Updated: Apr 19, 2021
4/18/2021: THIS IS A POST IN PROGRESS. FOR NOW, PLEASE USE IT ONLY AS A SECONDARY REFERENCE TO OTHER POSTS OUT THERE FOR TROUBLESHOOTING. The Vita is a beastly machine for portable gaming, but it could really do with a few modifications before its full potential can be utilized. I'm going to walk you through getting your Vita hacked and modded to play whatever games you want, with whichever app and on whichever emulator you could possibly want. Along with game emulation (which is probably why you're here anyway), the ability to natively emulate the PSP and even the badass XrossMediaBar UI it shared with the PS3 (which I personally think is the greatest Sony UI of all time), you can overclock the Vita, watch movies on that amazing screen, and play any console from any generation (up to around the PS2 era) smoothly, with TWO analog thumbsticks and even a touchscreen+rear touchpad! No other system comes close to this thing, even in 2021, in terms of build quality, features, cult following, and opensource software support.
There are a few important distinguishing traits among Vitas, as they're not all built the same and the process of hacking them will be slightly different depending on the model (due to their built-in smartcard compatibility and internal memory configurations). Here's a quick rundown of the varations of the models with some pictures that show off their physical difference.
The model nuances are as follows: PCH-1001 is 1st generation, thicker with OLED screen and that silver paneling. PCH-2001 is the 2nd (last) generation, thinner, with an LCD screen and has black paneling around the frame. Both have advantages and disadvantages, and I own both models because I just couldn't choose between the two. The PCH-1001 has that absolutely gorgeous OLED, and after all- gaming takes place primarily with your eyes glued to a screen... so that's a big deal. But the PCH-2001 is so freaking sleek looking, thin, stylish, much closer to the 'coolness' factor of the PSP (which I think is leagues above either Vita in terms of looks). So it's really up to you, on a display case- one looks great with the screen on, one looks great with the screen off. How to choose?
Anyway though, if you've already figured out which model is for you, take a look after the pictures for the step by step instructions on how to mod your console and unlock all its awesome functionality.
The first set of instructions are how to downgrade your firmware from the most current version you likely already have on your Vita (the official firmware that's downloaded during an update). The second set is how to hack the downgraded firmware and actually put cool apps, emulators, and plugins on your hacked Vita. The third set is how to enable SD card-based storage on your hacked Vita to circumvent those absurdly expensive proprietary Vita Memory Cards.
MicroUSB-to-USB Cable for PC Connection
Windows Computer (for this specific tutorial)
PSN (Playstation Network) Account. Create one here at id.sonyentertainmentnetwork.com if you don't already have one
H-Encore (software) - this is the whole exploit (think of it as a jailbreak for iPhones or rooting your Android) that opens up your PS Vita's firmware allow for to customization.
QCMA (software) - this is a program that you need on your PC that allows you to access the Vita's file structure, kinda like ES File Explorer for Android, that'll let you put the H-Encore installer in your Vita
Downgrade from 3.73
Step 0: make sure you're signed into PSN on your Vita (settings>playstation network, make sure your account is there and signed in)
Step 00: turn off USB charging on your PSvita (so it'll be recognized when you plug it in)
Step 1: download and unzip h-encore
Step 2: download qcma (for USB driver)
Step 3: open h-encore and plug in the PSvita
Step 4: open content manager on the PSvita and go to 'copy content' and then USB and then PC
Step 5: go to PC > PS Vita, go to PSvita, then Applications, then you should see H-Encore, select it and hit 'copy'
Step 6: go back to main screen on vita and find h-encore menu
Step 7: install henkaku, then install vitashell (MAKE SURE NOT TO UNINSTALL VITASHELL IN NEXT STEPS WHEN DOWNGRADING FIRMWARE)
Step 7b: go to settings>HENkaku Settings and make sure to put a check on 'unsafe homebrew software'
Step 8: go back to main screen on vita and find vitashell
Step 9: open vitashell, navigate to ux0 and press select for USB mode (UX0 the root directory of the memory card, and app is the preferred folder for keeping all your apps but you can really put them anywhere in UX0)
