GCN GameCube – Starting Swiss (for loading homebrew software and backups)

KleinesSinchen

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Since I didn’t find any detailed overview about the methods and possibilities for loading homebrew software other than [GCForever Wiki – Booting Homebrew] which is a great overview but doesn’t provide much detail, I decided to create a quick-and-dirty thread about this myself. Feel free to contribute information and/or pictures or correct mistakes. The wiki link above is a very good and needed source and I will not just copy+paste all the links to the save exploits.

Consider this text a work in progress. Any help is welcome and appreciated!

I have included a lot of pictures in the form of taking photos from a CRT.
  • Latest Swiss didn’t work for me with Dolphin emulator
  • Real hardware is cool and I wanted to show it on real hardware!
  • I could have used the plasma TV for better photos, but the work to get everything hooked up in the living room would be outrageous. Won’t touch this setup…
The pictures are compressed and downscaled. Quality is not the my main concern as long as the information can be gotten from the images. Less than 3MB in photos at the moment (smaller than a single image from a modern smartphone). It should be acceptable to open the pictures on slower/limited connection. Nevertheless they are put into spoilers and embedded as thumbnails to further ensure slow connections will properly load this thread in acceptable time.

This text will not cover methods requiring hardware which is not readily available anymore. This means older IPL replacements (Qoob, Viper), or the discontinued WODE.

The goal for any method is reaching arbitrary ("unauthorized software" as Nintendo calls it) code execution which allows us to load Swiss. Swiss is THE homebrew tool for the GameCube. Once having loaded Swiss, you can do virtually anything with your GC, for example:
  • Load homebrew software (including various emulators) from SD or DVD-R
  • Load backups from DVD-R without modchip or from SD
  • Copy files from memory card to SD and vice versa
  • Rip your legit GC discs with Cleanrip
  • Load backup images from GCLoader
The GameCube security system is not as complex as on newer consoles. No signature checks or anything like this. Lacking a complete, big operating system and a NAND, there is no possibility to do fancy permanent custom firmware installations like on Wii or 3DS. The security relies completely on disc authentication: GC discs are not standard DVDs¹ and have additional copy protection². The GC will only start software from discs that pass the check. So… how do we get our own software loaded?

I can only fully describe the first two methods as I don’t have the necessary things for the others.

==================



Method 1 – Savegame exploit

Minimal requirements (things you need to have for this method):
  • Functional disc drive in your GameCube
  • boot.gci from latest Swiss release and the exploit .gci file for your game.
  • Legit disc of a game (same region as your console) with existing exploit from the list in the wiki article above
  • 2 MB memory card or better (“Memory Card 251”)³
  • A way to copy the exploit ans Swiss to the Memory Card.
You should also have:
  • SD-Gecko and/or SD2SP2 (if your GC has Serial Port 2) with an SD(HC|XC). Without an SD adapter you can still try loading DVD-R backups without a modchip. May require laser tweaking.
This method doesn’t require anything special for using (though I recommend getting an SD-Gecko and/or SD2SP2 in any case). The preparation is what could cause issues. To copy a save exploit to a memory card you will either need another method to start Swiss (once) on your GameCube, or a homebrewed Wii (RVL-001 model with GC connectors).

Copy swiss.gci and the exploit for your game (also a .gci file) to your memory card. Either by booting Swiss via another method or with GCMM on a Wii.

… showing the two methods with PAL Wind Waker as example. GameCube Memory Cards are pretty slow so be patient when copying the almost 1MB compressed Swiss GCI.
This GameCube has a XenoGC and loads Swiss from DVD-R and can prepare the Memory Card for unmodded consoles.

01_Empty_MC_251 .JPG 02_DVD-R_with_Swiss.JPG 03_Swiss_boot.gci_and_WW_Exploit_on_SD_via_Gecko.JPG
04_Copy_File_a.JPG 04_Copy_File_b.JPG 04_Copy_File_c.JPG
05_WW_Exploit_on_MC_a.JPG 05_WW_Exploit_on_MC_b.JPG

Place your .GCI files in the folder SD:/MCBACKUP to make GCMM acknowledge their presence. A Wii will start Swiss via the exploit in GC-mode just fine.

