How to fix your Xbox 360

The Xbox 360 came with numerous flaws.  I have had every RROD (Red Ring Of Death) error you could imagine.  I have even had a horrible hardware failure that was almost impossible to troubleshoot.  If you too are having issues with your Xbox, look no further.  I’m not going to get in depth as to the exact reasons the hardware is failing.  I will show you how to fix and prevent any problems you are experiencing.  If your Xbox is under warranty DO NOT OPEN IT.  Instead you can send it to Microsoft (if you trust them) and have them fix it.

Since the Xbox 360, like most things is made in China it’s a piece of shit.  Well, it’s actually a pretty sweet gaming system but the people who assembled it couldn’t give a flying fucking monkeys ball sack if it will be functioning at optimum performance in a few years.  They just want to get their 3 cents for the day so they can buy food for their starving family, and really… can you blame them?

So, assemble the following tools:

  • A tiny Flathead screwdriver (for prying, popping, loosing- you’re not going to use this for screws at all. )
  • A Torx set (Just go to Radioshack and splurge on the interchangeable set. You’ll need it eventually anyway.)
  • One of those metal tools to pry meat from crab legs or a heavy duty skewer-metal preferably but wood is OK.  (You will use this instead of the small screwdriver if you have trouble getting the two gray “grills” off- you’ll see.)
  • A couple small dishes to put screws in.  (DON’T LOSE ANY SCREWS)
  • A large clean table to work on.  Someplace where you can leave things setup for awhile.
  • Thermal Paste
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Stack of old school wheat pennies (these are real copper and will be helpful- you’ll see why)
  • Electrical Tape
  • Q-tips
  • Another pair of hands for a couple stages just in case
  • A camera if you want.  (To take pictures of each stage in case you forget how to put everything together.)
  • Beer or Soda on a different table than you are working on to quench your parched throat.

OK, if you have ANY of the RROD you might as well bust this XBOX 360 open and just fix EVERYTHING.  Then you don’t have to worry in the future about some other stupid error.  Trust me, tonight I have my Xbox spewed out in pieces like a freaking corpse dissection gone wrong.  Why?  I didn’t fix the problems the first 5 times I had this thing open.  Trust me, it’s not fun to take it all apart and put it back together so just do this right the first time.

For those of you worried about breaking something, don’t be.  If you are that worried about it, I’m sure you are going to handle each piece with care and they can take a lot more of a beating than you could ever do to them.  If you don’t give a shit and just want to rip it open while drunk, wait until you are sober and have a calm and organized friend who is interested in electronics help you.  This will keep your Xbox from being mutilated.

The hardest part really is just opening the case and getting the motherboard out.

HOW TO OPEN YOUR XBOX 360 OUTER SHELL:


1 – The Untouched Console

 

 

Make sure there is no disc in the drive, and the power is off.

2 – Remove The Facia

Hook your finger inside the USB port door, and ‘pop’ off the facia. It will come off no problem.

3 – Remove The Grills

You now need to remove the top and bottom grills. Pull the front of the grill out away from the console, it should come off with a little effort. The grill is then held in place by the four remaining clips, which can be seen if you look through the little holes on either side of the console. These can be unclipped with a small screwdriver.


If you have trouble releasing the last clip, you may need to pull back the rubber foot next to the grill, which will reveal a small hole. You can then push the screw driver through there.

4 – Undo Front Case Clips

This is now your last chance to back out of opening the console before breaking the warranty sticker on the case!

The four case clips shown in the image below now need to be unclipped. This can be done with a fingernail or screwdriver.

Once you have undone this clips, you can now lift up the top half of the case. You need to keep these apart now, otherwise they will clip back into place.

5 – Undo back Case Clips

This for me is a bit of a pain – not particularly difficult, but I didn’t know what the hell I was supposed to be doing when I did it the first time!

Once you have the case open, you’ll see how the clips work.

You will need something flat and strong for this (a flathead screwdriver probably won’t fit). There are tools around specifically for this (check out ebay) but I just use an old pair of tweezers because they are just thin enough.

You need to push your implement through each of the seven slits until you hear a ‘click’ that means the clip is undone, and you can move onto the next one. Once they are all undone, the bottom part of the case will completely come off.

6 – Remove The Eject Button And DVD Bezel

The button is clipped onto the DVD drive. You should be able to get a small Flathead screwdriver round the back, and pry it off.


You don’t actually need any tools to remove the bezel, a fingernail will do. I have turned the console upside down to get a better angle, but this is not necessary.

The bezel needs to be pulled away from the DVD drive at the bottom to release two clips. Once the clips are released, the bezel will slide off.

7 – Undo Case Screws

Once you have the bottom of the case of, you will see the following

Red– Torx 10 Motherboard screws
Green – Torx 10 Case screws
Blue – Torx 9 Heat sink screws

You need to undo the six green case screws. Take off the top section of the case. You will now be able to see inside the console:

8 – Remove The DVD

Unplug the power and SATA cables from the back of the dvd. They should come out with a bit of a tug.


You need to peel back the silver tag just below the bezel, and then you will be able to remove the drive.

9 – Remove Fan And Fan Guard

The piece of metal above the fan needs to be bent up slightly as shown in the picture. With a bit of ‘wiggling’ the cream fan guard will come off, and the fan can be unplugged and removed.

10 – Remove The Ring Of Light

The cream plastic cover is clipped into the circuit board at the top and bottom. You can unclip this and remove.

There are then 3 Torx 9 screws on the circuit board which can be undone, and the ring of light can then be removed.

