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CIA stands for CTR Importable Archive. This format allows the installation of titles to the 3DS. CIA files and titles on Nintendo's CDN contain identical data. As a consequence, valid CIA files can be generated from CDN content. This also means CIA files can contain anything that titles on Nintendo's CDN can contain.

Under normal circumstances CIA files are used where downloading a title is impractical or not possible. Such as distributing a Download Play child, or installing forced Gamecard updates. Those CIA(s) are stored by the titles in question, in an auxiliary CFA file.

Development Units, are capable of manually installing CIA files via the Dev Menu.


This is the current version of the CIA format, it was finalised in late 2010. (Older versions of the CIA format can be viewed on the Talk page)

The CIA format has a similar structure to the WAD format.

The file is represented in little-endian.

The data is aligned in 64 byte blocks (if a content ends at the middle of the block, the next content will begin from a new block).

CIA Header[edit]

0x00 0x04 Archive Header Size (Usually = 0x2020 bytes)
0x04 0x02 Type
0x06 0x02 Version
0x08 0x04 Certificate chain size
0x0C 0x04 Ticket size
0x10 0x04 TMD (Title Metadata) file size
0x14 0x04 Meta size (0 if no Meta data is present)
0x18 0x08 Content size
0x20 0x2000 Content Index

The order of the sections in the CIA file:

  • certificate chain
  • Ticket
  • TMD file data
  • Content file data
  • Meta file data (Not a necessary component)

The contents (NCCH/SRL) are encrypted using 128-bit AES-CBC. The encryption uses the decrypted titlekey from the ticket, and the content index from the TMD padded with zeros as the IV.

Certificate Chain[edit]

There are three certificates in this chain:

CA RSA-4096 CA00000003 CA00000004 Used to verify the Ticket/TMD Certificates
Ticket RSA-2048 XS0000000c XS00000009 Used to verify the Ticket signature
TMD RSA-2048 CP0000000b CP0000000a Used to verify the TMD signature

The CA certificate is issued by 'Root', the public key for which is stored in NATIVE_FIRM.


The structure of this data is as follows:

0x00 0x180 Title ID dependency list - Taken from the application's ExHeader
0x180 0x180 Reserved
0x300 0x4 Core Version
0x304 0xFC Reserved
0x400 0x36C0 Icon Data(.ICN) - Taken from the application's ExeFS

Obviously this section is not present in TWL CIA files, or any other CIA file which does not contain a CXI.


  • ctrtool - Reading/Extraction of CIA files. This can only decrypt the title-key for development CIAs, since retail CIAs use the AES hardware key-scrambler for the common-key keyslot.
  • make_cia - Generating CIA files. Requires CommonKey and ticket/TMD RSA-2048 private exponents.
  • make_cdn_cia - (CMD)(Windows/Linux) Generates CIA files from CDN Content
  • makerom - Tool which can be used to create NCCH, CCI, and CIA files.

Title Key Encryption[edit]

The unencrypted Title Key is used to encrypt the data in a CIA. The encrypted Title Key of a CIA can be found at offset 0x1BF in a CIA's Ticket. Each Title Key is encrypted with AES-CBC to get the encrypted Title Key.

To encrypt an unencrypted title key, you need:

  • Common key (as byte array)
  • Title ID (as ulong)
  • (and of course the unencrypted title key you want to encrypt) (as byte array)

The title key encryption process starts by converting the ulong (Title ID) into a byte array using by retrieving the bytes of the Title ID using BitConverter.GetBytes(). If the converted bytes (title ID) are in Little Endian, reverse those bytes. (in C# it would be Array.Reverse(byte_array_from_bitconverter)) This process makes the Title Key encryption IV.

Next, after you've gotten your Title Key's IV, you can start your cryptography transformation. Using AESManaged, where:

Key = Common Key

IV = the byte array found in the conversion process above

Mode = CipherMode.CBC

Create the encryptor (AesManaged.CreateEncryptor(key, iv)) where the key and IV are both the same as above.

Then, create a CryptoStream and a MemoryStream. The Crypto stream should start with the arguments (memorystream, aes_transform_from_above, CryptoStreamMode.Write).

Write to the CryptoStream where buffer=unencrypted_titlekey, offset=0, and count=the length of the unencrypted title key.

Use FlushFinalBlock() on the CryptoStream.

Finally, then, the encrypted title key will be available from your memory stream. (to output the calculated encrypted title key as a byte array, you can use memorystream.ToArray(), for example)

Example function: (C#)

        public static byte[] EncryptMyTitleKey(byte[] commonKey, byte[] titleKey, ulong titleId)
            // Make encryption IV
            byte[] titleidasbytes = new byte[0x10];
            for (int i = 0; i < 0x10; i++)
                titleidasbytes[i] = 0;
            byte[] bitBytes = BitConverter.GetBytes(titleId);
            if (BitConverter.IsLittleEndian)
            bitBytes.CopyTo(titleidasbytes, 0);
            // Encrypt
            ICryptoTransform transform = new AesManaged { Key = commonKey, IV = titleidasbytes, Mode = CipherMode.CBC }.CreateEncryptor(commonKey, titleidasbytes);
            MemoryStream memstream = new MemoryStream();
            CryptoStream cryptostream = new CryptoStream(memstream, transform, CryptoStreamMode.Write);
            cryptostream.Write(titleKey, 0, titleKey.Length);
            return memstream.ToArray();