Last updated 24JAN2021 (see Changelog for details)
The stock operating system found on the RG351P, which is a modified version of EmuELEC, is a little different from those found on other devices. For example, the RG350 devices have two SD cards — one that holds the operating system, and another for game files. The Retroid Pocket 2 has internal storage for the operating system, and one SD card for all of your game files.
The RG351P has just one single SD card, and it contains both the operating system AND your game files. This is advantageous if you don’t want to have multiple SD cards to deal with, but it also has one big disadvantage: if you mess up that SD card, you lose BOTH your operating system and your game files.
So this guide will show you how to back up the modified EmuELEC on your current stock SD card, and how to also install a fresh version of the software onto a new card.
Table of contents Before we get started Save your BIOS folder Back up your current SD card Restore your backup on a new SD card Flash clean stock software onto an SD card 3.7 firmware update 351ELEC ArkOS Notes on the EmuELEC "Storage" partition Changelog
Before we get started
The file system on your RG351P SD card is a little weird. Your PC or Mac operating system will recognize two “drives” when you plug that card into your computer. That’s because the SD card actually has multiple partitions — one that contains the operating system (called “EMUELEC”), one that contains your system storage (“Storage”) and and another that contains your games folders (called “Games”). The “Storage” partition won’t be readable by your PC or Mac, so you may not see it at all (and if you do, it will probably be write-protected). But you can access this partition in other ways (like via WiFi FTP), which I’ll cover in a later guide. Instead of getting mired down in these details, it’s best just to recognize that when you plug your RG351P SD card into your PC or Mac, you will likely see multiple “drives” appear, and that’s perfectly normal.
Also, you’re going to be using an SD card reader to plug the firmware card into your PC or Mac. Many retro devices come with free USB 2.0 SD card readers, but they are prone to breaking (or even messing your card up). I recommend you invest in a legit SD card reader, like this one from Anker, which will give you USB 3.0 speeds and some peace of mind.
Finally, bear in mind that for PCs, you MUST be running Windows 10 1703 or later in order to see SD card partitions. So the only way to transfer ROMs directly onto the SD card is if you’re running that version of Windows (or later).
Save your BIOS folder
The RG351P comes with a folder that’s filled with various BIOS files necessary to properly run your system. No matter what you do with your card — back it up, overwrite it, etc. — be sure to save that BIOS folder onto your PC or Mac for safe keeping. That way you can paste these files back into a card at any time. The folder isn’t huge, about 175MB altogether, but it’s irreplaceable.
To save the BIOS folder, simply plug your SD card into your PC or Mac via an SD card reader. Inside the “Games” partition you will find a folder named “BIOS” — save that folder somewhere and you’re done.
Back up your current SD card
If you want to stick with the original software that came with your device, 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 RG351P are notoriously cheap, and have a high fail rate based on my experience with RG350 cards. 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 you’ll want a larger card, such as a 128GB card (but up to a massive 512GB), to store your games. A 128GB card will allow you to store a LOT of 8-bit, 16-bit, Nintendo DS, and Nintendo 64 games, as well as quite a few PS1, Dreamcast, and PSP games. I think it’s the perfect sweet spot in terms of price and storage space. But if you are looking to store a LOT of PS1, Dreamcast, and PSP games on your device, you may want to consider a card that’s larger than 128GB.
Okay, here’s how to backup the stock card so that you can re-flash it onto another card.
- Remove your SD card from the RG351P, and then plug it into your PC via an SD card reader. If using a Windows PC, you may get an error and a prompt to format the drive, just cancel that error — it’s the result of Windows not being able to read one of the Linux partitions.
- 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), click the folder icon and select the location you want the .img file stored, and in the “File Name” box, write out the file name for your .img (like “RG351Pstockfirmwarebackup,img”). Be sure to write out the “.img” file extension as well, the app will not do it for you. Click the “Open” button to exit this menu. Under the “Device” section, select the “EMUELEC” or “GAMES” partition of your SD card (don’t worry, it’ll copy the entire disk, not just that partition). Finally, click the “Read” button to create the .img file (expect it to take about 15 minutes, but up to 45 minutes).
