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Microsoft Banning Modded Xboxen 176

An anonymous reader writes "Since the release of Halo 2 (ed: and just before), Microsoft has been banning modified Xboxes from Xbox Live. Some have even been banned with their mod-chips turned off. Previously many users had been able to use Xbox Live provided they disabled their mod-chip. There are a few theories floating around as to how MS is doing this: from scanning the hard-drive for non-MS material to being able to check if the DVD-drive/Hard-disk serial number is from stock or not."
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Microsoft Banning Modded Xboxen

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  • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @03:35PM (#10779672) Homepage Journal
    you afraid ms bans slashdot too if you refer to xboxes?

    and anyways, surely it would have been known for you as a xbox owner, especially owner of a modded one, that the software can scan the hd(and itself, which it should do for the net play anyways, on which they will pin the reason for this to be).

    yeah, it kinda sucks that you can't get the most out of your xbox (use it for emulators, xvid playing AND gaming on xbox live, you pretty much knew you would in reality have to choose between the two) - BUT YOU KNEW THAT when you put down the cash for the system anyways.

    obvious solutions? don't modify anything on the harddisk by yourself. pretty darn hard for the box to guess by which bios it was last booted with..
    • what kinda of a geek are you? that plural has been popular in computer circles since the 60's. never of VAXen or UNIX boxen?
      • I would've said 'blame the number', but it's barely higher than mine, and lower than yours...odd how certain colloquialisms escape the notice of some.
      • like 'virii' is good use of words? it isn't.
        try to write "I booted 20 boxen because of virii that took over" to some essay. It's used, the slashdot topic is proof of that, but so is OMG LOLLOOOLLOLOL and other crap. moreover, like 'virii' it's mostly used by people who try to spin it into sounding geek professional(or "l337") or think they know latin when they don't(again, trying to sound 'cool' by choice of words).

        it's used to make the text unreadable to laymen, or to seperate yourself as the writer from
        • if you hate corporatespeak(tm), adding useless words and hard to understand, cool looking synonyms for words, why would you like to push a different form of the same kind of stupidness?

          Because "*en" is fun.

          I'm a pretty anal-retentive about language, fuming about gibberish such as "I should of..." and lazy kiddies who can't be bothered to use the Shift key despite its obvious benefits in readability. But I'm not bothered by folx playing around with alternate plural forms. It's a kind of intellectual cr

          • well, it's not "alternate" . with the X already smacked on frotn.. it's xboxen is talking about xb-oxen. (many xb cattle).

            I wouldn't mind it terribly in comments themselfs, but in the headlines it's like some magazine printing "dubya wins electionen"

        • For a guy who seems to be incapable of beginning a sentence with a capital letter, you sure are picky about other people's language idiosyncrasies.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      If you've ever studied German at all, you might be aware that the plural form of many words in that language is formed by adding the suffix "-en" to a word.

      It seems obvious to me that using the plural form "Xboxen" is an example of playful imitation of this linguistic behaviour.

  • by still_sick ( 585332 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @03:36PM (#10779675)
    From the start, everyone here has been saying that since they owned the XBox machine, they can mod it however they want.

    Great. Go nuts.

    But it works both ways. Microsoft owns the Live Network - and if they say "No Modded XBoxes", that's what it means.

    They are under no obligation to let you break their rules. Just because some people have gotten away with it up until now means nothing.
    • by Zonk ( 12082 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @04:15PM (#10780104) Homepage Journal
      I agree completely.

      You are entirely entitled to do whatever you want to what is indeed your property.

      However, if you sign up for Xbox Live you're signing a service contract that states somewhere in there that modded machines aren't allowed. MS is perfectly within their rights to make that requirement a part of the deal. In fact, I appreciate it. Knowing that a modded cheater isn't going to be gaming with me is a reassurance.

      I get a little frustrated when people decide that just because they bought one piece of a puzzle, they own the whole damn puzzle too.

