Xbox 360 RRoD DIY Repair… now with more LT Hartly!
Welcome back everybody; hope you had a fabulous weekend. I know I sure did, LT and I repaired a bunch of Xbox 360s with the famed Red Ring of Death. As much as I hate Microsoft’s crappy hardware, I’m glad that we can now fix them easily. For about $20 in parts and a few hours of time you can have your crappy crap machine of crap working like new! We’ve even used this method to “ring-proof” a unit or two — even though my motto is normally “don’t fix what ain’t broken”. But it’s all good. We found this method posted by P!nk Thr3@t on the i-hacked site. She has a list of the hardware you’ll need, but don’t necessarily follow the video to a T… she does her repair on a carpet, which could have adverse effects if you don’t make sure to ground yourself repeatedly. Basically, just use some common sense in a few areas.
Now, this is the time to tell you that this process will void any warranty provided by Microsoft, you *CAN* destroy your Xbox if you aren’t extremely careful (especially while taking off the X-Clamps), and I take no responsibility for you ruining your console by doing this. This is for educational and entertainment purposes only! Don’t ruin your units… If you haven’t done anything like this before, you should *NOT* attempt this. Get your nerdiest friend to do it for you… like I said, LT and I did a few this weekend, with a couple more to do during the week… seems like everyone is having problems these days. Trust me, if your uber-nerd friend can’t fix it for you, he probably knows a dude who can.
OK, now to the tools. If you’ve seen or read the iBook G3 Reflow article, you probably know that I used this nifty little multi-tool with a whole bunch of different heads, considering that individual tools would be expensive. A word to the wise — that little tool will break easily. I went through three in a week — luckily, Home Depot has a great return policy and excellent customer service. However, I’ve opted to use my shiny new Snap-On Electronics Screwdrivers and Electronics Torx Drivers, but that 16-in-1 precision driver will work just as good… it has the right heads… just be careful with it. You don’t want to break your tools with your console still in pieces. You’ll also need some Arctic Silver 5, Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol (99% if you can) and a bunch of Cotton Swabs. We went through a good 30 in one repair. Srsleh. With all the setup aside, we got on with the fixin’!
First things first, we dove into tearing the case down. If you need help with this, or a link to the instructions, you can catch up through P!nk Thr3@t’s link above. In that second photo, you can plainly see that we just kept the video up on screen and kept pausing it as we went through different steps. When you get to removing the X-Clamps, be extremely careful! You don’t want to damage anything important! With the clamps and heat sinks off, it was time to clean up the OEM’s thermal paste. They really did NOT care about how they applied it — another reason I hate mass-produced PC’s. If you ever have to repair a Mac in the future, check out the precision of how their compound is applied. Seriously a world of difference, IMHO.
This part took the longest of the whole repair. We probably spent a good hour and a half cleaning the old thermal compound off of the chips… you want to make sure you have that mirror-like finish on all 3 chips, as well as clean heat sinks. Trust me, you will have an FML moment if you have never done anything like this before. Circular motions work the best for me, but trial and error are the only ways of truly getting your method of choice down. Also, don’t be afraid of having a little extra moisture from the Isopropyl around… it dries fast in open air, and its a solution lots of cats use to clean computer parts, so a few extra drops won’t hurt the chips. With them clean, it was time to break out the Arctic Silver 5 and apply a fresh coat to the fully polished GPU and CPU before adding our new hardware.
Now, when you add the new hardware, ensure that the nylon washers are the ones pressed up against board, with the metal washers against the screw heads and the heat sinks. We recommend doing the shorter one first, especially on second-gen hardware. It just made things easier for us overall, but don’t feel like you HAVE to do it that way. You can see in the photos above what was replaced, and how we have them setup. The first time you attach the hardware, you don’t want to tighten things down all the way — just get them “snug”. Make sure that the chips are touching the Arctic Silver on the bottom of the heat sinks. This is considerably easier to do on first generation Xbox boards, as there is less in the way and you can just hold the board at an angle and look. Also, make sure you use a cross pattern to tighten the screws to avoid warping the board. These things are pretty flimsy.
At this point, we were ready to make the chips reflow themselves. The new hardware we’ve added won’t move at all, so this repair is considerably less risky than the iBook reflow, but don’t think this repair is fool proof! What you need to do is hook up the video cable and power cable to the motherboard, but do NOT hook up the fans! If you want, you can put the motherboard back into the bottom case shield. We found through multiple repairs that the new hardware screws are easier to access, and there is less risk of burning yourself on the heat sinks if you do this outside of it. The dotter board still hooks up the same whether your in that case or not, and the hardware you’ve added will lift all components above your work surface, so it’s all about personal preference. Once you have the cables in, just hit the power on the unit. Sometimes the box will spring to life right away, especially if those solder joints are only semi-broken or worn down. DO NOT LET THIS FOOL YOU! What we’re here to do is re-set the chip, and in this case we can get the board itself to do it for us. If it just pops on right away, it may not be permanent, so don’t think your done and reassemble… you’ll probably just have to tear into it again down the road. We’re here to fix things for good, none of this temporary crap.
If you power the system on (RRoD or not) and it overheats right away, you probably don’t have the heat sinks touching the chips physically. Either that, or your connection isn’t solid enough to transfer heat to the sinks, and the chips will overheat too fast. LT and I found that the average overheat time is somewhere between 5-10 minutes, and fluctuates depending on the room your in… basically, we just shut the windows to kill the breeze and sat around waiting for the overheat error (two red blinking lights) to pop up. Once we hit this point, I set the iTouch timer to 2 minutes, and once that was done we turned the unit off and unplugged it. With the chips and sinks still hot (seriously be careful, you can burn yourself) we turned the board up on its side and tightened down the screws all the way (ensuring we did opposite corners to avoid warping, and to get even pressure)… this process not only cooks the Arctic Silver 5 a little bit, it also reflows the solder underneath the chip and softens the nylon washers for a tight, permanent fit. All in all, once you have the new hardware tight to the board, it’s time to put the unit back together. Yeah, you read that right… YOUR XBOX IS NOW FIXED. Kind of ridiculous, really.
So, all in all, good luck to anyone trying this. It’s definitely a fun repair to do, but make sure you set aside a bunch of time to do it. It’s not necessarily technically difficult, it’s just very labor-intensive and time-consuming. If anyone has questions, feel free to post them in the comments. If you’d like to have LT or myself fix your Xbox, you know what to do… just send me an e-mail. It’s available from the “About Mic-B” page.
P.S. — Check out this sweet Red Ring of Death review!