Before Christmas I picked up a cheap Xbox 360 with a broken DVD drive. I fixed that, felt pretty chuffed with myself, stuffed it down the side of my telly and enjoyed Xbox Live. Turns out that down the side of my TV stand isn’t a great place for an old 360 to live. It must have been getting pretty hot and stuffy down there, because after a couple of months it suddenly started freezing up during gameplay. I figured it wouldn’t last much longer, and I was right – the dreaded RRoD showed up few days later, and it was a terminal case too.
Since it had kissed its warranty goodbye before I even owned it, the only option was to repair it myself. I knew a fair bit about X-clamp replacement already, so set about reading up on the best method. I was advised to perform the “Ultimate Hybrid fix” by Nick, an extremely helpful guy who also provided me with the newer GPU heatsink with the heatpipe extension, and much invaluable advice – thanks Nick! The hybrid fix is more work than the usual fix most people tend to do, but even a quick read through the tutorial was enough to convince me that the extra effort would be worth it. The principles behind it are sound and it has much better chance of working first time and lasting for longer, so I drilled the case and found myself the bits and pieces I would need.
For anyone else in the UK looking to find the right bolts and washers easily, I found that Screwfix sell socket button head screws that are much much better value than buying from B&Q – the only problem is that they are pan head and won’t sit flush on the back of the chassis without M5 spring washers, which neither Screwfix nor B&Q sell, so I had to head to eBay for those. Screwfix do sell flat M5 washers as well, 59p for 100! The quality is not great in that quite lot of them had ridges or burrs, so you have to inspect each one to make sure it’s OK to use. You’ll easily find the 42 you need in bag of 100 though. I won’t go into detail on the fix itself – there’s plenty of detail out there already, and nothing I can really add that’s helpful other than one tip: the tutorial says to attach the CPU heatsink first; I’d suggest the opposite. The GPU heatsink is harder to get on, and having the CPU one on already only makes it harder. There’s good chance of losing a few washers while trying to get the bolts engaged in the GPU heatsink. As long as they’re only the ones above the motherboard it’s not too big a disaster, but if one of the bolts should slip out far enough for the washers underneath to fall out… well let’s just say there will be swearing, and you’ll have to disassemble the whole lot and start again! So do the GPU first. The CPU heatsink goes on much more easily. I was wondering whether I’d have to fiddle with the tightness of the bolts to get it working, but I needn’t have worried – my repaired 360 fired up first time! To say was pleased would be an understatement. (Don’t listen to any guides that would have you overheat the GPU by the way – if this method actually got it hot enough to melt the solder connections it would have fried the GPU! It’s an old wive’s tale that doing this helps.)
Playtesting showed that the fix had definitely worked – my 360 was doing just fine. I did, however, notice just how hot it got during use. I had already decided I wasn’t going to put it back in its previous home unless I could do something to drastically improve the ventilation, but this just highlighted how important that was. I had ordered some Talismoon replacement fans, and while I was prepping the motherboard for its repair I had soldered a molex connector to the underside of the power supply connector. This gave me easy access to 12V and also 5V standby above the board. I also got lucky and found an old heatsink fan which would sit just nicely on the GPU heatpipe extension, along with an assortment of molex adapters to connect it all up.
I connected the Talismoon fans to 12V so they would run at full speed all the time, and the little heatsink fan to 5V standby voltage so it would always be on whenever the power supply was switched on at the mains. This is particularly useful for one main reason: the instant you switch a 360 off, the airflow over the heatsinks stops. This means that the heat suddenly has nowhere to go, and if you’ve been working the processors hard you could actually get a short-lived temperature increase just after switching the 360 off! As it is thermal cycling which causes the RRoD, this temperature spiking is a really bad thing. With the little 5V fan providing some airflow even after the 360 is powered down (I can feel it coming through the rear fan vents), this risk is greatly reduced.
The one thing I will say is that running the Talismoon fans at 12V is loud. However, it is also cool – much cooler than I had expected, to be honest! So I think I’ll stick with 12V for now, until I’ve established whether I really notice the extra noise or not.
Hopefully, my RRoD repair will stand the test of time – I’ll post updates so people can see how long it lasts. One thing people always want to know is whether any fix can be “permanent” – I don’t think so myself, but it’s nice to know whether you can expect to have extended the life of your console by weeks, months or (hopefully) years!
UPDATE: started freezing during gameplay again on the 26th March 😦
Hopefully tightening the bolts might get it working again… we’ll see!