Leapster Explorer: USB Boot

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The LeapPad Explorer and | Leapster Explorer respective bootloaders contain a feature that allows for a recovery mode, called Surgeon. When put into this mode and connected to LFConnect, it will upload and install a new firmware to your device. There are a few ways to do this yourself also.

Programs Needed

sg3_utils used in a script shell/python etc

  • Available here [1]
  • Probably included in Linux.
  • Windows port available at link.


  • Python program that includes Windows sg3_utils or uses your Linux's built in version.

Software Needed

surgeon.cbf (found in the package)

Hardware Needed

For using Surgeon once booted.

Console Access

Getting Started

If you choose to use OpenLFConnect refer to it's section OpenLFConnect USB Booting

You will need to connect your device through a USB cable to your host PC. Also have your Surgeon.cbf or custom file ready. Note any file you send will need to conform to the CBF File Format.

Starting USB Boot Mode

Explorer Hold down both shoulder buttons, and the ? button, before turning the device on.

LeapPad Unknown how to start with button presses at this time.

Once in USB Boot mode the device is ready to accept your file. You'll need a script or program of some sort, please refer to the next section on the mechanics of the process.

Scripting for USB Boot Mode

You'll need sg_raw and sg_verify from the sg3_utils package. You will also need to find the device id, this is done by running the sg_scan program in terminal, on windows with no options or for Linux run sg_scan -i.

This will give you a list of generic scsi devices on the system, if your device is connected correctly and in USB Boot Mode, you should see a line that includes LeapFrog in it. This listing will contain the device name.


We want the Physical Drive number here, you should see something on the LeapFrog line such as PD1, or PD2, depending on the number of attached drives on your system.


Here we want the /dev file. The line directly above should include /dev/sg2 or /dev/sg3 depending on your system configuration.

Sending Data

With this information in hand, you can now run a loop to grab and send the file data. This should be possible in most any language, so I'll just get the particulars across.


* This is set by the bootloader, and is the size of data it expect on each pass.

byte1 = '00'

  • This will be the LSB of the LBA, it needs to be changed to 01 after the first pass, after that, doesn't matter.


  • Keeps track of where we are in the file, while looping through the data.

Data Send Loop

  • sg_raw is provided a file to take data from
  • the loop will control where and how much

sg_raw /dev/sg2 -b -s CBF_PACKET_SIZE -n -k file_position -i "path/to/surgeon.cbf" 2A 00 00 00 00 byte1 00 00 20 00

This is a SCSI Write(10) command 0x2A that will send 16384 bytes of data, from file surgeon.cbf starting at file_position.

You should receive a "Status:Good" after each send, if not, there is an issue.

Once all the data has been sent the verify command is sent, which seems to tell the bootloader EOF on the send. The device should start booting Surgeon after this if all went well.


  • sg_verify /dev/sg2

Using Surgeon

Mounting stock Explorer / and /LF/Bulk

Once surgeon.cbf has been booted, you can use the serial console as normal. This script mounts /patient-bulk and /patient-rfs which are the device's normal partitions. This can be used to edit files, or fix problems with out conflicting with the OS as they are not ever in use in this state.

./etc/init.d/recovery-mounts start