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DuckStation Tutorial

By Alejandro Rodriguez. Last revised May 13, 2021.

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About DuckStation

DuckStation's mascot DuckStation's mascot

This tutorial is to help you with DuckStation for Windows. DuckStation is considered a top PlayStation 1 emulator. All games emulate flawlessly. In addition to upscaling 3D graphics (a staple feature in all PS1 emulators), DuckStation comes equipped with all the modern PGXP correction features. These corrections fix the inaccuracies that are evident when PlayStation 1 graphics are enhanced.

DuckStation itself is very easy to use. As someone who's been making emulator tutorials for over two decades, I'm thoroughly impressed with how user-friendly DuckStation is. Unlike ePSXe, it doesn't use plug-ins. Setting up DuckStation takes less than a minute! Best of all, DuckStation auto-updates ! So you never need to worry about going out of your way to keep DuckStation up-to-date. This is a valuable feature that video game emulators rarely offer.

*If you would like to download DuckStation, you can grab it from its homepage.

Should you use DuckStation?

With all the emulator offerings as of 2021, should you use DuckStation? Yes, there's no question about it. DuckStation is the best PlayStation 1 emulator. RetroArch, the top multi-system emulator, is another good option for PlayStation 1 emulation. It can emulate PlayStation 1 games as good as DuckStation. However, swapping discs with multiple-CD games can be a hassle with RetroArch.

You might be thinking, “What about ePSXe?” ePSXe hasn't been updated since 2016. It is outdated when compared to DuckStation and RetroArch.

Download & installation

Downloading DuckStation Scroll to the bottom

When you go to download DuckStation from its homepage, scroll to the bottom to “Latest Development Build” and you're going to come across many options:

  • duckstation-android.apk
  • duckstation-mac-release.zip
  • duckstation-nogui-x64.AppImage
  • duckstation-nogui-x64.AppImage.zsync
  • duckstation-qt-x64.AppImage
  • duckstation-qt-x64.AppImage.zsync
  • duckstation-windows-arm64-release-symbols.zip
  • duckstation-windows-arm64-release.zip
  • duckstation-windows-x64-release-symbols.zip
  • duckstation-windows-x64-release.zip  < download this one (most likely)

If you're on a regular PC, you should download “duckstation-windows-x64-release.zip”. If you're on a newer Windows tablet, you may need “duckstation-windows-arm64-release.zip” (if you're unsure, it would mention 'ARM-powered' all over its technical specs & packaging).

DuckStation is a standalone program so it does not have an install wizard. Installation is simple: just extract DuckStation from its zip file. Not sure how to extract zip files? Here's a video tutorial showing you how: how to unzip files on Windows. It doesn't matter where you decide to place DuckStation on your computer, whether in Documents, Downloads, a folder on your desktop, or somewhere else.

To open DuckStation can be slightly confusing since there are a couple exe's in its folder. The one you need to double-click on is DuckStation's EXE. You may want to right-click it and create a shortcut to this exe for your desktop or something, to remind you which of the three exe's you need to use.

Setting up the BIOS

The PlayStation 1 BIOS is required to boot games. This is a separate download after you've downloaded DuckStation. Of which, you can download it right here:

  • PlayStation 1 BIOS (236 KB). Download by right-clicking the download 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. I also made this GIF animation to show you how to change the file extension.

With the BIOS in hand, let's proceed with setting it up:

  1. Extract “Scph1001.bin” from the above zip file.
  2. After opening up DuckStation for the first time, it will create its directories in Documents. Go ahead and open up Documents.
    • Don't know how to access Documents? First, open Windows File Explorer. The easiest way to open it is to click the folder icon in your home row of apps. If a folder icon isn't present, you can also do this: in the “Type here to search” area type “file” and you'll see a File Explorer app appear at the top of the search results - as shown here . With File Explorer open, click Documents .
  3. Once in Documents, click DuckStation .
  4. Place the bios in the bios folder Place the bios in the bios folder
    Inside DuckStation's folder, you'll find a folder called “bios”. Inside this bios folder is where you need to place inside “Scph1001.bin”.
  5. That's it! Once “Scph1001.bin” is in the bios folder, the next time you open DuckStation it'll detect it and you'll be able to boot up games.

