DS/DSi/3DS "hacking" F.A.Q.

Discussion in 'NDS - Flashcarts and Accessories' started by Rydian, Feb 7, 2011.

Feb 7, 2011

DS/DSi/3DS "hacking" F.A.Q. by Rydian at 12:09 AM (102,120 Views / 1 Likes) 67 Comments

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    Rydian Resident Furvert™

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    DS/DSi/3DS "hacking" F.A.Q.


    The Basics
    • Q - Is the DS/DSi/3DS hackable?
      A - Yes. The DS, DS Lite, DSi, DSi XL, and 3DS can all be hacked (to an extent).

    • Q - How do you hack the DS/DSi/3DS?
      A - You buy and use a "flash cart".

    • Q - Aren't there any soft mods to do this? You know, for free?
      A - No. There was only one soft mod (EA Sudoku game exploit), it was not free, it was only for the DSi(ware), and less than 250 people downloaded it from Nintendo's servers before it got pulled and patched, so if you're asking this question it's likely that you don't have it. In addition this hack is quite limited and cannot run game backups.

    Flash Carts
    • Q - What is a flash cart?
      A - It is a device that has the same look and shape as a DS game cart (and goes into the same slot), but it's unofficial, and it has a MicroSD slot to store your ROMs and homebrew.

    • Q - Why can't I find these in physical stores?
      A - Stores like Gamestop and such have agreements with Nintendo and other video game companies to be able to sell their products, and if they started selling flash carts and other backup devices Nintendo wouldn't be happy. Gamestop and other stores want to keep Nintendo happy so that they can continue to make money off of Nintendo products, so they refuse to deal in flash carts and other backup/homebrew devices. It's also in their best interest to make sure you keep buying games from them too, after all.

      You can sometimes find flash carts in locally-run stores like the old mom'n'pop used game sales places, but pickings tend to be slim and rife with clones and outdated carts. Online ordering is the best way to get a flash cart.

    • Q - Why don't most online shops take paypal anymore?
      A - Nintendo gets Paypal to shut down the accounts of sites that sell flash carts, locking them away from the money too. Take note that Paypal is not legally a bank and thus is not under the same laws and regulations. Because of this, the sites that do still take paypal do it under the table, you often need to e-mail them for the private info and then send the money yourself instead of using their form, etc.

    • Q - Do I have to have a MicroSD card to use it?
      A - Most likely yes. Only a few flash cart have internal storage, and those tend to be the old ones. A MicroSD slot is the standard nowadays.

    • Q - What brand, size and class of SD card should I get for my flashcart?
      A - What size you choose is a question of how many games you want to keep on the card. Homebrews are usually only a few megs in size. The size of DS/i games range between 4 and 512 megabytes, most of them are 32 or 64. An average size of 50 megs is probably a good guess, but the larger RPGs and such can be over 200. Make sure that your flashcart supports SDHC cards before picking a MicroSD card. All recent flashcarts can handle them, but there's still some older carts on the market that don't. To keep it simple: if it's larger than 2 GB it's a SDHC card, if it's 2 GB or smaller it's normal SD.

      Most known brands work well and there's rarely any difference in brand name alone. A better indicator of performance would be the class (only applicable to SDHC). There are different classes of SD cards. The class only defines at what speed you can write files to the SD card, not at what speed you can read them, and theoretically the write speed is unimportant (the only thing that's written to the SD card are save files and those are very small). Reading speed however is important, and higher-class cards are higher-quality cards and most often have a good read speed as well because they're designed and built well. Read speed is very important, since the flashcart streams game data off the SD card when you play. If the game doesn't get the data it requests fast enough, it might become choppy, freeze, and behave strange in a lot of different ways. As a bonus, a faster SD card sometimes cuts loading times between game scenes and areas. That's not to say a lower-class card can't get better read speeds than a higher-class card, but it's better to play it safe.

      Do not order your flash memory off of ebay or other reseller sites like it (and be wary of flash memory from chinese sites). It's possible to format a card so that it appears to hold more data than it actually does (for example a card that says 8 gigbytes might actually only hold 1 gigabyte of data), and people will buy cheap 1 gigbyte cards to re-mark as 8 gigabytes and scam people online. In addition cheap memory off ebay, even if it's not fake, tends to be crappy. As stated above a slow MicroSD card can cause all sorts of issues, it's not worth the money you think you'll save as you will just end up needing to buy another. Buy from an official store to be safe.

