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Table of contents

Introduction to partitioning on the Xbox

The Xbox uses a hard disk partitioning scheme that is hardcoded into the kernel. The hard disk consists of a header, 3 game cache partitions X, Y and Z, a system partition C and a data partition E. These partitions occupy the first 8GB of the hard disk drive. If your hard disk drive is bigger than 8GB the additional space is unused by the standard Microsoft BIOS.

It is common for hacked Microsoft BIOS an allow an additional F fatx partition to be created. This starts at the end of the standard partitions and ends either at the end of the disk or at the 137GB LBA48 limit depending on the BIOS. Some BIOSes also allow a G fatx partition to be created if you have a hard disk drive larger than 137GB. This runs from the 137GB LBA48 limit to the end of the disk.

Xbox partitioning and Linux

A Linux kernel with the xbox-linux patches applied detects the C,E,X,Y,Z,F and G partitions by checking for the fatx string where each partition would normally start. If F is detected and G it is assumed that F goes to the end of the hard disk drive, otherwise it is assumed F goes to the starting sector of G.

The very start of hard drive header is unused and we can use this to store a standard partition table (just as you would have on any IBM compatible P.C.). So to create native linux partitions (ext3, reiserfs, etc) we create a partition table at the start of the disk and add their details.

Starting sectors


X-DSL's native install script

X-DSL's native install script installs to the space above 8GB. This requires a hard disk larger than 8GB. All the original Xbox partitions are left entact. The F and G partitions (if present) will be wiped. The script acts as follows

  1. Removes the fatx string at the beginning of the F partition (if it exists).
  2. Removes the existing partition table (if it exists).
  3. Creates a 256MB swap partition and a ext3 partition in the space beginning at sector 15633072 (the start of F)

Using other partitioning schemes

If you don't like the method X-DSL's install script uses it is possible to manually setup you own partition and install X-DSL to this partition. There are two stages to this:

  1. Create partition with fdisk
  2. Install X-DSL to this partition with xbox-hdinstall

Fully native install

You may wish to wipe the original Xbox partitions and dedicate the entire hard disk drive to Linux. This guide will tell you how.

You must flash Cromwell 2.40 or later to your TSOP/modchip and ensure it is working correctly before following this guide, otherwise your Xbox will be left unbootable.

Firstly backup any files from the standard Xbox partitions which you think you may need in future. Then boot the X-DSL live CD and open a xterm. Become super-user with su (password xbox).

We need to remove the standard xbox partitions:

for i in 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 ; do grep hda5${i} /proc/partitions && dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda5${i} bs=512 count=1 ; done

Then start fdisk with:

fdisk -u /dev/hda

The -u option tells fdisk to give sizes in sectors instead of cylinders. Type m to see the list of commands fdisk supports.

We want to delete any existing partitions. Type p to list the current partitions. If any exist type d to delete a partition and then type in the partition number when it asks.

Now we are ready to create our partitions. We are going to create a 256MB swap partition and an ext3 partition which takes up the rest of the drive. Type n to create a new partition. Type p to make it a primary one and then 1. Press enter to start the partition at the beginning of the disk and type +256M to set it's size. Now type t. When it asks for the type enter 82 (swap partition).

We now create a ext3 partition. Type n again to create a new partition followed by p and 2. Press enter to start the partition just after the end of the swap partiton we created and enter again to make it take up the rest of the hard disk drive. Now type a followed by 2 to make this partition bootable.

Type p to display the partition table. If you are happy with the changes that have been made type w to write the partition table to disk.

Now run:

mkswap /dev/hda1

This will initialise the swap partition we created and install X-DSL to the ext3 partition. When you reboot you should see an additional icon in Cromwell called hda2. Select this and X-DSL will boot.