… what did the guy use? those are almost exposed D=.
Anyways, the next mod was the BIOS… decided to go directly to the fat one. I kinda had planned to solder everything with kynar wire, so I could eventually take out the original BIOS and only have the new one there. Result:

All the solders were sound, no shorts, everything in it’s place… but I just couldn’t detect the new chip. No matter what… simply wasn’t there. So I reverted the solders and realised what was the problem. So since I didn’t wanted to more around any chip legs because they simply break easily, I simply cut the trace that came from the original BIOS leg that I had to lift. However… I cut it after the first small hole… and guess what. It goes through the board, and continues with a path on the other side. So the original chip was always… there. What the mod intents to do is to solder the lifted leg, and the new bios leg, to a point forward from the path I cut, but then the signal goes back through that same whole. Had to fix that with a small kynar from the forward solder point, and stick the other tip through through the hole beyond the cut. Anyways… redid the mod as instructed on the mmmonkey page:

Yeah, I broke a leg on the new chip D=. OBVIOUSLY.
Anyway decided to try this one out and:

Done… So I decided to take the switch out. You don’t really need it outside flashing the new chip. Or if you want to use the original BIOS, which I don’t be because I don’t want to have the GDRom reader in there anyway. Also, having the switch hanging there, and possibly being pulled and rip something out… not good:

Orange wire replaces the switch, and the blue wire fixes that cut on a trace I mentioned earlier.
As for working:

That’s a menu to chose where you want to boot Dreamshell. If I had a working SD mod and a working HDD mod, those would also show up there. But the console is running without the disc reader and that’s all I wanted. I eventually re-flashed the BIOS and now I have one that doesn’t even have a menu. Just a console like screen, checking for HDD first and SD card afterwards. So I went for a quick soldering to try the SD card mod I had before, the simplest one:

Great success… No more reader. Lovely. But I am not happy with this SD mod… I really want the activity led because lights are awesome. I picked up the first mod of them all and:

The light works. Decided to try a game, why not? The SD compatibility is no where NEAR the HDD one, and the speed is horrible. But:

Gameplay was ok, but no music. Loading times were horrid though, and any kind of video… would be a crime with SD. But still… I was not happy with the SD mod. Those cables coming from the board to the SD card adaptor. If I want to glue it in a vertical position to the inside of the console… well… it’s just too flimsy. I didn’t liked it. So I redid the entire board for the led because that one was too small to try to solder the adaptor there. Also the adaptor has a piece of board under it to older it in place and so if I want to glue it it doesn’t get into the adaptor.
And this is it:

Has those small connectors lined up so I could create some kind of connector for it… but it really didn’t worked because those on top at to thick to fit all 4 in there. I might buy some other kind of connector for that because I really don’t want to have stuff that I can’t detach glued to the plastic, and soldered to the board. For now I’m doing this:

And some nice glue to the board for safety:

Like I said before, this glue comes out very easily with alcohol. Just detaches itself from whatever it is glued to. Afterwards I tried the HDD mod. But I got to no results. I have 2 working IDE disks around the house. One is inside my XBOX, and the other is inside my PS2.
But I do have a space 2.5" SATA disk, and a SATA to IDE adaptor. Those can work, but mine obviously didn’t. I decided to go full Amiga like… 44pin 2.5" 40gb HDD… GOT IT. It was really cheap (less than $10 with postage). Should be arriving in a few days.

In the meantime I grew bored and decided to do some of the other smaller modifications.
One thing that keeps happening to the Dreamcast is the controller ports stop working. This is because there’s a small fuse on the controllers board that blows sometimes if you unplug the controller with the console turned on. That happened to my previous Dreamcast, and since I did got a few of those new fuses. Decided to replace it because these are reset-able. They “blow”, you just turn everything off, and then you turn it on it is all working.
Also decided to change the led… cause I don’t really like that kind of orange.
And the new battery with a new cool socket. Coolness all the way.

Oh, also added a reset switch. The Dreamcast does not have a reset button, but it actually has the capability of doing it? If you create a conduction on a particular solder point on the board with a ground the console resets… use a button to create that conduction… and done… a reset button, that micros witch in front of the console there. Works BTW.

Now the cooling fan. I won’t replace it. I actually tested both the DC and the new fan I have, both at 5v using similar mobile chargers. Thing is, at first the arduino fan is quieter and less powerful. But eventually it gets to the same level of noise and air circulation as the Dreamcast one. The only difference is that the Dreamcast fan starts… full power. I’ll keep using the original one, and keep the other one as a replacement if anything goes wrong. I might also add another fan… why not… maybe one with leds =D.

Anyways, I guess that’s all for now.

I think I’ll also be doing posts of the other consoles I moded, at least the Gamecube.
But that is for another day.


#22

The Cube then.
When I worked in a second hand video game shop in Barcelona I bought a Resident Evil 4 version Gamecube. All pretty and silver shiny. All cool.
One day a client wanted to sell us a normal, garden variety purple Gamecube. However the console had a very small corner of it destroyed. Because of that notch the store would only buy the console as devalued, which the person would get more money for selling the controller, the composite cable, and the power supply separately (and we wouldn’t buy the console without the cables). So the client did sold everything apart from the actual console, and gave me the console because… no one else on the store wanted it (everyone already had one, or a Wii, or various GCs).

So many years passed, and here I am in Poland, got a house and I want to get my machines right.
Big problem for my Gamecube… I have no components cable, and they are stinky expensive. Second problem is that the console is PAL, but it hasn’t been a problem so far.

My Gamecube collection is rather small, but it sure has a few titles that I love. And play I kinda play them over and over. So after I got my OSSC I did myself a nice RGB cable for my Gamecube.
It does OK, as well as you would expect from an RGB (still have to get better cable material to reduce the noise even more, if someone knows where too without being those already built and super expensive, just the cable and that’s it, please do tell.)

