Giving The Original Xbox 256 MB Of Memory

The original Xbox forever changed the console world, because it was basically just PC components laced together in a slightly different architecture. It featured a Pentium 733 MHz CPU with just 64MB of RAM. [Prehistoricman] has been hard at work, figuring out how to up that to 256MB instead.

This isn’t [Prehistoricman’s] first rodeo. Previously, he managed to up the Xbox’s RAM to 128 MB. To figure out how to go further, he had to figure out the addressing scheme. A datasheet for the Xbox’s original memory chip was a help in this regard, as was the envytools project and an Xbox source code leak.

A BIOS hack was needed to move the auto-precharge pin to free up more address pins for the higher memory space. Furthermore, the only available memory chips that were suitable used BGA packages, so a small PCB with castellated edges was needed to adapt the chip to the Xbox’s motherboard, which expects a TQFP package.

Ultimately, getting this hack to work involved a lot of bare-metal hacking. It also won’t help the performance of commercial games at all, as they were all designed within the limitations of the original console. Still, it’s impressive to see this now-ancient platform hacked to do more. It’s also hilarious to compare it with a contemporary PC, which could simply accept 256 MB of RAM by using additional memory slots. Video after the break.

[Thanks to Stephen Walters for the tip!]

20 thoughts on “Giving The Original Xbox 256 MB Of Memory

  1. Might be cool in the future, if there was any piece of software, it game, was written to take advantage of the extra RAM. Until then, this is pointless. I’ve performed the 128MB upgrade many times just for fun/experience, but even that has basically zero uses.

    1. The only reason people upgrade to 128 or higher is and was for extended xbmc features and multimedia support

      You can patch games, but that would require texture and polygon and resolution patches, different for each game

      Nothing made for the original xbox will ever see this extra ram, has to be “told” it’s there

  2. “It’s also hilarious to compare it with a contemporary PC, which could simply accept 256 MB of RAM by using additional memory slots.”

    Yeah hilarious, what device doesn’t accept extra storage these days eh?
    *cough* Apple *cough*
    *cough* all recent smartphones with no SD slots *cough*

    1. I think you don’t understand the difference between RAM and storage.

      But on the topic of storage from your comment. You can add more storage to Macs via USB, Thunderbolt, and some have SD card slots.

      There are plenty of PCs also that only have solder on storage and don’t have a SD or a MicroSD card slot. There are a lot of Chromebooks like that. Samsung did it with on of their cheaper Chromebooks to make you spend more on a “upgraded” verrsion of it just for a MicroSD card slot.

      Now since this blog post is about RAM. There are a lot of ARM based SBCs and Laptops, Windows Laptops, Chromebooks (almost all), and All-In-Ones that you can’t upgrade the RAM.

      1. I have seen a phone or two thrashing the heck out of a swapfile on storage. It was depressing enough, and I care so little about the antagonistic burning fire of an OS it’s running, that I just stopped looking at the swap,

      2. It’s still a slightly weird claim from the article. PCs at that time could also just accept extra sticks of RAM. That’s not as recent a development as the article seems to suggest. So what’s supposed to be hilarious?

      3. One last thought: returning to RAM not being upgradable, I find this is the biggest problem with some contemporary computers. My wife has an oldish computer that I wanted to add extra RAM to and an SSD to make it a bit more usable. I couldn’t get the piece of junk apart. They glued everything behind the big glass screen which you have to heat with hot air while gently wishing you were never born into this world. I did not heat it sufficiently nor wish earnestly enough. I cracked the screen and quickly gave up before the screen ended up in big shards of glass. Avoid computers that are glued together unless you don’t mind throwing them out every 5 years. What a joke of a computer company.

      4. At the end of the day the distinction between what you consider RAM and Storage, is actually built around volatile vs non volatile persistence, and access pattern. RAM is a form of volatile primary storage and an SD card or eMMC is NV secondary storage.

        I work on systems that don’t see a logical difference between the two, as everything is an object that has a fixed address in a single unified address space, if data gets accessed frequently it’s moved into Primary Storage and periodically snapshot into Secondary Storage.

      5. Granted RAM(/memory) isn’t the same as storage (although these super fast SSD are as fast as RAM not too long ago), but; since the reduction of options for expansion is happening simultaneously and is equally annoying and current I combined them anyway.
        Perhaps I should not have.. or perhaps it doesn’t matter in this instance?

        Not only do they make things a glued shut package but even when there are ways to make it accessible they don’t, like with phones that have SIM slots that used to have a SD card spot but then suddenly don’t anymore in the next model.

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