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File Format Speculation

XEX is the executable file format used by the Xbox 360 operating system. It seems to be a crypto and packing container for PPC PE executable files, comparable to UPX or TEEE Burneye. It's likely the 360 knows how to grab the section it needs into memory and decrypt/decompress on demand, instead of traditional all at once extraction.


The executable code seems to be crypted, though, there exists some uncrypted XEX files in the wild.

The following program dumps what is supposed to be a hash table. Actually it has been reported to work with the first official "Backward Compatibility" .XEX File from Microsoft. It takes the XEX file as argument.

// default.xex table dumper // only works with the default.xex from the xbox360 emulator update package. // - th0mas, [at] #include <stdio.h> #include <string.h> #define TABLE_START 0x288 struct table { unsigned int unknown[6]; }; unsigned int ByteSwap (unsigned int nInt) { union u {unsigned int vi; unsigned char c[sizeof(unsigned int)];}; union v {unsigned int ni; unsigned char d[sizeof(unsigned int)];}; union u un; union v vn; = nInt; vn.d[0]=un.c[3]; vn.d[1]=un.c[2]; vn.d[2]=un.c[1]; vn.d[3]=un.c[0]; return (; } void printTable(struct table *t) { int i; for (i = 0; i < 6; i  ) { int j = ByteSwap(t->unknown[i]); printf("0x%08x ", j); } printf("\n"); } int main(int argc, char **argv) { FILE *fp = fopen(argv[1], "rb"); struct table tmp; int numEntries = 0; int i; fseek(fp, TABLE_START, SEEK_SET); fread(&numEntries, sizeof(unsigned int), 1, fp); numEntries = ByteSwap(numEntries); for (i = 0; i < numEntries; i  ) { fread(&tmp, sizeof(struct table), 1, fp); printTable(&tmp); } }

Structure of the XEX File

A XEX file is composed of the following:

  • A 24 bytes XEX Header
  • Variable-length program/section headers
  • Program/Section content

XEX Header

Total length: 24 bytes.

Byte ordering: Big Endian.

Offset Length Type Information
0x0 0x4 ascii string "XEX2" magic
0x4 0x4 module flags (see below) Flags
0x8 0x4 unsigned int PE data offset
0xC 0x4 unsigned int Reserved
0x10 0x4 unsigned int Security Info Offset
0x14 0x4 unsigned int Optional Header Count

The Flags field is a bitfield, as shown below:

bit 0 - Title Module bit 1 - Exports To Title bit 2 - System Debugger bit 3 - DLL Module bit 4 - Module Patch bit 5 - Patch Full bit 6 - Patch Delta bit 7 - User Mode

Optional Headers

Following the XEX header is a list of the optional headers within the file. Use the Optional Header Count field to determine how many there are.

Each Optional Header is composed of the following:

Offset Length Type Information
0x0 0x4 unsigned int Header ID (see below)
0x4 0x8 unsigned int Header Data / Offset to data (see below)

To handle the data you would first check to see what its size is, to do this you need to AND the Header ID by 0xFF.

If ID & 0xFF == 0x01 then the Header Data field is used to store the headers data, otherwise it's used to store the data's offset. if ID & 0xFF == 0xFF then the Header's data will contain its size if ID & 0xFF == (Anything else) the value of this is the size of the entry in number of DWORDS (times by 4 to get real size)

Header IDs

Value Description
0x2FF Resource Info
0x3FF Base File Format
0x405 Base Reference
0x5FF Delta Patch Descriptor
0x80FF Bounding Path
0x8105 Device ID
0x10001 Original Base Address
0x10100 Entry Point
0x10201 Image Base Address
0x103FF Import Libraries
0x18002 Checksum Timestamp
0x18102 Enabled For Callcap
0x18200 Enabled For Fastcap
0x183FF Original PE Name
0x200FF Static Libraries
0x20104 TLS Info
0x20200 Default Stack Size
0x20301 Default Filesystem Cache Size
0x20401 Default Heap Size
0x28002 Page Heap Size and Flags
0x30000 System Flags
0x40006 Execution ID
0x401FF Service ID List
0x40201 Title Workspace Size
0x40310 Game Ratings
0x40404 LAN Key
0x405FF Xbox 360 Logo
0x406FF Multidisc Media IDs
0x407FF Alternate Title IDs
0x40801 Additional Title Memory
0xE10402 Exports by Name

Program / Section content

The program holds a PE file which is crypted/packed, usually starting at offset 0x2000 (described in the XEX header). It's possible to have this PE uncrypted/unpacked on debug XEX files. Section contents are encrypted with CBC AES, with the key changing for each file. It's probably derived from the RSA(?) block at the beginning and a "secret" public key in the box. Contents are compressed with microsoft's proprietary LDIC compression (hello, xbox1!).


Strings found in some XEX Files

These appear to be important strings found in the update file

  • Directories?

    • XAdu
    • $UPDATES
    • MEDIA
  • \Device\CdRom0\default.xex

  • installupdate.exe

  • The xboxkrnl is updated using the updates.

  • xam.xex

  • xboxkrnl.exe

  • Library includes:

    • XAUD
    • LIBCMT
    • D3D9
    • XUIRUN

Availability of XEX files

There are currently at least four XEX files freely available on the net:


  • xextools -- A library and tools for manipulating xex files (xexread replacement).
  • xexdump -- Dumps information about xex files (perl)
  • xexdump -- Dumps information about xex files (windows)

Executable Format

XEX files are the default executable format.

File-offset Description
0       "XEX2"
0x4     (module flags?)
0x10        File header offset
0x14        Definition count (see below)
0x18        Definition[]

Definition  Description
0x2FF       Module Sections
0x5FF       Delta patch descriptor
0x80FF      Binding path(s)
0x10001     Load Address
0x10100     Entry Point
0x10201     Base Address
0x103FF     Import Libraries
0x18002     Checksum[4], Filetime[4]
0x18102     (something debug related)
0x183FF     PE Name

0x200FF     Static Libraries
        UINT32 Total size
        entries[total size / 0x10]
0x20104     TLS
        UINT32 Number of Slots
        UINT32 Raw Data Address
        UINT32 Data Size
        UINT32 Raw Data Size
0x20200     Get Stack Size
0x20301     Cache Element Count
0x40006     MediaID[4], Version[4], Baseversion[4], TitleID[4]
0x40310     Game Ratings
        UINT8 ESRB
        UINT8 PEGI
        UINT8 PEGI-FI
        UINT8 PEGI-PT
        UINT8 CERO
        UINT8 USK
        UINT8 OFLCAU
        UINT8 OFLCNZ
        UINT8 KMRB
        UINT8 BRASIL
        UINT8 FPB

0x40404     Lan Key (16 Bytes)
0x406FF     Multidisc, accepted Media IDs

FileHeaderOffset    Description
0           HeaderSize[4]
0x4         Image Size[4]
0x8         RSA Signature
0x10C           (resulting Image size?)[4]
0x110           LoadAddress
0x140           MediaID[16]
0x150           (AES key seed?)[16]
0x164           (Input to SHA)[0x14]
0x178           Region[4]
0x17C           SHA Hash[0x14]
0x180           ImageDataCount[4]
0x184...0x184+(IDC*24)  ImageData0[8], ImageData1[8], ImageData2[8]

System Software