This guide is for retail (consumer purchased; not from the Nintendo Developer Program) consoles only!
If you have a developer (“PANDA” or “SNAKE”) console, check out devGuide
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Read all of the introductory pages before proceeding.
What is Homebrew?
Homebrew usually refers to software that is not authorized by Nintendo. It allows you to run homebrew games, tools like save editing and backup, and emulators for various older systems.
In most cases, running homebrew on your device is 100% free using just the Nintendo 3DS Sound app (if you are on >=11.4.0, you will be unable to proceed past homebrew). There are also various other exploits in commercial games and the browser to get homebrew running.
What is Custom Firmware?
Custom Firmware (“CFW”) enables you to use more advanced hacks that userland homebrew can’t easily do. For instance, signature patches let you install unsigned titles that appear right on your HOME Menu.
CFW can be easily set up on any console that is on 11.3.0 or lower.
What does this guide install?
This guide has the end goal of taking a completely unmodified 3DS from stock firmware to arm9loaderhax powered Custom Firmware. On some versions, it utilizes homebrew as a stepping off point, but Custom Firmware is still the goal.
Arm9loaderhax is the newest and best method of launching Custom Firmware that gives us nearly full control of the system only milliseconds into boot, which is similar to the effect of BootMii for the Wii.
The benefits of arm9loaderhax over other Custom Firmware launch methods are numerous, and as such it is recommended to use this guide over any other that relies on outdated software (such as menuhax or rxTools).
What can I do with Custom Firmware?
- Play all game cards and eShop games, regardless of region
- Customize your HOME Menu with user-created themes and badges
- Use “ROM hacks” for games that you own
- Take gameplay and application screenshots
- Backup, edit, and restore saves for many games
- Play games for older systems with various emulators, using RetroArch or other standalone emulators. (Works best with a New Nintendo 3DS)
- Install homebrew titles to your system, and have them appear on your HOME Menu
- Dump your game cards to a format you can install, and play them without needing the card
- New 3DS only: stream live gameplay to your PC wirelessly with NTR CFW
- Run many old Nintendo DS flash carts that were blocked long ago or never worked on Nintendo 3DS
- Safely update to the latest system version without fear of losing access to homebrew
What do I need to know before starting?
- Before beginning the guide, you must know the risks of 3DS hacking: EVERY time you modify your system, there is always the potential for an UNRECOVERABLE brick. They’re rare, but still a possibility so make sure you follow ALL directions EXACTLY.
- If you have already hacked your 3DS before to get an EmuNAND setup, and would like to move the contents of your previous EmuNAND to your new SysNAND CFW, you should follow all instructions and restore your existing EmuNAND when prompted once you reach Installing arm9loaderhax.
- This guide will work on New 3DS, Old 3DS, and 2DS in all regions on firmware 11.3.0 or below (except CHN / TWN).
- If everything goes according to plan, you will lose no data and end up with everything that you started with (games, NNID, saves, etc will be preserved).
- Keep your device plugged in and charged throughout the entire process to avoid data loss or damage from an unexpected power-off!
- Your SD card should be MBR, not GPT (the SD card that comes with your device will be MBR by default).
- If you need to format a brand new SD card, you can use
guiformatand set to an Allocation Unit Size of 32K.
- The 2DS is essentially identical to the Old 3DS in terms of software, and that any steps which say “Old 3DS” also apply to 2DS.