Hot-swapping Original XBOX Hard Drive

So, I screwed up my XBOX hard drive when trying to install a plug in (I did so by renaming the .xbe dashboard files and then it couldn’t find the right one to boot when I restarted the XBOX).  I spent ages then trying to find out how to use Xplorer360 (an explorer-like app which can read the FATX filesystem of the original XBOX hard drive).

Things to know before I explain how to actually do it:

1) The XBOX harddrive is locked by the XBOX when it is switched on rendering it unreadable by a computer – so you can’t just unplug it and hook it up to your computer.

2) The XBOX hard drive obviously has to be a master, not a slave – THINK ABOUT IT! If you plug it in as a master, you won’t be able to boot from it because a) it’s locked and b) it’ll be running the XBOX dashboard O/S.

Okay, so here are the steps:

1) Open your xbox as shown in this video up until the 2:30 minute marker:

2) Keep the hard drive plugged in to your XBOX with the power and IDE cables still connected.  Remove the IDE cable from the XBOX’s DVD drive.  What this has been found to do is unlock the hard drive when the XBOX red-rings with error code 12, and leaves it unlocked whilst the power is still connected to the hard drive.


3) Turn the XBOX on and wait for the error 12 to come up on the TV.

4) This is an important point that was missed out of all the other guides I have seen, so I am going to say it in caps: YOU HAVE TO HOT SWAP THE XBOX HARD DRIVE ONTO A DIFFERENT IDE CABLE ON THE COMPUTER THAN THE HARD DRIVE YOU ARE BOOTING WINDOWS FROM.  And another important point is that it has to be the “MASTER” end of the IDE cable (usually you’d have a DVD drive or two which you can steal temporarily).

So for the hot swap itself – remove the IDE cable from the XBOX hard drive, leaving the power on and connected from the xbox.  Plug this separate IDE Master-end cable into the xbox harddrive (obviously being booted into Windows whilst it’s running).

5) Go to device manager (right click on My Computer and then click Manage) – right click on the tree and click “Scan for hardware changes” and with any luck – bingle bangle bongle – there is your XBOX hard drive.

6) Start Xplorer360 and you should be able to open up and see all the contents of your hard drive.  You have to export any files to your computer to change them and then “insert” them again when you are finished.

A useful link explaining the XBOX error codes:


~ by shepherdnick on July 17, 2011.

7 Responses to “Hot-swapping Original XBOX Hard Drive”

  1. […] you might have seen my previous blog on how to go about hot swapping your xbox harddrive. That all came about because for the last few […]

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  3. So what do you do when the hard drive does not show up on xplorer360? It just say’s the fat32 is not found.

  4. These are good examples of hot swapping but I have searched google for hours on this topic but no one explains how to build the disk that you copy to the xbox hard drive.. some say use explore 360 some say use XBoxHDMOD but no one explains how to use the software.. its like crazy. can you tell us how to build and use the disk? I get the swapping of the cables etc..

  5. As an serious gamer fan, I simply needed to pop you a brief word or two to say thank you for putting this nice piece up.

  6. “Hot-swapping Original XBOX Hard Drive just in the shepherdnick of time” ended up being a terrific blog post and I actually ended up being very pleased to read the article.
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