Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fixing the RROD on Xbox 360

James, our foster son, has an Xbox 360 that hadn't been working due to the infamous "Red Ring Of Death", or RROD. Shoddy design or shoddy workmanship, my google-fu showed there seem to be a lot of problems with the 360.

Poor design lead to overheating of the 360, which caused cracks in the solder between the CPU and the motherboard. Presto-chango your Xbox 360 is a $400 door stop. There is a fix though, so I figured we'd give it a shot.

Lots of guides online for fixing, some free, some you pay for. Read up on the free ones, then spent an afternoon hitting every hardware and computer store in town looking for the parts. It is incredibly difficult to get uncommon sized metric bolts and washers in a small town. I ended up ordering a parts kit online for under $10 shipped. Came with a one page instruction sheet plus links to videos. A later edit - some fixes recommend a nylon washer. We used a metal lock washer that won't soften or melt due to the heat of the processors. The conductivity is not an issue if they are the correct size.

Cracked open the 360, it was filthy dusty inside. Heat sinks covered in dust, fans also dust covered, dust and crap throughout. I wasn't surprised it wasn't working. Disassembled further, got the heat sinks off the chips, and found the CPU was less than 1/3 covered with thermal paste. Nice workmanship, Micro$oft, no wonder it overheated. Cleaning the paste off the CPU and GPU was the most time-consuming part of the whole operation. Left red circle in the photo shows the brilliantly shiny clean CPU, right red circle shows start of GPU cleaning. We tried q-tips dipped in rubbing alcohol, then toothpicks, it was taking forever. Diaper wipes turned out to be the magic trick. Folded one over a q-tip, finished the GPU in a few minutes rather than an hour.

New paste, new machine screws instead of the crappy "x-clamps", put it all back together, and then some deliberate overheating to remelt the cracked CPU solder. A couple hours work, would have been 45 minutes if I had known about the diaper wipes. Xbox 360 in working condition again, haven't seen James since.

Overall, it was about 3/10 on the difficulty scale. Didn't even need to watch the online videos, the one page instruction was enough. If you can read, use a screwdriver, and be careful, you shouldn't have any trouble at all. Have to emphasize perfectly cleaning the chips though. While inside, you should also liberally dose everything with compressed air and wipe dust off smooth surfaces.

Did have a generation gap moment with James when I asked him to get something out of a milk crate. "What's a milk crate?" One of those things you store records in...

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