Guide: How to back up and update your RG350 firmware

Last updated 16SEP2020 (see Changelog)

Your RG350 device ships with a pre-installed operating system (“firmware”), but because the device supports open-source software, this firmware is continuously updated and tweaked by the community. This guide will explain all of the different firmware versions available, both official and unofficial, and how to upgrade your firmware to get the latest features. Additionally, we’ll go over how to make a backup of your current firmware so that you can flash it onto any card.

Table of Contents:

First things first
Why back up your firmware?
Official RG350 firmware versions
How to access the internal microSD card on the original RG350
How to back up your current firmware
How to restore your firmware from a backup
How to upgrade your official firmware (or start all over from scratch)
Patching in HDMI support
Unofficial RG350 firmware

Changelog

First things first

If you are going to make any adjustments to your firmware, or tinker with your device in general, you should make a backup. The firmware is stored on a microSD card that comes with your device; in order to access the card on an RG350, you must physically open the device (or if you have an RG350M or RG350P, the firmware microSD card is accessible at the bottom of the device). This firmware card, also referred to as the “TF1” or “internal” SD card, is what we’ll be working with today. The other card slot (“TF2” or “external” card) is for your game files — you can read more about loading games via this guide.

Why back up your firmware?

I strongly recommend you backup and remove your firmware card, and store it somewhere safe, and create a new firmware card to tinker with. That way, if something goes wrong, you can simply pop the old card back in and have a working system again. And in all honesty, the microSD cards that ship with the RG350 are notoriously cheap, and have a high fail rate. Replacing them with an SD card from a reputable brand like SanDisk or Samsung will also give you some peace of mind.

MicroSD cards are relatively cheap, and a 16GB card is more than enough space to store the RG350 firmware and software files. You’ll want a larger card, such as a 128GB card (but up to a massive 512GB), to store the actual games in the second microSD card slot. One thing to note is that the arcade emulator XMAME by default requires you to put your game files on the internal card (although there is a workaround for this); if you plan on storing a lot of arcade games to use with XMAME, you may want an internal card that’s bigger than 16GB.

You can check your current firmware based on its “compiled by” date. This firmware was compiled on October 27th, 2019, which means it is firmware 1.5.1.

Official RG350 firmware versions

Most RG350s ship with firmware version 1.5 or 1.5.1, but if you have an older device it may have version 1.4 installed. The easiest way to check your firmware version is to go to Settings > System Info, and check the “compiled on” date on the page that is displayed.

  • Version 1.4 was compiled on October 10th, 2019
  • Version 1.5 was compiled on October 18th, 2019
  • Version 1.5.1 was compiled on October 27th, 2019
  • Version 1.5.1 (RG350M) was compiled on March 8th, 2020
  • The HDMI 1.1 beta patch was compiled on May 21st, 2020

If you have firmware version 1.4 or 1.5, upgrading to 1.5.1 has some benefits. First, version 1.5.1 will allow you to patch in HDMI support (more on that here). If you are on version 1.4, upgrading to 1.5.1 will also improve issues with controlling the analog sticks, and update some of the native apps (for the full 1.5 changelog, see here).

Note that there is a more updated version floating around (Version 1.7), but this unsupported and experimental release has been revoked due to issues that it created with the USB ports and game slowdown. Version 1.7 was compiled on November 17th, 2019, and is not recommended at this time. There is also an unofficial 1.5.2 (December 10, 2019) version, but it is in testing phase and not considered stable. This page will be updated once a new official firmware is released, but for now, 1.5.1 is the most current stable release.

Here you can see the firmware microSD card slot on an original RG350 (top left). Take care not to dislodge the battery cable or shoulder buttons when removing the back of the device. If you have an RG350M or RG350P, the firmware card slot is now at the bottom of the device – no need to remove the backing.

How to access the internal microSD card on the original RG350

If you own the original RG350, you probably noticed that there is only one SD card slot on the device; that is your “external” SD card. There’s another one inside the device itself. To access the internal microSD card, you will remove the four screws on the back of the device, then gently pry open the backing (take care with the battery cable and shoulder buttons – see the picture above). There on the main board you will see the microSD card, covered with a QC sticker (note that removing the sticker will void the warranty).

How to back up and your current RG350 firmware

There are just two steps to backing up your current firmware: remove the card, and back it up. Let’s go through those steps.

