Software Ideas Z64 Support
Frequently Asked Questions

Last Revised February 18, 2000 by CC, Copyright Reserved

Q: What is V-Box Video Converter?
A: In a plain technical nutshell, V-Box lets you convert NTSC signal to VGA monitor signal. V-Box takes any composite (or RCA connector, now usually labeled yellow) input or S-Video input and output as 15-pin VGA connector for your VGA monitor. This means all home NTSC devices - game console, VCR, DVD, camcorder, etc. can now be displayed on your VGA monitor with even better picture quality. This also save you from buying TV due to tight space or budget issue.

Q: What is Z64 and how does it work?
A: Z64 is an add-on enhancement device for Nintendo 64©. Z64 sits on top of N64 and into its normal game cartridge slot. There is a game cartridge slot on Z64 so you can play your cartridges as you would with N64 slot. (So theoratically you don't ever need to detach Z64 from N64.) One unique feature of Z64 is that by itself, it can detect whether you inserted a defective cartridge before you turn on your N64.

One important feature of Z64 is its ability to backup your game cartridges into equipped ZIP drive as files. You can then play back that game file from the ZIP drive by selecting file with LCD menu (or through On Screen Display menu). Note that you do need to have a game cartridge plugged into the Z64 game slot at all time although cartridge and game file do not need to be the same. i.e. play ABC game (from ZIP drive) while XYZ cartridge is plugged in.

Another important feature of Z64 is its use as a game development tool. If you are or want to be a N64 game developer, you would just write the codes on PC and then test your codes easily through Z64. To play your backup game or the codes you just wrote, you will load the game from ZIP disk to Z64 memory, and when it is done, you will be prompted to turn on N64 power (or game will start immediately if you use OSD). At that point, Voila! N64 sees Z64 as if it is a normal cartridge.

The most important feature of Z64 is that as game image is now stored as file on disk in a rewritable form, you can use 3rd party tools to modify the file for play enhancement purpose. Z64 also saves your game record and progress into ZIP drive therefore you could modify the saved data as well. All these fancy abilities plus the built-in action replay (i.e. so called cheat codes or GameShark(tm) codes) feature allow you to greatly enjoy your N64 games. Read on for more information.

Q: What version of Z64 are you selling? What is Z64 2.0 or 3.0?
A: At any time, we have only the newest Z64 hardware revision available. (We don't have old Z64 hardware to sell it to you even if you want one!) It already comes with 32MB (256Mbits) memory. Z64 2.0 adds OSD (On Screen Display) and enhanced SRAM support (i.e. let you modify or add game cheat records like GameShark(tm). p.s. This is also commonly referred as Action Replay Codes.), and these features were enabled beginning with BIOS v.2.00. 32MB support was enabled beginning with BIOS v.2.10. It is intended that old Z64 hardware (i.e. HW1.0) will support 32MB when feasible. Note that do not confuse Z64 2.0 (hardware) with its BIOS version (software).

Hardware 3.0 is not exactly new Z64 hardware, it is an effort to reduce several control chips to one ASIC chip and to further increase reliability. (However this also means Z64 is now more proprietary.) Hardware capabilities are identical to 2.0. Please check our web site main page http://www.softidea.com/Z64/ for ongoing hardware update information.

Z64 HW2.0 or later all have serial numbers beginning with 2 or 3. Version of Z64 hardware also shows from the BIOS revision when Z64 is turned on and BIOS is initialized. e.g. BIOS 2.00X, where X is the hardware type. HW1.0 is 'A', HW2.0 is 'B', and HW3.0 shows 'C'.

Q: Is Z64 legal? Isn't Z64 simply a game copier?
A: Z64 is a multiple-purpose N64 enhancement device. In addition to backing up your game cartridges to removable ZIP diskette for playback which saves the wear and tear of your game cartridges, Z64 is also an unbelievably inexpensive N64 game development system. Imagine that if you are a software programmer/hacker you could write your GL 3D codes on PC and test it on Z64. With so called trainers or patches, plus the recent addition of Z64's own action replay feature, now N64 gamers could change a game's behavior or uncover a hidden secret directly. This is simply not possible with N64 by itself. Users who use Z64 as a game copier not only violate copyright laws but also take advantage of only one small Z64 function. Z64 can be similar to CD-Recordable drive or even a floppy drive on PC. There are many good uses for CD-R drive and floppy drive but a wild guess would suggest that many people use them for illegal purposes, too. Remember Z64 is in your hands to use it. We sell the hardware, we do not sell games.