- For ApplePi-Baker v2 (Mac), select the EmuElec partition on 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. Note that this app can sometimes error out, so you may have to try it a couple times.
Restore your backup on a new SD card
Once you have your backup image, you can flash that image directly onto a new card.
- 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.
- Resize the “Games” partition. If you are flashing a backed up version of the original stock 3.7 EmuELEC onto a larger card, on a PC it won’t resize the partition to take up all that extra space. So we will 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. Note that this step is not necessary if you are flashing updated clean stock (3.8 below) or custom firmware like ArkOS and 351ELEC; in those cases, just insert your card into the device, turn it on, and it will partition the card for you.
- 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” or something along those lines, depending on your SD card reader). You should see three partitions within that SD card: one called “EMUELEC”, another called “STORAGE” and another called “GAMES”. Right-click on the “GAMES” partition, and select “Resize Partition”. You’ll now see a slider that will allow you to drag the GAMES box to increase or decrease its partition size (and decrease the “Keep Unallocated” box). Drag it all the way to the right so that it is taking up all the unallocated space (see the picture above). Click the “Start” icon and you’re all set.
- 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 RG351P just extending a partition!
- Additionally, another option for Mac users would be to run an Ubuntu image via VirtualBox. Ubuntu’s built-in Disk Image Write and Disks tools will allow you to flash the image and resize the partition without any additional software required.
- Insert the new microSD card to your RG351P. At this point, you can add new games to the “Games” partition on your card, or just plug it right into your device and start playing the games that were already on there when you made your backup.
Flash clean stock firmware onto an SD card
While it’s handy to have a backup of your original firmware, I actually prefer to flash a brand new software image onto my new SD cards. This gives me the freedom to start over from scratch and tweak the system to my exact preferences.
Anbernic has not released their official firmware source, but some very nice and smart people have already figured out how to create a stock firmware image for you to flash onto a new card. Anbernic created their firmware by modifying a version of EmuELEC. The first batch of devices came with EmuELEC 3.7 installed, but since then Anbernic has released a v3.8 EmuELEC image, which you can download below. More recent shipments have included EmuELEC 3.8 firmware. There is also an experimental version of EmuELEC v3.9 linked below, but I have not tried it myself. I also recommend checking our 351ELEC and ArkOS, which are highlighted below. They are both excellent and, in my opinion, much better than the stock firmware.
Note that the modified EmuELEC v3.9 test version doesn’t create a “Games” partition on your disk, so you will have to SSH/FTP the game files onto your disk via WiFi (see my File Transfer Guide). If you want to stick with the modified EmuELEC firmware, I recommend you use 3.8 for its ease of use. If you’d like to see what changes are available in version 3.9, see this page.
If you have the original v3.7 firmware on your device, be sure to check out this v3.7 update which improves PSP performance. If your device came with v3.8, there is no need to update anything.
UPDATE: Anbernic has removed their files from the server, so there is no longer a clean image available at this time
Official Firmware (EmuELEC 3.8) (11/22/2020)
Okay, let’s install some firmware. To get started, download one of the files above and unzip it; place the .img file somewhere easy to access, like your Desktop.
- 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.
- Create a new firmware microSD card. Insert your new microSD card into your computer.
- For Win32 Disk Imager (PC), select your .img file by clicking the folder icon under “Image File”, and navigating to wherever your stored it earlier. 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. Click the “Restore” button and navigate to your .img file. The file will then write to your new microSD card, and then expand the partition, allowing you to skip the next step.
- Check your BIOS folder and add game files. At this point, go into the “Games” partition on your card and check the “bios” folder. If it is empty, paste over the BIOS folder you saved earlier in this guide. Now, you can add new games to the “Games” partition on your card, and then plug it into your RG351P to start playing the games.