      Buying an Xbox doesn't mean you get to decide how they run the Live service. Buying Diablo 2 doesn't give you the right to run your own server. Read the fine print before you sign on the dotted line.
      • You are correct, it doesn't give me the right to run a server, since I already have the right to run whatever kind of server I like on my hardware, using my bandwidth. If you don't like it, don't ping it.
      • by Cecil ( 37810 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @04:36PM (#10780309) Homepage
        Buying an Xbox doesn't mean you get to decide how they run the Live service. Buying Diablo 2 doesn't give you the right to run your own server.

        The former is valid, the Live service is Microsoft's property. The latter is not valid, the server (bnetd) was *not* Blizzard's property.

        If someone wanted to create a "Mod-chip okay!" XBox Live service, I think that should be perfectly fine. Likewise, if someone wants to create a "Cheaters welcome!" (or "Not welcome!" depending on your view of how Blizzard handles cheaters) version of, more power to them as far as I'm concerned.

        But it doesn't always have to be about cheating or mod-chipping or piracy, maybe I want to run a gaming network where stats for all sorts of different games, including games, all get compiled into the same rankings. Or maybe I want to modify the rules somewhat. It shouldn't be illegal. I don't care if it is or isn't under current copyright law and licensing agreements and other stupidity, it shouldn't be.
        • Excellent suggestion you throw in about why not creating one's own Live server. Just such a service already exists [] for multi-console LAN play, but as far as I've tried only few games actually support multi-console LAN (Halo2 being one of them but you can't play co-op the solo missions).

          Far many more games support Live, so this idea of some day have a free Live clone is very interesting indeed.. With the many modded xboxen around, and people who want to play their backed-up games, maybe it's just a matter

      • by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @04:48PM (#10780466) Homepage Journal
        I actually prefer it this way. That way we know there is no 'hardware trick' that allows cheating in, say, Madden. So when I get my butt stomped, I realize I'm just really bad at the game, and can't blame cheating ;-)
    • The first mod I would do is change the name to something other than "Xboxen".
  • What I *CAN* comment on is that if I wanted to ban a device from accessing my network, I would block it at layer 2.

    That said, spoof a different mac address. Go into your local Blockbuster, or wherever, rent an xbox for an hour. Take it home, plug it in, get it's mac address.

    Then go to your router or other broadband sharing device and spoof the mac address of that machine. On ya go.

    Now we just have to determine HOW the hacks are being detected....
    • by numbski ( 515011 ) * <(numbski) (at) (> on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @03:44PM (#10779776) Homepage Journal
      I know many of you readers (amazingly) aren't terribly familiar with Linux, so I'll explain this the easiest way I can.

      Could someone here with an XBox with an XBox live account, and a broadband sharing device run ethereal on their LAN, begin a capture on the XBox's IP address, then turn on the XBox and log into live, then post the caputure?

      With the slashdot hive-mind as it's so called, we can have an open hacking discussion. I'm not saying it would be obvious, but who knows...perhaps we can see something? I don't own one yet or I'd be doing this myself.
      • What I don't understand is how Microsoft would see one's MAC address provided that Ethernet is not routable...

        The rest of your idea seems pretty nice. It would help if someone perhaps created a journal or something for that purpose (as this article will be off the main page by tomorrow). I believe that with enough information even someone without an Xbox could make an ipfilter module for that purpose.

        Anyway the problem might be a little harder to solve, especially if the connection is encrypted and the
        • What I don't understand is how Microsoft would see one's MAC address provided that Ethernet is not routable...

          The software running on the X-BOX should be able to read the MAC address of the card, and send it to anyone willing to have it (Microsoft).

          If it isn't encrypted, it should be possible to detect packets containing it, and change the address in transit.
      • Its not physically banned. You are still physically able to connect to Xbox Live, you just cant play any games. It is a software ban... effectively a failed login attempt, not a banned device as such.
    • Or they simply deactivate your xbox live account... then it doesn't matter if you spoof MAC address or use a different xbox, you're still screwed...