Q: What is BIOS? What does it do?
A: BIOS is "Basic Input Output System". It is the core software which controls the functions of hardware. In Z64's case, BIOS is very much like an operating system for PCs such as DOS© or Windows 95©. Of course Z64's is much simpler and therefore is much easier to use. Z64 BIOS handles the read/write from/to ZIP drive, address mapping between backup file and memory, LCD and on-screen display, dynamic patching (to memory) of cheat codes, etc.

Q: I have Z64 1.0 so how do I upgrade to/trade in for new Z64?
A: Upgrade offer is now available in two forms. You either buy upgrade kit ($149 + shipping) and do it yourself, or you send it back to Warranty Center (Harrison Electronics) to have them replace it for free of labor charge for you. (so it's $149 + two shippings) (Again, only they are authorized to repair Z64 for USA customers.) Upgrade kit consists of one Z64 HW3 mainboard and one 32MB SIMM memory. You cannot buy upgrade kit without the 32MB memory because of quality and compatibility assurance reason. Upgrade kit is available through us for $149 + shipping. The upgrade parts come with 30 days warranty. This upgrade is fairly easy since it's a board swap and a memory module swap, i.e. about 12 screws to work with.

Q: I tried to use ABC game catridge with the XYZ game file that I backed up earlier, the screen is blank. What's wrong?
A: For certain reasons such as cartridge hardware circuitry incompatibilities or game memory access issues, some game cartridges simply do not work with certain backup game files. Try a different, newer (or older) cartridge to see if it would resolve the problem. If not, then you may need a patch file to make it work. (see below) There are so many games now and we cannot possibly test all the combinations and scenarios. You might want to go to discussion forum such as www.dextrose.com or www.n64talk.com to ask people about your specific case.

Q: What are patches? How do I use them?
A: Patches (or so called cracks, trainers, or cheats) are 3rd party modifications used to enhance game playing, add functionalities, or allow your backup game files to play back correctly with N64. The basic concept of how patch is done is:

If the patch says it needs to be .V64 format and you have a .ROM game file, you need to use tools such as RTool to reverse the byte order. It's more than just renaming the file.

With 2nd option, you need to copy the IPS file (i.e. patch file) to the same ZIP diskette that the backup game file resides, and both must have the same file name. e.g. MYBACKUP.V64 and MYBACKUP.IPS. Then when you playback the game, Z64 will ask you if you want to patch the game. (If you use OSD and set Auto Load Patch option to Yes, you will not be prompted.) SRAM patches or cheat patches work exactly the same way. But if you have to apply multiple patches, then the 1st option - permanent patch is the only way.

Beginning with BIOS v.2.11, Z64PACTH.DAT file was introduced and it is now a preferred patching method. This external file needs to be copied to every ZIP disk that has a game you need to patch. A new APS (Advanced Patching System) patch file format was also introduced as part of architecture of Z64PATCH.DAT to support 32MB games such as Zelda 64©. Patches for older games are still stored in BIOS but we can see that Z64PATCH.DAT will grow larger and larger in size as more games are available in the near future.

Z64 will always try to incorporate relevant patches and make them available on a regular basis. But for those of you who are impatient :-), please browse Dextrose web site for new information. For those who do not have PC and ZIP drive and therefore cannot download patches, please order a blank ZIP disk from us and specify to include recent patches (and new BIOS, if applicable).

Q: What is the best, all-purpose, host game cartridge to use?
A:With the right patches, whether permanent or dynamic, most game cartridges work fine with all games. As a general recommendation, Mario 64© works great on all games we have tried so far including 32MB games such as Zelda 64©. Without patches, some games due to their special hardware architecture (double EEPROM, special SRAM, etc.) will have to use original cartridge or similar cartridges. (Please note that when you do this, your original saved data on that cartridge may be erased by the backup game file data.) We cannot possibly and will not test all cartridges so if you have questions on your specific case you should go ask users on the net or N64 discussion forum such as www.dextrose.com or www.n64talk.com.

Q: What BIOS do you supply with your Z64 units?
A: We always ship with the latest version and then you can easily update the BIOS in the future by downloading BIOS update file and "flash" Z64's BIOS. Note that you should always get the new BIOS from official Z64 dealers. Please check our web site main page http://www.softidea.com/Z64/ for ongoing BIOS update information.

Q: I just ordered my Z64, how soon will I receive it?
A: If you use VISA, MasterCard, or American Express card, we will ship in the same day if you order before 1 PM CDT, or we we will ship it out the next business day. The same applies to the time we received your Cashier Check or Money Order. UPS Ground will take 4 to 7 business days, the 2nd Day service will arrive 2 days later, and the Next Day service will make sure you get it tomorrow. If you are in Hawaii or Alaska, it may take one more day (and the shipping charge is slightly higher.) Foreign orders generally take longer primarily due to custom/duty tax issue.