Where DuckStation saves everything

This is important so I wanted to highlight this. As mentioned above, DuckStation will create its directories in the Documents folder . And then inside DuckStation's folder you'll see such folders as:

  • memcards - When you save at a save point within a game, this is where that save file is stored.
  • savestates - When you use DuckStation to save a state, this is where those save files are stored.
  • screenshots - When you snap a screenshot, this is where DuckStation will save it.

Setting up the keyboard or gamepad

The default keyboard keys are different than the defaults of other video game emulators:

DuckStation's keyboard key configurations

The direction keys are W, S, A, and D and the rest of the buttons are in the numeric pad. If this is weird for you, you can reconfigure these keys.

Accessing 'Controller Settings'
  1. To find the above screenshot, go to Settings > Controller Settings.
  2. To reconfigure a key or set it to a gamepad button, simply click it and press the new keyboard key or gamepad button.

Loading a PSX ISO

DuckStation has two ways to load PlayStation 1 games. You can (1) load games by manually selecting them, just as you would with most video game emulators, or (2) you can tell DuckStation where your PlayStation 1 games are stored and have it populate a game list within DuckStation.

I'm going to go over both ways. But first, I need to walk you through extracting PlayStation 1 games:

  1. Downloaded PlayStation 1 ISO's typically come in a ZIP, RAR, 7Z, or ECM file. The first step is to extract it. To extract a RAR or 7Z file you can use 7-Zip (it's free).
    • To extract an ECM file watch this video. Although DuckStation supports ECM files so you don't have to extract it if you don't want to. I recommend it, though, because the game loads faster when it's extracted.
  2. Using 7-Zip is easy. Just right-click the RAR or 7Z file and go to 7-Zip > Extract Here, as shown here .
  3. Once the ISO is extracted, now take notice of the file format of the ISO. DuckStation only supports ISO files that are in BIN, IMG, ISO, CUE, or ECM format. Here's a visual example of how they look like (the icons will look differently):
    Supported ISO formats in ePSXe: BIN/CUE and ISO
    If the PSX game you downloaded came in a weird format such as NRG, UIF, DAA, CDI, XBX, B51, BWI, etc. - they are not supported. I recommend trying to find your game(s) in ISO or BIN format.

Now to load your game(s):

Option #1 - Loading games manually

This is the traditional method of loading a game with a video game emulator.

  1. Click on the Start Disc button: Start Disc
  2. Look through your computer for your ISO and load it as if you were loading a ROM. If your game is in BIN/CUE format, select the CUE file. That's it! The game may not load immediately so give it a minute.

Option #2 - Creating a game list

You can save a few clicks by telling DuckStation where your PlayStation 1 games are. It will place your games in a list that you immediately see every time you open DuckStation.

  1. Entering Game List Settings
    Go to Settings > Game List Settings.
  2. Click on Add, as shown here . Navigate your computer and select the folder where your PlayStation 1 games are located. More than one folder can be added to populate the game list.
  3. The game list is immediately populated in DuckStation (or might take a few minutes if you have hundreds of games). The list will look something like this:
    A game list in DuckStation
  4. To load a game, simply double-click it. The game may not load immediately so give it a minute.
    • Tip: DuckStation lets you load a game directly from a save state! Right-click the game and go to Load State, as shown here . Or click a game, then click the Load State icon.

Full screen

To enter full screen mode, simply press Alt+Enter. When you wish to go back to window mode, press Alt+Enter again.

Stretch to fill

Entering Display Settings

In full screen, DuckStation defaults the screen ratio to the normal 4:3 size. However, if you wish you can stretch it to fill the screen.

