FATXplorer 3.0 beta 14 – new Formatting Tools for OG Xbox have arrived!

The highly anticipated Original Xbox Formatting Tools have arrived in FATXplorer 3.0 beta 14, which is available for immediate download.

The new Formatting Tools

FATXplorer has had formatting tools for years, but they are Xbox 360-exclusive. Support for Original Xbox hard-drives and memory units is now available. There is a wide range of formatting options for Original Xbox hard-drives depending on the BIOS installed on the console, and a lot of effort has gone into covering every scenario. Xbox 360 formatting options have also been enhanced with new features, and common annoyances have been addressed.

Supported device types:

Selecting a device:

Original Xbox Formatting

All of the common partitioning setups are supported, with extensive explanations for each option:

The blue button is a translate button that will let you translate the information to any other language (opens Google Translate in your browser). This is important information, so this was added to help with accessibility.

Your BIOS selection will impact partition customization on the next page. For this example, LBA-Increasing BIOS, Partition Table was chosen:

You can configure partition cluster sizes on this page. When choosing LBA-Increasing BIOS, Partition Table, you can change the size of the partitions too. Just double-click:

Some partitions are optional and you can specify whether to format them or not by checking “Format”. Do note that setting custom sizes is only supported for OG Xbox and the LBA-Increasing BIOS, Partition Table option. In all other cases the sizes are set and cannot be changed. By default, FATXplorer applies a recommended configuration that makes the best use of the available space, so most of the time you can just click Next.

Xbox 360 Formatting

Those who have used FATXplorer’s Xbox 360 formatting tools in the past will appreciate these improvements:

  • The Device Selection page has been improved:
    • It now shows more information to make it easier to select the right device. You can see this on the second screenshot on this post (above).
    • Disk #0 is no longer filtered out. The original intent behind this was to prevent accidental formatting of the OS drive, but it is now apparent the OS drive is, in some cases, not disk #0.
  • When formatting failed in previous versions with an “Access to the path is denied” error, the advice was to remove any existing Windows partitions. FATXplorer will now remove all Windows partitions for you, and other changes have been made that should significantly reduce the chances of getting this error in general.
  • You can now preload files onto partitions (more on this below).
  • The Security Sector page is improved. FATXplorer will now validate the Security Sector against information in the disk’s firmware, and let you know if the information matches or not. If no Security Sector, or a mismatched one, is provided, you will have to check a box confirming you understand the consequences.

Shared Features

These features apply to both Original and Xbox 360 formatting tools.

New: Preloading

Preloading is a new feature that is primarily aimed at console shops and individuals who prepare and sell HDDs (or consoles with HDDs) to their customers. For each partition that will be formatted, you can specify either a zip file or a folder containing contents you want to load onto the partition during the format. For example, if you are formatting a new Original Xbox HDD, you can preload the C & E partitions with the necessary files that you have downloaded from the community somewhere. That way, once the format is done, you can put the drive into your console right away. You don’t have to copy anything over yourself.

The preloading process is very simple. You choose a partition to preload using the drop-down, and then specify a zip file or folder. You can specify 1 zip file or folder per partition.

If you select a zip file, there is also an option to calculate the checksums of the zip file so you can check to make sure the file is correct/correctly downloaded.

New: Full Disk Wiping

Right before you start the format, you can now specify if you want to quick format the disk. FATXplorer has always quick formatted disks by default. If you want FATXplorer to wipe the entire disk before setting up the Xbox partitions, uncheck this option. This can add hours to the format time, and it’s generally not necessary, but the option is now here for power-users who want it. There is also a Cancel button that can be used to stop the wipe operation.

Setting a name

You can still name your device. This is displayed on the console in various places. New: Support for OG Xbox memory units. There is no name feature for OG Xbox HDDs because the original Xbox has no concept of names for HDDs — only memory units.

Discontinued / Missing Features

Xbox internal memory unit formatting has been discontinued. In reality, no one used this, and it was an unnecessary feature that brought about confusion.