      (I don't know if this is how they do it or not, but I sort of remember reading that they deactivated accounts for people logging in w/modchips..)
    • by llevity ( 776014 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @04:13PM (#10780084)
      It doesn't ban based on the mac address. It bans based on a unique number stored in the Xbox's EEPROM. Based on that, you can get someone else who never plans to play on Xbox live to use a utility to get the data out of their EEPROM, send it to you, and you can reflash your xbox with this. This will get you back on Live. Unfortunately, unless you figure out how they banned you in the first place, they'll just ban this new EEPROM. It was a useful trick when the only way to get banned was to forget to switch off your modchip prior to hopping on Live, but no longer.
    • by ivan256 ( 17499 ) * on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @04:14PM (#10780093)
      IP is a Layer 3 protocol. Your (Layer 2) ethernet address isn't transmitted to servers over the internet. Many IP enabled devices don't even use ethernet and thus have no mac address.

      Regardless, these machines aren't blocked from connecting to the network. They're allowed to connect, checked and then disconnected.
      • That doesn't mean that the Application couldn't check the hardware, and transmit it at application layer. I'm not saying that's what they are doing, but the fact that no unique ID is transmitted automatically doesn't prevent that ID from being transmitted. (Whether it is a serial# from the HDD, a PROM, or the MAC address...)
    • by JofCoRe ( 315438 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @04:14PM (#10780095) Journal
      Ok, so disregard my previous post aboot the account getting deactivated.

      Apparently, when they want to ban someone from xbox live, they ban the Xbox's EEPROM id, which is the unique identifier for each xbox.

      I get the idea from this thread [] and this thread [] that there's a way to flash your EEPROM so that you can get back on, but I don't know how you'd do that. (I use Xlink Kai [] for my online gaming :)
    • At least not to accomplish anything meaningful. The source MAC address changes every time the packet goes through a router, so in essence M$ would be blocking anyone and everyone whose last hop was the same as some guy who modded his xbox. Not even Microsoft is that stupid.
  • Boxen?
  • xbox connect (Score:4, Informative)

    by Strokke ( 772031 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @03:42PM (#10779745)
    Although I am a faithful user of xbox live, there is an alternative for people who get banned. []

    Xbox connect is supposedly improving constantly and adding a lot of features to make it more new user friendly. My friend has a modded xbox and says that it works fine. I think it lacks the useful interface options and stat tracking of xbox live....however if you do get banned (and I know theres a big percentage of users on this site who have modded xboxs), give it a try

  • by apostrophesemicolon ( 816454 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @03:44PM (#10779766) Journal
    afaik, Sony PS2 uses the DNAS (Dynamic Network Authentication System) to scan whether the game CD is authentic sony product and then checks if the PS2 have been modded..
    the result is (at least for me, using Messiah2) is real difficulty in logging in with modchip turned off..
    • There are patches for the DNAS (and have been for a while).

      You generally find them on the groups, but there's a small ISO (diskidutil) that you boot up your modded PS2 with. You put in the original game and a screen appears with the game's unique ID along with your playstation's machine ID.

      Then you extract the DNAS file (dnasxxx.img) from the disc, use a utility to patch it with the matching nip file (dnasxxx.nip), input the disc ID you got from the discidutl:

      "diskid3 d
  • by apostrophesemicolon ( 816454 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @03:50PM (#10779842) Journal
    Source: Urban Dictionary []


    n. pl. The plural form of xbox.
    • The urban dictionary is wrong. xbox is a special kind of box, and the plural for box is "boxes", not "boxen". The use of the word "xboxen" is an irritating attempt by people to be clever. If Microsoft released a new form of hay cart transportation based on the ox, and called it the xb-ox, then its plural would be xboxen.
      • It's only wrong if you don't know your geek-etymology.

        Long ago there was a machine from Digital Equipment Corporation named the VAX ("Virtual Address eXtension").

        The plural of VAX became informally 'VAXen', for reasons unknown but probably simply because it sounds nicer than 'VAXes'.

        Later, people started referring to any computer as a 'box'. And in reference to the VAX tradition the plural of 'box' was 'Boxen'.

