I love broken stuff. It gives you an excuse to try and fix something. If you succeed, you’re awesome. If you fail, it was broken anyway, right?
Base in point… my Xbox 360 has been having the infamous Red Ring Of Death (RROD) for about a year now. In normal words, it’s broken. I did the usual searches and tried all of the following:
- Stuck toothpicks in the fans to heat up the mother board so it resets itself
- Replaced the heat sink and thermal paste with the ‘fix kit’
- Read the error codes by holding down the eject button
- Cleaned out the fans
- Moved it to a well ventilated area
- Covered it in ace packs
- Updated the software
- Tried holding open the CD tray to force a reset
- Light candles around it in an X pattern and chant pagan poems
Nothing worked. Then GTA 5 came out and I *needed* to get that damn Xbox fixed.
Why the RROD?
Cutting a long story short, the main reason for the RROD is overheating and then poor connections to the main processors. The processors are soldered to the motherboard with small dots of solder. With repeated use, heating and cooling, these dots of solder become brittle and can lose contact with the motherboard. You can’t just crack out the soldering iron as the ‘pins’ don’t come through the board, they are surface mounted on one side.
Enter a technique called ‘reflowing’. Essentially, you heat up the solder until it ‘reflows’ back in to nice liquid solder and makes a good connection again. This can be done with a constantly moving heat gun, a professional rig or by placing the board (with some protection) into a special over. Or a domestic oven according to the internet.
The process is simply to strip the xbox down to the motherboard, wrap the sensitive components and plugs around the edges with insulation and foil, expose the chips in the middle and whack it in the oven on full blast for 10-15 minutes. The trick is to then let it cool down gradually so the solder doesn’t have any stress points.
Here’s how it turned out…
First, cover the sensitive bits. here I’m using ultra-high tech kitchen towel.
Expose the main chips and solder points below too.
Add a base for the board to sit on in the oven. Turn the oven to 200ºC and wait for it to heat up.
Cover the insulated areas with a few layers of aluminium foil, keeping the chips exposed and place on the oven rack.
Cook for about 10 minutes.
When cooking is complete, open the oven door and wait for an hour for everything to settle.
Then marvel at the pile of melted Xbox parts and capacitors oozing brown goop all over the place. Proceed to salvage the fans for some project-or-other you will probably never get around to. Keep the hard drive with all your data you can’t really use. Quickly look on Ebay to realise it’s already awash with all the other parts you have left over and fetch no more than 60p. Salvage the heat sink fix kit just in case, you paid extra for it after all. Then take everything to the recycling centre in one last gasp at salvaging something positive out of the whole, embarrassing debacle.
So what would I have done differently? Should have just bought a second-hand console off Ebay for £50. Then waited for the Xbox One to come down in price a little and go for one of those. Still, at least I have some cool looking fans… and at the end of the day, it was broken already, right? Nothing ventured, nothing gained!