Modchip-History-Printed circuit board
A modchip (short for modification chip) is a small electronic device used to alter or disable artificial restrictions of computers or entertainment devices. Modchips are mainly used in videogame consoles, but also in some DVD or Blu-ray players. They introduce various modifications to its host system's function, including the circumvention of region coding, digital rights management, and copy protection checks for the purpose of using media intended for other markets, copied media, or unlicensed third-party (homebrew) software.
Most cartridge-based console systems did not have modchips produced for them. They usually implemented copy protection and regional lockout with game cartridges, both on hardware and software level. Converters or passthrough devices have been used to circumvent the restrictions, while flash memory devices (game backup devices) were widely adopted in later years to copy game media. Early in the transition from solid-state to optical media, CD-based console systems did not have regional market segmentation or copy protection measures due to the rarity and high cost of user-writable media at the time.
Modchips started to surface with the PlayStation system, due to the increasing availability and affordability of CD writers and the increasing sophistication of DRM protocols. At the time, a modchip's sole purpose was to allow the use of imported and copied game media.
Today, modchips are available for practically every current console system, often in a great number of variations. In addition to circumventing regional lockout and copy protection mechanisms, modern modchips may introduce more sophisticated modifications to the system, such as allowing the use of user-created software (homebrew), expanding the hardware capabilities of its host system, or even installing an alternative operating system to completely re-purpose the host system (e.g. for use as a home theater PC).