11 – Remove The Motherboard

You can now turn the console upside down. Whilst making sure the motherboard does not fall out once free – unscrew the remaining Torx 9 & 10 screws from the bottom of the console.

Once you turn the turn it up the right way, the motherboard can be gently removed from the casing.

OK, all that crap is over with.  Now do you see why I said you need to fix everything while you have it open?  Who cares if it’s not broken, it probably will break eventually if you don’t address it now.

First thing to fix are the 4 small GPU chips from overheating.

Look closely at the motherboard.  The underside has these little white things that look like band-aids.  That’s exactly what they are- cheap band-aid fixes from China.  Microsoft realized that their GPU chips get hot and overheat so they used these piece of shit band-aids to soak up the extra heat.  Trouble is, they don’t work and will fail eventually.  Pull them all off and throw them away, burn them, feed them to your pet Mastodon, whatever you want- just get rid of them.  They are worthless.

Get out your wheat pennies- Set them up in 4 stacks of 3 pennies per stack.  Most guides will tell you to use ANY penny- ignore them and use REAL COPPER WHEAT PENNIES if possible, also USE 3 PER STACK, not 2 like most other guides say, finally USE THERMAL PASTE in between each penny.  What all of this does is give you more heat absorption from the triple layer, thermal paste helps move the heat along through the pennies, the pennies pushing on the metal case (once back together) will help further disperse the heat.  The pennies being wheat pennies means that they were made out of real copper as opposed to zinc.  Copper is great at heat absorption and thus the wheat pennies are a better choice than your standard worthless currency.  It will be a fix that Microsoft tried to perform for thousands of dollars that you fixed for 12 cents per Xbox 360.  Microsoft may throw money at problems, but sometimes some common sense is all it takes to solve a problem.  Anyways, enough ranting about Microsoft’s incompetence.

After you have the 4 stacks of 3 pennies apply a very thin layer of Thermal Paste and then wrap the 4 stacks in a very thin layer of electrical tape making sure not to leave any of the copper pennies exposed but not putting the tape on too thick.  Apply thermal paste to the 4 GPU (Graphical Processing Units) and set each stack of wrapped pennies upon the chips.  Next tape them all down to the motherboard with electrical tape.

Your GPU fix is done.  If you had a horrible RROD this might be your first fix!  Also your Xbox will run longer without experiencing graphical problems in the future.  Congrats!  You did this all by yourself!  What a great feeling to know you solved a problem that would have cost you hard earned money or wasted time mailing your Xbox to Microsoft to fiddle around with and not really fix.

The next thing you will do is take a look at the bottom of the motherboard.  See those 2 X’s?  Use a small flat head screwdriver and gently pry at the ends of those to get them to peel back from the circular mounts that come from the heat sinks on the other side.  They should pop off fairly easy.  Just work slowly and gently.  If one is stuck skip it and move to the next and work your way around.  They will come off and the heat sinks should fall right out of the motherboard through the other side.  Now look at the GPU and CPU chips on the TOP side of the motherboard.  They are probably COVERED in nasty gray Thermal Paste which was put on haphazardly.  What a freaking mess!  Who does this??

Take rubbing alcohol and Q-Tips, gently clean it all off of the chips AND the two heat sinks.  Let dry.  Apply a thin layer of thermal paste to the chips, replace the heat sinks, the giant X clamps and make sure all is snug.

***UPDATE***
I determined that the tiny aluminum heat-sink that goes over the main GPU creates a huge amount of heat, literally ON TOP of that is the DVD drive which adds additional heat. Look the the plastic piece that directs the airflow into the Xbox. See how most of the air is directed at the CPU heat-sink while the GPU gets only a small fraction of the air? Take a piece of cardboard and look at the motherboard. There should be a couple diodes or transistors you can slide the piece of cardboard between. You basically need to create a direct path for the left fan to blow air ONLY on the GPU heat-sink and not redirect it away to the CPU heat-sink. I have found that some Xbox units were so poorly designed that they still overheat even with all these fixes. In that case, put the Xbox back together but leave the plastic shell, the plastic grills, and the top off. Don’t even bother screwing in the Motherboard. You can just set it inside the bottom half of the metal case. **WARNING** (Do this at your own risk- I am not responsible for you electrocuting yourself or causing problems to your Xbox.) I have left my Xbox open and it ended ALL the overheating issues. It doesn’t look that cool anymore… well- depends on if you like the exposed electronics look… but it makes it ten times easier to clean or apply other modifications (like flashing your DVD drive).
***END UPDATE***

Follow the steps backwards to put your Xbox 360 back together.

Next plug in your Xbox 360 and wrap it tightly in 6-8 towels or coats.  Let it overheat for about 15-20 minutes.  Then check to see if it automatically shut down.  If it didn’t try a little longer.  If it still doesn’t shut down just turn it off.  Unplug everything, and let it cool off until no heat is coming off the Xbox 360.  Then plug it all in and turn it on.  It will have overheated which kicks it into default factory settings- you must do this to reset all the BS you just did and get rid of any other error codes so it will load normally and give you a fresh start.  Why Microsoft didn’t just give you a reset switch somewhere we will never know.

Now you should be able to plug it in and rock and roll!  Congrats on your cleaned up and fully functional Xbox!  You spent 1-2 hours and 12 cents!  That beats anything Microsoft could have done for you!

Happy Gaming!

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About Jonathan G. Nelson

Jonathan G. Nelson is the editor-in-chief and owner of NERD TREK. He is also owner/publisher at AAW Games / AdventureAWeek.com, a tabletop gaming company based in Snoqualmie, WA. Connect with Jonathan via Facebook.