XEMU on macOS

Getting XEMU on macOS running isn't super difficult but running games is as direct ripped Xbox ISOs will not work with XEMU. I've updated this guide with an Xemu video tutorial that dives deeper into Xbox emulation. I recommend using it in tandem with this guide. Terminal savvy users probably can follow the written guide but I'd recommend checking out the video if you encounter issues as there's a few quirks with the emulator.

  • Homebrew - (it is possible to do it without Homebrew but for sanity's sake I will be using it
  • Git. There are multiple ways to install git but I'd recommend using xcode-select --install
  • The XEMU emulator
  • System Support files
  • extract-xiso to make converted ISOs

First, you need to download XEMU. It's updated frequently. Grab it from the official website here. It's a universal binary, so it runs natively on both Apple Silicon and Intel Macs.

After you need a few files, these are, legally speaking, the parts of the emulator that are copyrighted. I stumbled across them on Reddit. I own an Xbox, so I'll just say I extracted them myself. Please do not ask me about where to get these files or games.. I'll ignore your request.

The files are:

  • Flash (Bios) - Complex_4627v1.03.bin
  • MCPX Boot Rom File - mcpx_1.0.bin
  • Hard disk Image File - xbox_hdd.qcow2

And the EEPROM, which will be created automatically. Leave the RAM at 64 MB.

You'll have to go to settings and manually assign each of these files; I found that placing them in the same directory as the emulator is recommended for whatever reason. It got confused when I didn't. Also, be sure to quit, as you'll need to reboot the emulator for the changes to take.

Next, it's running games. Games are generally in the ISO format. It's up to you to determine how your ethics work on this and please do not ask me for ISOs. There are places where people back up the games they own, like Archive.org.

This is where Xbox emulation gets tricky. You cannot just play ISOs. You first need to repack them into an ISO format that XEMU will understand.

For that, we have extract-iso, a command-line utility that is used to convert ISOs into playable ISOs.

First, we need to download, cmake so we can compile extract-xiso to run on our Mac. You'll need Git and Homebrew installed for this to work.

Open up a terminal window and do the following:

Step 1: Dependencies

Run the following, update brew and then install cmake, a utility to create the necessary files to build/compile the application.

brew update
brew install cmake

Step 2: Clone The Repo

From the terminal, you'll want to navigate or create a directory where you'd like XEMU to live, as by default, the terminal will open up into the ~/ (your user directory.)

git clone https://github.com/XboxDev/extract-xiso.git

Step 3: Go into the directory

Now we enter the directory where extract-xiso was cloned to.

cd extract-xiso

Step 4: Create a build directory

Next we need to create a build folder for camke as per the instructions for extract-xiso and run the cmake/make commands from the this directory.

mkdir build
cd build

Step 5 Building the app

Next, we're going to run cmake and after it completes and creates the makefiles, run make.

cmake ..

Now we're ready to prep Xbox ISOs

Using extract-xiso

From the build folder, we can run the CLI utility.

The utility has the ability to unpack Xbox ISOs and repack them into usable ISOs for XEMU.

There are two ways to about converting the ISOs. The easier method, which I had mixed success with, is to use:

./extract-xiso -r path/to/.iso

This will convert the ISO into the correct format. It'll rename the original iso to .iso.old and place in the build folder the converted ISO.

The other is a two-step process.

Step 1: extract the game contents

./extract-xiso -x /path/to/iso

Step 2: repack the game contents

./extract-xiso -c /path/to/extracted-files

A few tips:

XEMU is a fickle beast; quitting it and reopening it after changing settings is best. If you try an ISO that does not work, you must quit and reopen the app with a working ISO. Don't expect perfect emulation, as Xemu is still actively being developed. I found NBA Street Vol. 2 playable, but there are annoying crackles in the audio.

XEMU running NBA Street Vol 2

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