  1. Remove the microSD card. On a RG350, you will remove the card from inside the device (see the picture and step above). For the RG350M or RG350P, the firmware microSD card is the on the bottom of the device, on the left, also covered with a QC sticker–no need to remove the backing.
  2. Back up your firmware image. Download and install Win32 Disk Imager (PC) or ApplePi-Baker v2 (Mac), both are free to use. Follow these instructions to create a backup (.img) file of your microSD card.
    • For Win32 Disk Imager (PC), create a folder on your PC where you want to store the .img file. In Win32, click the folder icon and select the location you want the .img file stored. Insert your microSD card and select it as your “Device”, then click the folder icon under “Image File” and navigate to where you want to save the .img file, and write out the file name for your .img (like “RG350stockfirmwarebackup,img”). Be sure to write out the “.img” file extension, the app will not do it for you. Finally, click the “Read” button to create the .img file (expect it to take about 45 minutes).
    • For ApplePi-Baker v2 (Mac), select your microSD card using the “Select Disk(s)” window. Near the bottom right of the screen, there is a series of “Options” icons. Hover over the second one and you’ll see “Enable Linux partition resize”. This will shrink your backup to its actual size, not just the size of the SD card – very handy. Select this option, then click the “Disk to File” button, and create a name for your backup file and choose where you want it to save.

How to restore your firmware from a backup

Once you’ve made a backup of your internal microSD card, you have two options: store your original microSD card somewhere safe and create a new firmware card, or use your current firmware card with the understanding that you can re-write it with your backup .img file in the future. Given the cheap price of 16GB microSD cards, I recommend storing your old card somewhere and creating a new firmware card from your backup .img file. This is what we’ll do right now.

  1. Create a new firmware microSD card. Insert a new microSD card into your computer.
    • For Win32 Disk Imager (PC), select your backup .img file by clicking the folder icon under “Image File”, and navigating to wherever your stored it during the previous section. Click the “Write” button, and wait for it to write the image to your new microSD card.
    • For ApplePi-Baker v2 (Mac), select your new microSD card in the “Select Disk(s)” window. Near the bottom-right of the window there are some buttons for “Options”, be sure to select the second option, which says “Expand Linux partition”. Click the “Restore” button and navigate to your backup .img file. The file will then write to your new microSD card, and then expand the partition, allowing you to skip the next step.
  2. Resize the firmware card EXT4 partition. When writing a Linux image onto a FAT32 disc, it will only make a partition that’s exactly the size needed for your firmware. But you’re going to want to expand that partition so you can take advantage of whatever free space is still left on that card. Luckily, if you’re on a Mac, the ApplePi-Baker v2 software already did that when you wrote the .img file onto your new card during Step #1 above, so you can skip to the next step. For Windows/PC users, you will want to download and install DiskGenius.
    • For DiskGenius (PC), open the app and find your SD card using the menu sidebar on the left (it will typically be named “GenericSTORAGE DEVICE”). You should see two partitions within that SD card: one called “Removable Disk”, and another called “Primary (1)”. Right-click on the “Primary (1)” partition, and select “Resize Partition”. You’ll now see a slider that will allow you to drag the Primary(1) box to increase or decrease its partition size (and decrease the “Keep Unallocated” box). Drag it all the way to the right (like in the picture above) so that it is taking up all the unallocated space. Click the “Start” icon and you’re all set.
    • Note that for Windows users, I only recommend resizing the EXT4 partition for cards that you have just written with a new .img file. If you try and do this later down the line — for example, you restored a backup of your firmware onto a card, and then a week later you realized you didn’t expand the EXT4 partition — you will likely brick the card and will have to start over from scratch. Also, if you write a new .img onto a card and it doesn’t seem to be booting on your RG350, try to reflash the card and SKIP this step and see if the card still boots — sometimes, by resizing the firmware card, it can cause issues.
    • For Mac users, there have been times where I get errors with ApplePi-Baker and its partition resize feature. If this happens to you, uncheck the “Expand Linux Partition” option and flash as you normally would. You can then use Paragon Hard Disk Manager to resize the partition manually. This app costs $40 but has a free 10-day trial, so get all of your partition extensions done in those first ten days; otherwise, you’ll spend half the price of an RG350 just extending a partition!
  3. Insert the new microSD card to your RG350. Insert your new card and put the device back together if you had to remove the backing (i.e. you own an RG350 and not the RG350M or RG350P). Be sure to align your shoulder buttons before you snap the device shut, they dislodge easily.
ApplePi-Baker v2, a free Mac utility for backing up and burning .img files to SD cards.

How to upgrade your RG350 official firmware (or start all over from scratch)

To upgrade your device firmware to the most updated stable release, follow these instructions. These are also the steps if you just want to start all over from scratch with a brand new firmware. Note that these firmware files do not contain emulators, so you’ll want to grab those from my various guides (linked below).

