Unfortunately, the cost of building an XBOX PC runs a little more than the cost of the XBOX. We need to factor in the cost of the mod chip, probably a hard drive, keyboard and mouse. Mod chips run anywhere from $40 to $80; the one we use in this review costs about $75. A USB keyboard and mouse usually run another $15. If you are going to be doing any clustering, you do not really need to invest in a keyboard/mouse at all. For most uses, the 8GB hard drive is sufficient enough, although upgrading to a 20GB drive might be in order for a larger Linux distribution.

Used and refurbished XBOXes range from $120 to $160. Used XBOXes are usually the way to go, since we will be soon voiding the warranty anyway to install the mod chip. When shopping for an XBOX to mod, older is sometimes better. Although the SmartXX mod chip works on all versions of the XBOX available, the newest version 1.6 XBOXes require a few extra wires to be soldered, even on the solderless install kit.

For our distributed computing ideas, we have an exciting analysis in store. We managed to round up 8 XBOXes with mod chips for this review. That only equates to 5.8GHz of distributed CPU power, 80GB of hard drive space, and just 512MB of memory. However, if our distributed computing project is successful, scaling to a much higher CPU clock might be very feasible. Finding an equivalent $1600 PC would be nearly impossible, but that assumes our distributed XBOX network actually behaves like a $1600 PC instead of 8 $150 PCs. It may be the case that network and disk latencies are too high for us to practically compute anything. There are also some issues on power consumption and noise. The XBOX is relatively quiet for a PC, unless you have a whole lot of them. Our lab recorded approximately 42dBA when our eight node XBOX cluster was on.

If you plan on just running your XBOX as a stand-alone PC, then costs like power become no issue. The XBOX consumes 100W at full load. For a 16-cluster node to operate for one hour, we need 1.6 kilowatt hours of power. If you pay 10 cents per kwh, that's about $1400 for one year of operation.

Index Putting it all Together
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • ukDave - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    Yes the xbox has a PS1 emulator, only one that i know of. Its called "PCSXbox". Good place for emulator info: , obviosuly a subsection of xbox-scene.

    And before anyone asks, no there are none for the PS2 (nor will there ever be).
  • ukDave - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    I'm not 100% sure about the SmartXX, as i have the well known Xecuter 2.3b chip which has DIP switches mountable on the outsode of the xbox so that youc an disable it in order to play X-Box live and whatnot.

    From what i've just read over on the forums at xbox-scene, SmartXX is fully X-BoX Live compliant. You simply (as you say Kris) boot back into the MS BIOS. This can be done by turning the xbox on by pressing the EJECT button. To enable the modchip, turn on with the POWER button. (source:

    SmartXX section of the forums:
  • ksherman - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    #3, you said there is mulators for n64 and down. Is there an emulator for PSone games? would love to be able to play FF7 again
  • KristopherKubicki - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    Jeff7181: I think with the SmartXX chip you can actually boot back into the normal MS BIOS and have no problems with X-Link and such. If you install Linux on the last 2 unpartitioned GB of your 10GB drive, your XBOX should basically have no idea that the machine is modded at all.

    LotoBak, ukDave, am I correct on that statement?

  • ukDave - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    Oh and Jeff, i believe many mod chips have the facility to simply turn them off with a flick of a switch, so you can continue to use XBOX Live. But as LotoBak says, there is the free X-Link service available too.
  • ukDave - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link is really the only place to go for XBOX related discussion, tutorials, really anything you need to know that isn't covered in this article.

    I bought a bodged XBOX mod from someone in the UK, got it professionally fixed and re-modded. It now has a 120GB disk for all my games, its connected to my LAN. With the excellent XBMC i can play literally any media file from any PC over the network, be it standard files such as MP3's or AVI's, or images such as .bins/cue's.

    Well worth looking into if you have an XBOX that is currently un-modded.

    Also, /me wants 8 XBOX's :D Although, those 'leccy costs, eek!
  • Jeff7181 - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    I've been thinking about modding mine to use to play video over the network... but I don't want to lose normal Xbox (and Xbox Live) functionality. Wish that was covered here, but I guess it's not really a "mod your Xbox" article as much as it's a "mod an Xbox to make a cheap PC" article.
  • LotoBak - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    Nice guys... besides your linking problem

    Knowing a little more about the xbox scene a few things your might consider...

    1) Mods go for as cheap as 10USD retail.
    2) Software exploiting the xbox is always an option which results in a 'free' modchip
    3) to learn about most anything
    4) XBMC dvd menu support is comming!
    5) XBMC irc channel on #xbmc
    6) Online gaming is free through Xlink
    7) Emulators for n64 and 'down' are available
    8) This is the cheapest htpc with 480p 720 and 1080i available
    9) xbmc supports many formats
    Audio : wav, aac, ac3, mp3, flac, ra, vorbis
    Video : ogg avi mkv rm, mov containers
    Codec : xivd, divx, mpeg2, mpeg1, quicktime, realvideo and realaudio (limited) and many others. The video engine is based apon mplayer open source project

    Networking :
    Shares :Supports ccx, samba (windows file sharing), and replaytv shares.
    Streaming : Supports a multitude of video and audio streaming formats. webradio is included which has a 'channel' browser for online shoutcast streams. There is also a apple movie trailer browser.

    Scripting :
    XBMC has python scripting language implimented so its open to many possibilities

    XBMC does have some rough edges but it is maturing quickly. If you are interested in contributing to the project check out and the 'XBMC' project on sourceforge

    Feel free to ask questions about xbox stuff here... ill watch it for a while
  • Marlin1975 - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link
  • Marlin1975 - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    Page 6 has HOME instead of page 7 link

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now