The “back” button is currently not present. Adding OG Xbox support brought in numerous code complexities that made supporting a back button more complicated compared to Xbox 360-exclusive support. It will probably return in the future.

A preview of new USB formatting possibilities was recently shared here. Beta 14 does not support formatting extra large USBs. Support will come in a future beta, assuming all goes well with further development and testing of the patch.

FATXplorer is still unable to lock and unlock OG Xbox HDDs. If you format an OG Xbox HDD and your console requires the HDD to be locked, you will need to lock it using your tool of choice. This is unlikely to change, but alternative options are being investigated.

Danger!

Formatting is a destructive operation. Please take great care in selecting the right device. Previous FATXplorer versions may have failed to format disks with existing Windows partitions, but this new version will not. FATXplorer will confirm the disk name on the review page right before you click the Format button. If you accidentally format the wrong disk, and it was a quick format, you may be able to recover your data. Some file systems/partition layouts store backup information at the end of the disk. This information may aid in data recovery. A quick format without preloading doesn’t write a lot of data, so chances of recovery may be good if given the proper attention.

Other changes in beta 14 not related to formatting

  • Improved disk size calculation. Several users reported issues that stem from USB bridges reporting an incorrect disk size. This improvement should fix all disk size related issues. (Mainly happened with Seagate hardware)
  • Improved device detection. The detection process will no longer end prematurely if a read error occurs at some point in the process.
  • If a disk is set offline (for example, through Windows Disk Management), FATXplorer will now attempt to bring it online (when not in read-only mode) so write operations will work.
  • Removed the Load Special button. After further consideration, no additional special loading options are needed.
  • Fixed all outstanding DPI/scaling issues. Most notably, new device icons have been added that scale better.
  • Fixed an “Access to the path is denied” error that would occur when loading a read-only backup image file or Xbox 360 USB data directory with 1 or more read-only files. When these files are loaded in non-read-only mode, the read-only attribute on the files will now be removed. (Some backup programs set this attribute after finishing)
  • Added a warning message box when improperly formatted Original Xbox partitions are detected/loaded.
  • Beta 14 has been tested on the Windows 11 Insider Preview build 22000.51 and no problems have been identified.
  • Driver updated to v20.0.7836. File ID support has been improved. Driver updates may require a reboot.
  • The expiration date has changed to September 28, 2021.

Download beta 14 from this page

Comment responding delay

Over the past few months there have been significant problems with new comment email notifications. As a result, some comments made in the past ~3 months may have gone unanswered.

The comment queue will now be reviewed manually and more often to ensure everyone gets timely responses to any questions. Today, replies are being posted to any comments that have gone unanswered during this time period.

Apologies to anyone whose comments went unanswered! If you don’t receive a response in the comments, please use the contact form.

An update will be posted when this issue is fully resolved by the vendor.

FATXplorer 3.0 beta 12 – new disk health checker, memory and deletion fixes

FATXplorer 3.0 beta 12 is out now and brings with it a new feature and various fixes.

New Feature: Disk Health Checker

Beta 12 utilizes a new API introduced in Windows 10 1607 (Anniversary Update) to check disk health/status. FATXplorer will now tell you whether your disk is healthy or not, and if there is a problem, what the problem is.

Here’s what it looks like when there are no problems:

And when there are problems:

An alert will also pop up on the bottom right of your screen. You can click the magnifying glass to see a little more information:

Deletion Fix

Frequent users of the beta may be familiar with these messages:

Great news! These messages should no longer pop up – a fix has been implemented. These messages were most prevalent on Windows 7, but also popped up randomly on Windows 10. With the fix, the messages no longer pop up on Windows 7, but due to the random nature of the messages on Windows 10, it’s hard to know if the problem is completely solved. It probably is, but if you see it again in Beta 12 onwards, please reach out.

Memory Fixes

Beta 12 includes a host of memory-related fixes. Special thanks to Reddit user neakmenter for reporting the issues and helping test the fixes.

