Modding is a slang expression that is derived from the verb "modify". The term can refer to the act of modifying a piece of hardware or software to perform a function not originally conceived or intended by the designer. The term modding is often used within the Open Source software movement and within the computer game community, particularly in regard to creating new or altered content and sharing that via the web. It may also be applied to the overclocking of computers in order to increase the frequency at the which the CPU operates. Case modding is also a popular activity amongst many computer enthusiasts which involves the customization of a computer chassis or the installation of water cooling technology. In connection with automobiles, modding often refers to engine tuning, remapping of a vehicles Engine Control Unit or customization the bodywork. Modding can also refer to the act of graphically modifying photography including pornography.

Computers and digital equipment

Legal issues

Modding may sometimes infringe the legal rights of the copyright owner. Some nations have laws prohibiting modding and accuse modders of attempting to overcome copy prevention schemes. In the United States, the DMCA has set up stiff penalties for modding. In the European Union, member states have agreed the EU Copyright Directive and are transposing it into national law. A man was convicted in the United Kingdom in July 2005 for selling a modded Xbox with built in software and games. However it is also worthy of note that some other European states have not interpreted the legal issues in the same way. In Italy a judge threw out a Sony case saying it was up to owners of a console what they did with it. Similarly in Spain, mod chips are seen as legal despite the EU copyright legislation.

Multi-user licensing

Computer systems, hardware, and software are often sold or licensed to one home machine, to a business that has many computers, a government agency, or a non-profit organization. When the software license says that it is for a specific person, then it is not legal for that software to be used by some other person on that same computer, even a member of the same family, or another employee of the same company. But this strict licensing is only one approach. In this form of licensing, for more than one person to be using that software or hardware, they need to have a multi-user license that usually dictates how many different people may use it.

Derivative software

Some software is licensed with a copy of the program source code supplied along with the executable code in which the license specifically authorizes changes to the supplied software. This is a common standard in business software packages. Hundreds of thousands of computer programmers in some nations have jobs because businesses want the purchased software tailored to the specific needs of the individual businesses. Most every major city has want ads in the newspaper where there are job openings for people to modify some company's computer systems, where the ad specifies what programming languages or operating systems the applicant needs to know.

Derivative software is licensed copyrighted software used in whole or part in new programs written by programmers at businesses using the licensed software. Programmers copy the copyright notices into the source code where the code was copied, and track all such places, because if the license is permitted to expire, then the business loses software use rights, including any place to which it was copied. An annual fee is typically paid to keep the license in effect, and over time, the software supplier can increase the fees to the point that the business chooses to convert to some other commercial software that seems to be more cost effective. It is not unusual in business software to find programs that have many different copyright notices, each referring to different sources of the derived source code.

Video game consoles

A common example of one kind of modding is video game console mod chips, which can allow users to play homemade games, games legitimately purchased in other regions, or legal backup copies, but can also allow illegal unauthorized copies by allowing the player to play personally-recorded CD or DVD copies of video games. Modchips, in their current form, were first available for the Sony PlayStation (and later the Playstation 2). Various other types of copyright circumvention systems also existed for the Nintendo 64 and the older Game Boy consoles (though neither include actual modding, but instead backup devices).


After the release of Halo 2, modding went to a different level for the Xbox. Now with the technology for changing game code this made it possible for modders to change the chances of winning they had online. Microsoft soon caught what was happening and released an automatic update that checked for modded bios on the Xbox. This had a definite impact on the number of modders online but it still didn't fix the problem. Soon a system created by Bungie Studios made it possible to track modders by the types of complaints they may have against them. Example of a Halo 2 mod:

Types of modding

There are two different ways of running unsigned code on a game console. One is through soft modding (modifying software, normally using a softmod) to allow the user to change data contained on its hard drive in the case of the Xbox. Another type of modding, known as hard modding, exploits the BIOS of the console to run unsigned code, or games. This form of 'modding' (more correctly termed as hacking) is very popular as it is able to 'run' many different types of software. But soft modding is even more popular because of its ease of installation and its relatively low price (it can even be done for free with the right tools). Another type of console modding is about appearances, much like computer case modification, which includes adding lights, cutting the game system case, or adding devices such as whisper quiet fans.

Game software

On the other side, some companies actively encourage modding of their products. In cases such as TiVo and Google, there has been an informal agreement between the modders and the company in which the modders agree not to do anything that destroys the companies business model and the company agrees to support the modding community by providing technical specifications and information. Some commercial video games thrive through a modding community. In the case of Half-Life, a mod called Counter-Strike drove sales of the original software for years. Space Empires is also a series renowned for its modding capabilities; virtually anyone can make a custom mod for the game, since almost all of the game's critical files are .txt or .bmp files, allowing any Windows user to easily adapt the game to suit their own needs.

Many games come with a mod editing tool that allows users to create original content for themselves and others. Other games provide the source code for users to use in experimenting and creating. Still others, like 18 Wheels of Steel, will provide the non-programmed data (images, small codepieces and the like) in a simple archive, which can often be opened by renaming it to a .zip file. Often modders will take the game in directions that the developers never anticipated or didn't have time/funding to include. Generally, a small percent of game players will spend much time mod making, but those who do usually develop communities around modding a particular game. Communities are generally connected via a web forum where new modders can ask questions of more experienced ones, and everyone can find inspiration in the work of others. Some games, like Neverwinter Nights, could never have been as successful as they are without a thriving user community. And as more people have been more connected via the web, this has become a vital and dynamic creative phenomena where users become content creators not just content consumers.

Skilled computer users who are able to crack data formats and reverse engineer a game can modify them to their heart's content, because the creator of the software has copyright authority over who may use it, or change it. Software is sold with a license that spells out what guarantees, if any, come with the software, and what rights the purchaser has to change the software. Many people do not read these contracts, or store them in such a way to be able to prove what contract came with what purchase, so some computer users are ignorant to what their rights are with respect to backing up software, modifying software, and sharing it with other potential users.

Device drivers

Modded drivers are made for improved performance which official versions of drivers do not offer or in cases where there are no official versions of drivers for new hardware designed for older operating systems such as Windows 98.

Computer hardware

Overclocking may also be termed as 'modding', and the overclocking of a graphics card using driver software to gain the performance of a more expensive model is known as 'soft-modding'.

Cars and vehicles


Ortho-modding is the car adaptation (seats, pedals, etc.) to help drivers to prevent, correct and diminish light orthopedic and backbone/spine problems.


Eco-modding is the reduction of drag (see Low-energy vehicle), petroleum car adaptation to use renewable energy (generally, changing or adding a new engine or motor), generally hydrogen or electricity. See hybrid car. Occasionally, it has been known to run a Diesel engine on plant and animal oils. See Biodiesel.

Performance tuning

Car and engine tuning are modification of a car for enhanced performance, in engine power output, handling, aerodynamics, or cosmetic purposes. See also Vehicle modification.

Industrial machines

Factories get rather expensive machines that are used to mass produce specialized parts. These machines can be altered to make parts other than how the manufacturers of the machines designed or intended them. The legality of doing this depends on who owns the machines, and whether the agreement, that supplied the machines to the factories, said anything about this, and what the laws are in the nation where this is being done.

For example, the machines might be leased from the manufacturer of the machines. If they are ever to be returned, they need to go back in the same kind of condition and engineering shape as when they were first delivered. There is an annual physical inventory to make sure the factory has everything that they are leasing. This audit might be done by representatives of the leasing company, who are looking to see recognizable machines, that match their models and safety rules.

See also

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