FreeHDBoot Tutorial

This guide will help you to install FreeHDBoot on your PlayStation 2, which will ‘soft mod‘ your console. To follow this guide you must meet the following requirements.

You must have:

  • A Windows PC (XP to Windows 10).
  • An original ‘fat’ PlayStation 2.
  • An official PS2 Network Adapter.
  • IDE Hard Drive (SATA incompatible without modification of the adapter, make a note of the model and storage size).
  • IDE-to-USB, or another way to connect your IDE HDD to your computer.
  • A large flat-head screwdriver, or a large coin.

You also need the following software (all free):

Download WinHIIP  Download HDD Raw Copy  Download FreeHDBoot

A slim console and beyond is not compatible with this mod, since the network adapter for the fat PS2 has an IDE drive connector, a feature absent from the remodels as the Ethernet connection was built-in. You will notice through this guide that this IDE drive support is why the original PS2 was so much larger than the slim.

Installation Steps

Ensure you can connect your IDE drive to your computer, either through a USB converter or by using a ATA connection in your computer (and maybe consider buying a new one). I would also recommend extracting the three tools above into one directory, just so you know where they are. The two programs needed are portable (if you downloaded the portable copy of HDDRC), so no installation will be needed.

Connect drive and open WinHIIP

WinHIIP program reporting no drive has been selected

Open the folder where you extracted WinHIIP and find WinHIIP.exe. Right click and run this as Administrator (Vista and above). When you open the WinHIIP software you will be given a screen similar to above. Most of the controls here are greyed out because they need to know which drive you wish to use before you continue. The drive you select will need to be your IDE drive you wish to dedicate for your PlayStation.

Be careful in choosing your drive to use with the software. If you select a drive that is not your PS2 dedicated drive, you could lose your data. Retro PlayStation is not responsible for any data lost following this guide.

Dropdown list of system drives in WinHIIP

Select the drive you wish to use with your PS2. However, you need a particular drive format before you can continue with the installation. You need your drive to be formatted as ‘PS2’ format, which your base PC system cannot achieve but WinHIIP can.

Once your drive has been selected (if you are unsure, open ‘Computer Management’ and check ‘Disk Management’, it will say which drive number is what). You will be greeted with the following dialog.

Windows Dialog says "The selected hard drive does not have a valid PS2 Master Boot Record"

All this means is that you have selected a normal hard drive, when the system wants a PS2 formatted drive. This enables the button at the bottom ‘Format Drive’. Click it and you will be greeted with this.

Options to format a drive in WinHIIP

Unless you have advanced knowledge with Linux drives and HDLoader, you do not need to touch all these left-side options. All you need to worry about are the options on the right.

Erase Mode

Tells the drive whether is simply wipes the drive by telling the hard drive firmware ‘it’s wiped’, so the firmware ignores all the data on the drive prior and writes new stuff to the drive, or set it to Full if you want it to write blank data to the whole drive, useful only if you have something to hide previously on the drive, or quick and partial failed in the past.

Application

This is important – you want either HDLoader 24bit or 48bit. In almost all cases, I would recommend 48bit if the option is available. 24bit does not support all drive sizes, whereas 48bit has large drive support built in to it. ToxicOS is an advanced feature and is not used in this tutorial.

Once you’re happy with your options and you’re 100% sure the drive is the correct one, you can format it. This process takes a while, so best time to have a cup of tea or coffee if you are so inclined.

Drive being erased in WinHIIP

Once this process has finished, you should see a screen similar to this. If so, congratulations! Your drive is now PS2-ready – But we’re not finished yet!

A drive formatted as PS2 in WinHIIP

Installing FreeHDBoot via HDD Raw Copy Magic

Now we have a drive that is PS2-formatted and ready to go, we need to give it the FreeHDBoot software. HDD Raw Copy showing a list of drives

For this you will need to know the size and model of your drive, so that you can identify which one is your IDE drive. Your drive will always have a ‘BUS’ of ‘ATA’, and the model will reflect what was on the top of the hard drive. For our guide our drive is called VMWare Virtual IDE Hard Drive.

Here we are selecting the source, which is what we will be copying to the drive. We aren’t cloning a physical disk but rather a copy you downloaded earlier, so double click on the FILE option.

Windows File dialog selecting a file

Select the image file downloaded earlier (in the folder you extracted, ending with .imgc). This should add an extra option to the list, a drive you will likely be unfamiliar with.

Select this unfamiliar drive (will still be called FILE under BUS), and click continue.

HDD Raw Copy showing destination drives

HDD Raw Copy with drive image listed

We are now selecting the target drive, which will be our magical PS2 drive we created earlier. Select it from the list, and click continue once more. This will take us to the final stage.

HDD Raw Copy copying a disc image to our new disk

Confirm you are happy with all the selections, and then click START. This is another long process, so nobody will blame you if you enjoy another cup of your favourite beverage. Once the process has finished, your drive will be PS2 formatted with a copy of FreeHDBoot loaded up to it, ready to go!

The PlayStation 2, Modded not standard

The FreeMCBoot PS2 Menu

Pictured above is FreeMCBoot, but the interface should show similarly.

Should you follow all the instructions carefully and your drive survived the ordeal, you should now have a ready-to-go exploited softmod hard drive! All we need to do is connect the drive to the PS2.

Safely disconnect your hard drive from your computer by clicking the picture of  USB male end and a green tick in the system tray and ejecting the drive. Once you can remove it, take it out of whatever you are connecting it with and grab the PS2 network adapter. You will notice the side of the network adapter that faces the PS2 has two connections, these should match up with the pins on your hard drive. Simply push the pins into the connector, and then slide the hard drive into the cavity in the PS2 until you feel it connect. Once you’ve pushed it as far as it will go, screw the adapter in to place, and turn the PS2 on.

Congratulations! If this has worked for you, you should see the regular PS2 boot-up screen, but with lots of new options. We will make a guide soon as to what you can do with these, but for now you have successfully joined the softmod PS2 world!

Last updated: November 3, 2017 at 10:10 am