    • Q - Do I need a card reader for the MicroSD card?
      A - Yes, you need some way of letting your computer use it so you can transfer files. Flash carts tend to come with a cheap one, but some sites don't include it in order to make it cheaper. The cheap ones included with flash carts tend to be crappy and fail early, so we recommend getting a dedicated card reader for your computer.

    • Q - Can I use the SD card slot on my 3/DSi/XL?
      A - Not for normal things, currently it's only used for 3DS saves.

    • Q - How much are flash carts?
      A - Generally $5-$45 depending on the model, with the common ones being around the $15-$20 mark.

    • Q - Does a flash cart give me any extra abilities versus playing a normal game?
      A - Of course. Being able to run ROMs gives you the ability to play ROM hacks and unofficial translations. In addition to the ability to carry around your entire collection, you can keep multiple save files per game, use cheats, and some carts have even more features, such as slow-motion, or save-states. Not all homebrew is games, either. There's media players and such so you can read text, play music, and even watch some videos.

    • Q - Does a flash cart effect battery/power drain?
      Somewhat, it depends on a couple factors. This thread has more information and tests.

    • Q - Do I need anything else?
      A - No, the flash cart plugs right into slot-1 and runs from there, reading the data off of the MicroSD card.

    • Q - What about the 3/DSi/XL's firmware updates?
      A - These will often block flash carts that haven't been updated to bypass the latest blocks. It's recommended that you not update your 3/DSi/XL until after you apply the latest firmware fix to your flash cart. The DS/Lite have no firmware updates and thus do not have this concern. This thread explains the concept.

    • Q - Are flash carts for the DSi or 3DS different?
      The DSi added more checks, so normal DS flash carts will not boot on the DSi or 3DS, and you can't fix that. You will have to get a cart that specifically works with the DSi/3DS.

    • Q - People talk about a cart's firmware/menu/OS, what are these?
      A - The cart's firmware is the software that's installed onto the cart itself (not your MicroSD). This is generally only updated to bypass a new 3/DS/i firmware that attempts to block flash carts. On the other hand, the menu/OS is what you run on your MicroSD that lets you choose and launch ROMs and homebrew. This is sometimes called the "firmware", but in reality it's not, it's the OS (Operating System) of the cart. In general a cart type will have it's own OS. For example Acekards use AKAIO, the Supercard DSTWO uses EOS, some R4 models can use Wood, and so on and so forth. YSmenu is a special menu/OS that's intended to run on as many carts as it can. Having a cart that gets updates to it's menu/OS is important, as this is what provides fixes for new games, and new features.

    • Q - A flash cart uses another game's icon, why is that?
      A - The DSi, DSi XL, and 3DS do additional checks on game carts, so flash carts that work on recent firmwares for those systems need to disguise themselves as an actual game in order to try to bypass the security checks.

    • Q - I don't like the game icon that my cart uses, how do I change it?
      A - You generally don't. The icon selected is part of the protection, so if you modify it's likely that it'll break. While some flash carts change the icon they use as needed, downgrading to an older version to get a different game's icon can be risky, and even then you only have a choice between 2-3 icons.

    What You Can And Can't Do
    • Q - What can I do with a flash cart?
      A - You can run official game ROMs (for that system) and homebrew.

    • Q - Can I run any DSiware/3DSWare/eShop games from it for free?
      A - Not currently.

    • Q - What's a ROM?
      A - A ROM is a copy of a game in a digital format (usually a single file, "whatever.nds" for DS games). When people refer to ROMs, they're talking about DS game copies in general that you use with flash carts.

    • Q - Where can I download ROMs?
      A - It is illegal in most countries (including the US) to download ROMs off the internet, even if you own the game, so you won't find any ROMs or links on this site. Learn to Google.

    • Q - Can I make my own ROMs from my games?
      A - For DS ROMs you can use a flash cart (or other tools) to copy your own games, this is known as "dumping" your own ROM/game. There's a guide for that here. There's no public method for 3DS ROMs.

    • Q - What's "homebrew"?
      A - Any game/program for a game system that's made by a normal person (and not the official company) is referred to as "homebrew". This can include simple tools like picture viewers and text editors, all the way to full complex homemade games and video players.

    • Q - Will 3DS games run?
      A - If you have a 3DS flash cart (not just a DS flash cart that happens to run on the 3DS), and of course the ROMs only run on a 3DS/XL.

