After many happy hours using emulators to satisfy my gaming needs, a trip home to the UK offered me an opportunity to get a pre-owned Xbox 360 Slim 250Gb. Bringing this back to Thailand as luggage worked out cheaper than buying a pre-owned machine in Thailand. Not only this, I have a 1 year retailer warranty for the machine, so I could get the machine repaired/replaced through this on a possible future trip to the UK later this year.

I bought the Xbox 360 in GAME, as well as a few good pre-owned games including Lego Star Wars II (Original Trilogy), Forza Motorsport 4 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. As well as this, I bought a cheapo headset so that I could chat to XBL friends online.

I already had a collection of games to collect from a friend, as well as an old controller from an old 360 of mine that RROD’d whilst I was away on my travels. This historic bunch of games includes:

Internet Service Provider

In Thailand, I use True Online for my ISP. It’s pretty reasonably priced with no download/upload limits. We originally paid 750THB (+ taxes) per month for a 10Mbit connection, but the speed has since gone up to roughly 20Mbit downstream with 1.5Mbit upstream. The connection works through DOCSIS, which whilst technically not better than DSL, in direct comparison to a DSL connection at the school, it is much more stable here in Koh Samui. I put this mostly down to the cable for DSL being much more vulnerable to accidental damage and the elements in comparison to DOCSIS which has been used here for TV services for a while now.

The ISP provide a Cisco EPC2325 DOCSIS WiFi Modem Router. With a built in 4 10/100Mbit Switch and 802.11G (54Mbit) Wi-Fi capability, it suits our small home network just fine. I have 2 DLNA media players (Samsung TVs) that stream HD video just fine across this very switch with very little problem.

So, now I try to get my Xbox online in Thailand…

Getting Xbox Live connected

I had deliberately switched uPNP off (for reasons like this!) on the router, so I knew that I would have to do some port forwarding.

The ports you will need to forward, as stated by Microsoft, are:

  • Port 88 (UDP)
  • Port 3074 (UDP and TCP)
  • Port 53 (UDP and TCP)
  • Port 80 (TCP)

You will need to either assign yourself an IP address from the Xbox Dashboard manually (Xbox Button -> Settings Tab -> System Settings -> Network Configuration) or assign a static IP address to the MAC address of your Xbox, which you then use in the Port Forwarding rules.

This should then allow you to add people to voice chat and use the video apps which will be immediately noticeable from the Xbox Live dashboard, as a lot of video adverts and things didn’t work without the ports being fowarded.

Sadly, Thailand has a pretty poor connection with the outside world, plus they have government level censorship of the internet, so our ping is never going to be that great, however, when you connect to Asian hosted games I’ve had some really fast response times from games like CoD: MW2.

The real problem comes to Downloadable Content (DLC) – recently I ran into the restriction when trying to download the free games given to Xbox Live Gold members.

VPN’ing in the free world

I knew the solution to this problem would be about tricking XBL to think that you are connecting from within an accepted location. The only way to do this would be to use a ‘proxy’ server to act as our connection point to Xbox Live. This will reduce your speeds and add latency, so no good for online gaming, but suitable for downloading one game and then re-connecting the Xbox normally.

I checked around forums to see what free vpn services people were using for this kind of thing, and some people reported success whilst others didn’t. I tried with a free vpn service but it didn’t work for me, so I started looking at which premium VPN service was the best for the money. In the end, I chose PureVPN as they add new servers within the UK from time to time, meaning that the ‘backdoor’ stays open for longer with big companies like Microsoft chasing them down and blocking them from their services. I paid Pure VPN $9.95 US for just one month of access, but within that time I hope to get 3 free games downloaded (Fable III – done, Assassins Creed II and Halo 3 still to come over the next few months), which more than makes up for the cost!

May I just say, at this point, please proceed with extreme caution. Technically, this could be cause for MS to brick your XBL account leaving you out of pocket! This is why I use the VPN method for downloading content only! I’ve paid for it, I want it!

