Dumping PC Engine HuCards / TurboGrafx TurboChips with the SSDS3

As part of the Super SD System 3 (SSDS3) firmware, TerraOnion baked-in a ROM dumper. Unfortunately, they decided to remove the online support forum (and all posts) in favour of helping users via email and Discord. That’s great, as you can sometimes get help quicker, but it means a lot of resources are now gone. One such resource was some info on the dumping tool, so I’ve created a short one here.


Firstly, you need to ensure that the option to turn the dumper on is checked in the main menu. I’ve included screen grabs for the old and new firmware style, so you know what you’re looking for:

Old firmware
New firmware

Note: You can dump cards from either region (JP/US), even if your machine doesn’t have a region modification installed. The SSDS3 will dump the card, then when you run that dump, it will swap the data lines and remove the region check.

Once you’ve done that, turn the system off, put your HuCard or TurboChip in your machine, and power on. You’ll be greeted by this screen:

The first thing you’ll want to do is the card size discovery. The default display says 080000 – that’s NOT the size of the card you’ve inserted, so don’t worry about that. Press the ‘I’ button, and it will show that it’s working:

When it’s finished, it will show you the card size. In this example, it’s 040000:

That’s reporting the total card capacity in Megabits as a 6-digit hex figure. In this case, 040000 means it’s a 2Mbit card (more on that later).

Then you can move on to actually dumping the card. Move the cursor to DUMP, and press the ‘I’ button. It will show progress, and it’s at this point you’ll want to make a note of the number of the filename it is dumping to. It will be put on the root of your SD card, called DUMPxx.PCE, where the ‘xx’ is numbered sequentially. Once the dump is finished this filename will disappear, so be quick! 

Another reason to make a note of the name is that occasionally a dump will fail. This can be because the card is damaged, or simply that the contacts are dirty, and you’ll want to discard that dump.

Here’s what you’ll see after a successful dump:

Once you’ve finished, power off, and take the card out. You can test the dump by powering on your PC Engine / TurboGrafx and running the dump from the root of your SD card. Once you’re happy, turn off, remove your SD card and put it in your computer to rename and organise your dumps.

Now, back to those card sizes. As I said, the dumper reports the tool in a 6-digit hex format. PCE/TG cards were generally in 2, 4, 6, or 8 Megabit sizes (Street Fighter II being a massive 20!). This dumping tool will dump the whole card, or at least whatever the layout of the ROM reports, not just the actual game file size. You’ll see some variations where a game will report as being an odd number of Mbits (for example, Vigilante, with a hex of 0A0000 reports as 5Mbits). This may actually be on a 5Mbit card, or more likely on a cheaper 6Mbit paired ROM card, but the layout reports it as 5.

For those common card sizes, you’ll see the following. The first value is the reported card size in hex. The second is the number of bytes in your dumps, the third is Kilobytes, and the last is Megabits. 

040000 = 262144 = 256KB = 2Mb
080000 = 524288 = 512KB = 4Mb
0C0000 = 786432 = 768KB = 6Mb
100000 = 1048576 = 1024KB = 8Mb

Depending on your operating system, you’ll see your dump files reported in either kilobytes (units based on powers of 10), or kibibytes (units based on powers of 2).  You can find a good explanation of the differences here.

You can see that in use in these two screengrabs:

Decimal file sizes (base 10)
Binary file sizes (base 2)

Another reason for wanting to know how the files are sized is so that you can patch ROMs, for example to apply a translation hack. When you dump in this way you’re getting a headerless output. Many patches require the header area to be present, so you’ll need to add that. In the screenshot below you’ll see the original dump, followed underneath by the revised dump with a header added. This just needs to be 512 bytes at the beginning of the file, and is easy to add with a hex editor. I’ve just added them as zeros in this example.

And that’s it. Happy dumping!

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