01_Start_HBC.JPG 02_Start_GCMM.JPG 03_Restore_GCIs.JPG
04_Wii_Data_Management_shows_files.JPG 05_Wii_playing_Windwaker.JPG 06_will_also_boot_Swiss_in_GC_mode.JPG

Method 2 – XenoGC Clone Modchip

Minimal requirements:
  • Working drive
  • A cheap XenoGC chip (obviously)
  • “Gamebit” screwdriver to open the GC
  • Soldering equipment and experience
  • Mini DVD-R (or full size DVD mod case) and DVD burner
You should also have:
  • SD-Gecko and/or SD2SP2 (if your GC has Serial Port 2) with an SD(HC|XC)
  • Multimeter in case you need to adjust the potentiometer (laser tweak)
It is not particularly hard to do the soldering – even I did it myself and I have prescription-drug induced tremor. You should still practice on scrap electronics before attempting it if you have no soldering experience. I will not provide instructions for this. This can be found online easily. Soldering is potentially dangerous and your own risk. Many suggest using a 6 wire installation rather than the zero wire installation (the small PCB gets directly soldered onto the drive board without any wires). Using wires has the advantage that correction, measuring/troubleshooting (and possibly removal) is MUCH easier.
After you have the modchip installed, burn Swiss.iso (omitted PAL/NTSC and version number here) and/or game backups on mini DVD and try if the GC will read them. If not: Try adjusting the potentiometer to lower resistance.
Sadly finding blank media the cube likes is not easy. The most recommend (I think it was RITEK-G03 or RITEK-G04) have been out of production for years. Verbatim mini DVD-R work for me pretty good.
Loading Swiss becomes a piece of cake once the chip is soldered on and the laser is correctly adjusted. To not waste a lot of DVD-R on frequent Swiss updates: It is possible to load a newer Swiss from SD with the older version you have on DVD-R.
:!: This is not meant as a howto/tutorial or whatever! Soldering is your own risk! I did the zero wire installation without even thinking about this before. I tinned the points on the drive board before installing the small board with the modchip. But I also tinned some points that aren’t involved in the installation (not an issue, but please note it).
Since the chip is working flawlessly there was no reason to remove it for trying the six wire method.
:!: This is not a good installation – but it works. Only reason for including the pictures is showing a XenoGC at all.
Drive_board.JPG XenoGC.JPG

Method 3 – Datel SD Media Launcher

Minimal requirements:
  • Working drive
  • Datel SD Media Launcher disc for the region of your console. They still sell these. It comes with an SD-Gecko.
  • You will need an SD. Not SDHC or SDXC. Maximum 2GB (very rarely are non-HC SDs with 4GB – just use a 2GB or less)
Insert the Datel DVD and the SD-Gecko with a max. 2GB SD into the GameCube. Have Swiss on the small SD card and load it with the Datel software. Once Swiss is loaded you can switch to a modern SDHC|XC containing your hombrew software and/or game backup images.
I don’t have the SD Media Launcher myself. Maybe somebody else can provide better instructions and some screenshots.

“Method 3b”
There is a new pressed DVD (I guess with Swiss) that works without modchip. Currently only for NTSC GameCube consoles. Extremely cool, but overly expensive ($59) for a disc and one or two passive SD adapters.
The advantages of this are:
  • No laser tweaking (opposed to XenoGC and DVD-R)
  • No old 2GB SDs and switching SDs (opposed to the old Datel software)


========================
Complete lack of information:
========================
Method 4 – GCLoader

Requirements:
  • “Gamebit” screwdriver to open the GC
  • GCLoader and good SDHC or SDXC
This replaces the drive altogether. Only downside is you can’t use your discs anymore. It boots faster, easier and should be THE perfect setup for making the good old cube future-proof. Sadly I don’t have one and must ask other members to provide more information on this.

Just have the Swiss iso file from the download package as yout boot image. From there Swiss can open the SD inside GC Loader and select the desired game. Loading times should be better than from real DVD, no disc read errors.
Seems Swiss can't save the config on the SD in the GCLoader, so use an SD2SPD or SD-Gecko for this.

