Dreamcast Self-boot CD Guide
Because Boot-discs are a pain in the ass!
Well, I've looked around and can't seem to find a guide on here about properly burning Sega Dreamcast images, so here goes.
Figuring out how to properly burn a self-booting image can be quite a damning thing and because you manage to go through more CD's than you can afford, I have made a step-by-step guide for correctly assembling and burning a self-booting Dreamcast image. This at first glance seems like an abundance of information; once you do it a couple times, you'll be spitting out DC burns like it's your job.
Before we even get started in the guide, a few things need to be explained about the Sega Dreamcast disc format. The Dreamcast uses a proprietary disc called a Gigabyte Disc-ROM (GD-ROM). This disc is capable of holding a maximum of 1.2 GB. Thus, this disc cannot be read on a standard CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive. This makes ripping Dreamcast games somewhat of a pain, as it requires specialized hardware for the Dreamcast. A lot of the games that are released for download have DOWNSAMPLED AUDIO AND/OR VIDEO. This is required for the image to fit onto a standard CDR. The Dreamcast GD-ROM format is also burned onto the disc in a unique manner. The first track on the disc is a blank (raw) audio track, followed by the actual data on track two, and music tracks (if applicable) after that. If the first track is not audio and not the correct minimum size, the disc will not boot on the Dreamcast (unless you use a Boot Loader, but that's kind of defeating the purpose of this tutorial, isn't it?). If the CDR is not burned correctly, you will either get dumped back to the Dreamcast main menu or the Dreamcast CD player. Luckily, burning a CDR or saving an image that have these specifications is relatively easy.
BEFORE WE BEGIN...
First things first, there is a rumor abounding on the internet that DC's manufactured after October 2000 are unable to play backup CD's. Referencing this site, almost every Dreamcast model has been tested and confirmed working. There are some reports that MIL-CD support was removed from the final batch of US Dreamcasts (December 2000 and after, if applicable). If you are unlucky enough to have one of the final batch Dreamcasts, you will have to either mod your system or trade it for another Dreamcast. I myself have a DC manufactured in October 2000 and haven't had a problem playing burned games.
Next you'll need to get the required software to make a self booting disc. (*QUICK NOTE*: There is also a utility called SelfBoot Inducer' available, which is a menu-based system designed for homebrew games and apps. This is not what is used to make self-booting backups.)
Selfboot (the goods, this is the essential tool for self-boots)
IP.BIN Writer (useful utility, make a custom IP.BIN when one is missing...)
Here are the jpeg's used in the tutorial, in case they don't show...
Let's go over some quick terminology:
PLAIN FILES - these are the files extracted from the Dreamcast CD image. These files are placed into a folder and has to contain the file IP.BIN. The folder should have no spaces in the name and should be no longer than eight characters. THIS IS NOT A CD IMAGE. THESE ARE THE FILES WITHIN THE CD IMAGE!
IP.BIN - The IP.BIN file is the first file that the Dreamcast accesses upon boot. The IP.BIN file is essentially the white screen with the SEGA logo and the licensing info. The file then accesses the actual program code, almost always called 1ST_READ.BIN (this is not always the case though, good to know if you are making a custom IP.BIN file). The IP.BIN file can contain a custom graphic that is displayed under the licensing information (in some commercial games it is a Windows CE logo). THE IP.BIN FILE HAS TO BE PRESENT IN ORDER FOR THE GAME TO SELF-BOOT. The Selfboot program will not run without IP.BIN present.
DISCJUGGLER - DiscJuggler is a program by Padus Inc. which writes a proprietary CD image format with the extension '.CDI'. This format ('DiscJuggler format') seems to be the ONLY format which correctly retains the CD structure required for a Dreamcast self-booting game. Nero formats (Track-At-Once or Disc-At-Once) seem to have significantly more problems than the DiscJuggler format. As a plus, although proprietary, it can be burned using most to all of the major programs (Alcohol 120% is my personal recommendation, but you can use whichever is most comfortable for you).
NERO - Nero Burning ROM is a popular and powerful program for which to burn CD's and DVD's on Win32 systems. Nero is a wonderful program, but is NOT recommended for Dreamcast imaging.
STEP 1: UnRAR the Selfboot archive into 'RootDrive:\Selfboot'. THIS IS MANDATORY. The directory name ABSOLUTELY CANNOT CONTAIN SPACES OR BE OVER EIGHT CHARACTERS.
