Sony’s PlayStation 2 console is as versatile as it is popular, evidenced by its total global sales, which exceed 157 million units sold. There were a lot of factors that made this one of the most beloved systems in all of gaming, including its excellent library of fantastic games, the ability to play DVD films, as well as its affordable price, and its aesthetically pleasing design.
I’ve performed a wide variety of PlayStation 2 mods in my day, including the ability to play ROMs from a memory card, and fan mods that make your PS2 ultra-silent. However, today I’m showing off one of the most unique mods for the system, which transforms this gaming console into a Linux-based computer. Best of all, it’s a mod that’s completely endorsed by the manufacturer, originating from a project started in 2002 by Sony.
In this article, I’ll break down the basic way to install Linux on your PlayStation 2, but I highly recommend checking out my full installation video, available on the Macho Nacho Productions YouTube channel!
"Overall, I had a blast tackling this interesting project and it was awesome to see the PlayStation 2 effortlessly double as a desktop PC."
The Interesting History of The PS2 Linux Kit
Back in 2002, Sony released the Linux for PS2 kit, which promised to turn your sixth-generation console into a robust personal computer. The official kit contained everything a player needed to turn their PlayStation into a PC, including a Linux installation disc, an official Sony keyboard and mouse, a PS2 network adapter, a 40 GB hard drive, as well as a specialized VGA cable to connect to a computer monitor.
Unfortunately, this kit is incredibly expensive online as manufacturing and distribution ceased long ago. Luckily, you won’t need all these official goodies to get your Linux-on-PS2 fix.
How to Turn Your PS2 Into a Linux Computer
As long as you have one of the official Sony Linux installation discs, be it the Japanese, PAL, or NTSC versions, you should be able to source the rest of the required peripherals without emptying your wallet. For my installation, I used my standard wireless keyboard that contains a USB-Mini port, making it easy to plug into the console. Any mouse should work fine, as I used a cheap Logitech one and that worked just fine.
You’ll need a decent hard drive as well, but be aware that the PS2 can be pretty picky when it comes to extra hardware, so it doesn’t hurt to have an official PS2 hard drive on-hand. Be sure you have a standard PS2 memory card on hand, as this is required as well. The most difficult piece of gear to find is undoubtedly the specialized VGA cable, as they can be incredibly rare and also require specific monitors. To bypass this headache, I chose to utilize an OSSC (open-source scan converter) device. For more information on the OSSC device, definitely check out this video from my good friends at RetroRGB.
The Linux installation process is one of the more unique mods I’ve performed on my channel, as it requires very little hardware modification. In fact, you’ll spend most of your time typing commands into the keyboard, setting up the hard drive, and ensuring that everything is running smoothly. I’ve created an excellent step-by-step tutorial on how to install Linux on the PlayStation 2, so I highly recommend following along with the video if you plan on performing this mod yourself.
The Features of Linux on PS2
Installing Linux on your PlayStation 2 is a really neat concept, but what are the benefits? I absolutely loved messing around with all the various applications and features included in the base installation, but you’ll probably want to know exactly what’s available before you transform your own PlayStation 2. There are a handful of applications to check out, including a rudimentary version of GIMP, which is an easy-to-use image creation program.
There are also a few simple text-editor programs and the ability to change your background, but that’s about it. If you’re hungry for more PS2 Linux applications, they exist online, but most of these communities have since fizzled out, leaving development at a standstill. Due to the PS2’s limited RAM, most applications were incredibly simplistic in nature, so don’t worry about missing out on anything extraordinary.
Overall, I had a blast tackling this interesting project and it was awesome to see the PlayStation 2 effortlessly double as a desktop PC. While it might not have a wide variety of engrossing programs or features, it’s still an interesting piece of gaming history and one of the more inventive official console mods I’ve had the pleasure of performing.