PS3 DIY GPU Reflow / YLoD Fix
So, this was a bit unexpected, but one of my closest friends, …”Chris” we’ll call him, had his PS3 die last Friday. Sadly, I was out of town fixing Xbox 360’s all weekend (see this article) so I didn’t get the messages he left on my office line. He had recently become a victim of the infamous “Yellow Light of Death” or “YLoD”. This was a fix I was quite confident in, considering my past experience and awesomely new tools, so I set off straight away. After all, being one of my closest buddies, I sympathize with the fact that he absolutely loves his PS3. I had to fix it immediately.
I found a great guide in this thread, posted by Gilksy, who also happened to provide these videos on youtube for the same repair. Sadly, the unit he tore apart was a much more original revision of the hardware than the one I was working on, but I still found his guides quite useful. I suggest you read/watch them before you attempt this repair.
The only thing I worried about was the fact that around 20% of PS3’s with the YLoD error are power-supply related, so I couldn’t be sure if it was the graphics chip or not until I dismantled the behemoth. Luckily, my friend had taken it upon himself to open the unit and clean it, thinking that dust had maybe been the culprit, so I didn’t regret opening the unit to look inside. But BEWARE, opening your PS3 will void your warranty, and if you ruin your hardware, I take no responsibility. This article is here purely for education and entertainment purposes only. Do not take apart your console unless you are completely confident in your abilities to perform this repair. There is a greater chance that you will ruin the mainboard or botch some other sub-system by opening the case and poking around than you have of fixing it. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.
With all of that malarkey out of the way, let’s get started!
I took to the unit with my Torx bits first, although it turns out the main screw for getting the top case off is *like* a Torx bit, but with a c-block in the middle. I had much better luck getting it in and out with a smaller sized flat headed screwdriver. With the Blu-Ray drive and the power supply dismantled, I set to removing the fans and heat sinks. Once I cracked the mainboard from the bottom heat shield, I instantly knew the GPU and CPU were to blame — there were scarring marks on the shield, and the thermal paste from the original application had not seated well. Obviously this was a heat-related problem.
After everything was torn apart, I set to cleaning the chips. Compared to the iBook G3 fix and the Xbox 360 fix, this was an easy clean. The thermal compound didn’t show the signs of having been burnt or even set (it was still wet!) correctly, and came off easily with 99% isopropyl and cotton swabs. In comparison to the Xbox fix, this literally took no time at all. After everything was immaculately clean, it was time to ready the heat gun. Don’t forget — the board should be removed entirely from the case, and the backup battery (the little watch-style one) should also be removed prior to heating. You don’t want to mess up anything unnecessary. Also, most videos on the internet show heating of the back of the board before moving on to reflow the chips… I don’t condone this, as the board will transfer the heat evenly quite easily, and I wouldn’t move a board I was reflowing unless I was trying to ruin it on purpose. You could seriously mess some stuff up.
When it came to the heat gun portion of the repair, I took a few notes from my previous iBook G3 repair. After leveling the mainboard both ways and ensuring that everything was clean, I heated up the board slowly. This wasn’t as slow as in the past, maybe 5 minutes while moving in, and focused on the GPU and CPU chips for around 2 minutes apiece before backing the heat off in the same manner. I would say that altogether, it was around 14 minutes for 2 chips, as opposed to the iBook’s 20 minutes for 1 chip. The PS3’s chips are made from a hardened metal (most likely aluminum or steel), while the iBook’s chip was made of silicon. Considerably easier, and many less screws to manage in the case. After the reflow was complete, all that was left was to spread fresh Arctic Silver 5 on the two chips before reassembling it back in it’s enclosure to see if the process had worked.
Once I had everything back together, I moved the unit over to my 40″ Bravia, and lo and behold — yet ANOTHER successful reflow! Apparently I have the luck of the gods, (or the irish or something) because this was relatively easy! Albeit, I have done many, many consoles in the past… so this was nothing new. Please be aware if you have never done anything like this before… you could really mess up some salvageable hardware. In the right hands, things can be fixed. But please don’t assume that just because you’ve seen people do it successfully on the internet that you can do it yourself… you dont want to be this guy. If you bring me your dismantled parts, I’ll probably start laughing… and then end up fixing it anyway, it just seems to be my nature.
After everything was said and done, my friend “Chris” was stoked. No $150 charge, no 3 weeks of waiting, and he gets to keep all the data on his harddrive! After all, who gets a chance to back up their saved games, music, movies and photos after their PS3 dies? The answer is nobody, really!
Have the YLoD? Don’t know anyone who can fix it, but don’t want to send it to Sony? You can snag my e-mail address from the “About Mic-B” page, or post a comment down below. A big thanks to Gilksy, and big ups to anyone who’s done this successfully.