Saturday, 7 February 2009

DanO vs XBox 360 and 3 Red Lights

I've just been given a "broken" XBox 360. Basically I've been told "if you can fix it, you can have it." As my future brother-in-law has already bought a replacement this was a nice challenge.

Update: Before we go any further with this there is something worth mentioning. Microsoft have extended the warranty on ALL XBox 360s to three years for this problem (and this problem only), so if your XBox 360 is less than three years old and you have the Red Ring of Death then call Microsoft for a replacement first. Read more about this in part 2.

Powering the console on gives 3 Red Lights, otherwise known as The Red Ring of Death (or to be more exact a general hardware failure).

There are a lot of rumours going around on the causes and fixes to the Red Ring of Death, so this looked like a good opportunity to maybe put the myths to bed.

Apparently the "R.R.O.D." can be caused by the soldered connections cracking on the GPU. This can be fixed by re-soldering the GPU (if you can get hold of a micro-solder kit), replacing the X-Clamp that holds the GPU in place with one that gives a tighter fit, or by "baking" the console.

Now, I've already sent off for a replacement X-Clamp (courtesy of EBay), but in the meantime I've been having a bit of a read-up on how the repair takes place.

According to popular rumour, the baking method goes something like this:

Step 1: Remove the hard drive, video cable, memory cards, in fact everything but the power supply from the XBox.

Step 2: Power on and wait for the three lights (making sure the XBox is lying flat).

Step 3: Taking three large DRY bath towels, wrap the XBox up completely, and leave for around 25 minutes.

Step 4: Unwrap the XBox which should still be showing three red lights and power it off.

Step 5: Wait for the XBox to cool completely (30-60 minutes) and power back on.

The theory goes that this causes the XBox to get so hot that the solder melts fixing any cracked joints.

Seeing as the XBox hasn't cost me anything, I'm going to try the "baking" method.

. . .

So after following the above instructions I powered the XBox back on and. . .

Still three red lights.

Just in case it hadn't been hot enough I re-wrapped it again, making sure it was nice and snug, and this time. . .


One working XBox! At least it was for around three minutes before it locked up. At this point I turned it off for another half-an-hour to make sure that it had cooled completely, and then tried playing a game - after half-an-hour of playing Dead or Alive 4 it was still working perfectly.

Nice one!

It is worth mentioning a couple of things at this point. One, if you choose to do this you do so at your own risk. Two, keep an eye on the XBox, as a house fire isn't fun for anyone concerned. Three, if you have a warranty on your XBox, then for Gods sake use that rather than messing around with alternative methods.

Also, this isn't necessarily a permanent fix. According to some people they have to do this every week or so.

And - just in case you do want to try this yourself. . .

The Towel Fix

NOTE: No, that isn't me in the video. Just so you know.

Another alternative fix - The Penny Fix

And, of course, the X-Clamp fix

Update 2 - Four days later. . .

So, the big question is "Is the XBox still working?"

All went swimmingly for a day or two, right up to the point that I tried to sign up for XBox Live. Half way through the sign-up process the XBox froze. Powering off and back on again brought me back to the three red lights.


One more go with the towels (wrapped up for 30 minutes this time) and I had a working XBox 360 again. One the XBox had cooled I went back and signed up for XBox Live, downloaded a couple of demo games, watched some movie trailers, played a couple of DVDs, set up a UPnP server on my PC, watched a couple of episodes of Family Guy, and basically messed around for a couple of hours whilst waiting for the inevitable return of the red lights.

Not one lock-up.

On Monday I bought Blue Dragon (which I highly recommend to any Final Fantasy fans out there) which, in common with most RPGs shows the game play time on the saves. To date I've had over nine hours of game play with no lock-ups or other problems.

So does that mean that this time the fix is permanent? Who knows, although probably not. Since it turns out that this XBox is still covered by Microsoft's extended warranty for the Red Light problem it will be winging its way back to them should the issue re-occur.

Update 3: 1 week after the "towel fix"

Strange but true - the XBox 360 is still going. I did have one moment of "aaaargh" when the power cable got knocked partly out, followed by the familiar three red lights, but powering off and back on again with the cable securely in place did the trick.

The system has coped with what I'd call normal usage for a console (around three hours usage a night) without any problems.

In a fit of purest optimism I've bought another couple of games, and more importantly a 20 gig hard drive, so hopefully I'll be able to play some of my old XBox games on it too.

I'll be posting some more on my first impressions of the 360 in a different post, so stay tuned.

Update - Around three weeks since the last "towel fix"

The RROD has come back, so this time I'll be sending it back under warranty rather than messing around. Want to know how this went?

Read on in Part 2

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