Q: I just received my Z64, how do I use On-Screen menu (OSD) mode?
A: After you sit Z64 on top of N64 and plug in power cord, turn on Z64 first, wait for BIOS initialization to complete, then turn on N64 and you should see Z64 OSD displays on your TV. You then use N64 controller pad to select the game to load. Instruction on controller buttons function is at the bottom of the screen. Please also remember to set several default parameters from within toolbox option menu - Auto Load IPS, Auto Load Cheat, Auto Save, etc. Note that OSD only works with Z64 HW2.0 or later with BIOS v.2.0 or later.

Q: I have young children, would they be able to use the Z64?
A: Yes, we believe that 4 years old and up can easily operate the Z64 if they can read simple English (well, game titles, in fact.) There are only three buttons and one power switch on the entire Z64, and it also has clear and cool looking back-lit LED display so it is very easy to operate. However we suggest that you give proper training on the use of ZIP diskette if they will handle it.

Q: What file formats does Z64 support?
A: It reads .ROM and .V64 file extentions. Note that file extention has to be one of these two. If you see the text on dsiplay screen is reversed, then you may have a wrong file name extension.

Beginning with BIOS 2.10, there are some new file formats such as .GB, .NES, etc. are now supported for future emulation of older game consoles. Please note that this still requires emulators (i.e. a .ROM executable file to run) first to work with those backup image files. Additionally, .ZIP file is now also supported. Please see the question below.

Q: How long does it take to back up or load a game? When I play the game from the back up disk, does it slow down?
A: It only takes less than 30 seconds to back up or load a game. The play speed will be the same since N64 read the game from Z64 memory (after it is loaded in), not from diskette. (Technically speaking, it would be faster because RAM is faster than ROM on cartridge, right?)

Beginning with BIOS 2.10, .ZIP is supported so you can compress your .ROM file to .ZIP on your PC to save some ZIP disk space so you could squeeze one or two more games on each disk. But we would like to warn you that this is a big trade-off for your time because the compressed game file will now take several minutes to load - some larger games even took 10 minutes.

Q: How many backup games can I store in one ZIP disk?
A: Each disk castore about 800 Mbits (100 MBytes) data. Most games are about 64 to 128 Mbits, so it can store about 6 to 12 backup files. Some recent games are 256 Mbits so it will reduce the total games available on the disk. You can try to zip (compress) the game on your PC first to squeeze space but as mentioned earlier, game load time will increase significantly. Z64 will display the size of each cartridge (and game file), and will also show how much space is left on the diskette.

Q: Can I save the game records into Z64?
A: Yes, you can save the records into Z64's ZIP diskette (will show as .EEP or .RAM file) when you exit the game. Z64 works for both EEPROM or SRAM type data saves. SRAM is a piece of static memory hardware usually resides in the game cartridge. Z64 uses the .RAM file to emulate the hardware. This is the same concept as EEPROM but SRAM is much faster. (Since it becomes a file, one can modify or change game record/behavior by patching the file, right? See patch info above.) Most games have .EEP but only a small number of games use SRAM so do not expect a .RAM file for every game. We do recommend that you always have EEPROM and/or SRAM capable game cartridge around so in case there is no patches out for a new game then you could use that cartridge to play back that new game. Beginning with BIOS v.2.11, Z64 will now be able to save game data that is originally required by controller memory pak for certain newer games. This is automatic and is not a configurable option in OSD menu. Some patches will also make this work for certain games such as Zelda 64© patch enables full game record saving. We do not have a list of what games work without the need of memory pak. You would just need to try your games. Although this could essentially eliminate the need for memory pak, we still recommend that you keep some controller memory paks around to work with those incompatible games.

Beginning with BIOS v.2.10, SRAM saves are supported on most newer games.

Q: How do I delete the files stored in the ZIP diskette?
A: By pressing the Up and Down key both for 3 seconds, it will enter the delete function mode and you can choose the file to delete. You can now also use OSD menu to delete file on ZIP disk. File copy is now working, too, in OSD mode.

Q: Is 128 Mbits in the Z64 1.0 hardware large enough to backup every game? Can the Z64 1.0 be upgraded to 256 Mbits?
A: Current version of Z64 is already equipped with 256Mbits (32MB) but existing 128 Mbits Z64 (i.e. v.1.0) can support all the games that are available today which are under 128Mbits. Yes, it can be upgraded by swapping with 32MB RAM however there is no advantage in doing so because HW1.0 does not make use of full 32MB unless a BIOS is written specifically for HW1.0. Until then, 32MB game cannot work on Z64 HW1.0.

