Building the ultimate Xbox Server

by @edent | # # # # # # # # | 9 comments | Read ~4,911 times.


I've been playing around with Linux on the Xbox for a while. I finally decided to stop piddling about with the stock drive and create a fully featured network server. I shall call this beast.... The xNAS!

While doing this, I found a lot of badly presented and conflicting information. This is my attempt to right that wrong. I've attempted to add some of these steps to the Wiki, but it's not accepting changes at the moment.

This tutorial assumes you are using Xebian and an original Xbox.

The Aim:
Build a headless Linux server with 1.5TB storage space, Bit Torrent, Samba Sharing and other stuff.

Kit you will need.
1) A chipped Xbox. This is a bit of a cop out. There are many excellent tutorials around on how to chip an Xbox. If you're not comfortable soldering around your Xbox - you can buy pre-chipped ones on eBay or the AVForums.

2) Some large IDE hard drives. The Xbox will take a maximum of 2 IDE devices. The largest drive I could find were 750GB each. You may be able to go larger using a SATA/PATA converter.

3) An ATA power Y-splitter. The Xbox's DVD drive has a proprietary power connector. You'll need a splitter if you want to power more than 1 HDD.

4) A set of torx screw drivers

6) Nerves of steel!

So... Let's begin.

I chose Xebian Linux because it's based on Debian. This means that all the packages are very well maintained. You should get a large range of programs with frequent security updates. The Xebian Basic distribution (which we'll be using) doesn't give you a GUI. You get command line access only. It might be a bit scary - but it keeps everything running quickly on the Xbox's modest hardware.

There is an excellent tutorial on the Xbox Linux Wiki. However, some of the information is out of date.

Here's what you need to do.
Download the latest version of Xebian Basic.
Burn the ISO on to a CD or DVD that you are sure your Xbox will read.
Remove the Xbox's original HDD - replace with your massive HDD.
Boot using the Cromwell BIOS (or other method to boot unsigned content).
Select the DVD drive.
Linux will now boot! Hurrah!
This is the point of no return. Once these next few steps are complete, your Xbox will be a Linux machine. You will not be able to play Xbox games on it.
Type

XBOXLinuxInstall

Linux will start installing.
You will want to choose Option 3. This will take over the whole disk for Linux.
Answer the questions as they arise (set the IP address etc).

You can now remove the DVD drive (with the power off!) and replace it with another HDD.

You are now, technically, done. Xebian is installed. You (almost) have an xNAS. However, it is not (currently) very useful.

There are two things we need to do to get this Xbox in a usable state.
1) Set up the DNS.
By default, Xebian points to an outdated DNS entry. You will want to modify this to point to your DNS server.
Type

nano /etc/resolv.conf

This opens the file in the nano editor. This is a very simple editor - much easier to use than emacs or vi.
Edit it to say

nameserver 208.67.222.222
nameserver 208.67.220.220

The IP addresses there point to the OpenDNS Servers - perfect if your ISP is a bit poor at providing a DNS service or you're going to be changing your network configuration frequently.

2) Edit the update sources.

Because Xebian is based on Debian, we can update it in the same way as we would a normal Debian system.
Unfortunately, Xebian uses a rather outdated sources.list (the file which tells Xebian where to look for updates).
Luckily, it is very easy for us to update this!

First, go to http://www.debian.org/mirror/list and find your nearest mirror. So, if you're in the UK, choose ftp.uk.debian.org/debian/

For this example, we'll be using nano - feel free to use your favourite text editor.

To open the sources file, type

nano /etc/apt/sources.list

You should see a file which looks like this

deb http://ftp.at.debian.org/debian stable main contrib non-free

deb http://non-us.debian.org/debian-non-US stable/non-US main contrib non-free
deb-src http://non-us.debian.org/debian-non-US stable/non-US main contrib non-free
deb http://security.debian.org stable/updates main contrib non-free
deb-src http://security.debian.org stable/updates main contrib non-free

Replace it with a file that looks like this (substitute your nearest mirror)

deb http://ftp.uk.debian.org/debian stable main contrib non-free

deb http://ftp.uk.debian.org/debian stable main contrib non-free
deb-src http://ftp.uk.debian.org/debian stable main contrib non-free
deb http://security.debian.org stable/updates main contrib non-free
deb-src http://security.debian.org stable/updates main contrib non-free

Save the file and exit.

Updating is a three step process.

To get a list of updates, type

apt-get update

To upgrade to the latest version, type

apt-get upgrade

(You may need to answer some questions from the upgrader - if you don't know what you're doing, accept the default option.)

Finally, to upgrade to the latest distribution, type

apt-get dist-upgrade

That's it - you have upgraded successfully!
Whenever you want to check for updates, type

apt-get update

Then

apt-get upgrade

Tada! All done!

Here she is in all her glory

Up next - setting it up for Samba, Bit Torrent and other fun stuff.

9 thoughts on “Building the ultimate Xbox Server

  1. gary says:

    very cool

  2. Gabriel. says:

    I have a modded XBox but I'm loathe to put Xebian on it, knowing I won't be able to play games on it anymore after formatting the HDD.

    Do you plan on putting up new information about the setup process after the initial install of Xebian?

  3. lio says:

    Hey, Is it STABLE ? after all those years, did you used it for a long time ? No core dump at reboot, and things that block and screw everything at the reboots ? Thank you !

    1. Yes. It was perfectly stable. Used it for several years without any serious problems.

  4. lio says:

    If there is a power failure, is it like gentoox? >> partition broken ? Thanks!

    1. Xebian used Debian. So try running fsck

  5. Manuel says:

    Hi, i followed all instructions but get errors when "apt-get upgrade" some about readlink -e not recogniced parameter.... Any sugestions? Thanxs for Your tutorial

    1. Sorry, this is a 5 year old blog post. I don't still have the system to work on.

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