JTAG Xbox 360 hard drive replacement

13GiB of usable space is nothing in 2010. With the SMC hack, the Xbox 360 can use any hard drive instead of just those signed by Microsoft or hacked with a Microsoft security sector. Homebrew programs like FreeStyle and XeXLoader can make use of USB hard drives for game storage, but saved games, title updates, XBLA games (Unless you waste a lot of time with Quickboot), and DLC need to be stored on the internal drive.

Read on while I walk through the replacement.

Required tools and materials:

  • A new hard drive! The 360 uses a 2.5” SATA 9.5mm-tall hard drive.
  • A Torx T6 screw driver.
  • A Torx T10 screw driver.
  • A donor Xbox 360 hard drive cage.
  • A USB stick.
  • USB XTAF GUI
  • HDD Compatibility Partition fixer v1
  • Some homebrew! XeXLoader, et cetera.
  • A copy of the system update (mirror) matching your version of FreeBOOT or XBReboot, such as $SystemUpdate9199.zip for FreeBOOT 0.032
  • Your console’s serial number.

Using the T6 driver, remove the four silver screws of the hard drive cage. One of them is under the Microsoft sticker, voiding your warranty!

Stock hard drive in its shell next to the replacement drive in an antistatic bag.

Separate the two plastic halves of the hard drive cage. Watch out for the button, lever, and spring of the latch mechanism.

HD shell opened, showing the stock drive within a metal cage. The bare replacement drive waits for its chance to shine.

Use the T10 driver to remove the metal drive cage.

The metal cage lifted, freeing the stock drive for removal.

Grasp the SATA/Power connector and slide the old drive out the end of the cage.

Sliding the stock drive out the end of the open cage.

An ideal replacement drive is 9mm tall like the original. Taller hard drives, like 12mm drives, will have trouble fitting in the drive cage.

Stock and replacement drive side-by-side showing their identical height.

Re-assemble the drive cage by reversing the disassembly steps. Make sure the latch mechanism is properly positioned.

Reassembly of the metal drive cage, latch spring, and plastic case.

The new drive will show up as unformatted in the Dashboard. If you don’t see a drive, check your hardware.

Xbox 360 dashboard showing unformatted hard drive.

Enter your console’s serial number when prompted to partition and format the blank drive.

Xbox dashboard asking for system serial number before it will format the hard disk.

And, success!

Xbox 360 dashboard showing 293 GB of free space on our new disk!

The drive works! Unfortunately, it’s blank and needs to be loaded with some homebrew. Format a usb stick as a memory card in the Dashboard using FreeBOOT 0.3 or higher (The 2.0.9199.0 dashboard) and insert it in your PC.

Open the drive with XTAF and inject the XeXLoader Games on Demand package to Data Partition/Content/0000000000000000/C0DE9999.

USB XTAF GUI browsing an Xbox 360-formatted USB drive on Windows XP.

Drag and drop HDD Compatibility Partition fixer v1 and your other applications to the root of the drive in Windows Explorer.

XeXLoader should show up in the Dashboard under Xbox 360 Games. Move it to your new internal drive and run it.

Xbox 360 dashboard showing xexloader available on the Games menu.

Run the HDD Compatibility Partition Fixer with XeXLoader, then reboot the console. This will add Partition 2 to the drive and prepare it to receive the Xbox 1 emulator files.

Homebrew Xbox 360 application adding the Xbox 1 emulator partition to our new disk.

Some Dashboard functions, such as avatars, are unavailable until the Dashboard installs itself on the main storage device. The NXE is too large to fit entirely in older consoles’ 16MiB NAND.

Xbox 360 dashboard prompting for a firmware update when trying to use the Avatar editor on this fresh hard disk.

Unzip the update package and copy it to the root of your USB drive. It will prompt to update next time it is inserted. Your rebooter shouldn’t let the update do anything dangerous, but you should still have R6T3 removed or U6T1/U6T2 bridged for your safety!

Xbox 360 Dashboard prompting to install an update to the same version that is running due to missing NXE files.

Your JTAG console should now be up and running with a big new drive. We’re all done!

Xbox 360 Dashboard showing Avatar created after successfully swapping the hard disk and installing the missing files.