Attempting to revive a PlayStation 3

Posted by pulkomandy on Mon Jan 1 11:25:33 2024  •  Comments (0)  • 

Many years ago, my cousin had a problem with his PS3. Apparently, the blueray drive stopped working. He disassembled it to see if he could fix it, but he couldn't. Then he asked me if I could take a look.

At the time, I thought that I could look into hacking it to allow playing games from the hard disk only. Surely that would be good enough. But, it was still the early days of PS3 hacking, at the time, the exploits needed a special USB device, which I didn't have. So, the console ended up sitting on a shelf in my paren'ts flat, and nothing happened.

Recently I decided to take a look at it again. So I took the console home with me and started investigating. I don't know what happened to this poor blueray drive when my cousin attempted fixing it, but it seems completely dead now. I didn't even manage to insert a disk in it. A brief research showed me two good news, however: hacking PS3s is now much easier, and there is also a special "noBD" firmware for people in this situation, because the console normally won't launch any game without a Blueray drive.

So, I got the noBD firmware and installed it. I did this a while ago, so I don't remember all the details, but it was straightforward, especially as this PS3 was running a very old firmware which is easy to hack. I am now running Evilnat's firmware (CEX, noBD). I also installed WebMAN which is the tool for running games from disk images on USB or hard disk.

Then the problems started. I wanted to install some PS1 games. One nice feature of the PS3 (at least the early models) is the backwards compatibility with the older consoles. Surely I could put some fun games there and play with friends? Well, it turns out, not really. The problem is, the console really wants to communicate with a blueray drive to start games that are meant to run from a CD. And for the PS1 games, there doens't seem to be any workaround for that.

Then I thought, OK, the BlueRay drive is mechanically dead, but I don't need it to actually read any discs. It just needs to be there. In reality, just the control board has to be there. So, I got the drive back (initially I had left it in my parent's flat) and I reconnected it insode the console. And I tried to install a normal firmware with Blueray enabled.

Well, this didn't work. The firmware cannot communicate with the blueray and this results in an installation error. Then the console reboots and tries again. And again. And again. And you can't exit that update loop, as there isn't even a way to access the service menu/failsafe mode in that state.

How do you get out of this? Well, the firmware is on the hard disk during installation. So, you remove and reformat the hard disk (I took the opportunity to replace it with a larger one). You don't need a specific format for the disk, just remove what's on it. The PS3 will reformat it. Then, prepare an USB key with a firmware update (a noBD one). Install the new HDD and hold the power button until the 3rd beep. Then release it and hold it again, again until the 3rd beep (this time it will be a double beep). You get to the service menu and from there you can install the noBD firmware again.

I still don't have a solution for installing PS1 games. I might try PS2 and PS3 ones. At least games in PKG format should work, so I can explore some of the interesting things that were sold on the PSN store, I guess. And also there are emulators for some older consoles.

But, in the end, the experience of a console with noisy fans is not that great. Should I bother with this? I don't know, maybe I will install a random set of games and put it in the break room at work, and we can have fun playing it during breaks with my colleagues. Do you have any games suggestions?

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