Sega Dreamcast: how its security works and how it was hacked.


I like beer.

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88 Responses

  1. wololo

    Nice article :) Was there a homebrew scene on the Dreamcast, or was it all about piracy?

    • Acid_Snake

      yes, there was a decent number of homwbrews, specially emulators (the amount of emus for the dc is comparable to that of the psp). If it weren’t for it’s short life spam, I’d say the dreamcast could have easily been the console with most homebrews

    • mlc

      Here’s a youtube video of some of the various homebrew apps (mainly emulators) for the Dreamcast… I believe at least some of these existed back when the Dreamcast was still being sold, although I would assume some are significantly newer than that.

      I’m not certain, but I could really swear that I had a couple of these emulators when I was still using my “hacked” Dreamcast. (though I played my Dreamcast extensively long after it’s “generation”, so I could easily be mistaken due to that)

      Also, I was going to ask Acid_Snake for a list of Mil-CD’s that were actually released for the Dreamcast (and presumably don’t work on newer models), but while researching it found that there were only 8:

      <blockquote cite="As far as I know there's only 8 official Mil-Cd. (There could actaully be more, but I couldn't found more)

      Checkicco – Checkicco no MIL-CD
      D no Shokutaku 2 – Original Sound Track+MIL
      dps – Heart Break Diary
      Hang The DJ
      Himitsu – Original Sound Track
      Kita he – Pure Songs and Pictures
      Snappers – 09 Chairs
      Space Channel 5

      Backups of some of these Mil-Cd seems to need some modifications
      (hacks) to boot on NTSC or PAL console (Beside Region Flags).

      FG " credits to -=FamilyGuy=- from the assemblergames forum.

      (found this info at

    • 30W

      There was a prety big homebrew scene and there still is!
      Loads of emulators were released for it.

      My dreamcast is still ready to fire up and it can play snes, megadrive, and a lota more.. a pc port of doom was actually released for it!

      It can play the backups as discibed above as well, but i still have the original game discs.

    • Huntyz

      Very nice I cant wait for the next one.

      Loved the DC days:)

  2. awesome post! :) thanks for sharing 😀

  3. Proto-Tyrant

    I find the dreamcast great, i have to of them.
    Is a nice news of the old dreamcast, the dreamcast have good games ^^ shenmue is one of a lot.
    I love the dreamcast :3

    mfg proto

  4. theking

    everytime i hear about dreamcast all i can think of is SHENMUE!!!!!, i wish there was a dreamcast emulator on the ps3 or the xbox360 :) – (one wish that may never come true)

    • warfaren

      There IS one for the 360, called nulldc-360
      It’s still under development but if you compile it from source you can try it out. I have, been playing some Soul Calibur on it, amongst a few other games that work.

    • Hellinferno

      Shennmue,Illbleed,Skies of arcadia,The house of the dead 2,Cannon spike.I wish someone work on that emulator because the one that’s on the internet doesnt work well at all,im just want to play skies of arcadia and illbleed again.

      • warfaren

        I haven’t tested any of those games myself but like I said it’s still under development, binaries are not even released yet.

        The original PC version of the emu however is much older and binaries have been available for a long time. If the games you listed work on the PC version, they will probably get fixed for the 360 version eventually. Again the source for the 360 is available on Github so any programmer can contribute to the project!

  5. n1ckzero

    Oww, memories *-* , My dreamcast doesn’t work, I miss it

  6. HappyJoe

    This was a really good article! Thank you!

