So, you wanna start using homebrew, but you've got questions, questions you need answers to first. "What does this word mean?", "What's this abbreviation stand for?", and maybe even "Where did I leave my keys this time?!" Well, this guide aims to help you make sense of it all. Keep in mind this is not written for the DSi or 3DS, you'll need either an original DS "Phat" or a DS Lite. ...um, retrace your steps, I guess, that's all I can suggest for finding your keys, sorry. Choosing Your Flash Cart To start, a flash cart of some sort is needed. This is the piece of hardware that is ultimately responsible for running your games, music, and what not. It'll have a microSD card slot, or internal storage, or both, that holds all your files. So, which flashcart should one get? There is a staggering number to pick from. Some are Slot 1 (meaning they are shaped like a DS cartridge), some really old and outdated ones are Slot 2 (shaped like either a GBA cart, or that squat shape you might have seen before that fits flush with a DS Lite). Also, some of them have multiple versions, with similar names, but with extra letters/numbers/dots/phrases/adjectives/Egyptian hieroglyphics/Mayan symbols attached to the end. What are the differences between versions? Oh, but first, look out, many of those versions are just cheap knock off fakes, or clones, and most of them aren't supported anymore and won't be able to run most programs or ROMs! Oh, hang on, some of those clones work just as good is the original model they're based off. That's not confusing at all! Oh, and you have to pay attention to the physical designs of the carts as well, some have a weak spring in the microSD slot, or are held together by thin plastic tabs, or have bad connectors, or steal your soul and sell it on craigslist. Nearly all of them have their ups and downs, several of them have unique abilities, but outright suck in other categories. Most of the official descriptions or features list are written in engrish, and some outright lie about what they can do, or use terms you have no frame of reference to understand. Oh, and some even take advantage of that and boost impressive sounding tech terms that sound promising, but are just made up lingo that mean nothing. There's not a best flashcart, the same way there's no best console, because it comes down to what you want to get out of it. But I'd be no help at all if I ended on that note, so I'm gonna say, get the Acekard 2i. It gets the job done, it's under 20 bucks, plus this guide won't work with any other flash cart so I'm taking the choice away from you. However, this means you can use this guide as a product review and read over it before you make up your mind, or something like that! The only problem I had with it, is that it has bad connectors, a bump when you're using it and it'll freeze up. Now that sounds kinda awful, but there's this paper trick you can do to fix it, if you buy it and have a problem with it freezing, or your DS not detecting that anything is in Slot 1, follow this guide right here and it'll likely fix it, which is good because other then that one big flaw, the Acekard 2i is real nice! If you can't accept having to do that/chance having to do that, welp, you're shit outta luck, princess. A Few Words About microSD Cards Your DS does not have any kind of storage medium you can access, so all flash carts have one of their own. The Acekard 2i has a microSD card slot, so your homebrew and ROMs and music and whatnot is stored on a microSD, and then inserted into your flash cart. An important thing to note about your MicroSD selection, there's classes of cards, Class 2 through 10, in even numbers. Without getting into boring detail, when it comes to flash carts, the class only affects write speed, and price. So, the higher the class, the faster you can make save files (hardly matters because save files are usually really small), and the shorter amount of time you have to wait for your files to transfer over. As expected though, the higher the cost compared to a lower class of the same size capacity. In the end, it's just personal preference, so get whatever pleases you. The Acekard 2i supports any MicroSD up to 32 GB, no more though. So how big, or small, should you go? According to wikipiedia, DS games range from 8 to 512 MB. Most DS game ROMs I've seen are 32 or 64 MB, with the bigger RPGs being 128 MB and up, while .gba ROMs only go up to 32 MB. Keep that in mind, along with how many videos and songs you'd wanna store on your SD, when deciding what size to get. Again, personal preference. Or maybe you happen to have a microSD lying around and you're just gonna use that, it's up to you, you're the train conductor on this crazy train ride! Most microSD cards come with an adaptor to make it work as a standard sized SD card, that will allow you to then put it into the appropriate slot in your computer. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, there's a chance your computer might not have a built in SD card reader slot, in that case you'll need to obtain a MicroSD USB reader in order to connect it to your computer. Setting Up And Installing The Needed Firmware Now just so you're all informed and briefed and so that we're both on the same page, there's going to be some downloading coming up, and more often then not, the files will be in a .rar file, so if you can't open a .rar, download WinRAR. I'll pretend now, that you have all your things, and if you don't, that's okay, play along too. Before you place any files on your SD, the first thing you need to do is to get your microSD set to the correct format for what we need it to do. The useful and crucial SD Formatter 4.0 is the program that'll do that. Download it, then connect your SD to your computer. For simplicity's sake, make sure there's no other SD cards connected to your computer, you don't wanna go formatting the wrong thing! Run the formatter program, click Option, and then set the format type to 'FULL (OverWrite)', and format size adjustment to 'ON'. 'FULL (OverWrite)' might not work depending on your SD, and if that's the case, just set it to 'FULL (Erase)'. It'll take awhile to finish, so take a smoke/coffee/tea/snack/bathroom break at this point if you want. Once it's formatted, the very next thing you have to do is load it with firmware. The AKAIO firmware is the best choice available. After downloading it, inside the .rar file, there will be a folder named '__aio' and a file named 'akmenu4.nds', place these in the root of your microSD once it's formatted. Important note, they absolutely must be placed in the root of your SD card in order to operate properly. Your firmware is in place past that! You can read up on all its features and settings, or not, I'll try and use simple-English and keep you on a need-to-know-basis, since I'm guessing you wanna know how to get started sooner rather then later, and not spend hours reading over what exactly each value found in the settings file does. Speaking of need to know, you know how I said the firmware files needed to be in the root of your microSD? That's 'cause they're important files, but from now on, usually homebrew you wanna run on your DS will let you place the file that runs the homebrew (usually an .nds file) anywhere on the SD card, but still require any folders that came with it in be in the root, usually. Note the abundance of the word usually, check any readme files that come with your programs when in doubt, but following that protocol will usually get everything set up without any farther fuss. Usually. Your flash cart is ready to run on your DS at this point, stick it in and try it out! You're gonna be looking at that AKAIO menu every time you start your DS up, so thankfully there lots of nice themes out there, and several sites that keep a well stocked database of AKAIO themes, or skins, as they're also called. All the skin's files should be placed in an appropriately labelled folder (if they aren't already), and then that folder should be placed in the folder named 'ui', which can be found within the '__aio' folder, which is in the root of your microSD. At any point now, you can put your ROMs and songs and so forth on to your SD. If you'd like, you can sort your files with folders, like, maybe make one named "DS Games" and put your .nds ROMs in it, as well as a "Music" folder for your songs, you get the idea! Do that and give it a test drive, get use to the layout of everything. Speaking of layout, to use those any new themes you might have gotten, press start and select 'System Options', then browse through the 'Interface Theme' selector to find your desired skin. Congrats, you've done the basic first steps, but at least for me when I first started this homebrew stuff, that was the hardest part. If you want to know more, like how to play music, videos, use cheats, or play GBA games, check out the full version of this guide on my website! If you have any farther questions or suggestions or noticed that I screwed something up big time, please don't hesitate to belittle me about it, I'd like this guide, as well as the one on my site, to be as perfect as they can be!