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PCSX2 Tutorial

By Alejandro Rodriguez. Last revised Sep 20, 2016.

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About PCSX2

PCSX2 was the first PlayStation 2 emulator. Through persistent development, it has remained the best one around! Game compatibility is high. It conveniently comes equipped with its own plug-ins, which can be customized. PCSX2 requires a fast computer in order to run well. You might have trouble with it if you're using a budget laptop or a Windows tablet.

With other emulators you can get away with using your keyboard for gameplay. But with PCSX2 it's pretty difficult, given the PlayStation 2 controller's mini joysticks. I strongly recommend purchasing a gamepad for this emulator.

*If you would like to download PCSX2, I have it in my emulators page.

Intro to plug-in system

PlayStation 2 emulation revolves around the plug-in system. The same system used by PlayStation 1 and N64 emulators. PlayStation emulators are merely the shell of the operation.

PCSX2 already comes equipped with plug-ins, so you don't have to worry about downloading them separately and configuring them. I still want to review the different types of plug-ins with you. It's good to be informed with how the emulator works. Here's the list of them:

  1. GS - the graphic plug-in. This controls the graphics and 3D rendering.
  2. PAD - the controller plug-in. This controls how you control your games; whether you use a keyboard or a gamepad.
  3. SPU2 - the sound plug-in. This controls the music and sound effects.
  4. CDVD - the CD/DVD plug-in. This controls the reading of your CDs/DVDs or images.
  5. USB - the USB plug-in. This controls USB emulation.
  6. FW - the firewire plug-in. This controls the firewire port of the PlayStation 2.
  7. DEV9 - the hard disk & Ethernet plug-in. This controls the HDD (hard disk drive) and Ethernet emulation.

Note that you don't have to stick with the plug-ins that come with PCSX2. You might find better ones out there if you Google around.

The BIOS

The PlayStation 2 BIOS is required in order to boot games. This is a separate download after you've downloaded PCSX2. Below you can download this BIOS.

  • PlayStation 2 BIOS (12.7 MB). Download by right-clicking link and go to Save Link As. When saving, rename the “_ip” file extension to “zip”. If you don't see the file extension, try showing them.

Continue reading below for what to do next after you download the BIOS.

Installation

Unlike other emulators, PCSX2 uses an install wizard. It's a pretty straightforward installation:

  1. Double-click on the install EXE for PCSX2. It'll look something like PCSX2's install EXE
  2. The “Choose Components” box will be the first screen to pop up:
    Choose Components
    Leave everything checked and click Next.
  3. The installation will proceed. You'll be prompted with this box to Visual C++:
    Load your game
    Put a check that you read the terms and click Install.
  4. PCSX2 is installed! But we're not done yet. Read the next section about what to do when you open PCSX2 for the first time.

First Time Configuration + BIOS setup

  1. Go into your Start menu (your programs list) and open up PCSX2. In Windows 10 it looks like this:
    PCSX2 in your programs list
  2. PCSX2 welcomes you with the First Time Configuration screen . Click Next.
  3. The next screen just reviews the plug-ins that come with PCSX2. You don't need to do anything here. Click Next.
  4. Next is the BIOS screen. Click Open in Explorer, as shown below: Select 'Open in Explorer'
  5. You'll be prompted with a “This path does not exist. Create it?” window. Click Create.
  6. Now minimize this “First Time Configuration” window. Note the path where the BIOS folder is located. Open up that folder. Download the BIOS if you haven't already, unzip it, and drag its contents to the BIOS folder. It should look something like below:
    The BIOS files in the BIOS folder
  7. Bring back the “First Time Configuration” window. Click the Refresh list button (circled below). You should now see the Europe, Japan, and USA BIOS files appear in the white box.
    Click 'Refresh list', then click on your preferred country
  8. Click on your desired country to select it. Then click Finish.
  9. That's it! PCSX2 is now fully installed and configured.

Setting up the keyboard or gamepad

Usually emulators have all the keyboard keys preconfigured, but PCSX2's keys are a clean slate the first time you open it! You have no choice but to configure them. Again, I urge you to purchase a gamepad since the PlayStation 2 controller has a lot of buttons. Using just the keyboard is a frustrating experience.

Here's how to configure the buttons for Player 1:

  1. Go to Config > Controllers (PAD) > Plugin Settings, as shown below:
    Accessing the Input configuration
  2. You'll see tabs for General, Pad 1, and Pad 2. Pad 1 is Player 1 and Pad 2 is player 2. Click on Pad 1 and you'll arrive here:
    The Input configuration
  3. Notice the heavily buttoned area within the red outline. These are all the buttons you need to configure. Click a button in this area, then press the keyboard key or gamepad button that you wish to configure it to. When successful, you should see the configured button appear in the “Device/PC Control/PS2 Control” panel.
  4. Click OK when you're finished configuring all the buttons.

Loading a real PS2 game you own

Loading a real PlayStation 2 game that you own is incredibly easy. Just pop the game in, wait a few moments, then in PCSX2 go to System > Boot CDVD (full).

However, I do not recommend playing your games via your DVD-ROM drive. PCSX2 is a rather demanding emulator on your CPU. Running the game from your DVD-ROM drive will slow it down and lower its performance. Rather, I recommend ripping your game to an ISO. I have directions for that right below.

Backing up your PS2 game to ISO

These directions show you how to back up your PlayStation 2 game in “BIN/CUE”. It's a common type of ISO format.

