So, if you’ve been following my Google Plus account, you’d know that last week I got the dreaded Red Ring of Death. After 6 years, the ol’Xbox 360 launch console finally decided it had enough and put up the flag or surrender. I called Mircosoft and of course the console was three years out of warranty and they wanted $150 (plus shipping) to fix it. I thought that was about the most retarded thing I had heard in a long time and told them as much. Instead, I opted to buy a RROD repair kit and fix it myself. The only draw back I could foresee was that I would void my totally non-existent warranty. If it didn’t work, oh well, I was out $20.
I did a little digging and settled on the kit from Team Xecuter, the guys that mod consoles just for giggles. I figured if anyone knew a gaming console inside and out, it was probably a modder. I considered the one from iFixit as well, but it was a couple dollars more with slower shipping. I did use their really handy “how to open your Xbox” guide however. It was far more instructional (including photos) than the Xecuter one.
Shipping from XConsoles was crazy fast and I had my kit in two days. So, kit in handy and a free Saturday afternoon, I decided to see if I could resurrect my dead 360. The hardest part of the entire thing was getting the top and bottom of the case apart. One you get the sides and the front off, the back of the console has about 12 itty-bitty latches that need to be popped all at once. You could use a “opening tool” but I didn’t want to spend the extra cash and the instructions all said it wasn’t necessary, which was true, but it did take me about 45 minutes just for that one section of the case without it. Luckily I have about 3 dozen micro screwdrivers and I stuck one in each slot instead.
Once the case is apart, the rest of the fix is really easy and strait forward. If you’ve opened up a computer in the past 10 years, you can fix your Xbox. Essentially, what Microsoft did to save a couple cents per unit, is what’s killing consoles. They used this crazy X shaped bracket to hold the heatsinks to the bottom of the motherboard. It’s very reminiscent of older computer CPU fans, the kind where you needed to bend the bracket/latch down, almost to the breaking point, in order to secure it to the motherboard. Think that, only with four sides instead of one. The 360’s X brackets holds down the heatsinks so poorly, they separate and the thermal paste fails, resulting in a RROD.
So, the “repair” is really just to replace the thermal paste (good ol Arctic Silver!) and then re-secure the heatsink. Instead of using the X brackets, the kit comes with bolts and washers that are the same height as the bracket. A couple minutes later and I was putting the motherboard back in the case.
Then comes the moment of truth. Since the RROD is like a check engine light, it won’t go away until it’s cleared (thanks again MS!), meaning a working console that’s been fixed could still appear to be “broken”. How do you clear it? Give it ANOTHER error. The error in particular? The classic “overheat” error. You might have seen this one if you’ve ever put your 360 in an entertainment console, or had something sitting on top of it. The trick is to use the fan in the console to your advantage. You turn the console on with ZERO cooling. It overheats in about 30 seconds, flashing the two red lights instead of the 3. You immediately connect the fan to vent the heat and power down the console. Give it a few minutes to cool, fire it back up, and bingo, no more RROD!
I was actually pretty astounded. I really didn’t think it was going to work. What’s essentially $2 in screws fixes a console that they want $150 to repair. After seeing what the inside of this thing looks like, it’s very apparent that they tried to cut corners, save a couple pennies per unit and it really bit them in the ass. A normal cooling solution would have completely eliminated the RROD problem and saved them millions in the long run. I hope they’re taking notes for their next console.
Anyway, in total the repair took about 2 hours on Saturday and another 30 minutes (snapping the case back together) on Sunday and I’m completely pleased with the results. If anyone ever has a broken 360 and they’re just going to get a new one, tell them not to. A couple screws and about 2 hours of your time can save you $300 bucks. The bonus upside is that since the case is essentially open now, I can replace all the other parts if need be. I can swap a quieter LG drive for the cheap one that’s in there, or replace the cooling fans with silent ones from Vantec. All sorts of stuff.
Mission accomplished, game on!