First, in general, memory usage has been reduced by 85% or more in some cases (like working with hundreds of thousands of files), and a bug was fixed where memory wasn’t being released after unmounting.

Second, a memory-saving strategy has been introduced in the form of a new toggle switch to help in cases where many folders are opened:

As described in the tooltip, if your want full performance without compromises, you should toggle on extra memory (the default). It will speed up file and folder creation, updating, and deletion. It is most noticeable when copying a lot of small files Do note that this has been the default behavior in all previous betas – the only thing new is being able to disable it. The amount of memory that will be used depends on how many folders are in the mounted partition, and whether you interact with/open them. To put this into perspective, if you have 50,000 folders, and then open them all by calculating the size of all of them, FATXplorer will use around 1 GB of extra memory on top of what it is already using. Basically, unless you are very memory-conscious and/or are working with 100,000+ folders that you open each time you mount a partition, you shouldn’t need to disable this feature.

As a simple test, copying both Mass Effect 3 and Call of Duty: World at War (20,738 files, 295 folders, 16.8 GB) to the WD Black 3.5″ HDD used in the initial benchmarks yields the following results:

Copy: Extra Memory On: 00:04:03, Off: 00:04:50
Delete: Extra Memory On: 00:00:33, Off: 00:00:38

And on the WD Black 2.5″:

Copy: Extra Memory On: 00:05:35, Off: 00:05:50
Delete: Extra Memory On: 00:00:27, Off: 00:00:42

As you can see, allowing extra memory has some benefits. If you are copying hundreds of GB, the difference will probably be even greater.

Update to Beta 12 today to get all these fixes. Your RAM sticks will thank you!

FATXplorer 3.0 Beta Program Update

It has been several months since FATXplorer 3.0 Beta 1 was released and since then, more than a thousand people from all over the world have given it a try! Before the year comes to an end, I thought I would give an update on how things are going.

Beta Program Statistics

In the past 90 days:

  • Around 1k unique users have launched the beta, with 30-40 active daily. People from all over the world are using it!
  • Around 7.1k devices mounted.

Beta 11

Beta 11 is available today. The last big beta announcement was #4 back in June. Since then, 6 more betas have been made available over the built-in updater, bringing various fixes and improvements. If you’re curious what’s changed, here is the release history document.

Beta 11 now runs on .NET 5, which is the next major version of the Microsoft .NET platform. It doesn’t bring anything truly groundbreaking for FATXplorer, but various tweaks have been made here and there to take advantage of new APIs and features. Performance should also be a bit better. You need to download and install the .NET 5 runtime before launching Beta 11.

You can get Beta 11 through the built-in updater, or the download links here.

HDD Locking/Unlocking Dilemma

Many have written in asking if FATXplorer will be able to unlock OG Xbox HDDs. Unfortunately, there is no good news to share on this front. It doesn’t look like this is possible due to Windows security features introduced in Windows 8, see here. Emails sent to that Microsoft address have gone unanswered. A workaround may eventually be found, but for the foreseeable future, you will need to unlock your HDDs through other means.

Licensing and Beta Program End Date

Questions have been received regarding license keys in the beta builds. Each build has a hard-coded expiration date (90 days from the day of release). There is currently no licensing in the beta builds, thus no option to enter a key. The beta program will run into 2021 until it has reached feature parity with v2.5. When that day comes, then you will be able to enter a license key to make the build work indefinitely.

License keys you purchase today will work in v3.0 when it’s out of beta.

2021

The next big feature to be introduced in 2021 is the new formatting tools. For Xbox 360 users, there won’t be anything particularly new here, but FATXplorer will gain the ability to remove Windows partitions, which will resolve most cases of formatting errors. For OG Xbox users, there is considerably more customization that can be done compared to Xbox 360. More details to be forthcoming in the new year.

Work is also ongoing on a redesigned and faster website.

Keep the feedback coming – have a Merry Christmas and see you in 2021!

