Setting up Windows version (0.9.8)
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PCSX2 is a complex system and it's not so user-friendly in some of its parts. You must have some basic computer knowledge to be able to set it up correctly. If you are an advanced user please skip the following paragraph. As of now there are two versions of the emulator: the old GUI version and the new GUI version. Each version is ultimately the same PCSX2 but in a different envelope. The programs with the new GUI are newer and might be more compatible. Before you continue further you must determine your version of PCSX2. The easiest way to do it is to run PCSX2 and go to the config-configure or config-general settings menu. If you will see some pretty icons like this or in the upper panel you're definitely using the new GUI version. In the old GUI on the other hand there won't be either icons or upper panel (only the plugin selection).
It's also of some interest to know the version of your emulator. Some of your games may work with some versions and may be totally broken with the others. Although the newer the version you'll get the less problems it should contain you must note that some picky games may work a lot better with some older versions. This is because the emulator still is far from being complete and each change in it can correct emulation for some games yet breaking the others. You'll need to use PCSX2 forums, search engine or this wiki (if it contains your game) to find the best version needed if your game refuses to run. See some additional information about versioning here.
Note that at the time of writing of this article the new GUI version still lacks some features from the old GUI so it's recommended that you wait until the new GUI version will be aged enough for you to use.
Basic PCSX2 knowledge
You may download PCSX2 for free from many site on the Internet. The archive may contain an installer or just some zipped files. It's pretty much recommended that you start with the installer version (try downloading the newest official from here). This will help you to avoid a lot of troubles with the archivers. However in the case you've downloaded zipped (rared, etc.) version of PCSX2 you'll need to manually unzip the files from the archive (try using this archiver) and place them in any folder of your choice (adding a link to your desktop from the main executable pcsx2.exe will also help you to run your emulator quicker).
Be warned not to erase you emulator folder when you're trying to install the newer version. This folder contains all your ini files (your settings), your quick saves and your memcards. If you will accidentally erase the whole folder you may need to play some of your games anew! Thus to update the emulator with the new version of executable it's better just to download the archive and extract the executable (and maybe plugins) into your main program folder (some executables may be named like pcsx2-r1736.exe so you'll need to rename them into pcsx2.exe or update your desktop link accordingly).
PCSX2 is a plugin oriented program. Your pcsx2.exe is the main processor that can emulate the real PS2 on the PC but it cannot work alone. It needs graphics plugin to show the picture and the sound plugin to play some music or ingame sounds it also needs PAD plugin so you'll be able to play with your keyboard, mouse or gamepad. Moreover there may be more than one plugin of one type so you may choose which is better suited for your game. All plugins are stored (by default) in plugins folder of your main PCSX2 folder. Some plugins like GSDX for example can at times be updated quite often so sometimes you may desire to renew only this plugin. In order to do it you'll need to download the updated version and extract it by using archiver into your plugins folder. The changing of some settings (choosing your new plugin) may also be required after this (see the section about how to set up plugins).
PCSX2 will also require the BIOS from your real PS2 in order for you to play. The PS2 BIOS is a binary file can be obtained from your console. It contains some special routines used by games (like memcard handling support) which are not emulated by PCSX2 internally. The dumping of BIOS is one the hardest stages of your PCSX2 experience. You may get some instructions here and start dumping by downloading the tool from this place or use the official guide here. After your BIOS file is successfully dumped from your PS2 you can copy it into bios folder (by default) of your PCSX2.
Setting up the new GUI version
Setting up the old GUI version
You will need to configure many aspects of PCSX2 in order to make it work better. Some settings may be so confusing that the process of configuring them can be also described as tuning. Overall if you have a good machine you may want to ignore many shady speedup settings and also you don't want to change some advanced settings from their default value unless it's necessary for your game. So even if you're not a power user you'll manage quite good with some accuracy applied.
These are the steps to configure the system:
- Set up all plugins and choose BIOS in configure dialog.
- Choose your DVD drive letter or dumped ISO image.
- Configure CPU settings in CPU dialog. This is a must for a first start.
