Posts tagged reflow
Whaddup kids, Mic-B here back with another slick fix. I had one of the many 360′s I’ve fixed from the RRoD come back to me with the dreaded E74 error. I had already previously done the X-Clamp fix on this beast; so voiding the warranty wasn’t a problem — sadly, out the window was sending it to Microsoft as well. I was already in knee deep on this box, so I had to finish it out right.
Be warned… this error *can* be caused by a faulty AV cable; but if you can see the error code on the screen when you turn it on (see the first photo below) then the cable is definitely not to blame. At this point, it’s either a pin of that scaler chip itself that has become unseated or a broken trace between the GPU and the ANA/HANA chip. If you’d like to see the forum thread I gathered information from, you can check that out on xbox-scene.com. There really is a scarce amount of information on this fix at the time of this writing.
In order to make sure that I did it up right, I went out to trusty ol Home Depot and purchased a Ryobi Non-Contact Infrared Thermometer. This thing is cheap, wicked, and I highly recommend it to anyone attempting ANY reflow as it takes all of the guesswork out. Before, when I had to play it safe and would try two or three times on some units, I can now know when the solder has reached its melting point, exactly how hot the board is and whether or not the board is heated evenly, etc… it’s awesome to say the least. Wordemup.
So, this fix is pretty straightforward, with a few exceptions. Instead of reflowing from the top, you should hit this one from the bottom. Ensure that you clean off the thermal paste and remove the heat sink from the GPU (the short one — on elites and 2nd edition hardware, this heatsink also has the secondary sink with the copper pipe attached to it) so that your work area is clean. Thermal paste, on average, will melt at about 248F, whereas the solder will start to melt at 423F. If you don’t take that heatsink off and clean the chip you’ll definitely fry it playing games afterward.
For where to reflow, check the video below. Ensure that you remove all of the cables (SATA and power for the drive) and the little cushions on the four black chips you see in the photo above. Also, after your done, ensure that you play test your unit extensively because these can slip back into submission much like the PS3s with the YLoD.
Hope this information helps, and if you need some advice, drop me a comment on this article or snag my e-mail from the “About Mic-B” page.
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.
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!
I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated, but a lot has gone on in the last month. I’ve planned my ACMT certification for early next year, and in preparation for that I’ve attempted my most risky repair yet: the legendary iBook G3 reflow. Basically, Apple put it this way:
“The Expanded iBook Logic Board Repair Extension Program covers iBooks that have a specific component failure on the logic board, resulting in the computer starting up but the built-in and attached external displays exhibiting one or more of the following symptoms: Scrambled or distorted video, Appearance of unexpected lines on the screen, Intermittent video image, Video freeze, Computer starts up to blank screen…” see more here
Sadly, apple ended their warranty extension program years ago, so this repair would cost somewhere around $300.00 US to have done officially. Of course, there are a few popular ways of fixing this problem, namely the “burn the house down” method and the “shove crap in the case” method. I happen to like my house and shims made me worry about the harddisk (as well as being incredibly unreliable and non-permanent) so I opted for the most permanent, most insane option… taking a heat gun to the motherboard. The model I’m working on is the iBook G3 Dual USB 14.1″ 700MHz. (Mid 2002)
Now, this is probably the perfect time to go though the motions and tell you that this *will* void your warranty, I don’t suggest that anyone do this themselves (especially at home), and there is a very high risk of failure when performing this repair. I took every precaution I could think of while attempting this, and advise anyone planning on trying this to do the same. Also, iFixIt’s repair guides were literally indispensable in learning this computer inside and out. To be thorough I also downloaded a copy of the iBook G3 Service Manual (here’s the site — don’t wanna direct link content) to aid in any small discrepancy I might encounter. (I know, overkill right? Well, it’s all or nothing with this one…)
Ok, now to the nuts and bolts. First off, ensure that you have the right tools. The iBook G3 has a ton of different screws, so I made a list of what I would need to get into the case, and priced out the cost. However, I got to home depot and found a nifty little multi-tool with all the heads I needed for only 10 bucks! The wagner heat gun was in the paint department, and only cost another 20. The only other expenses I incurred were through parts orders on eBay. The RAM upgrade is still in the mail at the time of this writing, but I had already received the DVD-Rom and the AirPort card, so I set to work.