Method 5 – IPL replacement

Currently empty section.
  • Hyperboot? GCLoader Lite/Light Clones (not full ODE)?
  • Doesn’t require functional drive.
  • Need information here!




“Thank you!” to

emukidid and Extrems for Swiss and sooooo many improvements and updates! Seriously: Swiss is absolutely TOP and GC without it is a half GC!
@alexander1970 for patiently reading my wish-wash before publication
@Kwyjor for the idea to create a thread collecting GC homebrew/Swiss information. Maybe even topics like how to use Swiss and various homebrew software like Game Boy Interface can be added as well.

I can't do it all by myself: So please help me.

______________________
¹ Further Reading:
https://debugmo.de/2008/11/anatomy-of-an-optical-medium-authentication/
https://web.archive.org/web/20080619172414/http://www.ingenieria-inversa.cl:80/?p=9
https://gbatemp.net/threads/why-can...does-the-gc-prevent-that.483711/#post-7568936
² Relevant article:
https://hackaday.com/2019/02/04/how-one-company-cracked-the-gamecube-disc-protection/
³ Some exploits support using the small Memory Card 59 for the exploit and having swiss_r????.dol renamed to boot.dol on your SD card. But… seriously get the Memory Card 251 or a third-party 2043 blocks MC (note that not all of these cheap aftermarket MC are reliable).
 
Last edited by KleinesSinchen,

Kwyjor

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Thank you for your efforts. :-)

Datel SD Media Launcher disc for the region of your console. They still sell these. It comes with an SD-Gecko.
I alluded to this in the other thread, but https://www.reddit.com/r/Gamecube/comments/40u3d6/sd_media_launchersd_gecko_and_homebrew_set_up/ specifically suggests that the thing included with the SD Media Launcher is inferior to other SD Geckos. Of course that thread is five years old and I'm sure I have no idea what is accurate anymore.

I mean, I always thought that SDHC or SDXC support was entirely done in software. Maybe the SD Media Launcher still works with a 2 GB card in a standard SD Gecko?
 
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KleinesSinchen

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Yeah, there is a single ISO for GC Loader that works for all regions. I assume the other ones are for burning to disc.
Correct. The Swiss release has four ISO files. One for GCLoader and three for real DVD. That still doesn't answer why there are three images for burning to DVD-R. XenoGC allows out-of-region and simply starting a burned disc requires a modchip anyway. Different PAL/NTSC images could be because of default video mode(?). But why NTSC-A and NTSC-J?

Thank you for your efforts. :-)


I alluded to this in the other thread, but https://www.reddit.com/r/Gamecube/comments/40u3d6/sd_media_launchersd_gecko_and_homebrew_set_up/ specifically suggests that the thing included with the SD Media Launcher is inferior to other SD Geckos. Of course that thread is five years old and I'm sure I have no idea what is accurate anymore.

I mean, I always thought that SDHC or SDXC support was entirely done in software. Maybe the SD Media Launcher still works with a 2 GB card in a standard SD Gecko?
The SD-Gecko is a passive adapter. There are no electronic components in that thing. Using another one will not get around the limit in the Datel software. You could (theoretically – BAD IDEA of course) achieve the same result by just soldering wires between an SD and the Memory Card port (according to the wiring diagram). Any correctly made adapter will work with modern/big SDHC|SDXC in Swiss and max 2GB in Datel's Launcher software.
The "Booting Homebrew" page on GC Forever Wiki also says the SD-Gecko from Datel is flimsy. Maybe it is just weak plastic.
 
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rmorris003

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Why are there ISOs for different regions when GCLoader, XenoGC etc. are supposed to make the GC region-free?
I was confused too with this when setting up my GCLoader but the GCLoader site says use the one for your region. I guess I should test the boot.iso located in the GCLoader folder.
 
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I was confused too with this when setting up my GCLoader but the GCLoader site says use the one for your region. I guess I should test the boot.iso located in the GCLoader folder.
When the GC Loader was released there were only the ISO's for different regions but that info is outdated now. I'd be curious to know what the actual difference is between the single ISO in the GC Loader folder and the others as the CRC doesn't match any of them so something is different.
 
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