Having signed up for your account (if you know of a free service that works, then please use it in the comments at the bottom of this post) you will need to do the following. We’re going to be using a Windows 7 laptop and the old fashioned ‘Internet Connection Sharing’ method to force our Xbox to connect through a VPN.

Equipment

You will need the following equipment to get this to work

  • A laptop with Windows 7 (for the sake of this guide, if you’re familiar with VPN connections in XP or Windows 8, adapt this guide to suit!) – it will have to be plugged in to the mains for the duration of the download to make sure the connection isn’t lost, and must have 2 working network connections (i.e. WiFi and Ethernet LAN)
  • An Ethernet cable
  • A VPN account (free or premium – premium recommended at about $10US per month)
  • A WiFi internet connection with access to the router console to make port forwarding rules

1) What is your network subnet?

You should know this from carrying out Port Forwarding earlier, most networks start with a subnet of 192.168.0.* or 192.168.1.* but it can be different depending on router vendor or the person who set it up. The subnet is the part of the network address that doesn’t change, as my IP addresses are assigned by DHCP with static assignment for certain MAC addresses, I set the ethernet connection on my laptop to be way higher than these assignments but under 254.

You set the IP address of your connection by doing the following:

  • Click the network icon in your tool tray and click on ‘Open Network and Sharing Center’
  • Click on ‘Change adapter settings’ on the left hand side of the window
  • Find the LAN ethernet connection in the list of adapters, right-click it and choose ‘Properties’ from the bottom of the menu
  • Double click on ‘Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4)’ in the list on the ‘Networking’ tab
  • Typically the settings here will be set to use ‘Obtain an IP address automatically’ and ‘Obtain DNS server address automatically’ – basically this is done by DHCP on the router. Effectively we’re turning the laptop into the router for the Xbox, so we set the IP address of the machine to the one we determined earlier from the subnet, for example something like ‘192.168.0.101’, the subnet mask will automatically complete. For the DNS server, I use the address of the router as the Primary DNS server and leave the other part blank. When sharing a connection, ICS sets the subnet to be 192.168.137.x, so we manually set the IP address to work with port forwarding on the router

2) Set up the VPN connection with Windows 7

OK, you’ll need the login details emailed to you from your VPN provider now, so make sure you have them handy.

  • Click on the network icon in your tool tray, and click on ‘Open Network and Sharing Center’
  • Click on the link ‘Set up a new network or connection’
  • Click on the ‘Connect to a workplace’ link and click ‘Next’
  • Select ‘No, create a new connection’ and click ‘Next’
  • Select the top option ‘Use my internet connection (VPN)’
  • In the ‘Internet address’ field, type in the server address provided by your VPN provider (make sure you choose a server that reflects where your Xbox Live account is registered)
  • Type in your own memorable name in the ‘Destination name’ field and select the ‘Don’t connect now; just set it up so I can connect later’ and then click ‘Next’
  • Enter your VPN username and password, check the ‘Remember this password’ box to make it easier for you to connect next time and leave the ‘Domain’ field blank, click ‘Create’

Now that we’ve set up the VPN connection within Windows, we need to share it with the Xbox via the Ethernet connection…

3) Sharing your VPN connection

We now want to share this VPN connection with the Xbox, which will connect directly to your laptop with an Ethernet cable (you can use a normal one, no need for a patch cable). Follow these steps to switch on Internet Connection Sharing (ICS):

  • Open up the ‘Network and Sharing Center’ through the network icon or through Control Panel
  • Click on ‘Change Adapter Settings’ on the left hand side
  • Right click on the VPN connection you just created (hence the memorable name!) and select ‘Properties’
  • Select the ‘Sharing’ tab and check the box ‘Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s Internet connection’
  • In the ‘Home networking’ box, choose the local area connection you are using to connect the laptop to the Xbox and then click ‘OK’

Now we need to configure the Xbox to connect to your laptops network adapter which will share the VPN connection via the laptop onboard WiFi.