- Configure speed hacks in Speed Hacks dialog.
- Check some of the boxes in Gamefixes dialog if your game is required it.
- (Optionally) make a quick link to instantly starting your game on your desktop.
- Start playing your game.
When starting PCSX2 for the first time you may want to choose your language. You can do it in the language menu, but be careful not to choose the wrong one because this dialog along with languages names will also be translated making it difficult to choose the right one back (Enlish is on the top of the list, though). You may notice also that not everything may have been translated. That is because you're using beta version (not the official one like 0.9.6.) and some features added since the official release have been added or changed.
You may notice the second window opened with the main one. It's black on shows some text. This is the console window stores the log from the main program. It's especially useful to the developers as they can see more information in it when debugging. It can turn it off or back on (do not try closing it directly). Use menu misc and then enable console to turn it off.
Some notes about each of the submenus:
- File -- This menu contains different run commands.
- Run CD/DVD -- Here you can start your already configured game from DVD or ISO.
- Run ISO image -- Quick start of an ISO image. If you have a collection of then on a drive this will come in handy.
- Run BIOS (No Disc) -- Starts PS2 BIOS where you can configure different aspects of your emulated PS2 (for instance date/time or language so some games will automatically pick your preferred language).
- Run ELF file... -- This option is to run some extracted from PS2 DVD executables or special PS2 demos. It is of a little use for games.
- States -- This is also a bit obsolete dialog works only ingame and can help you load/save your game to quick save slots. It's not recommended to use it ingame you better stick to the keys F1, F2 and F3 (see section on ingame keys).
- Run -- This menu contains the rest of the run commands.
- Execute -- Runs an already configured DVD/ISO with your game through BIOS (i.e. BIOS starts first initializes and then starts your game). It's slower than just to run the game from Run CD/DVD dialog but in some emulator versions some games will ONLY start using this method (for example ICO). This dialog is also used to CONTINUE to run your game after your left it by pressing ESC. Either you wanted to configure the PAD or work with cheats you may continue from the very point you've interrupted the emulator but using this option.
- Reset -- This is used to reset emulator to a default state. But it will be more stable to close the main window and relaunch it than to use this to choose another game to play.
- Config -- This is the main configuration menu. You can use it anytime, but be advice not to change some options when you're playing because it may not have any effect and your game can go unstable because of stopping/continuing in some emulator versions.
- Configure is used to configure all plugins and BIOS. See section Plugins configuration
- Graphics, Controllers, Sound, Cdvdrom, Dev9, USB, FireWire -- These are the separate items for configuring plugins that can be configured en masse in configure submenu. There is no real benefit of using this dialog instead of the common one (besides some less mouse clicks).
- Memcards -- you can configure the place for your two memcards here. This will also help to swap them quickly. There are two important options:
- Enable NTFS Compression: the folder where your cards are stored will be auto-compressed by Windows. That will save some space and maybe improve speed when reading/writing. It is on by default.
- Eject Mcds when loading SaveStates -- As you can save you state (quicksave) at any moment ingame and later can load it with another (or changed) memcards this options tells the game (whenever you quickload save slot) that the user has pulled out both memcards and then pulled them back in. So the game will know that the cards contents have been changed thus avoiding possible problems. It's recommended that you leave this option ON.
- CPU -- This option will open the dialog that helps you configure main aspects of PCSX2 emulations, please see CPU config section.
- Patches -- Allows you to browse your "installed" patches. See the section Using patches.
- Gamefixes -- Some game fixes for especially picky games. See the section Gamefixes dialog.
- Speed Hacks -- This dialog is to configure the speed hacks. See the section Speedhacks dialog.
- Advanced -- This dialog is to configure some advanced and obscured things. See the section Advanced dialog.
- Language -- You can choose your language form here. It will not affect PS2 BIOS language or games language.
- Misc -- This menu contains some patch related menus (see Using patches) and some additional switches. They are better left by default unless as most of them are of not interest to the ordinary user.
- Help -- Show big about dialog with credits and can be used to access the PCSX2 site.
<ISO against real DVD>