Tag Archives: Xbox

Red Ring of Death

For some time, it appeared that the dreaded “RRoD” had overlooked my Xbox 360 console.

Over the years, I’ve watched as my brother, friends, family members, and co-workers had to send their consoles into Microsoft for warranty repair.  Sometimes even on multiple occasions.  The ruthless crimson-ringed beast seemed to spare no one.  In fact, I’m almost positive that I do not know a single person that has an early-model Xbox that has not “red ringed” at some point.

On Thursday night, as I went to launch my newly downloaded Battle Field 3 beta, my Xbox beeped loudly and froze up.  I powered it off, and powered it back on – only for it to freeze at the Xbox boot screen animation.  A second power off/on showed me a most unpleasant site framed in a very distinctly reddish hue.  It seemed, much like death itself stalking the cast of a Final Destination movie, that this unmerciful demon of console demise had at last found its misguided way to my Xbox

Personally, I feel this has been a long time coming.  I’ve somehow managed to dodge this bullet for years.  Probably the fact that I have the “2nd printing” of the Xbox 360 Pro with an HDMI port bought me this extra lease on life, but who can be sure.  After a night’s rest, the RRoD continued in the morning.  I decided it was time to take corrective actions.  Microsoft extended warranty coverage for this issue for a period of 3 years.  Since I bought my Xbox in November of 2007, I was 11 months past my warranty coverage.  This leaves my 1st option:  Send the console into Microsoft for 100 dollar repair/refurb.

Since I like 100 dollars in my bank account, I did not even consider this option.

My next thought is to replace the console.  I immediately shop on Amazon and Newegg, but I’m not really enjoying the notion of paying $200 plus for a new Xbox and paying for a data migration kit.

A third option, much more my style, began to creep into my frazzled mind.   “Why not try to actually try to fix this myself?”.  I am a fairly technically savvy person with a family history of MacGyvering – so I saw fit to AT THE VERY LEAST lace up, touch gloves, and slug it out for a few rounds with the RRoD.  I commenced work immediately.

I didn’t use a guide to open up my Xbox; but I should have.  I used brute force and a couple of plastic tabs that hold the top plastic bezel in place are now snapped off.  It was difficult to  get this console open my first time, and it probably took me 45 minutes to have the thing completely disassembled to where I had the system board out and all other pieces off to the side.

With everything opened up and my warranty (or, possibility of ever having one) now completely devoid, I started looking at possible fixes.  Both the CPU and GPU heat-sinks seemed firmly attached, so I didn’t believe that to be my problem.  Overall, the system was pretty clean.  I blew out some of the dust plugging up the fans and heat-sinks overall, but that definitely wasn’t enough of a backup to cause a RRoD in my opinion.

So, I decided it must be the memory chips on the bottom of the Xbox system board.  These 4 chips sit on the bottom side where no fan/cooling will ever reach them.  Microsoft tried to alleviate this by attaching some chintzy thermal pads, but those things were basically a band aid with some high density foam attached to the chips.

I removed the pads and cleaned the memory chips.  I used this guide to replace those pads with some custom “penny based” copper heat sinks.  You take 2 pennies, wrap them together with electrical tape, and stick them onto those 4 memory chips.  From the pic, you can see I have a tube of high-temperature synthetic grease which I layered between the chip and pennies.

The entire process was a pain.  Getting the system back together was harder than taking it apart.  It’s difficult to get everything to line up correctly while keeping those pennies in place on the chips.  After I got it part-way back together, I test-booted the Xbox only to find that the red ring persisted.  Even worse, this time it seemed to red ring before even powering on the fans.  I took this to mean that I had a short somewhere; and indeed it did seem that the system board was crooked from my penny application.  I adjusted screw tension in several places, and removed screws completely in other places – and after some finagling I was able to get the system to boot to it’s “normal” red ring where the fans and everything at least had power.

Further research indicated that the RRoD error code may persist even if you have fixed the problem.  The easiest way to clear that error code was to replace it with another error code and/or reset the onboard chips.  The easiest way to do THAT is to simply overheat your Xbox.  Shouldn’t be too hard, right?  I mean, the thing runs at nuclear temperature even in a ventialted area.  Google reported the “towel trick” was the key, and I watched this entertaining guy do said trick – which apparently means cooking your Xbox for 20-25 minutes.

Since I had the thing apart already, I decided to expedite this baking process by booting it up without the fans installed.  So I turned it on, then wrapped the console in a thick fleece blanket, and about 6 minutes later it completely powered off.  I tried to boot it up again, and I got 2 red rings vs 3 (indicating overheat, yay!).  So, I let it cool off for about 10 minutes before trying again…

It BOOTED!!!  I let it idle for a bit, played some Trials, verified live connectivity, etc etc.  Everything was looking great!  The penny fix in combination with an overheat to clear it out seemed to do the trick for me.

