Installing your first PS2 modchip - Lessons from One Man's Journey
What follows is a diary of my experiences installing a Matrix Infinity modchip in a v7 PS2. It chronicles the experience, while providing some tips and info from what I learned.
If you?re considering a PS2 modchip install, and are trying to decide between do-it-yourself or having a pro do it, take this quick personality test.
Are you the type of person who:
(a) Simply likes to get to the end result to enjoy the benefits of a finished product
(b) Derives pleasure from masochistically putting yourself through repeated failures and do-overs, relentlessly battling the obstacles put before you until you eventually emerge battled and bruised but triumphant, with a depth of satisfaction rivaled only by good sex.
If you chose (a), have a pro do it. There are many pros like NetMech who do fantastic work at an incredibly reasonable price. Don?t do it yourself just to save money. You could get a minimum-wage job flipping burgers to earn the few bucks you?d pay a pro, and still come out ahead on the hours you?ll spend. And if you don?t already have some or most of the tools and supplies you need, you?ll about break even on money.
If, on the other hand, you chose (b), you might still want a pro to do it. It is deeply satisfying to do it yourself, but if you don?t pull it off (or even trash your PS2), you?ll end up sending it to a pro anyway.
If you do decide to do it yourself, your story will probably go something like this (cue wavy-blurred transition effect with harp glissandos):
I bought my Matrix Infinity chip from NetMech, whom I highly recommend. He was a pleasure to deal with, had a fantastic price for the chip, and shipped right away.
While I was waiting for the chip to arrive, I decided to solder the wires into my PS2 so I could just mount the chip and solder the other wire ends when it arrived.
Here?s a rundown of the supplies I used.
From Radio Shack, I got:
30 gauge Kynar insulated wire (they call it Wrapping Wire)
Rosin solder flux paste
I already had a 23 watt Weller soldering iron, but Radio Shack has very affordable 15 watt irons (15 watt is better for this). I also already had solder, which Radio Shack has (thinner is better). And a cheap multimeter (for testing continuity and shorts). I also already had some 22 gauge wire, and Radio Shack carries that, too, but you only need a couple inches so try to snag a piece from somewhere if you can. Any thick enough wire will probably work.
Other things you?ll want:
Phillips and straight slot screwdrivers (the straight slot is just for prying tabs)
Hot glue gun (cheap and available all kinds of places)
Rubbing alcohol and Q-tips (fairly good for removing flux residue, and really good for removing hot glue)
A wet sponge ? any cheap one will work (invaluable for cleaning the soldering iron tip)
Fingernail clippers (I found this to be the most effective tool for stripping insulation off 30 gauge wire)
Magnifying glass or jewelers loupe (at least if you?re over 35)
I disassembled my PS2 using these instructions: http://www.modchipstore.com/customer....php?pageid=37
Note for idiots like myself: The steps read across in rows, not down in columns. Yes, I know they're numbered. But that?s easy to miss if you?re focused on the details in the steps themselves.
In their final step, they still have the DVD drive attached, but I advise unplugging the cables and removing the drive so you can just work with the motherboard. You?ll be working with it quite a while.
Before soldering, it?ll be a big help to sharpen the tip of your soldering iron with a file if you can. I didn?t do this at first (because I didn?t have a file), but after soldering most of the points, I borrowed a file and filed the tip to a sharp point. It was much easier after that.
I identified the solder points using the appropriate diagram listed at the end of this page: http://www.infinitymod.com/cgi-bin/m...=chip_infinity
Mine is a v7 board, so I used the V07-V08 diagram. It took me a bit to figure out that one of solder points was on the back of the motherboard.
I tinned the soldering iron by melting some solder on its tip, then wiped the hot tip across the wet sponge, pulling away from the direction the tip points while twisting the soldering iron. This makes all the excess solder bead up and roll off, and gets any goop off the tip, leaving it with a thin, shiny layer of solder. I repeated this step often while soldering to keep the tip clean and free from big blobs of solder. The wet sponge is one thing a lot of the how-to guides don?t mention, and I don?t know why. It?s absolutely invaluable.
Some of the solder points on the motherboard are plain copper pads with no solder. These need to be tinned. I applied some flux paste to them with a toothpick (the paste has a hard layer on top ? you?ll want to stir it up a bit first). You only need a thin, transparent bit of flux (don?t goop it on). I then held the tip of the iron on one end of the copper pad, and touched a piece of solder to the other end so it melted on to the pad. It really helps to have a sharpened iron tip here.
If you?ve never soldered before, it?s not like applying glue. You don?t want to melt the solder on the iron then drip it on the joint. Rather, you need to heat up whatever you?re soldering with the iron, and get the solder to melt directly on to that. But when soldering delicate components, you don?t want to heat them up too much. Never leave the iron in contact for more than a second or so, and if you need to repeat, give the component a few seconds to cool down first.