  1. Go to Settings > Display Settings.
  2. Put a check in Stretch To Fill, as shown here .

Start in full screen

If you wish, you can set it so that games automatically load in full screen. Go to Settings > General Settings and put a check in Start Fullscreen, as shown here .

Boosting performance

By default, DuckStation uses “OpenGL” to process the video output (a standard method with Windows). However, if you have a good video card you can set DuckStation to use that instead, resulting in a boost in performance.

Entering Display Settings
  1. Go to Settings > Display Settings.
  2. In the Adapter dropdown selection , select your video card. If you don't have a good video card, selecting it here may not do anything to boost performance.

Upscaling graphics

Upscaling graphics

DuckStation makes it incredibly easy to upscale graphics. All you do is press the Page Up key. Keep pressing it and DuckStation will continue to jump in resolution: 2x, 3x, 4x, etc. “3x” is equivalent to 720p. If you have a fast computer, you'd probably be able to handle “5x” (1080p) or “9x” (4K). To go back to a resolution, press the Page Down key. Expect to be pressing Page Up & Page Down a few times to find out what your computer can handle.

You can also change the resolution manually in the settings by going to Settings > Enhancement Settings > Internal Resolution Scale, as shown here .

Enabling PGXP corrections

PGXP correcting texture mapping

'PGXP corrections' are the hottest feature of modern PlayStation 1 emulators. The original PlayStation 1 wasn't designed to be upscaled to high resolutions. So when PlayStation 1 emulators upscale graphics, you begin to notice obvious faults in the 3D animation and 3D texturing.

(Left) Normal, (Right) PGXP Mode

View the sample comparisons around here. The image above shows PGXP correcting texture mapping. The GIF animation shows PGXP correcting jittery animation. Pretty cool, huh? Here's how to enable these features:

  1. Go to Settings > Enhancement Settings.
  2. Put a check in the first four options:
    DuckStation's PGXP options

Disc swapping for multiple-CD games

Swapping dics

When you reach the point of a multiple-CD game when you need to swap discs, click on the Change Disc icon. You're given a few options:

  • From File - You can manually navigate your computer to select the next ISO file.
  • From Game List - If you set up a game list, you can select the next disc from the game list.
  • From Playlist - If you set up an M3U file for the game's ISO files, the discs would appear here in a list. In my RetroArch tutorial, I explain how to create an M3U file for disc-swapping. Having an M3U file is convenient, but if you're not too computer savvy I don't recommend going through the trouble because the process can be a hassle. I recommend the File or Game List options above.

Once you've selected the ISO for the next disc, press Start or whatever other buttons the game wants you to press to proceed.

Save states

Save states is a feature that saves the exact spot you are in any game. You can recall your save state at any time. Here, take a look at the save state menu . You can collect up to 10 different save states per game. The menu also offers 10 different global save states, but I think you should ignore these.

There are three different ways to access save states:

Method #1 - Keyboard shortcuts

  • Load state = F1
  • Save state = F2
  • Previous save slot = F3
  • Next save slot = F4

Method #2 - Via the System menu

To save a state, go to System > Save State and select the Game Save # you want - as shown here . To load a save state, go to System > Load State and select the Game Save # you want.

Method #3 - Via the home row buttons

The Load State and Save State buttons work the same way as using the System menu:

You can change the keyboard shortcuts

If you don't like pressing F1-F4 for save states, you can change these shortcuts to other keyboard keys (or gamepad buttons) in Settings > Hotkey Settings > Save States, as shown here . You can even set specific keys for saving/loading specific save states. If you mess up and want to delete a set shortcut, right-click on it.

Pro Tip: If you're playing a game that has in-game saving (such as an RPG) I recommend that you use both save states and in-game saving to save your games. That way you'll always have a backup.