  1. Download & install ImgBurn (it's free). You can download ImgBurn from the ImgBurn homepage.
    *If you have an anti-virus such as AVG, it may flag ImgBurn for containing adware . Don't panic - it does not contain adware! This warning is false. All that ImgBurn does is show you ads during the install wizard (which is why AVG falsely flags it). ImgBurn is 100% safe.
  2. Upon opening ImgBurn, click Create image file from disc, as shown here .
  3. Make sure the proper source drive is set in “Source”, then click the Read icon - as shown here .
  4. That's it! Ripping your game CD will take maybe 20-30 minutes. By default, ImgBurn will toss the BIN file (the ISO) into Documents.

Loading a PS2 ISO

  1. To begin with, you can place your PlayStation 2 ISOs wherever you want on your computer. PCSX2 doesn't care where. I recommend the PCSX2 folder in Documents.
  2. Go to CDVD > ISO Selector > Browse, as shown below:
    Selecting the ISO Selector
  3. Navigate your computer for your PlayStation 2 ISO. Click on it, then click Open.
    *Note: PCSX2 only supports ISO, BIN, IMG, MDF, NRG.
  4. Go to System > Boot CDVD (full). Wait a few moments and your game will load. Enjoy!
  5. PCSX2 will keep every ISO you previously opened in the ISO Selector list. See:
    The game list in ISO Selector
    So then the next time you open PCSX2, you can just select the game you want to play from this list.

Q: My PS2 game is not an ISO. Help!

PCSX2 only supports games (a.k.a. disc images) in ISO, BIN, IMG, MDF, and NRG. Or more specifically, the filename of your game needs to be “Shadow of Colossus.iso”, “Shadow of Colossus.bin”, etc. Keep reading if the PS2 game you downloaded is not in these formats.

Wait, I don't see file extensions

Windows hides file extensions by default. Here are directions on how to enable them.

If your game is in ZIP, RAR, 7Z

These formats are forms of compression, and your PS2 game is inside of it! You need to extract it. Windows can extract ZIP files by default: here are directions. To extract a RAR or 7Z file you can use 7-Zip (it's free).

If your game is in UIF, DAA, CDI, XBX, B51, BWI

These ISO formats are exclusive to specific burning software. Google around to find what program is associated with that format. Once found, install it and burn the game to a DVD. However if you want my opinion, I say just forget about it. You should try to download the game from somewhere else to get it in ISO or BIN format. Working with these proprietary ISO formats are too much trouble.

Full screen

Press Alt+Enter to enter full screen. Press Alt+Enter again to go back to window mode.

Improving speed

With today's computers you don't need to use PCSX2's speed hacks. The default settings are fine for most people. Maybe if you're on a Windows tablet or a budget laptop, you'd need to make use of the speed hacks if you find that games are running slow.

PCSX2 makes adjusting game performance very easy with a simple slider. First, access the video plug-in settings by going to Config > Video (GS) > Core GS Settings, as shown below:

Accessing the speed hacks

Look towards the bottom left for this slider shown below:

The Speed Hack Preset

The default setting is “2 - Safe (faster)”. Hovering over the slider pops up this information:

The Presets apply speed hacks, some recompiler options and some game fixes known to boost speed. Known important game fixes will be applied automatically.

Presets info:

1 - The most accurate emulation but also the slowest.

3 --> Tries to balance speed with compatibility.

4 - Some more aggressive hacks.

5 - Too many hacks which will probably slow down most games.

Try moving the slider to “3”, click OK, and see if your game is running better. If it's still slow, try “4”. If that doesn't help, then I hate to break it to you but your system is not fast enough to handle PCSX2.

Fixing graphic glitches in 2D games

Graphic glitches around bounding boxes of sprites

The default settings in PCSX2 cause 2D games to have weird graphic glitches around the bounding boxes of graphics and sprites. See above for an example. There's an easy fix for this.

  1. Go to Config > Video (GS) > Plugin Settings, as shown below:
    Accessing the video plug-in's settings
  2. Select the “Internal Resolution” drop-down selection, as shown below:
    Increasing the size of the internal resolution
    Choose 2x Native.
  3. Click OK and see if that fixes the graphical glitches. If it doesn't, go back and select 3x Native. Either of those options should fix it.
  4. Note: Increasing the internal resolution will most likely cause your 3D games to slow down. You would need to adjust the internal resolution every time you switch between playing your 2D and 3D games.

Save states

Save states is a feature that saves the exact spot you are in any game. You can use this feature manually by going into the File menu or by quick keyboard shortcuts.

Using the save state feature via the File menu
  • Capturing a state: To capture a save state go to File > Save state and choose any of the 10 slots. These slots are reserved to allow you to save up to 10 different save states. The keyboard shortcut for saving states is F1.
  • Loading a state: To load a state you previously saved, go to File > Load state. Then choose the slot where your save resides. The keyboard shortcut for loading saves is F3.

Fast forward

Fast forward is the feature that speeds up the game. To access it, press the Tab key. To end the fast forwarding, press the Tab key again.

Hiding the annoying console window

The console window

Unless you're an advanced user who cares about console logs, this thing is an eye sore. You can hide it by going to Misc > Show console.

Capturing screen shots

PCSX2 doesn't have the ability to capture screen shots. Rather, I have a cool solution for you. Download ShareX. It's free and supported by Google! Once installed, you can just press Ctrl+Prt Scr and hover over the game screen. ShareX will capture the game screen, as if PCSX2 just took a screen shot. ShareX will dump the screen shot in Documents > ShareX > Screenshots.

Finding ISOs

In my links page, I have some good links to sites where you can download ISOs. If you want to try to find more sites than what's in my collection of links, just Google around. For example, if you want to download Shadow of the Colossus just Google “download shadow of the colossus ps2”.