    • Q - Will DSi games run?
      A - DSi games will only run on a DSi-mode flash cart (which is currently only the CycloDS iEvolution). Just because a flash cart works on the DSi/XL does not mean it runs in DSi mode. Most carts run in DS mode, as DSi mode is a very recent thing to unlock. DSi-enhanced games will run in DS mode on a normal flash cart. Basically if your flash cart doesn't have DSi mode, then your games will run as if you're using a DS (even if you're actually on a DSi/3DS).

    • Q - What is DSi mode?
      A - DSi mode is the mode that DSi-enhanced and DSi-only games run in while in a DSi/XL. The DSi/XL has better specs so while this could mean a lot of improved games, in reality Nintendo hasn't done anything with it that the gaming community in general cares about. The DSi/XL have cameras, so most of the DSi-enhanced games or DSi-only games involve just the cameras.

    • Q - Will DSi-enhanced things run slower in a DS (or DS-mode flash cart)?
      A - It's unclear, most likely no.

    • Q - Will GBA games run?
      A - Maybe. Most normal flash carts cannot run GBA games because you can't run them directly from Slot-1 (the DS card slot). You can either buy a slot-2 card (DS/Lite only) and use that, or buy a special Slot-1 card (with an on-board processor) that can emulate the GBA (this works on the DSi and 3DS as well).

    • Q - Can I view pictures, listen to music, and watch videos?
      A - Every standard DS flash cart supports Moonshell (the media viewer), though your videos should be in a special format (most likely DPG) to play on the DS. Some special flash carts (with an on-board processor) can play more video types at a higher quality.

    • Q - Can I run emulators for other systems?
      A - Yes, there's various pieces of homebrew that let you emulate other systems. Take note that the DS series as a handheld is quite weak processing-wise, you'll be limited to old/2D systems, and even then there's various issues with SNES/Genesis emulation. If you're thinking of buying a DS and flash cart for portable emulation, I advise against it. There's much better portables for that, such as the PSP or the variety of chinese android handhelds.

    Picking A Flash Cart
    • Q - How do I know which flash cart to get?
      A - There's many things to take into consideration, such as what you plan to do, which DS model you have, how much money you're willing to spend, and if you care about special/addon features. If you check the Which Flash Cart Should I Get? sticky you'll find info on the modern flash carts, but if you're confused about a few of them or have other questions feel free to ask. Please make a thread about a flash cart you find before you buy it, because there's a lot of "clones", fakes, and knockoffs out there.

    • Q - I was using flashcart/emulator X, and I've moved to flashcart/emulator Y, but the save files don't seem to be compatible. What do I do?
      A - First try making sure the file has the correct name (*.sav instead of *.nds.sav) and is in the same folder as the ROM. Second try converting the save file with a converter.

    Cheats
    • Q - Can I use cheats/AR codes?
      A - Most modern DS flash cart softwares support AR codes, and can use one or more database types. There's no need to use an actual Action Replay or any other cheat device to apply codes to a DS ROM being played from a flash cart.

    • Q - How do I apply codes?
      A - When applying the codes, it's generally done in the properties of a ROM. You'll go to a ROM's properties.settings, choose the cheats option, then check the cheats you want to have applied when you run it. The actual process varies depending on the flash cart you're using, so check the user guide for your cart's software if you're lost.

    • Q - How do I update the database?
      A - As far as updating the cheat database, it's usually as easy as replacing a file on the MicroSD, usually in the system folder of whatever software your flash cart uses. You'll see the cheat database file somewhere (if it exists), you can just overwrite it.

    • Q - What database types are there?
      A - As far as the database, there's a few types (cheat.db, cheat.xml, usrcheat.dat, etc.) but usrcheat.dat is the most widely-used nowadays, since it can easily be edited. If your flash cart was made within the past four years or so, chances are you can use this format, and it's preferred that you do since it's the easiest to keep updated.

    • Q - Where do I download an updated cheat database?
      A - The most commonly-used database is maintained at Codemasters Project, but if you just want to download the database you can either use The DS-Scene ROM Tool (which has many additional functions and downloads a few versions), or download usrcheat.dat immediately with this link.

    • Q - Can I edit the database myself?
      A - If you want to edit the usrcheat.dat database yourself, use R4CCE. There's some instructions here.

    Last edited by Rydian, Nov 5, 2012
    osirisjem likes this.


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    Nujui I need something to do.

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    Great guide Rydian, this will help many people!
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    .Chris Pffft.

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    i agree.