        The Xbox name, in turn, played on the slang term 'box' for computer.. so in turn referring to
    • Source: Common Sense

      n. A piece of shit website pretending to be a dictionary.
  • There is some tunneling software you can still use. Not too easy but works.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    MS has actually been banning modded xboxes off of Live! since Live! started, if you were dumb enough to try to connect with the modchip turned on. The way to get around this with a modded xbox was to

    1. Lock the harddrive, which made it report as an 8GB hard drive (stock) and

    2. Disable the modchip.

    Effectively, this makes the modded box look and act like an unmodded box, meaning, you cant use the extra HD space and you have to use a proper, legal, game disc.

    However, with the release of Halo2, people wh
  • A better solution (Score:4, Informative)

    by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @04:19PM (#10780147) Homepage
    It looks like Halo 2 checks the model # and serial # of the hard drive []. Will someone tell me why Microsoft cares what hard drive you have in the system? Instead, why don't they check the serial # of Halo 2 game itself? That way, they are detecting piracy rather than modded X-boxes. Seems more fair to me.

    Not that it matters. Now that we know what they check and how, it should be easy to disable the check or to spoof it.

    (Next thing you know, they will have a camera checking to see if you have illegal stickers on the side of it. Error: XBOX Banned - GameCube detected in same room. :-) )
    • do gamers need to insert a serial when installing halo2?

      and why microsoft cares? to scare people into not modding their xboxes, and checking the harddisk provides an easy way to see if the xbox has been messed around with or not.

      (using stock drive while on live is an obivious, ONLY, solution. why only? because you don't really know if they change their checks slightly.)
    • Re:A better solution (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Blakey Rat ( 99501 )
      Let's assume for a moment that XBox games DO have serial codes (they don't.) Let's also assume that XBox customers would be ok entering these serial codes into the XBox with an awkward controller even when none of the other consoles require that (they wouldn't be.) Even if you make those assumptions which would be required for your idea to work... it still doesn't work.

      The Live checks serve two purposes: 1) Reduce piracy, 2) Reduce or eliminate cheating. Your idea covers one of those, but doesn't touch
  • who really cares. If you got your xbox modded then you shouldnt be paying for online play anyway.

    There are may programs that allow you to have the same great online gaming experience for free.

    Much like the original halo, free online gaming is just a step away. I thank everyone who took the time to write/develope the programs. They should be commeded for what they have done for the "openbox" community
  • Halo2 patched my Dashboard/Live/whatever you want to call it, so I suspect that's where whatever new checking came from.

    Just a WAG, but I'd bet more on scanning for non-Xbox content on the disk than checking for serial #s or the like, because the latter seems more likely to generate false negatives (banned because you had a warranty repair and they forgot to sign off the new serial #, or the like) than finding some kinda wacky content on the disk.

    In general, I'm not sure what the big deal is, as others ha
  • Target: foot. Fire! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Colitis ( 8283 ) <> on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @04:54PM (#10780537)
    All this is doing is guaranteeing they won't get any money for Live from me, and Live support won't make me more likely to buy a particular game.

    Because I'm not going to give up Xbox Media Center, MAMEoX, UAE-X in favour of online games when I have a computer with games that I don't have to pay by the month to play online.

    (and yes - I bought them)
    • I'm sure that your single lost sale will, single-handedly, convince Microsoft that this policy is a mistake and that they will immediately retract the code and let XBox Live be a free-for-all with whatever hardware hacks you can muster.

      Criminy. You're not as important as you think you are.

      I like this because it prevents cheating. Period. I don't care about people modding their XBox to, say, play MP3s from a streaming server, but there's no way for Microsoft to tell the difference between that and someb
      • Criminy. You're not as important as you think you are..

        You must have reading comprehension problems, because I didn't say anywhere that I was important.

        But the unwritten point, which I'll state now, is that I'm sure I'm not the only one in this boat. There will be others out there who were thinking about getting Live and Halo 2 etc etc who aren't going to bother now.
        • You must have reading comprehension problems, because I didn't say anywhere that I was important.

          I was responding to the tone of what you wrote, not the words.

          There will be others out there who were thinking about getting Live and Halo 2 etc etc who aren't going to bother now.