Now, as you can see in that third photo, the laptop was already running with the shim installed, but would still crap out after a half hour or so of use, usually while typing. Rather than push that case out even more, it was time to send that piece back to it’s maker. (oh, wait… that’s me) Below you can see the new parts I received… the CD-RW/DVD and the AirPort card. I also added a shot from under the back casing of my attempt at a shim. I made mine from cardboard and aluminum foil, but it really is a worthless fix. Never worked right, case bulged… a good way to damage salvageable hardware if you ask me, so off I went dismantling the bottom half of the laptop. I didn’t want to install the other parts if the reflow didn’t work (I have another one of these units) so I decided to do the heat gun madness first.
After the bottom shield was free and clear, it was time to start MacGuyverin’. The thermal foam that was on the chip originally had become quite brittle and cracked when I tried to remove it altogether, so the remainder was quite a bit of residue. I took my time with a fresh exacto blade and scraped all the glue from the back of the ATi chip. With the chip clean (effing 20 minutes later), I whipped out the trusty iPod Touch to do some leveling. Having a level surface is important, because if that chip slides or moves *AT ALL* while you are in the process of heating, you’ll screw the whole logic board royally. With the table level and the components prepared, it was on to the heat shield!
You should probably do your own research for this part as it’s quite involved, but here’s my basic summary… I made my heat shield from 4 layers of foil, and pressed it lightly over the board to get the basic outline of the gpu. I then cut the layers with my exacto and folded them inwards, sealing off the space between them. This ensured that the shield wouldn’t fly up during the heating process. (The wagner emits heat like a blow dryer, only hotter) With the heat gun on the low setting, I timed myself and slowly lowered the end of the nozzle from a distance of around a foot from the board to about 3 inches away over a period of 10 minutes. This was done to prevent temperature shock on the board, which could adversely effect the rest of the system. Also, when completing the process I followed a similar vein… I backed the heat off slowly as well (not too slow… you don’t want to over-heat the chip) so as to not temperature shock the board when it cools, either. My biggest tips for this part are: 1- to have a metal object to spread heat across the silicone. I used a metal punch out from an electrical box. aaaaand 2- to put a piece of solder onto your metal object so that you know it’s hot enough to make the solder flow. Once the solder on top melted, I gave it another 60 seconds or so before I began the process of backing the heat off. My hands were definitely shaking after a good 20 minutes of that, I tell you.
After quite a bit of cooling, it was time to give booting a shot. Lo and behold, the reflow was a success! I astonished even myself. With the GPU working, I moved on to replacing the stock CD-Rom with my brand-spankin’ new CD-RW/DVD-Rom. This involved pulling the top of the case, the keyboard, ram shield and the top shield off, pretty much completely dismantling the computer altogether. Make sure you label your screws!
With the new DVD drive installed, all that was left was to reassemble the entire laptop with my organized set of screws. I used baywatch barbie cups, but feel free to concoct a hilarious organization system of your own. With the entire laptop reassembled and the AirPort card in, it was time to fire the unit up, download my photos and write this article! Sadly, I ended late at night so I’m completing this now, on said unit, the morning after. Definitely a fun project, and an expensive paperweight hasn’t only been fixed, it’s been upgraded! Worth the time if I do say so myself.
Hopefully something here is helpful to someone considering doing this. Again, I don’t endorse it and there are companies that will do this for you with the proper equipment, so be informed. However, I’m a DIY guy and I know how important testimonials and experience re-counts are when considering a risky repair, so I figured I’d document the process and pass my knowledge on.
Photos taken by LT Hartly.