  7. consoleandgadget

    Nice read…

  8. Dovlek

    Good article keep them coming

  9. gunblade

    i weardly like the system mainly cuz there controllers had that lil memory cards that also had that like digimon thing with like controll buttons.. what ever was the use or the ports for the sythem i remebr the thing had a phone modem that u could take out but i remeber that there was sumkind of port like the ps1 system had on the under nither of it like the add on thing for the game cube that lets u play gameboy advance games……

  10. Sunny-Tech-UK

    This is a very nice article,very interesting. Thank You. :)

  11. CJW

    Loved the DC…..those of us who used it heavily will remember that the first series of hacks you had to use a boot disc to defeat the security, then swap and boot your backup. Shenmue, Skies of Arcadia, JetGrind, Crazy Taxi, Grandia 2, 2K sports, the gun games, fishing games and racing games…..heck it was a great system despite its short life. It was not so much killed off by piracy as it was the PS2. Everyone had a psx and wanted to wait for PS2 so held off on buying it. Oh yeah don’t forget Phantasy Star online that used a modem and was the first real online craze on a console. It made incredible strides for the gaming world. For those that missed it you can get them for like $25 used in the US and .iso files are out there to be had and burned. Use good media like verbatim CDs and you will have no trouble. There were a *** load of games released in the EU market that never came to america including a lot of arcade games and compilations. Also Shenmue 2 was never released in the US but was in EU. It had japanese voice audio but english subtitles and for those that loved the first one it is worth getting a system just to play and continue the story. They put it out on X360 but redid the voice in english and the localization sucked….much better to play it on DC. I wish Sega would pull the Shenmue series back out of the closet and give us 3 on the new sytems. Playing sleeping Dogs right now on PS3 and that has got to be some sort of a spiritual sucessor!

    • Acid_Snake

      Yes, the first hack (Utopia boot disc) tricked the system into thinking it was a Mil-CD, after that it was discovered that you can insert that Mil-CD boot code into actual games, it’s called a selfboot game. I miss my dreamcast, it has a broken laser T_T

      • jlo138

        The laser is fairly easy to replace. Especially since the DC uses regular screws. I believe there are only two types of screw in it and the other type is just a little bit longer. Those hold the controller ports in place. I think it’s either 3 or 4 of them. But seriously, even I’m not tech savvy but its pretty easy I’d say.

    • zoraktorok

      I forgot.. how many games were suppose to be in that series? I remember it being huge, something like 8….

  12. Mo G

    Any way to get a dreamcast emulator for the vita? That would be amazing to play these games because I never had a dreamcast.

  13. stOneskull

    i miss my dreamcast. got me reminiscing..

  14. jrazorman

    loved it thank you

  15. zorrodood

    this is all so fascinating for me, because the first console i had was the n64. i wasn’t even aware the all the other consoles before and i was so young back then, that i never would have thought about hacking and stuff. as boring as normal history is to me, video game history is fascinating.

  16. Leires

    Interesting as heck. Thanks for this.

  17. middey

    Wow great article. I like this kind of articles and I hope you write more about the old console hacking. I never had a dreamcast :(

  18. Devil

    How about vita? S this related to ps vita hacking system?

  19. YcO96Ps

    Yeah good and interesting article!
    thanks and keep’em coming! 😀

  20. ndh777

    I actually enjoyed reading this! Please, write more of these!!

  21. Bosanova X

    Nice article, The Dreamcast gave me the love for Homebrew with the NES emulator.

    It enabled me to play Megaman 5 + 6 as we never got those titles in the UK.

    Beats of Rage was pretty sweet as well.

    I love the Dreamcast for the 2d capcom fighters and Sega arcade classics like house of the dead 2.

    Great memories

  22. mrSoczi

    I like this kind of lecture. Keep it up.

  23. slipk487

    sold mine a few months before had had found out about burning games when i was younger, miss that console.

  24. Jd8531

    I wish Sega would get back in the console business. Dreamcast 2 would be incredible.

  25. Zonic

    I’m happy that my Dreamcast still works. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m gonna go play some Q-Bert.

  26. me

    How about the Gamecube? Nintendo placed the IPL in an serial ROM but the data was encrypted. At boot the data was fetched and decrypted inside the Flipper ASIC. They used a linear feedback shift register to implement the decryption which required one bit to be shifted in and out at a time but they forgot to clear the LFSR after reading the completed byte so the decrypted data was shifted out on to bus! So the serial output line could be sniffed to get the IPL and reverse the algorithm so modchips could be used to replace to IPL ROM.

