Burning Your Own PS1 Modchip Is Easy

The original Sony PlayStation came out just in time for CD piracy to really start taking off. Aware of this threat to sales, Sony engineers included a copy protection and region locking mechanism that placated executives and annoyed end-users alike. [MattKC] explores how this copy protection worked, and how you can burn your own modchip at home for just a few dollars.

Sony’s method of copy protection relied on steps taken during the manufacturing process, pressing a special groove into the game media that regular CD burners couldn’t replicate, a topic our own [Drew Littrell] has covered in depth. This groove contained a four letter code that could be read by the console, corresponding to the region in which the game was sold. The console would read this groove on startup, and check that the code in the game matched the code in the console before booting. Modchips circumvent this by injecting a spoof code into the console that matches the local region, regardless of what is read off the disc. This has the effect of both allowing users to run bootleg CD-Rs, homebrew code, as well as games from other regions.

Today, we’re blessed with the Internet and cheap hardware. As [MattKC] demonstrates, it’s no longer necessary to mail-order a chip from a dodgy ad in the back of a games magazine; instead, one can download source code and flash it to a commodity PIC microcontroller for just a few bucks. With the chip soldered in to the relevant points of the PS1’s motherboard, you’re good to go.

As far as console modding goes, the PS1 is a great platform to start with — simple to work on, and also the best selling console of all time, so the stakes are low if you mess up. Video after the break.

16 thoughts on “Burning Your Own PS1 Modchip Is Easy

  1. Just a comment, of you mean by bestselling, the one that has sold the most, it may be the 5th, after PS2, NDS, GB/GBC (taken as one same machine) and PS4, if I am not wrong. Good info on the article though.

  2. Laxer3A authored Full hardware FPGA Playstation clone is coming along, check out his patreon for newest updates

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxvBitLPi0s

    PSIO was supposed to be so cool when they started working on it. The idea was to memory map itself in place of original CDROM controller and provide almost instant loading. In the end problems with CDaudio meant its just feeding CD bitstream to the original controller, the only benefit you get is faster seek times :( Inadequate for the money they ask for the thing. You can do same task with bare $5 ESP32. XStation Optical Discdrive Emulator https://github.com/x-station/xstation-releases/releases

        1. In all fairness – you only really needed to care for the 12C508/9 with the playstation.

          Making a cheap programmer was almost a rite of passage, though I did upgrade to a Willem.

          Back when ps modding was all the rage, getting the hex for the latest and greatest version was easy, no one overly cared for the source tbh.

          I think I got around the 500+ mark when I did repairs back then. Would buy the PICs from Maplin on uncut A4 sheets!

      1. Hm. I pretty much started with the PIC16F84 and built my own serial interface with a few diodes and caps. Was very easy compared to being required to build a 27xxx EPROM programmer for programming ROMs, as required by earlier technology (8051, Z80).
        Using a dedicated 9v battery with my PIC programmer was even simpler than stealing power from tge RS232 and also resulted in a clean, stable power source. Anyway, everything is relative so I won’t judge. :)

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