How to perform the swap trick on a model 2 Sega Saturn
I take NO responsibility for damage done to your Saturn by utilising the following text. Perform the swap trick at your own risk.
The mentioned ‘Sega’ screen is not the animated ‘Sega Saturn’ screen, instead it is the next screen along from this; the black screen that contains a still Sega logo on it, and some crap about licensing.
The ‘first swap’ refers to the copied CD being replaced with an original CD, and the ‘second swap’ refers to the original CD being replaced by the copied CD.
Be wary of dust when taking your Saturn apart, and make sure that you don’t swap CDs for hours on end because it is possible for the motor to get hot whilst swapping back and forth lots.
To be successful in doing the swap trick, you must actually understand how the Saturn is copy protected and how it checks for this protection.
Each original CD contains a small strip at the very edge. The Saturn checks for this strip to determine if the CD is legitimate or not. If the Saturn can’t find this strip then it drops to the bios type screen. The swap trick fools the Saturn into thinking that a duplicated CD has this protective strip on it.
CD door modification –
The first step to doing the swap trick is to make your Saturn think that the drive door is always shut. This is simple enough to do.
Remove all the screws from the bottom of the Saturn (I think there are five. Note that none of the screws are covered up by stickers/pads/etc) and take the cover off. Find the switch that is triggered when the door is closed (its not hard to find, look at the door mechanism and trace the little pivoting bit on the case you removed to the button that it touches inside the Saturn) and put some masking tape over it, so that it is always ‘on’.
Put a CD onto the spindle and turn your Saturn on to verify that it thinks the door is shut (don’t worry, as long as you don’t touch anything, running your Saturn with the case off for a short amount of time is fine, providing the atmosphere you’re in isn’t 50% dust). If you have taped the switch correctly, the game will load like normal. Leave the case off for the next step.
I’ve read a few FAQs that tell you to cut the wires and short them together or to use other pointless/irreversible methods. Damaging your Saturn is not necessary. Tape does the job fine.
Watching the CD boot procedure –
Now that your Saturn thinks the drive door is always shut, you’re nearly ready for swapping CDs, but while you have the case off its a good idea to watch what the CD lens actually does when it loads an original CD. Stick an original onto the CD player and turn the Saturn on. From side on, watch what the lens does as the CD loads, and pay close attention to the particular sounds your Saturn makes, and the timing of these sounds.
Initially the lens will hover about the centre of the CD. The Saturn is checking how much data is on the CD and finding out how many audio tracks there are.
When the Saturn has read the file structure of the CD, the lens moves to the outer edge of the CD, and the CD will spin at half the speed it was before. As soon as the lens reaches the outer edge of the CD (at the same time that the spin speed reduces), this is when you will remove the copied CD from the drive and insert an original. The Saturn is now attempting to read the protective strip
Once the Saturn has read the protective strip, the lens goes back to the centre of the CD and the CD drive speeds up again (it possibly checks the country code of the CD at this point, but I’m not sure. If someone actually knows the exact point the Saturn checks for this, send me an email). About ¼ to ½ a second after the lens goes back to the centre and the CD speed increases is when you exchange the original CD for the one you actually want to play.
The swap procedure: the first swap –
Once you’ve put the case back on, take your copied CD (the one you want to play), put it into your Saturn and turn it on whilst leaving the drive door open (thanks to your earlier handiwork). Depending on how much data/many tracks are on the CD, the timing for the first stage of the swap can vary a fair amount. Just listen carefully for the lens making a large move, and watch for the CD rotation speed to slow down to about half its initial speed. Getting the first swap right is not totally crucial to the success of the whole process, but care with the timing must still be taken. Remove the copied CD from the drive immediately after the lens makes a move for the outer edge of the disc (the same time the motor slows down) and replace it with an official CD. You can initially try to do this with the Saturn’s case still removed so you can watch the lens move, but the motor can be bumped around a bit when you change discs so make sure you’re careful if you try it like this!