Switching memory to shared memory

Unlike other PlayStation 1 emulators (mainly speaking of ePSXe), by default DuckStation creates a memory card per game. This method offers many advantages. But yet, the traditional method with all games sharing the same memory card has some advantages too. Or maybe you're just nostalgic of the traditional method. In any case, if you wish you can set DuckStation to share the memory card.

  1. Click on Settings > Memory Card Settings.
  2. Look under “Memory Card 1”. In the Memory Card Type dropdown, select Shared Between All Games - as shown here .

Memory card: copying/moving/deleting saves

DuckStation gives you the option to manage your saves in an exclusive editor or using the PlayStation 1's native interface. The difference is that DuckStation's editor is far more robust and lets you select any memory card file on your computer.

Option #1 - Managing memory in DuckStation

  1. Accessing the Memory Card Editor
    Click on Tools > Memory Card Editor. In the Memory Card Editor, select the memory card you want to work with.
  2. OR if you set up a game list, you can right-click a game and go to Edit Memory Cards, as shown here . This will pre-select the game's memory card, as opposed to Step 1 where you need to manually select the memory card file.
  3. The Memory Card Editor has all of these goodies:
    Memory Card Editor
    • When you select a save file, you can (1) Delete it, or (2) Export it into its own separate memory card.
    • You can (3) select a different memory card file to copy save files to/from it.

Option #2 - Managing memory natively

  1. Click on the Start BIOS button: Start BIOS
  2. You should arrive at the BIOS main screen . Choose Memory Card to proceed.
  3. Now you're at the memory card management screen:
    The native memory card management screen
    This is the screen where you can manage your memory card saves. You would do so exactly as you would on the real PlayStation 1 system.

Fast forward

There are two ways to enable fast forward:

Fast forward (on press)

To enable fast forward, press the Tab key. This will have fast forward active for as long as Tab is held down.

Toggle fast forward on/off

If you want fast forward to keep going without having to hold down the Tab key, you can toggle it on and off. However, by default DuckStation doesn't have a keyboard shortcut set for this. You need to configure it yourself. To do so:

  1. Go to Settings > Hotkey Settings.
  2. At the Hotkey Settings, you'll find the shortcut slots for fast forward . Set a keyboard key or gamepad button to Toggle Fast Forward. If you mess up and want to delete a set shortcut, right-click on it.

Capturing screenshots

Press the F10 key to capture a screenshot. DuckStation will capture it as a PNG image and toss it in the “screenshots” folder. Remember, this screenshots folder is located in Documents then DuckStation .

I think the F10 shortcut is the most convenient, but know you can also capture screenshots via the System menu and the Screenshot icon - as shown here .

You can change the shortcut

If you don't like pressing F10 to capture screenshots, you can change it to another keyboard key (or gamepad button) in Settings > Hotkey Settings > Save Screenshot. If you mess up and want to delete a set shortcut, right-click on it.

Native resolution screenshots

By default, DuckStation will capture the screenshot in the current resolution/upscaling you currently have set and any enhancements you enabled. If you wish, screenshots can be captured in the PlayStation 1's native 1:1 resolution without any emulator-driven enhancements. Go to Settings > Display Settings and put a check in Internal Resolution Screenshots, as shown here .

Using cheats

DuckStation auto-downloads cheats! Enabling cheats takes mere seconds. All you do is load a game and then go to Settings > Cheat Manager or click the Cheats icon:

Enbaling cheats

That's it! You'll see a list of cheats ready for you to enable. If you want to add your own Gameshark codes, click Add Code.

Transferring MCR or GME saves to DuckStation

The RPG shrines in my FantasyAnime.com are loaded with periodical “MCR” memory card saves (from ePSXe). GameFAQs has memory card saves, too, in “GME” format. Can MCR and GME saves be used with DuckStation? They certainly can! Here's how:

  1. If your save is a GME file, you need to rename it to MCD or MCR. For example, if it's called “finalfantasyvii.gme”, rename it to “finalfantasyvii.mcd”. Otherwise, if your save is an MCR file then jump to the next step.
  2. Open the Memory Card Editor. Click on Tools > Memory Card Editor.
  3. In the Memory Card Editor , select the memory card file for the game you want saves transferred to. Then click the icon to select the memory card file you want to copy saves from. In my example picture, I selected a memory card file from ePSXe.
  4. With both memory card files open, select the save slot you want to copy over, then click the '<<' icon.