When you install a new firmware on your device, you may notice that the Nintendo DS emulator (DraStic) is missing. It needs to be re-installed in order to play NDS games, and you must be connected online in order to do this step. Press START in EmuELEC to get to the main menu, then go to UI Settings > Systems Displayed and make sure “Setup” is checked. Now you should have a “Setup” option in the EmuELEC systems menu. Open it up and you should see an “Install DraStic” option, just click on that and let it run. After Drastic has been re-installed, you can go back into the settings and hide the “Setup” menu.
Note on the “GAMES” partition: if you are a Windows 10 user and you don’t see a drive letter named “Games” when you plug the SD card into a card reader, it’s most likely that Windows did not automatically assign a drive letter to that partition on your SD card. This can be resolved by going into the Disk Management control panel app, then selecting the SD card with the Games partition label, then assign a drive letter to the partition by right-clicking on the Games partition and selecting “Assign Drive Letter” or “Change Driver Letter and Path”, then follow the directions from there. Once completed, the drive should show up under My Computer.
3.7 firmware update
On 06NOV2020, a new firmware patch was released for firmwares running 3.7. The above video (and this guide) will walk you through how to update. This update will provide improved PSP performance.
351ELEC is a firmware that was first released on 10NOV2020. It combines the EmuELEC 3.9 update, recent updates to the PSP emulator, doesn’t require you to extend your own disk partitions (step 3 above), and also creates a FAT32 disk partition so you can drag/drop your game files directly onto the SD card. You can read more about this firmware, its benefits, and how to install it in my guide here. This firmware is constantly being updated, which is a really nice sign for future development.
ArkOS is another new firmware that has a ton of great features. This is my preferred operating system for the RG351P, and the video above will show you why. In a nutshell, this system has the widest compatibility (including 32 and 64-bit apps) and some really excellent quality of life features as well. This operating system is also frequently updated, and it gets better every week.
Notes on the EmuELEC “Storage” partition
Now that you have a freshly-minted SD card, let’s talk about the “Storage” partition on your SD card. This is an EXT4 (Linux-based) partition that cannot be properly read by Windows Explorer or Mac Finder — it often won’t even show up unless you’re using specialized software. Inside of this partition are several important folders and files, like:
- RetroArch cores
- EmulationStation themes
- Save States
- Save Files
By default, this partition is sized at 1.36GB, and 400MB of this partition will be taken up by your system files. That leaves you with about 1GB for all of your cores, themes, save states, save files, shaders, and more. It’ll be hard to fill that space up, but it’s something to be aware of if you decided to throw dozens of themes into your device. As an example, I loaded seven themes onto my device, and they took up 200MB.
To access these folders in your partition, your best bet is to connect to your device via wireless FTP. Note that in 351ELEC and ArkOS, many of these folders have been moved over to the GAMES partition, making them much easier to access. I have a complete File Transfer Guide on this site, but here is a quick snapshot of the process:
If you don’t have an early RG351P model with an internal WiFi antenna, you will need to use an OTG adapter and a WiFi USB module (I have personally tested this Wifi module, and I have been told that this one works, too). In EmuElec, press START, then select “Network Settings”. Turn on the “Enable WiFi” toggle, then add your WiFi details. Back out of this menu with the B button and your device will connect to the network. Go back into the Network Settings and make note of your IP address; it will be something like 192.168.86.##, with the last two ##s the number your router assigned to your device (this number will change periodically).
Open up your FTP client, like WinSCP for Windows/PC, or ForkLift for Mac. Create a new connection, and for the FTP address, add your IP address. The username is “root” and the password is “emuelec” (no caps). Once you connect, you should immediately see the storage folder. Note that you can also wirelessly transfer games onto your device with this method (you’ll find all your game folders in the “roms” folder).
– updated wording to better articulate when resizing partitions is necessary
– updated wording to better differentiate stock firmware, 351ELEC, and ArkOS
– updated official firmware links to v3.8
– added ArkOS
– added 351ELEC
– added note on “Games” partition not appearing on PC
– added 3.7 firmware update links
– added DraStic installation instructions
– added file transfer guide link
– fixed incorrect link
– added Ubuntu suggestion for Mac users
– published guide