Free Memory Card Boot, also known as FreeMCBoot or FMCB, is a method of softmodding the PlayStation 2's memory card to run homebrew software on boot. This method, in comparison to modchipping, is not permanent, is easy to install and use, and less likely to conflict with other software; on the other hand, it cannot by itself allow the console to read clean import/backup discs.
FMCB is technically a system update, therefore it is subject to the general restrictions imposed on them:
- It is incompatible with consoles having firmware version 2.30 or 2.50 - respectively the strongest majority of R-chassis superslims (SCPH-9xxxx) and the PS2 TV. Every other model of PS2 is compatible with the exploit.
- It can only run from a compatible MagicGate memory card. While all PS2 memory cards must implement a part of MagicGate to work as such at all, not all 3rd party products are accurate enough to support per-card signatures, which are required on any official software to be stored on a memory card, including updates.
If at least one of these conditions is not met, PS2:OpenTuna may be a viable alternative, but must be manually run each time.
Some modchips can also boot homebrew from memory card (this feature is usually called DEV1), including an installed copy of FMCB, but this comes with the above-summarized advantages and disadvantages of PS2 chips.
The main features of FMCB are:
- Assigning hotkeys (launch keys) to directly launch homebrew or built-in features, such as direct disc booting, if held as FMCB loads. Up to 3 paths (E1/E2/E3), tried in sequential order, can be assigned, which can point to a file on: either or a specific memory card slot, an HDD PFS partition, or an USB drive.
- Assigning, in the same matter, a default executable if no button is held on startup.
- Assigning, in the same matter, up to 99 (!) additions to the Browser/System Configuration main menu (Hacked OSDSYS, except on PSX); entries for which none of the 3 configurable files are available are automatically hidden.
- Other basic mods of the OSDSYS (scrolling speed, font color, etc.)
- Integration with PS2:ESR, namely autostarting it (again, from one of 3 paths) when an appropriate disc is inserted.
Further, it is capable of:
- Enabling HDD boot on SCPH-1xxxx and 70xxx systems, if the three files hddload.irx, dev9.irx, and atad.irx included with the installer are also copied, lowercase, in the memory card's BxEXEC-SYSTEM boot folder (this is automatically done when installing on 1xxxx systems only), and the "Skip HDD update check" option is disabled. (Further reading)
- Forcing a PSX to boot in PS2 mode, skipping the XMB: while by itself a severe downgrade, it is currently the only known workaround to run games on a console with a bad hard drive or DVD recorder head.
- Enabling DVD-Video-like discs for all further launched software by loading a dummy KELF pretending to be a DVD Player update (except on developer consoles, which block these).
While installing FMCB does not require you to fiddle with internals, it does require the user to find a way to access the PS2's memory card, which has a proprietary connection. There are many methods to install FMCB to a stock card.
This is, without a doubt, the easiest way to get FMCB- a memory card with the software already installed. You can either buy one from a reputable ebay seller, or ask a friend with a modded PS2 to do it for you. There is no further setup past this point- just plug in the memory card, turn the PS2 on, and FMCB will boot as normal.
The only complications are that, like every system update, the file name and region encoding for FMCB must match that of the target console (see the cross-region option for a valid workaround), and that the product you receive may contain an outdated and/or questionable setup (which can be fixed by reformatting the memory card and reinstalling a known good copy of FMCB).
FreeDVDBoot (Disc Exploit)
This is the newest method of installing FMCB to a memory card, and utilises a backdoor in the PS2's disc authentication chip (also known as the MECHACON) to load a third-party program (in this case LaunchELF is included as an initial program) from a burned DVD-Video. This method is proven to work on many models of the 'slim' PS2, but support for 'fat' PS2s is spotty. This requires a blank DVD-R (preferred as read-only discs put less strain on the laser), a memory card, a DVD burner, and a working disc drive on your PS2. You can also install more homebrew using a supported USB drive.
- Check your console's DVD player version. Versions confimed to work with this exploit are 2.10, 2.12 and 3.04. You can find your console's DVD player version on the options menu of the PS2 BIOS (Triangle).
- Download the ISO from ps2-home or github.
- Burn the ISO to a fresh DVD-R. Make sure to burn at a low speed, and enable the "finalise disc" option if you are using IMGBurn. If no errors or faults pop up during the process, the DVD has been successfully burned.
- Set your console's language to English. This can be changed in System Configuration on the PS2 BIOS.
- Insert the disc into the console. After reading the disc, uLaunchElf will boot after a few seconds.
- You can now run any homebrew (until the next boot), so continue following the instructions below.
If you cannot use a USB to install FMCB (or just prefer installing everything on one disc), you can create a custom install of FreeDVDBoot with this guide.
Memory Card Adapter + Windows/Linux PC
This method uses the PS3MCA, an official adapter for PS1/PS2 memory cards that plugs into a standard USB port. It was originally designed for use on the Playstation 3, but can easily be used on any Windows or Linux PC.
- Extract the .rar file found on the download page into your user directory.
- Install both "installer_x86" and "installer_x64" from the ps3mca-windrv folder.
- Insert the PS3MCA into your PC, and wait for all drivers to load.
- Run "mc_format.bat" to format the installed memory card (This will erase all data).
- Run either "full-install.bat" (installs FMCB + essential homebrew) or "lite-install.bat" (only installs FMCB and LaunchELF).
- Insert the patched memory card into your PS2 and press the power button. If the usual "Tower" boot screen is replaced with the FreeMCBoot logo, the mod is successful.
The Independence Exploit by Marcus Brown was the first secondary exploit for the PS2 (fat models only).
Like the PS3, the PS1 virtualizer supports applying a selection of compatibility hacks to specific games, and the built-in list can be supplemented via memory card. A buffer overflow in the code loading this list allows user-specified titles to be replaced with another homebrew also sourced from the memory card.
While still perfectly usable, if you have equipment suitable to load arbitrary files to a memory card you usually have other ways of running homebrew!
Modified swap trick
Another usable but mostly deprecated homebrew entrypoint is based on certain disc titles being split into multiple executables.
As the console only verifies the initial program, it may or may not be viable, depending on the exact title, to:
- Create a backup of such a game.
- Use an ISO editor, capable of replacing files in-place without changing the disc's layout, to swap a program with wLaunchELF.
- Burn this modified copy.
- Start the original game, hotswap to the modified one.
- Proceed as required for wLaunchELF to be loaded.
- Install FMCB from USB.
With pre-existing homebrew access
- Download and extract the FMCB installer from the official website to the root of a compatible MBR/FAT16 or MBR/FAT32 USB drive. Other storage devices are not supported.
- The official distribution of FMCB also includes a build of wLaunchELF (the premier PS2 file manager), and of the FMCB Configurator, which allows for assigning programs to autoboot (with or without a button combo), to main menu items (except on PSX), and other boot sequence customizations.
- Optionally, the files to be installed can be modified on the USB.
- Run the installer.
- If imaging and/or formatting of the memory card is desired, they can be performed now (multiple pages of features can be switched by pressing L1/R1).
- Select the "install" feature, then whether to build FMCB for only the current console (and any other looking for updates in the same path), cross-model (almost any console of the same region), or cross-region (any supported console). The only penalty for the latter options is the added space used on the memory card.
- If the card will need to boot a PSX, the appropriate option (on the second page) must be used instead.
- The "multi-install" feature is not recommended, as it achieves a cross-region install using crosslinked files to save space, which amounts to deliberate filesystem corruption.
- This is it!