          What, the Slashdot crowd where everyone owns a Gamecube and any XBox you might see is modded and full of Linux utilities?

          Normal people don't *care* about news like this. Microsoft markets the XBox towards normal everyday people
          • What, the Slashdot crowd where everyone owns a Gamecube and any XBox you might see is modded and full of Linux utilities?

            Your circle of friends must be fairly narrow. I know several people who most definitely aren't geeks that have modded Xboxen. Haven't asked, but they probably haven't even heard of Slashdot.

            Oh, and there are no Linux utilities on mine, either.

            Microsoft markets the XBox towards normal everyday people, not geeks who like to put Linux on their freakin' thermostats.

            What's normal people
            • Your circle of friends must be fairly narrow. I know several people who most definitely aren't geeks that have modded Xboxen. Haven't asked, but they probably haven't even heard of Slashdot.

              Good for you, but that has nothing to do with the point I brought up. I never said that Slashdot readers were the only people who modded XBox"en", I said, in a generalization, that anyway XBox owned by a Slashdot reader was probably already a lost cause for Microsoft.

              Oh, and there are no Linux utilities on mine, eit
              • But look, the set of people who both mod XBox"en" and don't pirate video games is very very small. Small enough that Microsoft does not think it's worthwhile to cater to that group.

                The thing I don't understand is the impression I've always had is that they can tell if a mod is installed but deactivated. I've read various comments about people being banned for going online with their mod activated, so I take that to mean that Microsoft *can* tell.

                So as far Live goes, if there is no activated mod, why does
                • So as far Live goes, if there is no activated mod, why does it matter if the Xbox is modded? Since the mod is turned off, the game has to be legit, ergo no piracy and no cheating.

                  How do you define cheating? What if I use a cheat utility on the game MechAssault and unlock all the advanced mechs before finishing the single player game? Would you consider that a cheat if you go online with those unlocked mechs that, under normal circumstances, you shouldn't be able to play in?

                  I can think of a bunch of che
                  • How do you define cheating? What if I use a cheat utility on the game MechAssault and unlock all the advanced mechs before finishing the single player game? Would you consider that a cheat if you go online with those unlocked mechs that, under normal circumstances, you shouldn't be able to play in?

                    I don't know anything specifically about MechAssault, but if you're referring to messing with the saved game couldn't you do that anyway? Have a memory card with the save on, slap it into a modded Xbox, fiddle w
          • In case you missed it, Sony realized that this geek crowd is important enough to have actually marketed Linux on their harddrive as a product.
      • You know what worries me? I've got remnants of a failed software Linux mod on my harddrive (a couple tarballs, and new Dashboard stuff renamed out of the way). I really don't think it's fair to ban an unmodded Xbox that has foreign files on it, if indeed they do file checking.
      • can someone please tell me if there are actual working cheats out there? I mean everyone is bitching that Mod Chips = Cheating but I haven't seen any evidence of that at all. Am I wrong? Are there cheats out there? Or is it just a bunch of FUD?
      • he may not be important, but they lost my sale also.

        eventually these lost sales will add up.

        my particular sale doesn't mean much, but when you add up all the sales from my peers suddenly we have a voice loud enough for them to hear.

        you can also swap the word "sale" with "vote" and find this is still valid.
  • by artifex2004 ( 766107 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @05:08PM (#10780717) Journal
    Let's say I go to Gamestop and buy a used unit. If I buy into the Live service, and find out the box is banned, does Gamestop have to replace with another unit? This is assuming that it was used with a removeable mod, of course, and that it was removed before Gamestop accepted it, etc., or that its EEPROM was used to reflash another unit.

    Also, what good is the Live service if I don't play multi-player games? Do they do any kind of software updates, etc., through the service?
    • Does gamestop have to do anything... nope. I think for the sake of their own business though they would. They really need to include live testing before accepting xboxes to protect themselves and their customers.

      As for other things you get besides multiplayer, there are several games I know of that have content updates through the live service. Also using the live service you can basically do internet telephony to other live owners through your friends list without a game I believe. Apparently its quit
      • Does gamestop have to do anything... nope.

