With the likes of Shenmue taking up a massive 80 blocks on the Sega Dreamcast VMU's already tiny storage space, is there any way to make room for more vital saves? Well believe it or not there is actually a hidden 44 available blocks alongside the already present 200 blocks, which can easily be enabled and allocated to hold more save games.
The Sega Dreamcast's Visual Memory Unit comes with 128 kilobytes worth of storage space, however, 28 of those precious kilobytes are reserved for the system to use exclusively. This works out at 200 blocks available by default for use with save games, with each block using up a mere 0.5kb. Thankfully using a homebrew tool known as Dream Explorer, we can adjust the way our VMU works and tap into the system reserved memory.
Sounding slightly risky? Well understandably no hardware/software modification comes without risks. According to Wikipedia and those who have already used this simple, yet effective, hack have noticed one slight downside:
The VMU has 128KB of flash memory, however by default 28KB is reserved for system use. In recent years homebrew programs like Dream Explorer (aka VMU Tool) have allowed users to unlock an extra 44 blocks (22KB) of this reserved space increasing the overall VMU capacity to 244 blocks. However, a handful of games might be unable to detect the memory card if this is done, although none have been reported apart from DreamKey/DreamPassport and Metropolis Street Racer.
So should Metropolis Street Racer not rock your boat and your Sega Dreamcast isn't your main web browser, you're in luck. (Those wanting to enjoy the Kudos packed driver that is Metropolis Street Racer can use a different VMU instead)
We would recommend using either a spare memory unit or at least one without irreplaceable save games present on it (or at least back up any save games before tinkering) should you want to tap into the additional memory on your memory card. While we take confidence in what Dream Explorer can do, we take no liability for the loss of save games or corrupted VMUs.
Parts / Hardware Required
- Sega Dreamcast Console
- Sega Dreamcast VMU
- 1x Blank CD-R
- Dream Explorer (Download)
How to expand your Sega Dreamcast's VMU Save Memory by 44 blocks
1. Burn Dream Explorer to a blank CD
The download page for Dream Explorer features not only the disc image you need to download, but also the software required to burn your own CDs. Should the process of burning disc images be new to you though, please spend some time researching how to do this.
Once you've read the page thoroughly, download the Selfbooting Dream Explorer disc image and proceed to burn the disc to your blank CD.
2. Load your new Dream Explorer CD on your Sega Dreamcast
Should the process of burning Dream Explorer to a blank CD be successful, you should be able to load up the software on your Sega Dreamcast without any problems. If the disc fails to read, please take another look at the first step and check you are doing everything correctly.
3. Enable your VMU's additional 44 storage blocks
Once the software has loaded, you will need to follow these easy steps to extend the available memory in your Visual Memory Unit:
- The first screen will ask what theme you want to use with Dream Explorer. Feel free to choose anything at all here.
- When you have the main menu in front of you, select Open VMU.
- Here you will see up to eight VMUs depending on how many control pads and VMUs you have plugged in. Select the one that you wish to grant the additional storage space to to.
- In the next menu, navigate down to the Extra Blocks option and select it.
- Here you can either decide if the additional storage space is 'On' or 'Off'. To enable it, select 'On'.
And that is all you need to do to get more out of your Sega Dreamcast's VMU. If only there was something to grand the VMU a longer battery life for those fantastic mini games you can enjoy on the tiny screen. Speaking of mini games though...
Taking it further...
The Dream Explorer disc offers so much more than being just an enhanced storage enabler. Hidden within this feature packed disc is the ability to root around the files on Dreamcast game discs, backup and restore your memory cards using a PC connection, download existing save games onto the VMU and even download various VMU games straight onto the unit. Have a good rummage through the various options on Dream Explorer and you'll find yourself getting more out of Sega's fabled 128-bit console than ever before.
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