Q: Can I transfer my memory card to another PSX emulator?

Yes! You just need to rename the file and copy it over. For example, let's say you want to copy over a memory card file to ePSXe. You'd rename “finalfantasyvii.mcd” to “epsxe001.mcr”. If you're not sure what to rename the file to for the target emulator, just look in the emulator's memory card folder to see how it names its memory card files. That's all there is to it.

Dumping your PSX games to ISO

Perhaps you prefer using your own PlayStation 1 games instead of downloading them from the Internet? Or maybe you just want to keep backup copies of your PlayStation 1 games? Whatever the case, here's how you can dump your games:

  1. Download & install RetroArch for Windows. It's the #1 multi-system emulator. I have a tutorial for RetroArch for Windows as well.
    • Note: During RetroArch's installation, setting a custom destination for RetroArch matters. It'll be easier for you to find RetroArch if you select an easy-to-find folder such as Documents. Otherwise, RetroArch defaults to your AppData folder deep in your C drive, which can be a little annoying to locate.
  2. Put your game CD in your computer's CD-ROM drive.
  3. Open RetroArch and select Dump Disc, as shown here
  4. On the next screen, select your CD-ROM drive (the first option, most likely).
  5. You're going to see this progress bar appear on the lower-left of the screen:
    Progress bar for dumping an ISO
    Depending on the speed of your CD-ROM drive, this will probably take 5-20 minutes to finish.
  6. When RetroArch finishes dumping your game CD, the progress bar will disappear. It doesn't prompt you with an alert sound or anything. If your CD-ROM was humming during the dumping, you'll know RetroArch finished when your CD-ROM's humming sound stops.
  7. RetroArch dumps the ISO of your game CD in its Downloads folder. So the next step is locating the Downloads folder. This is why in step #1 I noted to install RetroArch in an easy-to-find location. If you installed RetroArch in, say, your Documents folder, go to Documents > RetroArch > Downloads to find your game CD's ISO file. Otherwise, RetroArch is in the AppData folder. Here's how to find it:
    1. Open the Windows File Explorer. The easiest way to open it is to click the folder icon in your home row of apps. If a folder icon isn't present, you can also do this: in the “Type here to search” area type “file” and you'll see a File Explorer app appear at the top of the search results - as shown here .
    2. In the left panel, look for Local Disc (C:). Click on it, then in the main panel click Users - as shown here .
    3. Next, double-click on the folder for the user you are currently signed in as.
    4. In your 'user' folder, currently “AddData” is hidden. We need to make hidden folders visible. Click on View then Options, as shown here . Then click the View tab then click the radio bullet for Show hidden files, folders and drives . Click Apply then OK.
    5. The “AddData” folder should now be visible . Double-click on it. Then double-click on Roaming > RetroArch > Downloads.
  8. Now we're in the Downloads folder! You should see a BIN file and a CUE file with a weird filename like “cdrom-200000-1000000”, as shown here . Double-click on the CUE file and choose to open it in Notepad. You'll see the text that's shown in my picture.
  9. Next, rename the CUE file and BIN file to the name of your game. Open the CUE file in Notepad to rename the ISO as well. You can name these files to any name you want. The only requirement is that both files & the name in the CUE file must be the same exact name. Look here - these three instances need to be changed to the same name.
  10. That's it! You've successfully dumped your PlayStation 1 game. You can use it with any PlayStation 1 emulator or any multi-system emulator that supports PlayStation 1.

Finding PSX ISOs

In my links page, I have some good links to sites where you can download PlayStation 1 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 Final Fantasy VII just Google “download final fantasy vii psx”.