The swap procedure: the second swap –
The Saturn is now checking the copy protection on your original CD. Leave the original disc in the drive until the motor speeds up again. About ¼ to ½ a second after you see the motor speed up (you will also hear the lens move back to the centre of the CD), quickly change the original CD for the copied one (the one that was in the system to begin with). The timing for this swap IS crucial to the success of the whole process, and it can vary slightly depending on what CDs you’re using in the procedure. Probably the best way to describe the timing is JUST before the ‘Sega’ screen appears, but not AT the ‘Sega’ screen (a split second before it appears). If you get it right, the copied CD should spin at normal speed straight away and then the ‘Sega’ screen will appear, and the game will load like a normal one.
If you are using an original CD with a clear middle section, you can see the lens move back to the centre through the plastic. You can also use this as a timing indicator for the swap.
Different copied CDs behave differently when the Saturn is reading the file structure (and occasionally they make the Saturn behave differently during the time the original CD is in too). If you have trouble timing the first swap, try using a copied CD that is very small, as these are generally easier to swap with.
Sometimes it is hard to tell when the Saturn has stopped checking the tracks, and starts checking the actual protection. If you’re unsure when to swap at this stage, boot up the Saturn a few times with the copied disc in the drive and watch what happens. You can eventually tell when it’s checking for the protection because the CD motor will turn on (at half speed) then turn off (letting the CD slow down to a very slow speed), then on, then off etc… You can trace this backwards to the last time the lens moves (it makes its final dash for the edge of the CD – you can hear it making a zipping sound) during the track reading.
If you swap too early, the system drops to the bios screen or keeps trying to read the CD protection unsuccessfully, and if you swap too late, all kinds of weird things can happen. Occasionally your Saturn might lock up on the ‘Sega’ screen. This either means you swapped slightly too late or your Saturn didn’t like the original/copied CD combination. Try another original if this keeps happening.
If you get a bios message saying “disc not suitable for this system”, I’m pretty sure that means you got past the ‘original’ CD check on the second swap, but you swapped slightly too early and didn’t quite make it past the ‘country protection’. Try doing the second swap a bit later.
I have noticed on my Saturn that certain original CDs don’t load certain games. For example, the only CDs of mine that will load Radiant Silvergun are Daytona and Panzer Dragoon. Every other CD makes the game crash on or just after the ‘Sega’ screen (like mentioned above). If you can’t get the swap after a while, try using different original CDs. Virtual On generally seems the easiest to swap with out of my collection.
1. Fool the Saturn into thinking its door is closed all the time by removing the case and sticky taping the door switch so it is permanently on (door = closed).
2. Boot from the CD that you want to play. As soon as the CD slows down and you hear the lens zip to the outer edge of the CD, swap the copied CD for an original. DON’T aim to do the first swap exactly on the lens move/speed change. It should be slightly after, so let the zipping noise trigger the change, don’t try to predict the change.
3. Leave the original CD in the drive until you see the motor speed up again. ¼ to ½ a second AFTER the drive speeds up, swap the original for the CD you want to play (note: this swap is not EXACTLY on the speed change, it must be slightly after). This swap is BEFORE the ‘Sega’ screen appears, but AFTER the CD speed change/large lens move.
4. If you’re successful, you should see the black ‘Sega’ screen, and the game will play normally from then on. If this game locks up here, try another original CD.
The swap trick can be quite a pain to do at first, and it is easy to doubt that it actually works (after my 50th attempt I had begun to question whether it worked!).
If you’re initially unsuccessful at doing the swap trick, try taking your Saturn apart and watching the mechanisms in action. Pay close attention to the noises the machine makes at the changeover points I have described, and keep trying! Follow the above steps exactly, and make sure that you give your Saturn adequate time to cool down every now and again.
If you have any comments, corrections or see anything I’ve missed, email me at Sengoku666@hotmail.com, but please don’t mail me if you cannot get the swap trick to succeed.
Version 1.0. December, 2000.