Q: How do I get memory upgrade in order to go 256 Mbits?
A: Z64 v.1.0 uses one PC standard 4x32 72-pin non-parity FPM SIMM module which gives you 128 Mbits (16 Mbytes). You can upgrade it by replacing it with 8x32 72-pin non-parity FPM SIMM memory. But at this moment BIOS does not support the extra memory yet. See previous answer.

Q: How do I upgrade the Z64 BIOS? Can I do the upgrade myself if I am not a technical person ?
A:When new Z64 BIOS is released, all our (Software Ideas) customers will be notified by e-mail. (Note that the registration card you sent to our USA Service Center may provide you with additional notice.) If you decide to update the BIOS yourself, simply download the BIOS file from our web site and copy the BIOS image file (file extension .IMG) to your ZIP diskette with your PC. (If you don't have ZIP drive installed in the PC, we can send the upgrade diskette to you with $15.00, shipping included.) Then just insert the update diskette to the Z64 ZIP drive and turn the Z64 power on, scroll down, select Z64 BIOS update and Z64 will prompt you to update BIOS. Z64 will do write preparation and then update the BIOS. This takes only about 30 seconds to 60 seconds but be sure not to interrupt this process under any condition.

Q: How long is the warranty? Where should I send it for repair?
A:The warranty is 90 days from the date of purchase and it covers parts and labor. When you receive the package, please make sure you register on-line on our web site or fill out the warranty card and return it back to our USA Service Center, otherwise the warranty may not be covered if you cannot provide proof of purchase. In the rare case that your Z64 becomes defective, please note the following procedures. All products must be returned with RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization) number issued by our USA Service Center. Please call 800-683-7335 or click on "Warranty" on our web site (or go to http://www.Z64.com/rmaform.html) for your RMA request. Please ship with pre-paid postage to: Z64 Service Center, Harrison Electronics, 382 N. Lemon #357, Walnut, CA 91789 USA, and be sure to put down the RMA number below the above address. If RMA# is not shown on outside box, it may be rejected by the Receiving Dept. Normally service will be done on the same day upon arrival and will ship back to you immediately.

Q: Can the Z64 power adapter support different voltage? Can it support American and European type video?
A: Z64 comes with a universal power adapter, supporting 110v to 220v automatically. Regarding video format, it supports NTSC (North American and most Asian countries) and PAL (most European countries).

Q: Does Z64 require link to any other devices such a PC to back up games?
A: No, it is not necessary to link to a PC. Z64 is a stand-alone device and you do not even need to hook it up to N64 to back up your games.

Q: Does Z64 have any output ports that I can link to my PC?
A: No, the Z64 does not have external port for PC connection. It is not necessary to link to a PC. See previous answer. There are 3rd party modification (see "PC Connection" on the left side bar on our main page) which utilizes Z64's internal IDE connector to dual-connect the IDE ZIP drive to PC but doing so and damaged the unit may void your warranty. (so make sure you are comfortable in doing this ...) If you are thinking to borrow the IDE ZIP drive inside Z64 temporarily and connect it to PC, you can ... but you might want to use a separate power supply for the ZIP drive and this entire setup will not look pretty, we can tell you that.

Q: Can I use the ZIP drive that comes with the Z64 for my PC?
A: Yes, you can. You could open up Z64 and unscrew the ZIP drive from bottom and connect it to your PC's IDE cable. (You also need a driver from IOMega for this to work.) Again, please be sure that you are comfortable in doing this and note the warranty issue. However, if you are going to perform a lot of patches and frequently update/try new BIOS yourself, we recommend that you buy a separate ZIP drive for your PC. It is really not a good pratice to disassemble any tightly integrated high tech devices such as Z64.

Q: How do I get into the Z64 self test mode?
A: Press and hold the Down key and turn on the Z64 power, it will automatically goes to the self test mode. Then press the Enter key, it will start the self-testing. It basically will test all functions of Z64 including memory and each function key.

Q: May I use others power source for my Z64 ?
A: No, you should not. Use only the original power adapter from Z64 package. It may damage Z64 if other power adapter is used.

Q: Can I use other kind of game cartridge on the Z64 ?
A: No, You can only play the Z64 with an original N64 game cartridge plugged-in. Z64 can only back up N64 game cartridges. DO NOT use any other cartridges such as SNES or Sega as this may damage your Z64.

Q: I heard that there are game images (ROM) available on the Internet. Can I purchase that or where can I get them?
A: We do not have such information. Remember, too, that it is illegal if you duplicate the game from your back up diskette(s). DO NOT DUPLICATE BACKUP DISKETTE FOR ANY REASONS, you will violate the copyright law. We recommend that you go to local game stores such as Funcoland or Microplay and buy used cartridges which are usually priced between $15 to $35.