I put the unit back together, and by this point I was very comfortable getting it back together correctly. I tightened all the screws, got all the tabs back in place, buttoned it up completely.

With everything hooked back up; I tested the console for awhile playing various games.  I played Trials.  I played Battlefield 3 beta.  I reviewed my settings and live connectivity again…   And after 1-2 hours, it was still working fine.

I have continued playing throughout the weekend with 2-3 hours per session; totaling probably 8-10 hours of game play; and I feel like everything is very stable.  No more red rings.  I have done multiple power on/offs, disconnected/reconnected all hardware and storage devices; and at this time I feel very good about my Xbox and its “Non RRoD” status.

In fact, everyone in the family does!

Take that, RRoD…  I looked through your intimidating vengeful red eye directly into your villainous soul.  After a hard-fought battle, I am confident that on this day,  good has triumphed over evil…

This penny fix was only temporary.  The red-ring of death resurfaced about 10 days later and asked me for a rematch.

This time I pulled out all the stops and researched every possible fix that typically works for the RRoD.  Ultimately, I ended up at 2 main fixes:

  • Replacing the X-clamps that hold the heat syncs in place for the GPU and CPU, combined with replacing the thermal paste on the cores/heatsinks
  • Purchase a heat gun and use it to refresh the solder connections by heating the bottom of the circuit board.

I followed this video tutorial pretty much exactly.  He does a great job explaining the work done, and gives exact specs for the hardware that replaces the crappy X-clamps.  I took it one step further and drilled a grid of holes in the top of my Xbox to improve the airflow over top of the heatsinks.

This work seems to have officially bested the RRoD – as of now it’s been operating for about a month without any further issues.  I’ve also noticed it running much quieter now that I’ve drilled the holes, so I think that has improved the airflow and makes it so my fans have to do much less work to move the same amount of air.

Your move, RRoD.

Trials HD “Marathon” Achievement

I am one persistent, stubborn, ornery ass son-of-a-bitch.

Trials HD is an amazingly fun motorcycle game.  Sort of like the old-school “Excitebike” game with a modern twist.  I have really enjoyed playing this game backwards and forwards; enduring literally countless moto-bike spills, endless attempt at completing nearly impossible tracks, and having a blast doing it.  GG Trials HD.

Enter the “Marathon” Achievement.

This achievement is ridiculously hard.  You have to complete a 20-track long tournament, straight through, without falling or retrying even once.  It’s so hard, that the developers actually swapped out a couple tracks with a recent update to try to make it even remotely a possibility to attain.  Anyone that has ever played Trials HD knows that it’s a pretty significant challenge just to get through some of the tracks in that game.  Period.  The game is even nice enough to keep track of your retries and falls for you (counted as ‘faults’) – and this is a counter that I have driven up into the hundreds and hundreds.  The mere thought of attempting to conquer TWENTY tracks…. Straight… in one singular tournament without a single fault is just a staggering premise.

Yet, I found that this was the only achievement I was lacking in this game.  I had to get it.  Had to.

“It’s impossible – Just give up” – I heard from several different people including my Wife, my Brother (happy birthday apparently), and even my own self.  And really; I was starting to think that was the honest truth.  This is damn near impossible to accomplish.  But I had set my mind to it.  I had to accomplish it.  There was no way I was giving up.

I started thinking about all the easy achievement points I’ve been getting recently…  Blasting from a 9,000 gamer score to over 15,000 in just a couple of weeks.  All those painfully easy achievement points demanded a penance of blood.  A consequence of my choice to pursue them.  I had to validate my gamer status, even if only to myself.  I felt a need to justify my gamer score, and that this impossibly difficult achievement would do so.  I simply had to get the Marathon achievement.

I don’t know if I’ve ever worked so hard at something in all of my life.  I have spent an un-trackable amount of time meticulously analyzing and honing skills on all 20 tracks.  It’s so frustrating, because if you fall on the 17th track out of 20 – you still have to start from track 1 in order to get the achievement.  It really seemed like the world did not want me to succeed – on probably my best run ever; my xbox froze once on track 18 while I had 0 falls.  Just a soul crushing event.

I kept grinding it out.  I kept analyzing the harder parts of each track and forming an exact strategy and pattern for each obstacle, trying to do the same thing every time.  I kept trying.  I kept re-trying.  I don’t have any official stats but I wouldn’t be surprised if I have played these tracks up to a thousand times.  It’s just completely ridiculous.

But I started to notice it getting easier.  I found myself getting further and further, and more often.  I got to a point where I started to notice myself getting to tracks 15,16,17 pretty regularly without falling.

And, then, FINALLY… Today, after weeks of pursuing the 40 point “Marathon” achievement – I have succeeded.  I got through a couple close calls, frequently paused and nervously tried to compose myself before moving into the 19th and 20th tracks…  I made it.  I finally survived this rancid despicable ordeal.  I feel amazingly good right now, extremely proud of my hard works’ eventual success.  February 14th lives onto a tri-fecta of celebration.  My beloved brother’s birthday, Valentine’s day, and the day I got the Marathon achievement in Trials HD.