STEP 2: Extract the Dreamcast image (Plain Files) that you wish to make self-booting into a folder on your hard drive. The way to do it without problems is to extract the archive into a folder directly under the root drive and less than eight characters long (ex., 'RootDrive:\Game'). Look in the folder after extraction and make sure that there is a file in the directory called IP.BIN. YOU MUST HAVE THIS FILE PRESENT IN ORDER TO MAKE THE CD SELF-BOOTING. If there is not an IP.BIN present, use the program above called IP.BIN WRITER to...write an IP.BIN. I'm not giving a tutorial on this here. Just remember that if 1ST_READ.BIN is not present, the IP.BIN will have to access a different boot file. Research this HERE. If the folder contains IP.BIN, you're halfway there...
STEP 3: The first time that you run Selfboot, a prompt will appear asking 'Configure CDRecord? (NO if using DiscJuggler/Nero)'.
CDRecord is a command-line based application that will burn your Dreamcast CD within the Selfboot application. I personally prefer to answer NO to this prompt and save a custom image file that is self-boot ready. IF YOU CHOOSE YES TO THIS PROMPT, this is how to configure your burner for use with Selfboot (when it works, it can save a lot of time). Upon pressing YES you will get another prompt which states your burner will be auto-detected.
In most cases, this will detect your drives with no problem, and you can move on to step 4 (NOTE: If you have more than one burner, you will obviously have to use the correct one, if you don't know how to differentiate this try them all).
The above image reflects two physical burners, one virtual.
HOWEVER, sometimes it has trouble detecting your burner and you have to set it up manually. Most of the time the problem is the ASPI layer currently installed on your computer; you will need to download a different ASPI layer for your OS. I'm not going to get into the details of this. If you don't feel like it either then just save the image to your drive and burn with your favorite software...
STEP 4: If you select NO or once your drive(s) are configured, you will be prompted to select a folder.
This is the folder that you earlier extracted the Dreamcast image to. Select this folder in the browser and press OK. If there isn't an IP.BIN in the folder, it will tell you, and you need to go back a couple of steps and create an IP.BIN. You can't skip that step.
STEP 5: Now you come to the meat of the program. You are brought to this window (which by default is CDRECORD').
In the drop-down box at the top of the window you can either select 'CDRECORD' or DISCJUGGLER/NERO BURNING ROM'. If you select CDRECORD, follow step 6A. If you wish to create a CD image on your hard drive, follow step 6B.
STEP 6A: If you selected 'CDRECORD', you will be brought to the window below.
Here's the tricky part about the Dreamcast games. You want to click the TOP 'BURN' BUTTON to burn the initial audio track on the disc. CDRecord will run in the command window and confirm a successful burn. THEN CLICK THE BUTTON LABELED 'MSINFO'. This will tell the program where to start writing the second track. Next, under 'Build Image For Second Session', input the name of the image to be created (NO MORE THAN EIGHT CHARACTERS, NO SPACES, folder name by default, you can rename it later) and then click 'Make ISO'. Again, the command window will display the progress of the image creation. Once complete, under 'Burn Second Session', input your desired burning speed (4X or less is generally recommended) and click 'Burn'. Once the progress has reached 100% in the command window, your game is ready for play on the Dreamcast. *NOTE* A LOT OF TIMES WHEN PLAYING SELF-BOOT GAMES, THE DREAMCAST WILL BRING YOU TO THE MAIN MENU UPON BOOT. JUST CLICK 'PLAY' WITH THE DISC IN THE DC AND IT SHOULD FADE TO BLACK...IP.BIN LOADS...BLISSFUL GAMEAGE...
STEP 6B: If you selected 'DISCJUGGLER/NERO BURNING ROM', you will be brought to the window below.
At this point all you have to do is select which format you would like the image in. Please refer to the image below.
Generally, Dreamcast self-booting images are saved in Padus DiscJuggler (.CDI) format. These images can be burned with your program of choice and tend to be more successful than NERO images. Input the name of the image you wish to save (NO MORE THAN EIGHT CHARACTERS, NO SPACES, folder name by default, you can rename it later) in the appropriate box, and click that format's button. The image will be saved to your SELFBOOT directory (should be 'RootDrive:\Selfboot'). Archive or burn, and enjoy!
BUT...If IP.BIN loads, you get the white SEGA logo screen, and then it dumps you back to the main menu, what then? Either A) the IP.BIN on the CD is not calling the right file (as stated above it's normally 1ST_READ.BIN BUT THIS IS NOT ALWAYS TRUE. You'll have to do the research on a per-game basis yourself and create the IP.BIN with the software listed above), or B) the burn messed up.
OR...If it kicks you to the CD Player on the Dreamcast, your burn is wrong. The audio file got put on the second track of the CD instead of the first. I told you not to use the NERO format.
I certainly hope that this guide can help those who have problems making self-booting Dreamcast games. If there are any further questions, send me a private message and I will get to them as I get to them. Always remember, KEEP THE DREAMCAST ALIVE. It is STILL a viable system, and people are STILL making games for it.