    • Acid_Snake

      Interesting, I’ll dig up some more about this, specially about G-O-Ds
      (their hacking method was the same as for the dreamcast)

      • me

        and that’s not even the biggest security failure by Nintendo. That honor goes to the geniuses who used strcmp instead of memcmp to verify the RSA signatures in the Wii. As for Microsoft, the use of TEA for the 1st boot loader hash in the second XBOX revision was really dumb.

    • CJW

      There was a soft hack for the GC as well. You had to use an action replay boot. The problem was with the GC laser, it was hard to get it to read any burned discs with consistency. I actually got a custom top for it that would let you use 5inch CDs and then I was able to find a brand media that worked pretty well……still a pain.

  27. dimy93

    Cool article :)

  28. kill3r

    Great article.
    A small gift :
    Feel free to use this photo. I can provide a photo without my pseudo.

  29. tonyuk73

    Happy days. The best console ever made.:-)

  30. Axel

    FYI: It’s possible to run games from a SD Card and you can connect the Dreamcast with a HDMI cable to your TV for a great picture quality.
    Most gamedata can be changed to allow better picture quality.
    Note: You need some additional software and hardware to do all this.


    I wiash the WII U playable download dreamcast Games. When it is happening I will lose all my Money.

  32. coffincolors

    Great read wololo, I’m guessing the memory issue is why my burned shenmue backup always crashes after the first cutscene

    • coffincolors

      Nope nvm, just poor quality cds. Coolest thing about burning dc games has gotta be the ability to add your own soundtracks

  33. Yes

    Would love to see DC games on the Vita… =)

  34. Stranno

    ReviveDC and DCRes FTW.

  35. zoraktorok

    Still have my dreamcast ( well, another one I bought a couple years ago) … Intresting tidbit for those still messing with it… DID YOU KNOW: Alot of games used wmv files for the audio… by replacing those you could create your own soundtrack for most games… I like them, but it was nice to have something other than offspring for crazy taxi… I also used DC to play divX files which were prety new at the time with few dvd players that supported it. I really cant beleive the system didn’t do better than it did…. I personally liked it more than the ps2…

  36. Aye Guy

    All i ask is that someone create a dreamcast emulator for the psp/vita

  37. CJW

    What there was only like 4 games worthing owning on the Jaguar……..No way PSP has enough power to emulate DC. The Vita could do it but if we would get a hacked Vita then a working DC emu wouldn’t mean so much. Sadly DC just wasn’t popular enough to get coders to work on emulators for it. If vita ever gets hacked then a good N64 or PS2 emulator would be the bomb!

  38. CJW

    Actually he was talking about he larger size games and one of the other soluttions was the worked out a compression scheme for some games. Not sure how it worked but I know some of the later dupes did use some sort of real time compression

  39. sam

    didnt the dreamcast play psx games also ? with a special disc?

  40. Mars

    Fun read Acid, can’t wait for more hacking history.

  41. Pirate Cat

    Dreamcast <3.

    At Zorak: NullDC does a decent job (occasional graphical weirdness aside).

  42. thevoiceover

    Like many here, I still have my DC (actually 3 of them) and bb adapters, vmus, and tons of games that I own legit! This was a great machine (even got FreeBSD running on it) SH4! I can say though that all the original hacks came from some guys with a special scsi burner that had gd-r firmware on it. Anyone remember the 90minute cd-r discs? They were able to rip and create a “boot” disc. these guys were called wither utopia or echelon (can’t remember.) it wasn’t until phase 2/3 that they figured out how to burn a “bootable” disc.

    Regardless, this system (developed by M$ w/ Sega) should have done better and I think Sega should have NEVER got out of the HW world.