-Eaton

OG Xbox F & G Drive Help Article

A new KB article has been posted: OG Xbox F & G Drive Help

Many beta testers have written in asking why FATXplorer doesn’t handle their F drive correctly. After investigating each case, 3 primary problems have been identified. Read the above-linked article for detailed descriptions of these problems and how to fix them.

FATXplorer 3.0 beta 4 – write support and a new level of performance

The moment everyone has been waiting for has finally arrived: full read/write support for original Xbox devices! With FATXplorer 3.0 beta 4, you can mount any partition on your original Xbox HDD or MU and explore it like you would as if you plugged in an external USB drive.

It has taken a while to get here, but as you will soon see by the performance comparisons below, it was worth the wait!

Performance Comparisons

Since FATXplorer v2.5 doesn’t support original Xbox, we’ll be using drives that are formatted with an Xbox 360 Content Partition. You can expect the same performance between original Xbox and Xbox 360. Two WD Black-series HDDs will be used, connected to a desktop PC via direct SATA III connection:

  1. WD Black 3.5″ 7200rpm HDD, Model WD2003FZEX (2 TB)
  2. WD Black 2.5″ 7200rpm HDD, Model WD5000LPLX (500 GB)

2020 Warning: There are reports that some WD5000LPLX drives do not get flashed properly by HDDHakr, resulting in the drive not working in Xbox 360 consoles. The drive used in this test, which works fine, was manufactured August 16, 2018. If you intend to purchase this drive for use in an Xbox 360, make sure you check your retailer’s return policy.

Here are the relevant specs of the PC these test were run on:

CPUIntel® Core™ i7-6700K
StorageSamsung SSD 970 EVO Plus 1TB (NVMe SSD)
RAM16 GB DDR4 @ 3333 MHz

Your PC specs combined with your Xbox disk specs may result in different performance than what is shown below.

Each test was performed at least twice to verify performance consistency. The copies and deletions are done on a mounted Content Partition using Explorer.

Device Loading

The larger the partition and the smaller the cluster size, the longer it takes for FATXplorer to load it. Improvements made in v3.0 have reduced the loading time for the largest disks and partitions to just a few seconds. For this test, we will be using the 3.5″ 2 TB HDD (the performance gap isn’t as noticeable with 500 GB), and the cluster size was reduced to 8K (all tests after this use the default 16K cluster size).

Many Small Files

Several customers expressed frustration in the past in regard to v2.5’s performance when it came to copying many small files. Improving performance here was a focal point during the redesign. After asking these customers to try out v3.0, they confirmed that it is indeed significantly faster. For this test, 4096 single-byte files were created and copied to the disk.

Next, let’s delete all those files:

That synthetic test looks great, but let’s test a real-world scenario. Mass Effect 3 has 4,005 files and is 10.5 GB in size. The large number of mixed-size files makes this game a great test case.

As you can see, in some cases the improvements to file copies in v3.0 can be measured in minutes, not seconds!

Deleting all those files looks like this:

Now let’s try a different game: Call of Duty: World at War. This is a 6.32 GB game with 16,732 files.

Just like with Mass Effect 3, the speed improvement can be as much as 2 minutes!

Deleting it:

FATXplorer v3.0 brings improvement in every area and performance may improve even more in the future!

Special Gift

As a token of appreciation to beta testers who are not already license-holders, download and try FATXplorer v3.0 beta before June 24, 2020 and you can find a $5 coupon in the status bar of the application (at the bottom). The license will work on v3.0 when it is officially released.

Beta information and download links

FATXplorer 3.0 beta now available!

FATXplorer 3.0 beta launches today and is available for download right now.

Emails will soon roll out to customers and those who have expressed interest.

Beta information and download links

Original Xbox support in action!

At long last, original Xbox support in FATXplorer is in a very usable state! Below is a video showcasing the mounting of my HDD image, and the mounting of a HDD image that has a custom partition table on it that someone generously provided. This is being done on a Windows 7 VM – even though Microsoft has recently ended support for it, it will still be a FATXplorer 3.0-supported OS.

Beta 1 is very near! Just a little more bug fixing is needed before emails go out to those who have shown interest in testing.

