RG350 & RG280 Series Starter Guide

Last updated: 16SEP2021

At long last, we have a definitive firmware image for Anbernic RG350 and RG280 series retro handheld devices. This “Adam” image will allow you to create the ultimate SD card image that runs OpenDingux Beta firmware, RetroArch and standalone emulators, and the SimpleMenu frontend all in one seamless experience. No FTPing, tweaking, or headaches required.

This starter guide will work on the following devices: Anbernic RG350, RG350P, RG350M, RG280M, RG280V, RG300X, PlayGo, PocketGo 2, PowKiddy Q80, GCW-Zero, and probably a few others not on my radar.

Table of Contents

Recommended tools
Required software
Setup process
Remove the "Format this Disk" error
Updating Adam
Updating SimpleMenu
Adding themes to SimpleMenu
RetroArch cheats
Super Mario 64 port
DOOM mods
ScummVM setup

Changelog

Recommended tools

128GB SanDisk Ultra and Samsung EVO Select microSD cards

Most devices come with a generic microSD card, and they are often prone to failure. Your safest bet is to replace it with a microSD card from a well-known brand (don’t worry, I’ll show you how to do that below). I recommend you store that original card somewhere safe in case you run into any issues in the future, and buy a new SD card from a reputable brand like SanDisk or Samsung to use in your device.

For these devices, you will need two cards: a smaller (4GB to 16GB) card to hold your operating system, and a larger card for your game files.

In general, I recommend the cards listed below, in order or preference. The prices fluctuate all the time, so keep an eye out for deals. In general, I would expect to pay $20 for a 128GB card and $30 for a 256GB card. A 128GB card will allow you to load EVERY 8-bit and 16-bit game out there, all of the arcade games that work, and quite a few PS1 and Sega CD games (those systems have the largest file sizes). A 256GB card will allow you to store even more of those larger games.

16GB cards: 
SanDisk Ultra  
SanDisk Industrial (more reliable but pricey)

128GB cards:
SanDisk Extreme
Samsung EVO Select
Samsung Pro Endurance (more reliable but pricey)
SanDisk Ultra

256GB cards:
Samsung EVO Select
SanDisk Ultra

Many retro devices come with a cheap USB SD card reader. I have about half a dozen of them, and only a couple of them actually work. So I think it’s worth it to invest in a solid, fast USB 3.0 SD card reader for your computer. You’ll be able to transfer your game files onto your SD card that much fast, and you don’t have to worry about corrupting your card.

I recommend this USB 3.0 SD card reader from Anker.

Required software

  • Adam image — this is the image you will flash to the SD1 (internal) card. Head to the link and download the latest release. The file will be in a .img.gz format. While there, check out the developer’s extremely helpful guide on this image.
  • Balena Etcher — this software will flash the Adam image you just downloaded onto your SD1 card. Etcher can flash compressed files, which means you won’t need to unzip/extract the Adam image once you download it, saving you hard drive space and time. This app is available for both Mac and Windows machines.
  • guiformat — guiformat (or FAT32 Format) is a lightweight Windows tool that will format your SD2 (external) card to the FAT32 file system, which is necessary for the device to read. For Mac, use Disk Utility to format (“erase”) the card, with MS-DOS (FAT) as the format. When formatting your card, make sure that the card does not have a name/label. Here is more info on the subject.

Setup process

For a comprehensive guide on the installation and setup process, I encourage you to use eduardofilo’s excellent guide. This is the guide I used to create the video you see above. Some simple steps:

  • Download the Adam image and flash it to your SD1 (internal) card using Balena Etcher.
  • Once flashed, Etcher will eject the card. Re-insert the card and you will see a bunch of pop-ups and warnings to format the disk — cancel all of those, and you’ll be left with a single partition that is readable in Windows. Open the “select_kernel.bat” file and in the window that pops up, select your device number and press ENTER. This will create the boot files needed for your device. If you are using a Mac, follow these instructions for this step instead. Once complete, eject the SD1 card.
  • Format the SD2 (external) card to FAT32 using guiformat (Windows) or Disk Utility (Mac). It is critical that your SD2 card is unlabeled — it should have no name at all.
  • Place both cards into your device, then turn it on. Shut down the device and remove the SD2 (external) card and re-insert it into your computer. The SD2 card should now have a file directory added.

If you find that the SD2 card doesn’t have a file directory added, you likely have an issue with the SD2 card — either it wasn’t properly formatted to FAT32, or the SD card has a name. I recommend re-formatting the SD2 card and trying the previous step again.

Remove the “Format this Disk” error

When inserting your SD1 card into a Windows machine, you will usually get a “Format this Disk” error every time, which can be quite annoying. It’s because your PC is trying to read a Linux partition. There’s an easy fix to this, which I demonstrate in the video above. You will need the DiskGenius software for this step.

Updating Adam

As Adam releases updates, it’s easy to flash the latest image to your SD1 card (well, unless you have an RG350, since you’ll need a screwdriver!). To update, follow these steps:

  • On your current image, use the Py Backup tool to back up your saves and configurations.
  • Note: if updating from v1.1 or lower to v1.2 or higher, you should update the PyBackup config file, which is found in the v1.2 release files. For more information, check out the video above.
  • Download the latest Adam image and flash it to your SD1 card. If you have a spare card, you could always flash the new image to that card so that you’re not overwriting your old card and taking the risk that something could go wrong.
  • Use the Py Backup tool again to restore your saves and configurations.
  • Note: unless you made some specific changes to the SimpleMenu configuration (.ini) files manually, I would recommend *not* restoring SimpleMenu section_groups, since it will overwrite the updates contained in that Adam image (like new emulator options, for example). So when restoring your configurations, I would just uncheck the SimpleMenu box and enjoy the fresh new setup. Similarly, I would also not backup the RetroArch config or PyBackup backups either, since those can negatively affect your update.

Updating SimpleMenu

SimpleMenu will periodically release updates and so it may be that you want to update the interface without re-flashing a new Adam image. Here’s how to update SimpleMenu on its own:

  • Download the latest SimpleMenu release opk
  • Put the SD2 card into your computer and place the opk anywhere in the SD2 card
  • Open the Commander app (in “Apps & Games” section) and copy the new opk from your SD2 card into the /media/data/apps folder of your SD1 card (it will ask you to confirm the overwrite, select YES). While still in Commander, navigate to /media/data/home/.simplemenu on your SD1 card and delete the last_state.sav file.
  • You’ll need to re-set your theme and SimpleMenu options once you’ve updated the interface, and rebooting your device will sometimes help, too.

Adding themes to SimpleMenu

If you would like to add additional SimpleMenu themes, follow these steps:

  • Download the theme and unzip it (if applicable).
  • Place the theme folder in the root directory of your external SD card.
  • Using the Commander app on your device, on the left menu navigate to where that theme folder is saved (media/sdcard/)
  • On the right menu, navigate to /media/data/local/home/.simplemenu/themes
  • There will be two theme folders: 320×240 and 640×480. Place the theme(s) in the applicable folder by navigating inside the 320×240 or 640×480 folder, then on the left side hover over the theme folder then press X and select “Copy” or “Move”. When all else fails, just follow the structure of the two themes already in the folder.
  • Exit Commander then apply the new theme

Themes that are working with this image:

ComicBook (320×240 version and 640×480 version)
SimUI (made for 320×240 but works with 640×480)
Epic Noir
Unified (use without preview images)
Megapixels

Adam image hotkeys

GitHub user ianmeat created this handy hotkey cheatsheet that shows all working hotkeys for OD Beta, SimpleMenu, and RetroArch.

RetroArch cheats

Within Adam, most games run on the RetroArch emulation backend. Luckily, that means we can take advantage of RetroArch’s cheat database to implement cheats in a variety of games.

  • Download the RetroArch master database file here.
  • Unzip the master file, and open the “cht” folder inside. Within this cht folder, you should see a listing of systems that have cheat files. Grab whatever systems you want and move these folders to the SD2 (external) card, in a folder named “cheats” in the card’s root directory. There will likely already be a folder named cheats there, but if there isn’t one, just create it.
  • When playing a game that is using RetroArch as its backend, press the POWER button to open the RetroArch quick menu. Navigate to Cheats > Load Cheat File (Replace) and open the folder that corresponds to the system you are playing (NES, SNES, etc).
  • Navigate to the game you are playing (not all games will be listed, but most are). To aid in navigating, you can press the shoulder buttons to skip to the next letter of the alphabet. Once you have found the game you are playing, press A. This will reset you to the main Cheats menu.
  • Near the bottom of the Cheats menu, you should now see a series of cheats that you can enable. Hover over a cheat and press RIGHT on the d-pad to turn it on. Once you have turned on all the cheats you want to use, navigate to Apply Changes and press A. Back out to the main Quick Menu and select Resume to return to your game, with cheats implemented.
  • To remove cheats, just head back to the Cheats menu, toggle the cheat off, and select Apply Changes.

Super Mario 64 port

Here is my guide on how to get the Super Mario 64 ports working on these devices. Note that if you want to adjust the button mapping in the sm64config.txt file, the easiest way to do that is directly in the Commander app (found in the “Apps & Games” section).

DOOM mods

IWADS (total conversion mods) for DOOM work just fine in this setup, thanks to the fact that the Adam image runs the RetroArch PRBoom core. To get them set up, follow these instructions:

  • In the roms/doom folder, make sure that there is are distinct subfolders for doom and doom2. Inside each of these subfolders, make sure there is a .previews folder if you want to add box art.
  • In each subfolder, put each of the retail DOOM wads, respectively. I used the names “Doom.wad” and “Doom2.wad” for mine. I recommend using the Ultimate Doom retail wad file for the widest compatibility.
  • Place the mod file (it must be a .wad file) into its corresponding subfolder. For example, REKKR uses Doom.wad as its backend, so place the REKKR.wad file in the doom folder (and not the doom2 folder). Most total conversion mods use the Doom2.wad as its backend, but a few (like REKKR, SIGIL, Doom the way id Did, and Wonderful DOOM) use the Doom.wad instead.
  • Place preview images in the respective .previews folder, make sure that its name matches the name of the IWAD.

Note that it is possible to run multi-file IWADS, but will require some tweaking in RetroArch system files to get working. More info can be found in my RG351P Doom Mods Guide.

One of my favorite mods, Going Down, doesn’t really work — it gets too bogged down. But REKKR, SIGIL, and Claustrophobia 1024 are some of my other favorites, and they work wonderfully, with minimal slowdown.

ScummVM setup

ScummVM games are wonderful on these devices, but take some configuration.

  • Place the game files in the roms/SCUMMVM folder on your SD2 card, in their own folders. Here is a list of the required game files for each game. The folders can be named whatever you want. For a list of where to get the games (either freeware or commercially), check out this wiki page.
  • Within each folder, place an empty text file, with the “Short Name” of the game and the file extension .svm instead of .txt. If you don’t see an option to remove the .txt file extension, you may need to enable file extensions in your File Explorer view options. To find a list of game Short Names, consult this list.
  • When running Skraper, the images will be stored in their own subfolders within the roms/SCUMMVM/.previews folder. Simply move those png files from the subfolder into the main .previews folder instead (you can then delete the subfolders). The image names need to match the .svm filenames.
  • From there, SimpleMenu will recognize your .svm files and boot them accordingly. Note that the “Talkie” editions of the first two Monkey Island games don’t work with this RetroArch core.

For more tips and tricks for these devices, check out my RG350 guide.


Changelog

16SEP2021
-added ScummVM section

13SEP2021
– added Adam v1.2 video and instructions
– added “Format this Disk” fix

05SEP2021
– updated flashing instructions
– added ianmeat’s hotkey cheatsheet

04SEP2021
– added info about setting the bootloader

28AUG2021
– added Adam update instructions
– added Table of Contents
– added Cheats section

21AUG2021
– added new themes
– added DOOM mod instructions

20AUG2021
– published guide
– added SimpleMenu theme instructions

42 thoughts on “RG350 & RG280 Series Starter Guide

  1. Just tried doing this and the device won’t start up now, just has green light as if it’s powered but won’t start.

    Do you have any advice on what might be the problem or a fix? Really don’t want it to be dead 😦

    Like

    1. Hi Stacey, I would double-check that you have the SD1 card in the correct slot. If you do, then I would try re-flashing the image onto your card. You could also unzip the image and use a different flashing software to see if that makes a difference, something like Rufus or Win32 Disk Imager.

      Like

  2. I’m aware you’re not a Mac user, Russ, but perhaps someone can help me – I don’t seem to be able to use Disk Utility (or the command line version, diskutil) to format the 2nd SD card without a label. The volume label defaults to “Untitled”, and if I remove that, it used “Untitled” anyway. Anyone have any ideas?

    Like

  3. Just a suggestion – the title of this article really doesn’t describe the contents. I have been enjoying your posts for more than 6 months and visit regularly. I nearly skipped this video and article as the title suggested this was something that we did 7 or more months ago when we bought one of these.
    In reality this is something I desperately wanted since my RG280V first arrived and being stuck with the stock firmware meant I spent one or two hours messing with it before relegating it to gather dust.
    This is groundbreaking from my point of view and will definitely breathe new life into my underused toy.

    Like

  4. My RG280V often suddenly freeze (stop suddenly) or screen noise sometimes when playing NES game on new Adam Image. This cause my hardware or new firmware?

    Like

  5. Sooooooo, turns out I can’t follow instructions……. All fixed now. Cheers Russ, you’re one of the good ones 👍👍

    Like

  6. Hi Russ, another great guide!

    I have an issue, maybe you or anyone else can assist – no matter what I do regarding the external card label, it always mounts on my RG280V as “Basic data partition”.
    Also appears as /media/Basic data partition

    I’ve tried every method of reformatting, creating the volume, format via DOS, nothing works. That label keeps returning.
    Only idea I have now is editing the SimpleMenu configs to use that directory as the mount name :/

    Like

      1. I did try to rename, but it did not work using the mentioned ways (Properties screen in Win10, etc). Only using the Disk Managmeent I somehow managed to rename the volume, not even sure what I did.
        It does work after naming it “sdcard”, only the naming method is an issue currently.

        Like

  7. Will this image be updated regularly? Say if there is an update of SimpleMenu, will we wait for a new Adam image or just install the new SimpleMenu separately?

    Like

    1. Hi, yes it’s being actively developed. There is already a new version of SimpleMenu and Adam out today, which I’m working on now. I’ll update the guide with an upgrade process once I have it figured out!

      Liked by 2 people

  8. So when I add roms the device shows a duplicate for each game. One of them starting with a _

    Does anyone know why it is doing that or how to resolve it? Thanks!

    Like

      1. yeah I still couldn’t get it working. I tried clearing it with the dot_clean -mn as well with no success.

        It went to the next section of the terminal on the Mac as if it was successful but when I re-added the ROMs to the 280 it still showed the duplicate games.

        Like

      2. You need to run dot_clean *after* moving the files, with the microSD as the target – something like:

        dot_clean /Volumes/sdcard/

        Like

  9. And does anyone know if they’ve had issues downloaded the skraper program for windows to get box set? When I download it I only get a file that I can’t open or run.

    Like

  10. Seems like upgrading currently is:
    1. Backup current setting using PyBackup
    2. Flash AdamImage as per the original instructions, but only follow the internal SD card instructions
    3. Boot with both SD cards, restore the backup
    4. Reboot

    Testing this now.

    Like

    1. Just realized this method does not backup any saves from native games (OPK files). These need to be backed up manually by copying their folders from the internal card.

      Like

    1. So this is how I got Scummvm to show the games I have, in this example Monkey Island
      1. Copied over the game folder to the ROMS\SCUMMVM\ folder on the external SD Card, e.g ROMS\SCUMMVM\Monkey Island\
      2. Created a blank text file in the Monkey Island folder and renamed it monkey.svm
      3. Rebooted/reloaded SimpleMenu and the game now appears.

      I found this tip after a lot of searching. The .svm file name is related to the Game Short Name that Scummvm expects for each game, this is listed on the Scummvm web site under Documents>Compatibility

      so for example Indy and the Fate of Atalantis is atlantis.svm

      Like

  11. Does anyone know if it is possible to install overlays for retroarch on opendingux?

    I managed to add Odysessy2 emulator (even updated the skin) and Vectrex but was looking to see if it was possible to add the Vectrex overlays? I followed some examples online for creating overlay configs but none of them worked. When I load a Vectrex game and then go retroarch menu then to on-screen overlay it says Directory Not Found like it is looking for a directory configured somewhere else?

    If it was possible I was tempted to see if I could create custom overlays for the NES for example for bezels

    Like

    1. Yes there is a Magnavox Odyssey/Philips Videopac in this image already so need to download an additional OPK but you do have to add it to the config file, plus I am using the Comics skin which did not have a picture for Videopac so I had to make my own but I used the source files credited in the skin folder so it is the same theme.

      To get the Videopac emulator to appear you need to connect you device to the USB and use WinSCP to log in. Once you are connected edit the following file

      /media/data/local/home/.simplemeu/section_groups/consoles.ini

      Add the following to the end of the line starting consoleList
      ,PHILIPS VIDEOPAC

      At the end of that consoles.ini file add the following

      [PHILIPS VIDEOPAC]
      execs = /media/data/apps/retroarch_rg350_VIDEOPAC.opk
      romDirs = /media/sdcard/roms/ODYSSEY2/
      romExts = .zip,.bin
      scaling = 0

      On your SD card in the ROMS folder, create a folder called Odyssey2 and place your roms in there.

      You will also need add the bios file as o2rom.bin to the bios folder on your SD card.

      Unsure why it wasn’t enabled at first as it is all there unlike the Vectrex which I had to add manually.

      Like

  12. I did exactly like described in the video – I used the new Adam Image 1.1! I chose the right kernel. Than I formatted the second SD-Card in FAT32, without a name. I put both cards into their respective slots. I booted my device. After putting the card back into my PC it’s just empty. No folders were created while booting the device. I tried different SD-Cards (Samsung & SanDisk). I tried with RG350M and RG280M – I always get an empty SD Card without these folders which should be created while booting the device. Any clues?

    Like

  13. How does everyone get the boxart for their games? Tried skraper, but it doesn’t seem to connect for me. Struggling to find another way and would love to have my RG350 set up like Russ’ in his vids! 😂

    Like

  14. I seem to be having an issue where I always boot into the Apps section of the adam image and my only option is “Commander”, I can’t seem to back out and access any of the rest of the UI to play the games on my sd card.

    It was working previously but for some reason I can’t go anywhere else in the UI.

    Like

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