Microsoft really seemed to be ahead of the curve with console security. They really thought this through back in 2005 or so, to the point where clearly, they knew people would hack the drives to rewrite the serial number. It's probably for the best that they never actually did anything about the knowledge that gave them, but they clearly stayed a step ahead of the game. As much as I hate it, their actions show a great deal of respect towards the ingenuity of console hackers, because if they didn't, they would've never bothered to do such an effort thwarting them. Compared to the Nintendo Wii, which had a decent security model that was ultimately ill-fated due to several fatal flaws in both hardware and firmware, and the PlayStation, where Sony seems to have a continual problem developing security measures that hackers and modders can just completely ignore, Microsoft really pulled it off. I still wish game consoles would allow you to just run your own code. Xbox has dev mode, which I haven't ever used since I generally do not buy game consoles, but it does seem like the absolute best option that's been available to consumers lately. Before then, it was OtherOS (ill-fated,) PS2 Linux (cool but kinda limited,) and Net Yaroze? Which seemed awesome to me, but unfortunately was a relatively uncommon good. Beyond that, official escapes from the walled garden are truly scarce. A sad reality that will get worse when measures like remote attestation finally make their way to general purpose computers. Remember: you can never have nice things. Ever.

Thanks for FATXplorer BTW, it is very useful.

This is the same sort of bullshit that HP has done with their computer hard drives, but with an even more elaborate lock-in by Microsoft in this case. The HP computers came with an OEM Windows CD so you could re-install the OS after replacing a bad hard drive, but if you chose to replace the hard drive with anything other than a "genuine" HP replacement part, the Windows installation would fail. Note that the HP replacement part has half the capacity for twice the price, and a poor warranty.

I spent two weeks sparing with HP over this. They sent me a replacement Windows CD that behaved in exactly the same way, and in the end, they were off their flowchart with no way to escalate the issue. I was able to install the same version of Windows on the computer using a non-OEM Microsoft Windows installation disc. HP Support insisted that it was perfectly okay to replace their OEM drive with something else, and denied any lock-in countermeasures when I challenged them. Either the support staff honestly didn't know about this (probably illegal) policy, or they did know, and were required to deny it.

After this, I actively advised all of my clients to avoid HP hardware. At the time, I advised them to use Dell instead, but Dell has its own problems these days.

Why would they care if my hard drive is genuine?

For the PS3, PS4 and PS5 i just bought a hard drive (ssd for the ps5) matching their specs, installed it inside and gamed on.

For the xbox you have to buy hard drives from Microsoft?

Edit: please don't tell me about usb drives hanging off your console. I don't like stuff hanging off my console.

Eaton, if you are planning to write more interesting posts like this, please consider adding RSS/Atom (or making it more obvious if it is already there).
May the logo have been included so that the security sector could not be distributed under copyright law?
I don't get the value from preventing a customer from modding the device. Presumably, the customer gets more value out of the modded device, which means more sales to the device vendor.

The IBM PC was a runaway success because it was user moddable. IBM failed to recognize this with their follow-on PS/2, which was locked down. It flopped. DEC's Rainbow PC flopped because they tied it to proprietary floppy disks.

Chrysler was loved by hotrodders in the 60s and 70s because the company even published extensive manuals on how to hotrod them to various levels, and supplied the parts!

I put my money where my mouth is, the D language is 100% open source.

Interesting post but was really hoping to understand why some of my saves wouldn't transfer to other 360 consoles. Back when the "red ring of death" was more common, I would be issued a replacement console. When I snapped my hard drive back in and turned on Ninja Gaiden 2, I wouldn't be able to continue my progress. I had the unfortunate luck of this happening several times to me and I eventually quit playing that game.

Years and years later, I worked with someone who used to be at a gaming company and he claimed that apparently it was a quality assurance requirement from Microsoft in order to be published..

I wonder what would have happened if someone tried using antitrust laws to defeat this. Seems like there was a quite alive market for "third-party HDDs compatible with Xbox 360s" and Microsoft effectively tried to monopolize it. Plus, it seems to me like it could have passed the test of the modern Sherman Act interpretation. MS's actions directly reduced output and increased prices.
I couldn't find what is the size of the RSA key used. Any chance it is small enough to be broken today with bunch of cloud instances and few $100 [1] to spare? It was almost 20 years after all.

Of course cloning another disk is simpler and more practical, but it might be fun to eg. have custom logos on unmodded console.

[1] https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2015/10/break...

Eaton, I was a big admirer of yours back in the Xbox 360 modding scene, and envied your genius and dedication to things like FATXplorer and DevTool. We had common acquaintances (cas, teh1337) and I believe we may have worked together very briefly on a project at one point (I developed XPRC, which brought RPC and a whole host of new modding abilities to JTAG'd consoles). I'd love to get in touch and hear what you're working on now-a-days and see if there's anything we can collaborate on (perhaps a blog article?)!
This is pretty similar to how Nintendo validates game cartridges. They all contain a unique signed header. If you connect to an online game and your game serial number is being used by hundreds of other users, Nintendo can see its a pirated copy and you get console banned from online for all games.
The old dredged up Anandtech article is referring to the price of 3.5" disks, but the 360 used something smaller, probably 2.5". An off-the-shelf laptop drive would've been a bit more expensive and a bit more comparable to the $99 that Microsoft was charging.
Of all components, a disk is the only thing that “regularly” fail, that become too small, and have no other security impact, no profit margin (I think)

It’s idiotic MS took this route.

And what’s the downside/risk for MS? Nothing.. if the Xbox doesn’t work anymore, just don’t give any support on that disk

I still have one of those hacked WD blues. Always served me very well though I no longer have a 360. It serves out its live now as a 320 gb even though it's a 500 because I couldn't find a working 500 firmware at the time and I couldn't manage to get the original firmware back. But it's ok, I'm mainly doing ssd these days anyway.
Glad everyone enjoyed the writeup! I have several more interesting writeups planned, including a significant hack disclosure (not Xbox/gaming related), so keep an eye out (:
Sounds to me like this is ripe for a class action lawsuit.

Especially if they start applying more severe consequences to those who already installed unsanctioned HDD's into their own property.


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thankyoucloudflare.no. They don't even bother giving me an option to proceed anymore!!

Is the code/assembly for the RSA signature check (`XeKeysVerifyRSASignature`?) available anywhere online?
The articles says that the security sector is RSA-signed using a private key only Microsoft possesses, what if you also change the public key used for verification that is stored in the console?
I thought I remember there being adapters which allowed you to use regular 2.5inch hard drives on the xbox 360. Maybe my mind is just tricking me again though.
Was this the hack that made Bunnie Huang famous?
stuff like this is outrageous. i got a steam deck a few weeks ago and decided to grab the base model and an $80 512GB NVMe drive on newegg. the install was easy and i saved a ton of money. that's how hardware should work, especially stuff as easy as drives/RAM.
Regular blog posts about x360?

The statute of limitations is over, it's time to revel in nostalgia :D

Eaton's gonna be spoiling us, dude has always been an overachiever.

By the way, you DID save my original 20gb security partition - I never told you, I don't think, but I had the original MS backup cable and your software right as that was figured out.

Can't wait for the ultimate "KV.bin" write-up...

>>:"Why would MS add over 4 magnitudes of cryptographic checks to a damn virtual serial number....?"

I will never understand why people buy that locked down, proprietary, DRM infested shit (gaming consoles, "smart" appliances, smartphones, apple stuff etc.) in the first place. .. I would rather have nothing.