All I can say, once again, is I am one persistent, stubborn, ornery ass son-of-a-bitch.

XboxLIVE – Mission Victor Charlie: Success

The mission that I am dubbing “Vacation Catch-up” has been completed as a success.

As Vanlandw was away this week enjoying a much needed and EXTREMELY overdue vacation – I took it upon myself to catch him in gamerscore.  At the beginning of the week, I was almost 4,000 points behind him – so it was a pretty vast undertaking.

Originally I didn’t even think it would be possible; but as previously posted Vanbergs and Myself found a solution to that.

Vanlandw and I are tied for the time being; and I’m sure he’ll fly past me in no time.


Van won

XboxLive Gamerscore

This weekend has turned into a massive achievement fest for Vanbergs and myself.

I’m not exactly sure when it happened; but at some point within the last 6-8 months I have become completely OCD about my gamerscore and rep on Xbox Live. I don’t spend countless hours getting every achievement in every game that I own; but I spend plenty of extra time hunting down worthwhile achievements trying to boost up my score as much as possible.  I’ve desperately plunged into the multiplayer arenas of Halo 3 and Modern Warfare 2 in search of 5 star rep.  I’ve begged and pleaded my friends and foes to “prefer me”.  The list of XboxLive addiction shame just goes on.

I’m not enough of an achievement whore to use cheats/godmodes/glitching to blast an easy 1000 points out of my games.  I do maintain a certain level of purism – but, at the same time, I am definitely enough of an achievement whore to seek out and destroy games that give an easy 1000 g. Oddly enough I blame Vanlandw at least partially for starting this: Back on my birthday he purchased me “Avatar – The last Airbender” for my birthday (not to be confused in any way with James Cameron’s Avatar film); this is easily the simplest/easiest achievement booster game known to man. You literally get 1000 gamerscore in less than 2 minutes. (youtube vid)

Fast forward to this weekend. I notice on my XboxLive account that Vanbergs has magically come within just a few points of my 9,000 point gamerscore.   Somehow he magically discovered through a coworker that the entire slew of the “2k6” sports game franchise offer ridiculously easy achievements.   These NBA/NHL/NCAA/MLB 2k6 games I think must have been developed so early in the pre-launch days of the Xbox360 that they just didn’t quite understand how the achievement system was supposed to work.  Instead of having 40-50 achievements that add up to the 1,000 points, they offer FIVE… this results in each achievement being worth hundreds of points compared to 5, 10, 20 points in “normal” Xbox games.

The achievements are for things like:

    • Score 50 points with a player
    • Make 15 three pointers with any team
    • Get 6 blocks with any player
    • Score a goal with a defenseman

    Vanbergs and I teamed up each scouring various Game Stop locations for these used games and were able to come up with a pretty darn complete collection of easy 1,000 point games.  In addition to the 2k6 series, we got Fight Night round 3, Madden 2006, NBA Live 2006, Prey, and King Kong.

    So far I’ve done done the 2k6 sports games only, and am working my way up to the others.  The games are just ridiculously easy.  Playing allstar teams against the worst teams in the league results in an easy 1,000 points in a single exhibition game.  Sliders can be adjusted to basically make the opponent team play like 4th grade girls; even if the difficulty is set to super star level.  Playing Duke vs. Princeton in NCAA 2k6, I seriously won 238 – 0.  The Princeton team did not score one basket.

    Now – there are a couple achievements in here that I did have to work fairly hard at.  It’s no small feat to get 20 rebounds with a single player, especially when the team doesnt hardly shoot the ball.  Or, to get 6 blocks with a single player.  Or, to score a goal while you have 2 players in a penalty box.  But I was able to find tactics that covered each achievement and do it in one single game.  I would just shoot half-courters to get my own rebounds, intentionally hack/slash the other team to get penalty box time, and jump around like a mad man at hopes of blocking shots.  etc etc etc.

    I must admit that I do feel a little bit cheap after this weekend’s activities thus far – but I take solace in the fact that I am not cheating whatsoever.  I haven’t entered cheat codes.  I haven’t entered any god mode codes.  I haven’t glitched any games, even though there are published glitches on a few games I own that COULD result in easy 1,000 points.

    I’m simply reasearching and finding games that have easy, high yield achievements – and I’m playing them legitimately.  In fact, it was a pretty frickin’ impressive amount of work to find and procure all of these games!  It was pretty satisfying though.  I paid $2-$5 per game getting them used.

    Could I make more of a sport out of this by playing the games at my actual skill level and not making it painfully easy?  Sure.  Does it take some of the pride and prestige away from blasting past 10,000 points for my gamerscore?  Yes it does, to be quite honest.  Would I do it exactly this same way if I had it to do over again?