4) Configure the Xbox

We’re most of the way there now, so what we need to do is set up the Xbox to access the internet via the laptop’s network adapter (Ethernet)

  • Start your Xbox, once booted, hit the Xbox button and navigate to Settings -> System Settings -> Network Configuration
  • Choose the Wired connection and then choose ‘Configure manually’
  • Enter the IP address of the machine, I made this one digit higher than the laptop’s ethernet connection (x.x.x.102 rather than x.x.x.101)
  • Enter the subnet mask – this should be 255.255.255.0 if you’re using a standard subnet
  • Enter the gateway address – this is the IP address you set the laptop Ethernet to (x.x.x.101)
  • OK out of the IP address settings and then open the ‘DNS Settings’
  • Enter the Primary DNS and Secondary DNS – I used the OpenDNS servers for this (Primary  208.67.222.222 Secondary 208.67.220.220) and it seems to work well enough, you may want to use your ISPs own automatically assigned DNS servers instead, if so you would need to get their IP addresses from your router’s web console or your ISP account documentation
  • OK out of the menus and shut the Xbox down

5) Port forward your Xbox VPN connection

Now we’ll need to change the port forwarding on the router to match the IP address of the Xbox – so in the rules you set earlier, you will need to change the IP address to x.x.x.102. Save and reboot your router (if necessary).

6) Connect!

This is how you connect:

  • In the ‘Network and Sharing Center’ of your Windows Vista/7 laptop, double click on the VPN connection and wait for it to connect
  • Start your Xbox up and then wait for it to load up
  • Sign in to Xbox Live – if you have any drop outs, double check the IP address settings for the connections on your laptop
  • Attempt to download content you were previously unable to – in my case, the free game ‘Fable III’
  • Wait the long time it takes to download – nobody said this was going to be fast! I’d recommend with full commercial games you’d probably need to leave the whole set up running overnight
  • If you find your Xbox shuts down after 1 hour, you will need to change power-off settings within the System Settings menu – you can even leave it to carry on downloading when the machine is powered off (of course, it needs to have a steady internet connection and be connected to the mains power)

I found that a 5.2GB game took about 4 hours to download – a lot slower than downloading directly but at least it works!

Conclusion

I was surprised at how well this worked for me once I found the right VPN service – it took a few attempts with different VPN providers, but eventually I found one that worked for me in PureVPN. If you have problems with region locks from a particular server, try each one for the region until it works.

Again, use this guide at your own risk, the idea here is to get the download, but when using the Xbox Live connection normally, revert everything back to automatically detect and connect it to your network in the conventional manner. The regional locks on these downloaded games don’t appear to stop you from playing the game, just from downloading it in the first place. You could use this set up to access online video streaming services like BBC iPlayer, but I would recommend upgrading your router to one that has VPN connection support, or even installing a hardware firewall like ‘Smoothwall’ as discussed in one of my previous guides here if you’re going to do this.

Well, I’ll add a photo gallery with screenshots to this post over the next few days. Let me know if you spot any omissions or obvious errors – or perhaps some further information on how likely it is that Microsoft will be coming down on users doing this in unsupported regions.

Cheerio! :)

Update 02/07/2013

Well, it looks like the first official ‘Games for Gold’ game is an old Xbox Live Arcade title – Defense Tower: The Awakening. Apparently a good game at launch time, it is starting to show its age now! As it’s an Arcade title, the region restriction is still in effect but doesn’t show up until the download is 79% complete. Therefore, those in unsupported regions will have to use the VPN trick to download the content. It’s not too bad though as the game is just under 300MB in size. I might even write a little review of the game after I’ve had a play! 😀

Update 10/07/2013

I noticed trying to connect to download a few games on a good sale XBL were having (I bought Left 4 Dead 2 and an old game called Prey) that when connecting using the laptop IP address for the Primary DNS that the connection was failing. When entering the ISP DNS details, everything worked more reliably than it had before, sorry about the misinformation before!