However RGB on the Gamecube has ONE gigantic problem. Only 480i… and no way to get the 480p out of it. That… only through the digital video output and a component cable. That is, unmoded =P.

So after some research I realised 2 things.
First you can run software from an SD card because… the memory card slot is basically an SD card slot. That and Swiss would allow me to play all kind of games.
Second is that there are ways to get the digital video signal from the console with HDMI. 2 options in fact. One is the GC Video Plug 'n Play with… as it says on the tin you just plug and play. The second option is an internal HDMI mod like this one right here.

[update] There’s actually a new mod out there that does HDMI and 480p RGB with the installation of a new board ans stuff. Gotta get some info on that one [/update]

Personal opinion: second is cheaper, not hard to do, and I suspect the Plug’n Play is only one of these mod board with connector made for the digital video output. However the internal mod requires either you to make a hole for the HDMI output, and place the HDMI board on some dangerous place where it can short on some shielding, or completely take out the digital video output, and use a mounting that is around the webs and you can 3D print it in your favourite store. It is quite clean in the end, and save because it gets screwed pretty tight.

Anyways, I went for the second option, since the first is about the same (I suspect that because the… inside menu is exactly the same with the only difference of you not calling it with your console controller but with a… TV kind of controller? dunno). Here is everything soldered:

That resistor on top of the board had to be installed by myself as well. Nothing too weird, and all the wholes on both the GC and the HDMI board are pretty clean and easy to solder, once you take out the digital video output. Then you only have to solder one point of the HDMI board to under the GC board to allow you to control the mod menu from your console controller. Like this:

That actually worked. But eventually I realised that getting sound from the HDMI mod was… rubish. Eventually sound and picture would desync. That sucks. But it can be easily fixed by simply soldering some cables to the analogue sound output and connect it with a Minijack plug. And all done, sound through minijack (my TV actually accepts picture through HDMI and sound through analogue).

After that what I wanted to get is running games through Swiss and SD card. Warning though… it sucks a bit. The speed is not great (but much better than the DC). So video’s sound stutters, and the compatibility is… good but not amazing. Anyway, there’s adaptors for the memory card that you can insert a SD in it, with a Gameshark DVD that if you put a correct SD, you can directly boot a homebrew just from running the DVD with the SD inserted. Lets say… something like Swiss. Btw, I got that DVD with a SD adaptor, they are called SD Media Launcher.

Still, these things run pretty well. Already played a couple of games with SD and it went quite well with a few minor passable glitches. But I wasn’t satisfied with having that adaptor out there. I actually wanted have an SD adaptor inside the console, and connect it myself. So I did this:

Doesn’t look that elegant from the inside, but does look funky from the outside. That slot with an SD card on the right side of the cube. I personally rather have it this way. To be honest I would love to glue a small piece of plastic on the side to hold various SDs =P. Maybe with some LEDs. But some other day. Basically those coloured cables that I soldered under the console’s Memory Card adaptor solder points, connect to that SD adaptor’s cables with a connector. So I can again disassemble the console again and I don’t have to take out the glue on the SD adaptor.

So finally, the last mod that was just some silly thing I saw on the internets was adding a LEDs to each of the controller ports, so they would… light. I also wanted to change the colour of the power LED. And so I did:

But I kept looking to the plastic in the front of the consoles, and those small depressions that number each of the ports (from 1 to 4). And I couldn’t stop thinking how cool would it look if the light was coming out of them. On top of that, the LEDs were already there… and so:

I’m still up to this day a bit annoyed that the 4th port doesn’t have the led correctly centred… but I will leave that to another day.

Anyways, I bet you guys wanna know how all this looks on an actual TV.
I have a 4k one… LG. Great TV, but even with my OSSC that gets out 1080p sometimes, the fact is that the TV will always scale the picture. The scaler is pretty good, doesn’t seem to have much in terms of filters, but… with the GC… I have to connect directly from the console to the TV, and the mod actually gets 480p directly out through the HDMI. 480p on a 4k TV… well… funky. It’s much better than any of the other alternatives (even with RGB on the OSSC and line double or line quadruple… the flickering from the 480i D=).

Anyways, decided to take some shots of a few games, here:

So to start with, my new mobile’s camera SUCKS. So whatever looks like noise… it is actually noise from the camera itself. Second, what looks like dithering… it actually is. I dunno if it is from the console or the mod, but I love it. (I would say console cause stuff like Zelda doesn’t have that dithering).

It’s hard to see, but it is specially visible on the parts with heavy dithering (like light rays on RE4). The pixels are fabulously huge, but not all that square. Yeah, the 480p to 4k scaling from the part of the TV… does blur things quite a bit. It was expected but… I was kinda hoping it wouldn’t be so bad. But it is even as near as bad as I thought it could be.

I bet that on an actual 1080p TV this would look even better, but also depending on the scaling algorithm inside the TV hardware. Still… and I’ll repeat as many times as needed, this option beats by far a the great majority of choices for this console, and that includes Wii, Components Cable (price), and weird funky RGB stuff that are not this new mod I mentioned earlier.

I’ll try to get some screenshots directly from the TV, I hope it is a 4k picture, but it will end up being JPG, also noisy. But I would like to actually see how it goes.

Anyways, I kinda had planed with Takashi to develop an alternative to the HDD mod that was out there for sale… a long time ago. But lately he’s been very busy and I can’t convince him either to do that, or to remake that open source SD cartridge for the Mega Drive board, so instead of 2 you would only have 1… even if rather big. But kinda wanted to remodel a Mega Drive model 1 completely, plastic and everything, and also include USB plugs and all for development. Dreams dreams.