        That is not nearly as cut-and-dried as you make it sound. There is a legal, implicit warranty with any commercial transaction. If you read through the GPL, you'll find a section that talks about "the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose", that's what it's talking about. The GPL can get away with disclaiming this implied warranty because no money changes hands, but Gamestop is selling a product so they must honor it.

        The point
    • You should just ask them if it's a legitimate unit when you buy it. Presumably someone softmodding their Xbox could actually get banned from Live so it's a very real issue. There was a game update through live that provided extra content (forget which) but in general it is only significant for internet play. I believe there are already bridging solutions for Xbox LAN traffic. You could load a new laucher from 007:AuF or from Mechwhatsits and use the Xbox for nefarious purposes like running unsigned code :P
  • Wonderful news! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Shufly ( 808040 )
    I think this is great news for all Xbox Live gamers. Personally, I was sold on the idea of Xbox Live because of the broadband only enviroment, and the thought that gaming on a closed system meant there would be less cheating, plus with everyone playing on the same platform there would be no more bitching about having a crappy video card or slow CPU, it leveled the playing field. Of course as someone who pays $50 a year for the service, it upsets me when I get into a game where someone is using cheats when
  • boggling (Score:3, Insightful)

    by XO ( 250276 ) <blade,eric&gmail,com> on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @05:30PM (#10780966) Homepage Journal
    Apparently, the submitter hasn't been paying attention to anything.

    ALL modded XBoxes are not allowed on Live. They NEVER have been allowed on Live.

    So, they've improved the detection to tell if your box has been modded. It's really a completely Non-story.

    This is the most non-story tripe I've seen on slashdot in a long time, and I've seen a LOT of non-story stuff.
    • Re:boggling (Score:3, Insightful)

      by startled ( 144833 )
      So, they've improved the detection to tell if your box has been modded. It's really a completely Non-story.

      Actually, tips from the board will likely keep me from getting banned. The story's useful to me, anyway. So, it was news for at least one nerd.
  • Heh! Complaints about paying for Xbox Live and the right to mod aside, I suspect that the easiest way around the problem is to buy another unmodded (nonmodded??) Xbox! I'm sure Microsoft won't mind at all. ;) Now I know the people here on /. don't want to put any more money in MS's coffers, but remember, MS loses money on every Xbox sold. So if you really hate MS, buy more Xboxes!
  • If you want to use their service, use it per their terms. If you don't want to use it, do whatever you want to your XBOX, it's yours after all. Can you really blame Microsoft for not wanting to allow people to use potentially pirated games on their service? They have to make money too. I'm not a huge fan of Microsoft, but what they're doing here makes complete sense. And yes, I realize that modding your XBOX has legitimate uses, but in the long run, most users do this to play games they haven't bought
  • First off, I do not have an x-box - and most likly never will - I'll stick with PC...

    Nevertheless anyone should be able to mod an x-box and use this on the Live network - why not? It's the software that should not be modified/patched/etc... Lock down the directX drivers and Game files - once thease are locked down you'll not see cheets/hacks/ect... who cares if someone modded the x-box to double as a toaster?
  • Payable Downloads? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by craigandthem ( 610656 ) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @09:39AM (#10786614) Homepage
    It seems to me that this is a pretty clear sign Bungie is planning on offering payable downloads. I speculate we'll see Hang 'em High (as well as others) for $5 in the very near future. If they allowed modded boxes onto Live, you'd be able to pull that file off your HD and "share" it with others. By making sure your Xbox is stock, they ensure you actually have to pay for what you get.

    Fine by me. As long as they can keep making money by developing new levels, they'll keep churning them out.
  • Remember a long time ago when people bitched about modded systems, saying that "It doesn't affect anyone else, its our property, fair use, etc?"

    Well, by running a modded system on the Live network, their security is potentially breached. Sorry, but that easily has the potential to affect other people.

    Would you pay to play on a service where people cheat and wipe the floor with even the most hardened veteran of ?

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel