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Adding a Hard Drive to My PS2

I always kind of debate on whether project posts like this should go here or on Blogging Intensifies. On one hand, it’s a Video Game related post and project. On the other hand, It’s also kind of an electronics and technology-based project. This one, ended up here.

One of my “on the list” projects has been to upgrade some of my old consoles. Two specifically, at least initially, are the PS2, and the Wii. The Playstation 2 was always a favorite of mine, though considering how much it sold it was probably a lot of people’s favorite. I played mine the most during my time at college. I always liked to joke about how I had put 100+ hours each mastering Grand Theft Auto 3, Final Fantasy X, and Metal Gear Solid 2, then upgraded all of those for another 100+ hours each mastering GTA Vice City, Final Fantasy X-2, and Metal Gear Solid 3.

I have, somehow, ended up with several Wiis. Though my original Wii had the CD drive go out on it. Funny enough, I also have several fat PS2s, though I have only have ever really used my original one. Having spares means screw-ups are more acceptable.

Anyway, the first of these upgrade projects I have decided to do is my PS2. The plan for the PS2 was to add a Hard Drive to it and load games that way. A hard drive has the benefit of, being less prone to failure (see also, the Wii’s CD drive) and being faster for loading games. I did some research on this and came across this video:

Which I decided to go with. A friend of mine suggested a slightly altered route, modding an official PS2 drive adapter to take a SATA drive, but I decided to just go with a 3rd party one built for a SATA drive. The main difference is the 3rd party ones, don’t have a network adapter. I really have, no real interest in putting my PS2 online. If I change my mind, I can always swap it out later. These devices are pretty cheap. I expected to pay a lot because the only comparable I have is when I have priced out Dreamcast network adaptors, which are super hard to find and and always go for a LOT.

Too bad there isn’t a cheap 3rd party option there.

There are some drive compatibility lists, but I have a bunch of old smaller drives floating around, so I decided to just wing it and hope for the best on that front. So the upfront cost was just the 3rd party SATA hook-up and the memory card with the loader on it.

I will probably also eventually pick up another larger memory card later, for save games.

Buying the stuff was the easy part.

Getting it working was a bit trickier. There aren’t really any instructions for any of this included, so a lot of it comes down to looking for guides online, which are often inconsistent with each other, sometimes old and outdated, sometimes referencing different overall techniques, which are not always cross-compatible. The first step was making sure the drive would work. I decided to use one of the spare PS2s and not my original, for a few reasons. One, my original is model 30001, and both of the others are model 50001. The Amazon page for the drive adaptor I used, implied the included memory card loader would not work for a 30001 model (it was wrong, more later). I also figure if I break something, it may as well be one of the spares.

Now, a little history on these spares. A while back, I tried to set up a way to play PS2 games on a PS2 and maybe do some streaming. I didn’t manage to accomplish this because each of the three gave me different trouble, though I forget exactly what that trouble was. One I believe doesn’t power on at all, I want to say one didn’t output video. The PS2 I chose to do my testing, it turns out, the front panel doesn’t work. It didn’t recognize the memory card or the controller. So that PS2 was not going to work for this.

These two spare PS2s, I bought them something like 15 years ago from a garage sale, I want to say $10 for the pair. I remember the seller said her son had had them when he was deployed over in Iraq or Afghanistan or something. One of them, on the top, has “Don’t touch or die” written on it. I could always paint this up or get a decal or something, but for now, I didn’t want to use that one, so I just used my OG 30001 model PS2.

Also, the other spare is still slightly buried in a tote, and I didn’t want to dig it out.

Fortunately, the Amazon listing was wrong, the loader worked fine. I poked around in the menu and managed to format the drive.

Now it was time to load some games.

Which ended up being the hard part.

There are several options for loading games, I don’t entirely get the difference beyond, “PS2 uses a screwy Hard Drive Format.”. I decided to start with Winhiip, which was the first one I came across as a suggestion, even though it is apparently considered “out of date”. All of these processes are basically “out of date”, and presumably worked at some point for someone. My thoughts were, this is a 20-year-old console, how out of date could it be, and this one lets me bulk load ISOs. I loaded a subset, of games, then hooked everything up to make sure it was working. A few short minutes later, I was in a game, running off the hard drive, everything was working fine.

I pulled the drive back out to finish loading everything else. The loading was a little slow because I was loading the ISO files from one PC, off of a network share on another PC.

With everything loaded, I went through the process of getting artwork for everything and loading it to a USB drive, then hooked everything back up.

Except, now it was not working. The drive did not even show up at all. I returned it to my PC and it didn’t show up there at all either. A lot of these drives I have lying around are old and second-hand, and generally too small to be really useful. They are slightly prone to failure. After some frustration, I gave up and started over with a fresh drive. This time I used HDL Dump instead of Winhiip, because it’s supposed to be more reliable. I noticed it adds a bit more data to each entry as well. The downside is, It only works, one ISO at a time. I found a bulk loader someone had made, but for some reason, the drive doesn’t show in the bulk loader scan.

I also connected my USB SATA adapter to the remote PC directly to avoid the slowness added by the network transfer. It also had a lot more free hard drive space to dump a pile of ISO files into. After several days of running one game at a time, I finally had everything loaded… Again…

This time, it loads up just fine in the PS2, except for one oversight on my part. HDL Dump had this box where you could fill in a name. Sometimes it automatically filled in, others it did not. I mostly just, ignored it. Which means many of the games have meaningless names now on the PS2. There is a mechanism to edit and update it natively, thankfully, but I don’t know which game is what without actually loading it up. Which means loading the game, waiting through several opening bumpers, making a note, resetting the PS2, then entering the name with a tedious on-screen keyboard. I strongly recommend filling int he name box on the PC as the games are loaded.

Very strongly.

I also have all these art assets downloaded to add but it’s not clear where they go because the system seems to have several different launchers and I can’t decipher which one uses them. Frankly, a list of names works just fine for now, I’m not even sure just how much I’m going to use this whole set up in the long term. I do want to explore options again for doing video capture again, I think part of my issue before is that I was using some really old capture devices and composite video. I really need to just invest in something that takes Component and/or HDMI input.

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