The Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance games are now beginning to show their age! A lot of Game Boy games used batteries to keep your save data alive and although (some of these) seem to last forever, they will eventually die, and you will lose your hard-earned save data.
So, how can we back up Game Boy and GBA save files? The best way to back up your GB, GBC & GBA is with a tool called GBxCart RW. This tool from InsideGadgets lets you copy your save from cart to PC easily.
I’ve owned the GBxCart RW for a few months now and compared to other tools and methods available on the market, I would say it’s the best, not only for ease of use but for the additional features it offers.
Here’s the unit itself: –
There’s a couple of versions available, I got the version v1.3 with Micro USB. You can get a ‘Pro’ version that has a slightly different PCB design, intended to fit into a GBA game shell (with a little modification). You can always select the version 1.0 if you are only interested in Game Boy & Game Boy Color support.
Backing Up Your Game Boy Game Saves
Once you have your unit you will want to download the software and driver over at InsideGadgets website.
Install the driver and download the GUI and you are all set.
Connect the game you want to back up the save file for. This is the same method with either Game Boy, GBC or Advance games. For demonstration purposes, I am using my copy of Metroid Fusion.
With the game inserted, connect your USB cable and plug it into to your PC. You will notice the correct LED will light up on the board. 3.3v for GBA carts and 5v for Game Boy games.
Launch the GUI and you will see a few options. First, check your Mode is set to correct type, either GBA or GB. This should be automatically selected based on what type of cartridge you inserted. Then select ‘Connect’ and after ‘Read Cart Info’.
If backing up your save file is all you want to do, then simply click ‘Backup Save’. This will only take seconds and will dump a backup of the games save file to the same folder where the GUI resides.
Your save will be the ‘Gametitle.sav’ for example this backup of Metroid Fusion is ‘METROID4EUR.sav’. Now, I could keep this on my hard drive and use it with emulators by loading battery data in the options or you could even upload it to cloud storage for future use.
If you need to replace the battery, you can be happy in the knowledge that your save file is safe and backed up. When you are ready to restore your save all you need to do is click on ‘Restore Save’, click OK at the warning and the GBxCart RW will write your save data back to your cart.
Once you are done, you can just select ‘disconnect’ and remove your game cart, However, today I am going to be making a backup of the game Rom.
How to dump your Game Boy Advance or Game Boy ROM
While connected to PC select ‘Read Rom’, this will start a dump of the game’s ROM file. This will take a couple of minutes depending on the size of the game.
Just like the save file, the games ROM will be dumped into the same directory. This backup of Metroid Fusion is the file ‘METROID4EUR.gba’
Once dumped, you will be able to use this file in emulators or FPGA systems like MiSTer or the upcoming Analogue Pocket.
I personally use this feature to transfer & load up ROMs on my MiSTer setup, the MiSTer can then read the .sav save file we backed up earlier allowing me to continue my game on my HD television. This gives my GBA SP a pseudo-Nintendo Switch feel, allowing me to continue my game either on the MiSTer or GBA SP as MiSTer also saves the file as .sav. This makes for the ideal way of capturing footage from your Game Boy, Game Boy Color or Game Boy Advance games in my opinion. (Expect to see more Game Boy Advance reviews on the site!)
There is one more quite exciting feature of the GBxCart RW and that is the ability to write game ROM’s to reproduction cartridges.
How to write a ROM file to a Game Boy / GBA game
If you have any reproduction games, there’s a good chance they are rewritable with the GBxCart RW. You can find them on eBay or Aliexpress
This is a reproduction copy of Magical Chase. We need to open this up and see if it can be written to. Grab a tri-wing screwdriver and open it up.
As you can see the board looks terrible ( most these reproductions do!). We can search the Flashcart Database to see if it matches anything there.
As we can see that our one says SD00/_BV5 except this one has no SRAM or battery! So we will need to remember that is BV5 board.
Put the game into our GBxCart RW and let’s attempt to flash the cart with a dumped copy of Kirby’s dreamland.
So, we first must set a couple of options. Connect to the Game Boy game and select ‘Cart’ in the top left corner. We need to click ‘Specify cart info’ and from the drop-down menu select ‘Flash cart’ we need to then fill in our details, We have the BV5 cart so we select that and find the ROM size data here..
We can see here the Kirby uses the MBC1 mapper, has a ROM size of 256k and no SRAM (Just like our reproduction).
Once that info is inputted, we can then choose ‘Select ROM to write’ and navigate to our .gb file. Once that is set, we can select ‘Write ROM’. This will delete the current ROM on the cart and replace it with our copy of Kirby.
Success! The game has copied over perfectly and loads up perfectly on real hardware. The method is similar for GBA & GBC games also. A big benefit of this is the fact you can apply fan translations, ROM hacks, test out prototypes (Like the resident evil GBC or RE2 GBA ROMs) or even flash your own Game made with GB Studio or written in C.
I highly recommend checking out Romhacking.net, you can find everything from simple fixes to full-blown total conversions. (I’m personally using the No outline hack for Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance.)
I hope you found this helpful!