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things I break/fix for fun and learning

Aug 29, 2018 - 5 minute read - Comments

Messing Around with a PlayStation2 (PS2) in 2018

About a month ago, we found a nice little PlayStation2 (PS2) in the curb in our neighborhood. Looks like nobody wanted it as it’s already afternoon and no one picked it up yet. I am hesitant to pick it up, as it contains no cables, no connectors, no gamepads. Just the PS2 itself.

So I decided to pick it up and planned my way on how to make it work without spending too much on accessories.

First on my list is to get a power cable! It is the cheapest and an easy way to test if the PS2 still works or not. If it turns ON, then I can continue and get more accessories for it. If not, then I just lose about 2$ or if I’m really cheap, return the power cable for a refund! Good thing is that I have a spare laptop power adaptor that uses the same power cable for the PS2. I used that and it works! The unit powers ON and I can hear the fan spinning, the CDROM drive ejects so definitely it gets power! I then went to my local thrift shop and got a power cable for about 2$.

Next on my list are the cables to connect to a TV. Initially I settled for the cheap RCA and RCA-to-HDMI cables, but in the end I returned those and got COMPONENT and COMPONENT-to-HDMI cables. The former works OK but it’s a bit blurry and texts are hard to read. But at least I was able to test that the PS2 display works OK. So after about 2weeks testing, I returned the RCA cables and ordered the COMPONENT cables. Once they arrived, it works OK and it’s far better than the RCA cables.

I don’t want to spend more on PS2 games, and since the PS2 is out for about 18years, the homebrew community has improved throughout the years. I have the original PS2 model (also known as PHAT / FAT) and it has the capability to use a hard drive for storage. I already have a spare 500gb SATA HDD and usb hdd enclosure and the only thing missing is the PS2 SATA adaptor. I ordered those and once it arrived, it’s a matter of transferring a PS2 HDD image from my computer to the HDD using the usb enclosure. And once that is completed, connect the HDD to the PS2 SATA adaptor and plug it in the PS2 itself. I got lucky as so far this works and haven’t encountered any issues yet with my free PS2 from the curb!

The only thing missing are controllers and memory cards. I opted for wireless controllers as it is a hassle playing games with wired controllers. There are lots of cheap wireless no-name brands controllers on ebay. After hours of research, I opted for KMD PS2 wireless controllers. I also ordered memory cards – unofficial 64MB memory card and official 8MB memory card. For some reason, the wireless controllers does not work on player1 but if plugged into player2 it works OK. Doing troubleshooting, I disassembled the PS2 and checked the controller port block. Looks like the previous owner of the PS2 shoved in a memory card all the way in which caused the circuit board to break. Luckily it only affects player1, and player2 works OK without problems.

I’ve ordered a replacement controller port block and once it arrived I installed it on the PS2. I tested it and player1 now works OK!

The official 8MB memory card also have issues. It only shows 120kb of free space instead of 8MB. I’ve tried formatting the memory card but to no avail. The unofficial 64MB memory card works OK without issues. For this, I have asked a refund from the seller.

The only thing missing is another wireless controller. I’m still awaiting for delivery and once I get it, I should be all set! While waiting for it, I’ve loaded up the PS2 with about 70+ games. I have also configured it to run NES and SNES games. This is good as it serves the purpose of a NES mini or SNES mini.

So all in all, I think this project ended well without costing too much! A free PS2 that is somehow modernized (wireless controller, larger memory card, HDMI out, able to play FREE games from the HDD), and also works as a NES mini and SNES mini with thousands of games! And not to mention the learning experience and troubleshooting skills to make all the things work together seamlessly! My kid can operate it without a fuss - power on PS2, power on TV, select HDMI2, wait for about 30secs for the menu to show up, scroll through all the available games and then play!

Steps to Mod a PS2 FAT / PHAT (summarized version) -

  • Connect SATA / IDE HDD to computer using external usb enclosure
  • Transfer PS2 HDD image to external usb enclosure using hddrawcopy
  • Once complete, remove HDD from external enclosure, connect to PS2 SATA adaptor, and then connect to PS2
  • Power ON the PS2. FreeHDBoot should startup
  • Download latest version of FreeMCBoot and save it on usb flash drive
  • Plug in the usb flash drive to the PS2
  • Use uLaunchElf and format the HDD
  • Create a 3GB partition on the HDD and name it +OPL (this will contain OPL cover art / image data, romsets for NES and SNES homebrews)
  • From uLaunchElf, navigate to the usb flash drive and launch the FreeMCBoot installer. Use FreeHDB install option
  • reboot
  • install OPL and other homebrews as needed
  • install OPLManager for cover art / images
  • profit and play games!

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