XBMC: Making it sing (Part 1 – Setup)

I’ve noticed for a while that my grossly inadequate XBMC setup guide is one of the most popular articles on this blog, and it’s something that has long required rectifying. XBMC has been changed a lot recently, and it’s now moved to a different configuration system – plus, if you want XBMC to talk with Windows Vista, you require a 2007 version.

Thus, I’ve created here an all-new XBMC setup guide – Vista-safe, up to date, and with absolutely no XML editing required. This, however, will be done as a series of parts:

  1. Installation and updating (which follows)
  2. Setting up your sources list
  3. The little things

XBMC is, quite simply, one of only two legitimate reasons to mod your Xbox – the other is emulation. The achievement in XBMC is breathtaking – here we have a bit of software that despite being open source, despite that it requires a modded Xbox to run, despite that the Xbox is a Pentium-III running at ~733MHz with 64MB RAM, basically does everything a TV-connected media box needs to do very easily; it’s only being slightly superceded now because it’s simply not capable of HD-resolution video (although it can do HD upscaling through hardware acceleration.)

The hardest part of XBMC is installation. But once you’ve got your Xbox modded (and my other guide’s quite good at that sort of thing, ahem) installing or updating your XBMC install is actually fairly easy.

First, T3CH, the builder of the best XBMC compile, now offers his build of XBMC through his website t3ch.yi.se. All you have to do is download the .rar file from that website and unRAR it to a temporary directory; if the T3CH site is down, you can generally find his compiles distributed through bittorrent. Anyway, there’s a bunch of directories in there; the most important, however, is called “XBMC” and it looks like this:

Screenshot of XBMC directory

The structure of XBMC has changed recently – now all the data generated by you goes in the UserData directory, so there’s less risk of you overwriting any of your personal settings if you upgrade XBMC, as long as you make sure not to overwrite the version you’ve built up with any new one.

So now all you need to do is connect to your Xbox. Almost all non-Microsoft dashboards for the Xbox offer a ftp server (username ‘xbox’, password ‘xbox’, unless you’ve changed it) which offers full access to the system’s hard drives. If you absolutely can’t have a network connection, you can use a file manager to copy the XBMC directory from a DVD-R (CD-Rs generally don’t work with xboxes), but networks are easier. All dashboards understand DHCP, so you can easily plug it into your standard router, get your IP from the configuration section of your dashboard, and then use SmartFTP or a similar FTP client to connect to your box.

This will show a series of folders, each of which represent the Xbox’s drive letter system – C, D, E… “C” is the main drive and must not be tampered with. “D” ditto. “E” is the data partition that all applications and so on should be installed on, except in special situations (and with things like upgraded hard drives, you’re probably above the level of this guide anyway, or at least know how to adapt it.)

So go into the E folder, and then into Apps – in FTP’s style, this is the folder /E/Apps/. Here is where you upload the XBMC folder…

Uploading XBMC to the Xbox

So all you need to do here is copy across the XBMC folder into the /E/Apps tree, so that when you go into /E/Apps/XBMC/ you see the same folder tree as in the first image, with the default.xbe. If you’re upgrading, the best way to go about it is to go into /E/Apps/XBMC on the FTP server, go into your unzipped .rar on the local side, delete all the folders except UserData from the Xbox that you can see in the .rar plus the default.xbe, and then copy to the Xbox all of the folders and files except UserData. You might also want to manually merge any changes in UserData across file by file – so if the remote command codes have updated, you might want to shift that .xml across, but not alter your sources list.

Once it’s finished uploading, you should see XBMC in your applications startup list on the Xbox. Just boot it, and it’ll take a few seconds to come up. And that’s it.

If you want XBMC to come up as your default startup, the method of doing this varies depending on the mod you’re using; it involves a “shortcut”. Two of these (one by team XBMC and one by Team UIX) are supplied in the T3CH distribution in the _extras folder: these are documented here as options 1 and 3.

Anyway, good luck all. Coming up: putting XBMC to work reading all your network-stored music perfectly happily. In the meantime, feel free to tell me in the comments if I’ve messed something up or made the description too hard or whatever and I’ll endeavour to fix it. Thanks all.


29 thoughts on “XBMC: Making it sing (Part 1 – Setup)

  1. Thanks for your article and work on the XBMC upgrade. Much appreciated. Looking forward to reading more. I learn a lot with every read.

  2. The above comment is part of an obviously failed spam run – googling the IP address that made it finds loads of porno blog spam. I’m leaving this there because it’s funny – spam without the payload (the link is just to yahoo).

  3. Thanks, this has been a great help. I’m just getting the latest version of Xbox Media Center and then maybe all my Vista issues will have been solved. (for now, at least)

  4. Hi,

    Thanks for this great guide – it really helped and I am copying the XBMC files over the FTP now. Looking forward to the next one!

  5. Looks like a good start to the guide, is part 2 coming soon? I had it running with XP, worked great – just been hearing there are some things you have to do differently for Vista…

  6. Mainly with Vista it’s just having the right XBMC – once they included the fix for Vista’s file sharing everything worked reasonably well.