    It should be sticky'ed.
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    SmokeFox Jesus Christ is the Lord

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    Great job Rydian, just a question, what about dsiware games, are they playable on NDS or just in DSI?
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    Rydian Resident Furvert™

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    Ah, forgot that question...

    EDIT: Okay, added the DSiware question.
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    RupeeClock Colors 3D Snivy!

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    Nice guide, but it needs examples of actual flashcarts and their general capabilities.
    Explain how the iEvolution is the only DSi enhanced flashcart, explain how the DStwo has an embedded CPU to enhance certain things.
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    Rydian Resident Furvert™

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    There's like 452 threads about that already. I specifically made this to not mention any because every other "beginner" guide (including the currently-named sticky) barely goes into this stuff, and is just a list of flash carts. We don't need another list. We need actual info for newbies.
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    RupeeClock Colors 3D Snivy!

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    That's like talking about games consoles and how they play games, but refusing to mention how they're different.
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    Rydian Resident Furvert™

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    Multiple threads.

    One for info in general for newbies, and another on which carts are currently good and what they currently do.
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    kesadisan New Member

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    this will make fbi easier to track these pirates!
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    CannonFoddr Regular GBATemp Lurker

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    Very nice guide
    - although despite you saying 'one for info... one for carts', I think you should still mention (perhaps under 'picking a flash card') that there are quite a few cards available but many are cheap knock-offs of other popular cards (or 'clones') and don't usually have good 'after sales' support...

    Perhaps even mention the 'R4 brand' - about how it's often used on such clones to boost sales - & that many clones have difficulty playing newer ROM's because of the lack of updates (maybe even link to this post to let them see a few examples ??)

    You could also add something about 'playing ROMs' & how some cards won't work without a update, when on deciding on which card to choose - about checking how often they are updated etc will help make your choice
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    JinTrigger Mega Jin II

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    Rydian's guide FTW!!!

    Epic guide dude
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    Maplemage ಠ_ಠ

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    Cheers Rydian, hope this guide is useful in the future (Like when the hacks and stuff come)
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    --=ZerO=-- New Member

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    Where is the "Hacking" part?
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    The Composer New Member

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    Congrats on the promotion Rydian. Very useful guide too.
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    Rydian Resident Furvert™

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    I'll add that people should ask before buying because there's a lot of clone carts, but I'd rather avoid naming any carts at all.

    You missed the word "beginner", and you also missed that "hacking" is in quotes.
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    ahtin New Member

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    Q - What is the different DS flashcart and DSi flashcart?
    A - DS flashcart can run at DS, DS Lite only, DSi flashcart can run at DS, DS Lite, DSi and DSi XL



    Q - What is the different for DSi LL and DSi XL
    A - DSi LL is JP name, DSi XL is US/EUR name
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    machomuu Drops by occasionally

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    The former he already stated and the latter doesn't have to do with hacking the DS/I.
    Though, they are both viable questions.
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    kaputnik New Member

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    Q - What brand, size and class of SD card should I get for my flashcart?

    A - Most known brands like Sandisk, Kingston, Transcend and so on work well. What size you choose is just a question of how many games you want to keep on the card. The size of the games range between 8 and 265 MiB, most of them are 32 or 64 MiB. An average size of 50 MiB is probably a quite good guess. You do the rest of the math.

    Also, make sure that your flashcart supports SDHC cards before getting one of those. All recent flashcarts can handle them, but there's still some older carts on the market that doesn't. To keep it simple: if it's larger than 2 GB it's a SDHC card, if it's 2 GB or smaller it's not.

    Also, there are different classes of SD cards. The class only defines at what speed you can write files to the SD card, not at what speed you can read them. Theoretically the write speed is unimportant, the only things that's written to the SD card are save files, and those are very small, they only take a fraction of a second to write even on the slowest of cards. Reading speed however is important, since the flashcart stream game data off the SD card when you play. If the game doesn't get the data it requests fast enough, it might become choppy, freeze, and behave strange in a lot of different ways. Also, a faster SD card cuts loading times between game scenes and areas.
    In reality, higher class cards tend to have better reading speeds aswell, but there's no guarantee for that. The only way to know for sure is to google for performance test data for the SD card in question.


    (Feel free to add anything you think I forgot, edit it down, fix factual and linguistic errors, etc, if you decide to use it)
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    Rydian Resident Furvert™

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    Added the DSi LL info (because many chinese sites use that name), also the SD picking info 'cause it's important and we see too many people buying the cheapest memory they can, or buying SDHC when their old cart only supports SD, thanks.

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