Step 10: open explorer, you should see that drive now, copy modoru into that folder and psp2update.pup too
Step 11: close the USB connection menu, scroll down and you'll see the new files (psp2update and modoru) and hit triangle on psp2update.pup and hit copy on the menu that comes up
Step 11b: delete the 'tai' folder (press triangle on it and then delete)
Step 12: scroll up to 'app', then 'MODORU000', and then, with the default ... highlighted, hit triangle and choose 'paste'
Step 13: hit the .. to navigate back, to app and then to the root directory (ux0)
Step 12: scroll down and find modoru again then press x on modoru to install it (go through both prompts and say yes or x)
Step 13: press the PS button on your vita to bring up the menu again, and go to settings
Step 14: go to HENkaku Settings>Unlink Memory Card
Step 15: click Reboot device
Step 15b: if on PSVita 2000 model, do NOT copy internal contents to memory card when prompted
Step 15c: go back and open h-encore again and then install HENkaku again (since the hack for 3.73 isn't persistent)
Step 16: go to settings, HENkaku Settings, and then make sure 'unsafe homebrew software' is still selected
Step 17: go back to the main menu and find the new Modoru icon and open it
Step 18: it should come up with a screen that tells you your firmware, the firmware you downloaded from psp2update.pup version, the stock firmware it came with, and if you want to downgrade. If your PSP was made in 2018 or after and had a stock firmware of 3.65 or above, you can't use 3.60 so use 3.65 for psp2update.pup)
Step 19: select downgrade, wait the 20 seconds for the prompt and choose x for okay
Step 20: wait for the whole process to happen, then check settings>system>system information to check and see if you have 3.60 (or 3.65)
0. DO NOT UNINSTALL VITASHELL AFTER DOWNGRADE (you can still use it after you re-hack your downgraded firmware, and it sucks trying to get a shell explorer app on again if you've uninstalled it already)
1. connecting it to PC (qcma)
1b. if it starts to transfer but stops at 0%, just unplug the PSP, restart it and close h-encore on the PC, do the process again from scratch. If it does the same thing, restart the PSP and the computer and try again
2. UX0 directory
3. what apps are still usable after downgrade (everything except h-encore)
4. UX0:app for where Modoru is programmed to look for update files
5. tai folder purpose (where mods are stored)
6. HENkaku need to re-enable on reboot (even though other apps don't need to be reinstalled)
Mod PSvita on 3.60 (after downgrade)
1. Download Enso (https://github.com/TheOfficialFloW/h-encore/releases), hook up your PSP through USB on vitashell and put on vita UX0 (which is the default mapping anyway when you open it in explorer) (put it anywhere you want, if you made a 'mod' folder for your installs use that, anywhere in ux0)
2. Disconnect the PSP
3. go to http://henkaku.xyz and hit install (this installs henkaku on your PSvita, and installs a shell app in case vitashell isn't already installed)
3a. don't worry about the errors, wait for the progress bar to get to 100% though and then hit okay on the error screen
3b. after it's done, you should see a new icon on the main screen 'molecular shell'
4. make sure to go back to settings>henkaku settings and check 'enable unsafe homebrew'
5. then find the enso app in molecularshell or vitashell and install it (press x)
6. After it's installed, go back to the main screen and you should see an Enso icon, hit that and go through the prompts
7. Install enso
8. restart the PSP and if it boots with a new custom logo (not the playstation logo) you're good, check settings>system information to make sure the version is installed
9. go to settings>henkaku settings and change firmware version to 3.73 (so the vita doesn't go looking for newer firmware and notifying you)
1. format SD card to exFAT on PC
1. Download storagemgr and the storageconfig file
2. Turn on vitashell in USB mode
3. Copy storage files (text and app) to ux0
4. exit USB mode, copy files over to ur0:tai
5. open ur0:tai/config.txt and add ur0:tai/storagemgr.skprx
6. delete ux0:tai/ folder
7. insert SD2VITA into PSvita and then reboot Vita, you should see it in memory manager you have the new space now
Hopefully this tutorial was helpful, if it wasn't or if you found an error in the walkthrough, please contact me through the chat on this site. Thanks!