  1. Download and unzip the stable firmware update from the following official links below. Be sure to put the .img file somewhere easy to access, like your Desktop or Downloads folder:
    • RG350 and RG350P (download the “stable” release, not the “alternative”)
    • RG350M (because the RG350M has a larger screen resolution, it uses a different firmware).
  2. Download and install Win32 Disk Imager (PC) or ApplePi-Baker v2 (Mac), if you haven’t already. Both are free to use. This software is necessary to write the new firmware to your card.
  3. Create a new firmware microSD card. Insert your new microSD card into your computer.
    • For Win32 Disk Imager (PC), select your upgrade .img file by clicking the folder icon under “Image File”, and navigating to wherever your stored it during Step #1. Click the “Write” button, and wait for it to write the image to your new microSD card.
    • For ApplePi-Baker v2 (Mac), select your new microSD card in the “Select Disk(s)” window. Near the bottom-right of the window there are some buttons for “Options”, be sure to select the second option, which says “Expand Linux partition”. Click the “Restore” button and navigate to your upgrade .img file. The file will then write to your new microSD card, and then expand the partition, allowing you to skip the next step.
  4. Resize the firmware card EXT4 partition. When writing a Linux image onto a FAT32 disc, it will only make a partition that’s exactly the size needed for your firmware. But you’re going to want to expand that partition so you can take advantage of whatever free space is still left on that card. Luckily, if you’re on a Mac, the ApplePi-Baker v2 software already did that when you wrote the .img file onto your new card during Step #1 above, so you can skip to the next step. For Windows/PC users, you will want to download and install DiskGenius.
    • For DiskGenius (PC), open the app and find your SD card using the menu sidebar on the left (it will typically be named “GenericSTORAGE DEVICE”). You should see two partitions within that SD card: one called “Removable Disk”, and another called “Primary (1)”. Right-click on the “Primary (1)” partition, and select “Resize Partition”. You’ll now see a slider that will allow you to drag the Primary(1) box to increase or decrease its partition size (and decrease the “Keep Unallocated” box). Drag it all the way to the right (like in the picture above) so that it is taking up all the unallocated space. Click the “Start” icon and you’re all set.
    • Note that for Windows users, I only recommend resizing the EXT4 partition for cards that you have just written with a new .img file. If you try and do this later down the line — for example, you restored a backup of your firmware onto a card, and then a week later you realized you didn’t expand the EXT4 partition — you will likely brick the card and will have to start over from scratch. Also, if you write a new .img onto a card and it doesn’t seem to be booting on your RG350, try to reflash the card and SKIP this step and see if the card still boots — sometimes, by resizing the firmware card, it can cause issues.
    • For Mac users, there have been times where I get errors with ApplePi-Baker and its partition resize feature. If this happens to you, uncheck the “Expand Linux Partition” option and flash as you normally would. You can then use Paragon Hard Disk Manager to resize the partition manually. This app costs $40 but has a free 10-day trial, so get all of your partition extensions done in those first ten days; otherwise, you’ll spend half the price of an RG350 just extending a partition!
  5. Insert the new microSD card to your RG350. Insert your new card and put the device back together if you had to remove the backing (i.e. you own an RG350 and not the RG350M or RG350P). Be sure to align your shoulder buttons before you snap the device shut, they dislodge easily. You should be good to go now. Like I mentioned before, you’ll have to re-install the emulators, which you can find in my installation guides:

My comprehensive RG350 install guides:

Patching in HDMI support

HDMI support is a recent development, and does not require a firmware update beyond firmware version 1.5.1. Instead, you must add an updater OPK to your external/data microSD card, and run the program through the RG350 itself. This process is fairly involved, so I’ve made a separate guide for HDMI support.

RG350 “Rogue” firmware startup screen

Unofficial RG350 firmware

Starting last year, a “fork” of the RG350 firmware was developed, and was aptly named “Rogue” firmware. This Rogue software has unique features, such as USB Wi-Fi dongle support, its own app store, and a built-in updater (which requires Wi-Fi). However, if you read through any of the various RG350-related forums, you’ll find that this firmware is notoriously unstable and can often “brick” your device (i.e. render the firmware unusable).

Because the Rogue firmware is generally unstable, I recommend you stick with the official version. However, if you have a backup SD card of your stable firmware, and are willing to take a few risks, you might find the Rogue firmware of value. You can find installation instructions here, and links to the firmware are below:


Changelog

In this section I’ll provide a quick summary of any updates I make to this guide.

16SEP2020
– Added links to installation guides

13SEP2020
– Added links to Paragon Hard Drive Manager for Mac

08SEP2020
– Reorganized guide into backup, restore, and upgrade steps.

07SEP2020
– Added link to XMAME external card workaround

Hopefully this guide will help you back up and update your RG350 firmware. If you have any comments or suggestions, please leave them below!

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