Update 26/11/2013

Another thing to note is that you may need to unblock the ports in the firewall software for the Windows laptop that you’re using – make sure the ports mentioned in the port forwarding section, i.e. Port 88 (UDP), Port 3074 (UDP and TCP), Port 53 (UDP and TCP) and Port 80 (TCP) are open, even if just temporarily for use when downloading. Additionally, in the ‘Sharing’ tab for the VPN connection, you may wish to add these port numbers to the exceptions in the ‘Settings’ dialogue box in the ‘Sharing’ tab of the VPN connection itself. Without this, when testing on a different laptop, I found that the connection failed more often than not. Opening these ports up fixed it. I hope this guide helps for those of you having trouble!

 

  • Nguyen Hai Hien

    Hi, in Vietnam it seems that with $10 of VPN premium I’d rather buy the game itself on the real market. Been blocked for Halo 3 and Gears of war.

    • Andy Hardy

      I’m not sure what you mean Nguyen? I guess in some ways you’re right, paying $10 per month just for XBL Games with Gold probably isn’t worth it, but I use the VPN service for all sorts of other things too – like accessing BBC iPlayer and other on demand services. This post isn’t an advert for PureVPN – there are probably other services out there just as good if not better! Sorry to hear about your troubles – I can play the games I’ve downloaded online without having to use the VPN

      • Nguyen Hai Hien

        Hi, we have a small marketplace for xbox games in Sai Gon. I’d love to use American on demand services like Hulu or Netflix but it’s region blocked here so I’ve been considering VPN. But we still got low ADSL speed and watching a movie through VPN would make eye sore buffering. So I would rather let those Free with Gold games (Halo 3, Gears of war) past rather to spend more and take the risk of banning (to some extent).

        Before, there’s an app call Crackle (from Sony) which is like Nexflix but no subscription fee and all of its Movies and show is outdated but still crackle. Now when Xbox Once introduced, the app was region blocked, so I must find other app that provide streaming movies and show.

        Anyway thanks for the insightful post.

        • Andy Hardy

          Ahh, thanks for the nice comments!

          I’d say the thing to do is to simply use torrents and watch everything launched a day later – if you do want to sign up to a VPN service then perhaps a DD-WRT router wth built in VPN would be good – that way everything can connect through the VPN. Although, the problem will be your ADSL speeds, a good VPN service may offer you something like 80% of your full internet speed when connected – so 80% of not much isn’t going to be any better! I use Transmission for torrents and Serviio on a linux box which allows me to watch stuff on my DLNA capable devices as soon as they’ve downloaded – if I used things like Sickbeard then I could even get the shows to automatically download as they’re released by different scene groups (eztv, publicHD etc.).

          Good luck man!

  • Zach

    what is a good free VPN service?

    • RicardoDawkins

      Winscribe

  • RicardoDawkins

    Hello, Andy

    I’m using Winscribe as my VPN with ICS to my Xbox. GWG games are downloading a bit slower than my full speed connection using this method.

    Can you confirm the cut off percent for downloading games?

    You said this: “the region restriction is still in effect but doesn’t show up until the download is 79% complete.”

    I have read the cut-off is in the 0-10% range and in the 60-90% range. Am I wrong?

    Contact me at [email protected]

    • Andy Hardy

      Thanks Ricardo, it’s been a while now, I’ve been back in the UK for about 3 years now.

      I seem to remember that the connection would work up to either around the 10% mark and if not would got to nearly 88% or so before disconnecting with an error message not relating to the actual region mismatch issue. I found the best (but slow) way was to start the download, see if it got past 10% and if so set an alarm clock to switch over to the VPN connection when it got near to 80%. Manual, yes. Boring, yes, but it worked!

      I might start posting up some of the geeky work I’ve done in my new home here in the near future, thanks for reminding me that I still have this!

      Cheers,

      Andy

      • RicardoDawkins

        Thanks for the prompt reply. This works for me.