The Max Drive Pro is a peripheral
for the Nintendo Gamecube
manufactured and sold by Datel Electronics
(creators of the Action Replay
family of console cheat devices). The package consists of a special 8 megabyte
Gamecube memory card
, a USB
cable, an 80mm CD containing drivers and software for the PC (Windows
only), and an 80mm Gamecube-formatted DVD
disc containing the software utility to allow save files and executables stored on the Max Drive memory card to be managed and formatted.
The device has two main functions. The first is that it allows save data stored to the memory card by Gamecube games to be copied to and from a PC using the supplied cable (a function it has in common with its sister product the Max Drive). This feature is advertised in the context of allowing the user to backup their save files, as well as being able to download and trade savegames from the internet.
The second is that it allows unsigned executable (.DOL) files to be loaded from the memory card and run. The user manual vaguely mentions that this will allow the user to run homebrew games and applications.
The only difference between the Max Drive and the Max Drive Pro is the inclusion of the executable loader in the Gamecube utility. The hardware is completely identical (as is the packaging, in the case of the unit that I purchased - leading to a heated telephone conversation with a Datel salesperson before I opened the packaging and found the correctly-labelled discs).
The Max Drive Pro has some strange quirks. The PC software does not seem to work properly on Windows 2000 (failing to detect that the device has been connected after the first time), but is generally reliable on Windows XP. The utility software sometimes claims that the memory card is corrupted or incorrectly inserted, although removing and reinserting the card solves this. The executable loader fails to load some programs (notably the remote debugger GCnrd), possibly due to those executables having been programmed with the expectation that the user will run them using the PSO hack or another 'unofficial' method.
The homebrew scene for the Nintendo Gamecube is not as active as for other consoles such as the Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo Game Boy Advance or Sony Playstation Portable, mainly due to the lack of rewritable storage and the stringent anti-piracy measures built into the hardware.
There is a selection of simplistic games available (including a port of Rick Dangerous), as well as emulators of some older console systems. To get the most value out of running unofficial software on the Gamecube, the system needs to be connected to a PC via ethernet (using the Gamecube Broadband Adapter). This overcomes the storage limitations of the Max Drive Pro memory card. It also allows the aforementioned GCnrd remote debugger to be run, which allows the user to hack Gamecube games (e.g. to find Action Replay codes) and to capture screenshots directly from the Gamecube's frame buffer.
There are also utilities available to 'backup' Gamecube discs and to run disc images by streaming them over the network (which is surprisingly effective). These are primarily used for piracy, however the hassle, additional hardware, unreliability (you didn't want the saves on that memory card, right?) and the fact that Gamecube games are so cheap to purchase legitimately (aside from any moral issues) make this a fairly unattractive prospect.
Datel's official site with more information: