How To Hack Your PSP Slim For Homebrew Apps

One of the topics discussed at our roundtable with Sony at E3 (besides their dislike for paying for features and their 20/20 hindsight as to what went wrong with the PS3's development) was piracy. Piracy was half the reason SCEA's Jack Tretton gave to why the PSP is not living up to its promise as a powerhouse portable console, with the other half being the straight-shooting admission that PSP owners didn't want to pay for ports of PS2 games. So what can you loyal fans do when developers aren't putting out the type of content worth playing? Homebrew, the magical world of quasi-legal third-party PSP software including web apps, radio apps, Super Nintendo/NES emulators and ripped PS1 games. I'm going to show you how to get your PSP to do all this and more.

There are dozens of guides online that show you how to get custom firmware onto your PSP in as many different ways. This is the method I found to be the easiest, combining tips from sites like PSP Slim Hacks and Code Retard. Note that this is customised for the PSP Slim, which is the only PSP you can go out to stores and buy, but most of these steps will be the same for the older PSP. I started the process with a PSP running 3.71 firmware, but it should much the same on other versions.

1) Buy a PSP MAX Power TOOL SLIM battery. Trust me. Unless you have a friend who already hacked their PSP and has a service mode battery of their own, this is the easiest solution. There are ways of modifying your current battery to enable service mode on your PSP, but the time spent doing that is much better spent doing ANYTHING else. Buy this for US$25 and wait for it to come in the mail.

Update: Reader Wrocky found this US$10 version that supposedly does the same thing. Buy it here at Dealextreme. We haven't personally tested it, but if it works, it works! The only downside is that it's made for the original PSP so will stick out of your battery case if you have a PSP Slim. Since you'll only be using this once, that's not a big deal.

2) Make sure you have at least a 256MB Memory Stick and a USB to miniUSB cable to connect your PSP to your computer running a version of Windows XP. I tried this on Vista but it kept erroring out on various parts of the process.

3) Charge your current (normal) battery as well as the MAX Power to full.

4) Download this file here, as linked to from this guide here. Extract the file to your desktop (remember, Windows XP machine).

5) Connect your PSP to your computer via the USB cable and setting it in "USB mode". Use the standard battery for this. If you have any important files on your memory card, back that up to a folder on your computer first.

6) Run the "START.exe" file from the package you extracted. Follow the instructions there. Once this is done, you'll have what's called a "Magic Memory Card", which is used to replace the standard firmware with a customised one. You'll have to pop your memory card in and out as the program tells you during the process. Follow the instructions until it tells you that you're done, then disconnect your PSP and turn it off.

7) Take out your normal battery, but don't put in your MAX Power battery just yet. Hold the L button (the left shoulder button) while inserting in the MAX Power battery. Make sure it's secure and won't fall out fall out while you're putting the battery cover back on.

8) Once the PSP is on (you might have to flip the power toggle) you may see a black screen with white text, or you may see nothing at all—I saw a completely blank screen for some reason. Either way, the power light on your PSP should be green to show that the unit's powered on. To install the firmware, press the X button. You should see the Memory Stick light on the left of your PSP flash with activity. When this is done, the PSP will shut itself off. Congrats! Now you have version 3.71 m33. But you're not done.

9) To upgrade this to version 4.01 (the latest hacked release as of this writing), download these files. First, the official 4.01 firmware. Then, the hacked 4.01 m33 and also 4.01 m33-2. That not a typo, by the way: Those file names are actually backwards and m33 is actually m33-2. Keep this in mind.

10) Extract all 3 files into their own directories. The 401-m332 folder (which should actually be the m33 update and not the m33-2 update) should have a folder called UPDATE under it. The Now, place the 401.PBP file (the official 4.01 firmware file) into the 401-m33 UPDATE. All this is going on on your PC's hard drive, not the PSP.

11) Then connect your PSP to your PC again (put the normal battery back), enable USB mode and copy the entire UPDATE folder from your PC onto /PSP/GAME/ onto your PSP's memory card.

12) On your PSP, exit USB mode, go to the Game and then Memory Stick, and run the PSP Update. Follow the instructions on screen, and you should have a PSP running 4.01 m33.

13) Now, connect your PSP to your computer using USB mode, delete the UPDATE folder under /PSP/GAME from your PSP, and copy over the UPDATE folder that belongs to the 401m33-2 file from your PC onto the PSP. Then go to the Game section and run this update on your PSP. You don't need the official 4.01 firmware in your UPDATE folder for this. Woohoo, you're finished.

Are you ready to get some homebrew going? Hit up PSP Hacks for a big list of applications you can run, including web apps, radio apps, Sudoku and even emulators. For obvious reasons, we're not going to link you to actual ROMs to run on an SNES emulator, but you can find those in the usual places you get ROMs. There are several SNES emulators to choose from, but this SNES emulator runs particularly well on the PSP, lending itself to old school gaming on the go.

Although a side effect of homebrew is that you can run pirated PSP games on your PSP, that's being pretty naughty and isn't something we encourage. The fact that a lot of people are doing this is contributing to (according to Sony) the lack of good games for the platform, which hurts everybody. Try not do to this.

What you can do is rip your old PS1 games and play THOSE on your PSP without waiting for an official release and having to pay Sony again for something you already own. Another idea when you're going on vacation is to get a 16GB Memory Stick and load all the PSP games you own onto it so you don't have to carry around so many UMDs. In order to rip PS1 games, you'll need a program like ISOBuster (there are others as well) that can take your disc and create an "image" of it on your hard drive, which is just a file representing the contents of the CD. You then plug those files into a program called PSX eBoot Creator to make it suitable for your PSP. The file and instructions on how to use it can be found here. You don't need a separate emulator once you have the eBoot file, but you do need plenty of space on your Memory Stick (1GB is probably only enough to hold a couple small games or one large one).

Thanks: We wanted to thank all the hard work that the PSP community—which includes PSP Slim Hacks and Code Retard which we got much help installing th is from.

Did you like this How To tutorial? The point was to give you the easiest path from start to finish, even if it required you to spend money on purchasing something. Your time is valuable, which means you don't want to spend hours solving something yourself when it can easily be bypassed with a few dollars. What do you want to see a How To on? Drop us a note at [email protected] with the subject "How To Suggestion".

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