After the pads have been tinned, if they have dark sticky residue from the flux, dip a Q-tip in alcohol and dap at the residue, then use a dry Q-tip to wipe it off. You may also want to wipe off residue like this after tinning or soldering other things.
I figured out where I would glue the modchip. You want to put it close to the ground solder point ("GND" in the diagram), since you want the ground wire to be as short as possible. You want it somewhere where the board is flat (not stacked on top of another chip).
The GND and 3.3V wires use the thicker wire, all the rest use the 30 gauge. For each wire, I cut it longer than it needed to be, and stripped about a 1/16? of insulation off one end. You don?t want to strip too much, because you don?t want uninsulated wire hanging off the joint to touch other wires or joints.
To strip it, I gently squeezed the end of the wire between the nail clipper blades, slid the blades back and forth a couple times, rotated the blades 90 degrees and slid again (to slice through the insulation on all sides). I then grabbed the end of the insulation with my fingernails and pulled it off.
I then dipped the wire end in flux paste, melted a small blob of solder on the iron tip, and dipped and rolled the wire end in the melted solder blob to coat it. The tinned wire was now ready to be soldered to a joint.
There?s three kinds of points I was soldering to on the motherboard. First, the plain copper pads. The hardest part with these is getting them tinned first. Once they were tinned with a little blob of solder on them, then it was just a matter of touching the tinned wire end against the solder blob on the pad, and touching it with the iron tip so it melted around the wire. You pull the iron away first, and hold the wire in place for a couple seconds while the solder hardens.
When I occasionally made a mess with the solder (bridging it between pads, leaving too big a blob, etc.), I would trim a clean end on the desoldering braid and use that to wick up the unwanted solder. I would hold the trimmed end of the braid against the solder, and heat up the braid with the iron. The solder would melt and get sucked up into the braid.
A few of the points to solder to were a simple point that already had a blob of solder on it. These were the easiest, since they didn?t need to be tinned. I just tinned the wire and soldered it on.
The third type of joint was soldering directly to pins on chips and other components. These are where you need to exercise the most care. Once I had a technique down, though, I found it went quite smoothly. I wouldn?t tin the pin on the chip. I would tin the wire end, but not too much. Just a thin coating right at the tip. I would make sure the iron tip was clean (no blobs of solder). I would then hold the wire tip against the base of the pin (right where it touches the board), and very quickly touch the top of the pin with the tip of the iron. That?s all it took. I only held the soldering iron against the pin very briefly (really just a touch and remove). It didn?t make a big thick connection, but you don?t want a thick joint right there. But it was solid and conducted well.
As I finished adjacent groups of wires, I would hot glue them down to the board to make sure they didn?t get knocked loose as I worked. The glue is non-conductive and won?t hurt the board, components, or wires. I would lay the group of wires flat on the board, and lay a bead of hot glue down across them. I would do this near the solder joints, but not over the solder joints, because I wanted to test them with the meter, and wanted the option to resolder a joint if needed. If you get hot glue somewhere you don?t want it, dab some alcohol on the surface at the edge of the glue, lift the glue up where the alcohol has seeped under, let it seep under further, and continue to peel (applying more alcohol as necessary). This will very effectively remove the glue.
Once I had soldered all of the wires to the motherboard, I decided to test the PS2 to make sure I hadn?t shorted anything or broken any traces or pins. Being a software engineer, I?m a big advocate of testing early and often. The sooner you know something?s wrong, the easier it is to fix. All you need connected to test the motherboard is the power supply board, the power switch, and the reset/eject button. I put the Lexan power supply insulator on the motherboard, plugged the power switch panel into the power supply, and plugged the power supply on to the mother board. I lay the motherboard on an insulated surface (I used a mousepad) in front of the TV. I made absolutely sure none of the loose ends of the wires were touching anything, especially anywhere on the power supply board. This is why I hadn?t yet stripped the other ends of the wires. I then turned off the power switch, connected the video cable to the mother board and plugged the power cable in.
NOTE: Careful with that power supply board! That?s live AC running through that! Don?t touch anything on it once you?ve plugged in the power cable!
I then turned on the power switch. The PS2 boot screen came up on the TV, letting me know I hadn?t trashed my precious PS2. The blue eject light was flashing, which is to be expected without the DVD drive connected. Satisfied, I turned off the power switch, unplugged the power cord, and took the rest back apart.
I then routed the wires so the ends were near where the chip would be, applying a few more beads of hot glue to hold them in place. I routed them around, not over, the IC chips on the board. I didn't want them getting crushed when I screwed the shielding back on the board.
(continued in next post)