Updated backwards compatibility files

The backwards compatibility package hosted on the site has been updated with the latest April 2018 title update, and a few unnecessary files have been removed. Click to download – install instructions are included in the readme.

FATXplorer 3.0 – UI Sneak Peek

Work on the base UI for FATXplorer 3.0 has recently finished for the upcoming beta and should closely resemble what will eventually be released as the final product. The UI has been completely redone to give FATXplorer a more modern look and to work well with high resolution displays, while also offering modern features, such as a dark mode and scalable SVG icons.

Note that everything seen here is subject to change as development progresses, and based on feedback.

When you run FATXplorer, the first thing you will see is the new main window:

The icon is a placeholder and not the real one.

Let’s start at the top. You’ll notice a few buttons on the title bar at the top right.

The first one is the mode toggle. This lets you toggle between light and dark mode, and there is also an option to use the Windows setting. For Windows 10 1607 (Anniversary Update) and newer, FATXplorer will toggle light and dark mode automatically based on your Windows default app mode setting. Changes take effect in real-time, too! FATXplorer has been designed to work great with both modes and dark mode should be great for your late-night sessions. Here’s what it looks like:

All of the empty space you see will be used for the Toolkit, Content, and Recovery views.

The second button is the palette selector. You have 7 different color palettes to choose from that will change some FATXplorer UI elements to match that color. The default is a shade of green to reflect Xbox colors.

The last button is minimize to tray. This is already in 2.5 and works exactly the same. This is useful after mounting a device so you can remove FATXplorer from view to maximize screen real estate and to avoid the possibility of accidentally closing it and unmounting your device(s).

Now for the main menu. The old FATXplorer has used a ribbon throughout the 2.x series of releases. It has been replaced with bold, wide tiles to highlight key functions:

Devices

The devices tile menu, when clicked, shows all devices connected to your computer that have Xbox storage. You have all the familiar functions from 2.5 and some new ones:

Show Log – FATXplorer 2.5 technically features this, but it’s a hidden feature, and only outputs to a file. In 3.0, you can instantly see the complete device detection log. This is very valuable when your device isn’t showing up. It should give you some insight into any problems.

Load Special – This is for advanced cases and some recovery scenarios. It will let you configure the offset and length of the partition you are looking for, and it will override the default device scanning parameters to look for this specific partition on all devices being scanned. This feature is not done yet and will be implemented later.

Formatting Tools

Format a device to FATX specifications (both original Xbox and Xbox 360). This feature is not done yet and will be implemented later – will function similar to 2.5 formatting tools, but with the inclusion of original Xbox support + homebrew partition table.

Settings

Configure your settings. There aren’t really any settings at the moment, so this is a placeholder and a settings window will be implemented later.

Help

A drop-down that contains a few shortcuts and options. When sending in a support request, you’ll want to create a support package to help support narrow down problems you are running into.

Device Interaction

Mounting a device works pretty much the same way as it does in 2.5, but the UI for doing so is completely new:

If you want to prevent any sort of write operation from happening, you can toggle Read-Only. In 2.5, there was a common question of “what are all these partitions for / what is in them?” Partitions are now listed with descriptions to help answer these questions.

The new Toolkit, Content, and Recovery views are not ready yet. Advanced Information is an option for HDDs that will obtain the output of smartmontools (a popular HDD SMART utility) and display it. This can be very useful if you suspect your HDD is dying and want a quick and easy way to check SMART values.

Finally, at the bottom of FATXplorer you’ll see the driver status. If the driver is not installed, you can click it to install it. It’ll also flash blue when there’s an update available for it. If you don’t click to install here, it’ll ask you right before you mount a device. There is also Show Log, which is a toggleable log window that’ll show you technical details about what is going on behind the scenes.

When can I try it?

Not much longer now! Work will now shift to getting drive mounting in a functional state. The next post on this site should be the beta announcement.😉

In the meantime, please feel free to share any feedback on the new UI in the comments below!

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