How to Hack your PSP for Homebrew

I recently came across my old PSP Slim, and decided to breathe some new life into it by “upgrading” to custom firmware. Basically, for anyone unfamiliar with the process, the idea is to essentially install a new operating system on the PSP that allows certain file types to be run, including games, utilities such as browsers and e-readers, media players, and more. It’s a pretty valuable upgrade for a dead system.

First, you’d need to know if your PSP is hackable. Only certain PSP motherboards are capable of using custom firmware, as the chart below explains. If your PSP is a newer model, sorry, but you’re out of luck. Attempting to hack a PSP without the proper motherboard will almost certainly result in a “brick”, turning your valuable device into a very fancy paperweight.

Trying to find out your motherboard type can be somewhat of a pain, so there is quite a bit of footwork necessary before you can get the information you need. First things first… go ahead and format your memory stick (you will need around 500MB of free space available, might as well start clean), and fully charge your PSP’s battery to 100%. Failing to fully charge could prove fatal, if your battery dies during the firmware installation.

Next, check your PSP’s current firmware version. To do this, start up your PSP and head to Settings -> System Settings -> System Information. You’ll find your firmware version, the network nickname you’ve given your PSP, and it’s physical MAC address.

If you've used your PSP any time in the last few years, you're probably on version 6 of the PSP XMB. The latest is 6.60, but you may be on a previous version. In the past, you used to need a special battery (called a Pandora battery) to drop the PSP into a boot mode, downgrade the firmware to 5.03, and then upgrade to custom firmware of your choice. It took a good amount of time, and had the chance to "brick" your PSP if you messed up the process, turning it into a very valuable paperweight. Luckily, there's a group of PSP homebrew developers known as Team Pro, and they've made custom firmware available for all of the version 6 models with easy installation with both permanent and temporary modes so you can use it on all versions (including ones that the above chart says are unhackable).

First things first, you'll need to download your custom firmware. Search Google for CFW 6.60 PRO-B9, and you'll likely find it somewhere on the net. Or you can just check out the project's page at Google Code. Once you've downloaded the version you need (in my case it's version 6.60), go ahead and unzip the file and you'll find three separate folders inside.

Connect your PSP via USB to your computer, and copy these folders into your PSP/GAME folder. Once that’s complete, exit out from your USB connection. Inside the XMB, head over to Game -> Memory Stick and run the Update file. This will load the custom firmware onto your PSP and allow you to use any homebrew applications or play image files (.iso) of games and movies.

At this point, you can begin using homebrew applications or play image files (.iso) of games and movies. Keep in mind that this is only a temporary installation of the custom firmware, and will reset to your official version 6.60 once you power off the PSP. So if you have a newer model PSP, you’ll need to run the Pro Update every time you want to use your homebrew. I’d also advise leaving this as a temporary installation if you ever choose to sell your PSP, or just simply want to leave it as official as you can (in case you have a warranty or something, I suppose…).

To be sure, go ahead and make it back to your System Information and confirm the installation of your temporary custom firmware. You’ll notice the system software ID has changed, as well as the information for your MAC address (which now just denotes your PSP’s model number).

Now, if you happen to have a motherboard capable of going permanent, you can go ahead and run the CIPL Flasher and follow the onscreen prompts to install permanent custom firmware. If you're like me and have a 2000 model slim PSP, it may not be easy to tell what motherboard you've got and if you can actually go permanent without bricking your device.

Well, there's a solution for that too. Head to Google and search for a homebrew program called PSPIdent. The latest version is 0.74.2 I believe, and I found it here Download it and copy it into the same folder, PSP/GAME. Exit out to the XMB, run it, and you'll get a screen that looks like this:

Obviously you can tell the PSPIdent program gives you all the debug information you’ll need to know which model you actually have. In this case, you can see that my PSP is the Slim 2001 (02g) model, running the 6.60 kernel on a TA-085 v2 motherboard. Reference the chart at the top of this post, and you’ll be able to tell that my PSP is indeed capable of running permanent custom firmware.

Exit back out to the XMB, and run the CIPL Flasher. Once complete, you will have a permanent installation of the custom firmware on your PSP. There is no going back, as far as I can tell… you may be able to revert back to official if needed, but I don't know how to do it and don't have much of a need to at this time.

Now, to actually play ISO files, you’ll need to create a new folder in your PSP’s root directory, simply named ISO (in caps!). Toss all of your ISO files in there, and you’ll be able to pull them up under the Games section in the XMB.

And they’ll come up in the XMB menu as if you had a UMD disc in there. Pretty slick, right?

Hope you all enjoyed this walkthrough, and can breathe some new life into your PSP like I did. Feel free to ask if you’ve got any questions!

by Scott McCutchen