    Part two and three are coming. I have a lot more time to write them now, after all.

  7. Thanks for the update… threw on XBMC 2.01 FAT, then grabbed the July ’07 T3CH build and threw that on… seems to work fine with the SMB, just needed to create a user account for my xbox on my Vista machine… don’t feel like logging in with my main user account :). For some reason I thought it was more of an issue than that – mind you I hadn’t looked at XBMC and Vista since Dec/Jan…

    Only thing is, my xbox seems to hang on divx files, it caches them, recognizes them as an avi then hangs on the last step before it usually opens them – gonna have a look around the net, any ideas though?

  8. As an update, seems to be working fine now… wierd – mighta just been one of those late night things :). XBMC newest builds work great, just need to have a username/password you can use for your xbox.

  9. Hi. I’ve been gently trying to cajole my XBOX to use XBMC for a month…and recently got it working :)
    But not hte way I wanted….so I deleted what this site said and got the autoinstall deluxe from internet and installed it from there….perfect!

    Now, the only thing is : how the dickens do I get the blasted dvd remote to work in XBMC?
    Everybody says it works……but nobody says HOW.
    Any help out there?

  10. You need to plug the IR sensor that came with the DVD remote into one of the Xbox’s controller ports – I have it in port 4, but it worked in 3 for me as well. It should be plug and play – there’s nothing else you have to configure.

    If you’re still having problems, check remote batteries, whether the DVD remote can move up and down in the Microsoft dashboard menus (it should be able to) and so on.

  11. errr……I dare not say it.

    It was the *batteries*
    I removed them from two seperate remotes (one I use daily).
    Tried a third pair (as suggested by Inquisitor I check bats) and lo and behold…..working!

    I will now go and stick my head in the ground somewhere.

  12. Hey thanks, nice and simple. So I’m trying to get my XBMC all updated (only the boot-up part looks confusing). Anyway when I FTP into the XBOX I just get an empty C: drive. Same with E:\Apps just looks empty. But from the XBOX I can see everything. Same F:\ Looks empty from FTP but shows movies from the XBox. I’m obviously doing something wrong…

  13. That’s… somewhat weird.

    If you don’t have any applications installed, of course, E:\Apps should be empty, (dump an XBMC folder in here and start it from your current dashboard.) F:\ won’t be there because it only exists if you’ve upgraded your hard drive, but the empty C:\ is odd; nevertheless, XMBC should always go in E:\Apps.

  14. Sorry about the wait, but after a long and mostly unavoidable delay I’ve finally got Part 2 out the door. Part 3 is in progress and may be done by the end of this week, time depending.

  15. [quote]If you’re upgrading, the best way to go about it is to go into /E/Apps/XBMC on the FTP server, go into your unzipped .rar, delete all the folders except UserData that exist in the .rar plus the default.xbe, and then copy across all the folders except UserData.[/quote]

    There seems to be something wrong here: first you delete all the folders, bar UserData, then you copy all the folders bar UserData. How can you copy what’s just been deleted?

  16. You delete all the folders from the Xbox bar UserData, and then copy across all the folders from the unzipped .rar.

    It’s a confusing sentence and I’m going to fix it now. Thank you.

  17. Hey,

    I have ftp’d my xbox using a crossover cable, and I now want to install XBMC but when I look in E:, there is no apps folder, only things like BACKUP, CACHE, etc, what have I done wrong?

  18. Thanks for that, when I set up my own apps folder, the other one appeared so its seems to be sorted.
    I have a few other questions.

    I have a HDTV and I’m using a component cable for my Xbox, when I go into the soft mod setup it allows you to select HD settings, how does the XBOX run these settings without HDMI?

    Also, I have the baretta lightgun and Snipe Scope and I am trying to play house of he dead 3, I know that these guns work on 100Hz TVs but they don’t seem to work HDTVs, is there anything I can do to get them to work?

    Finally, the Genesis Emulator that comes on the softmod CD doesn;t seem to work, do you know where I could get a new one from?



  19. Component (five RCA cables, Y/U/V video, left/right audio) can carry analogue HD, and the Xbox is capable of upscaling to 720p or 1080i. The XBMC UI looks rather good at this sort of resolution, especially with one of the new themes designed for it like the stunningly good MediaStream.

    (Unfortunately the Xbox isn’t actually capable of running HD video; in my experience it seems fairly incapable of running H264 at all, which is a real shame. But it can upscale, and well.)

    Sadly, it looks like the light guns don’t work with LCD/plasma TVs and HOTD3. Which is a shame, it’s exactly the sort of screen it should be fun on.

    Make sure you’ve installed the Genesis emulators to the right drive as well (E: usually) and put it in E:\apps, dump the ROMs over FTP in the appropriate folder and run it from XBMC. Download here, for now.

  20. We will either need to expand our energy sources to meet the needs of these sectors, or we will need to find ways to use the available energy more efficiently. ,

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