The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 12
One of the ever-present joys of owning
an Xbox 360 is the failure rate. Red Ring of Death, E74, and
countless other errors have forced plagued loyal Xbox owners and
provided PS3 fanboys with an endless well of jokes. To be perfectly
honest, the physical quality of the original white Xbox 360 kind of
is a joke. It's pretty terrible. There's really no excuse for
building a product with a 55% failure rate.
Over the last few years, my younger
brothers and I have suffered through Xbox hell many times. Our first
Xbox broke down and had to be repaired. Then it broke down again.
This time we bought another one. That one broke too. Finally, we
invested in the new black Xbox 360, which has a much higher build
quality. That has lasted a solid year and a half without so much as a
hint of trouble.
Don't worry. This blog isn't going to
be me complaining about buying a new Xbox (tempting as that might
be). This is more about how I turned a bad situation into a slightly
better one. You see, we never got rid of those two broken Xboxes. As
of now they're both sitting in storage in our basement. There's not
much to be done with them. Nobody wants to buy a broken Xbox 360.
My Xbox after reassembly.
So, on a whim, I decided to try fixing
one of the broken consoles. There wasn't much to lose. The broken
Xboxes were just gathering dust in the basement. Even if I screwed up
and completely ruined the Xbox, it would not be a big deal. The thing
was already broken. Combine that with a whole lot of spare time
recently and voila, you get my latest project.
The ultimate goal is to take a broken
Xbox and restore it to working condition. However, this is a bit of a
tall order as I know nothing about electronic circuitry and less
about Xbox repair. To YouTube!
Well, not quite. I found an extensive
and quite helpful guide for taking apart an Xbox. You do need some
specialized tools, but it's all pretty cheap stuff. I spent about six
dollars in total on this project. Here's how it went.
The plastic bits.
The first step is taking off the outer
bits of plastic. The faceplate pops right off, but the plastic
grilles at the ends require a little more finesse. Using a thin piece
of metal, I pushed through the holes in the sides of the Xbox and
popped loose the pieces holding the plastic grilles in place.
The next step was really hard. The top
half of the Xbox's white case is the most evil inanimate object with
which I've ever had the joy of struggling. You have to simultaneously
press open the latches of several different pieces. Not one of these
pieces is easy to reach. I ended up cutting apart hard plastic and
fashioning a custom tool to fit the latches exactly.
See all those screws? Yeah, they're annoying.
The metal part of the case is a bit
more difficult to remove. Microsoft being the terribly classy people
they are, the case is held in by screws which cannot be loosened with
your usual Phillips/flathead screwdriver. So I went online to find
two specialty screwdrivers, the T8 and T10. A lot of places tried to
charge ridiculous fees for them, but thankfully they're a bit more
reasonable on Amazon at $3 apiece.
After that the going was easy. Using
two specialty screwdrivers, the rest of the case was easy to
disassemble. There are many screws holding the Xbox together, but
once they're removed then just about everything slides right off.
The small silver discs are capacitors. The more you know.
Once you get the top part off, the once
curvy white Xbox is just a square of shiny silver holding together a
complex green motherboard. My father, a former electrical engineer,
was delighted to get a look at the innards of the console. He knew
how everything worked and gave an easy explanation for a few parts
(the strips of metal are meant to absorb heat generated by the
The DVD drive pops right out without
the screws to hold it in place. Remove that and the large white piece
of plastic and you can see the whole Xbox motherboard. It's a complex
mess of circuitry and capacitors. As a non-engineer, my thoughts were
something along the lines of "Cool... what is it?"
Anyway, the specific error I faced was
labeled "E74." A quick Google search revealed that error
was associated with an overheated chip. The solution recommended
online was to tape down a stack of pennies to the chip. The coins
would act as heat absorbers that should take some pressure off the
chip. So, I superglued a bunch of pennies together and attached them
to the chip with duct tape. As you can see from the picture above, it looked
The final step was to reset the Xbox
using the "towel trick." Basically you turn on the console
and wrap it in towels, forcing the system to overheat and reset
itself. Note: This is not a good idea to do with a working console.
It can also cause fires. Do not try without a large bucket of water
A frontal view.
I did the towel trick and plugged in
the console. Before, the broken Xbox wouldn't even turn on. It just
went straight to the "E74" error screen. However, to my
surprise, the formerly broken console actually booted up
successfully. Granted, none of my (numerous) Xbox controllers will
connect, but at least it boots. One step at a time.
Taking apart the Xbox was really cool.
Maybe it's just me, but getting to pick apart a complex piece of
electronics like an Xbox 360 was a neat experience. It may not be a
great idea to break apart a working console, but if one breaks down
on you I highly recommend taking it apart.
If anyone knows how to fix the
controller thing, that would be great. Have your ever tried doing DIY
surgery on a console before?
And for your viewing enjoyment, some
more pics of the disassembled Xbox.
The large grey box on top is the DVD drive.
The Xbox running on my television.
Seriously, though, does anyone have a solution for the controller problem?
I have always wanted to try and rebuild one. Kudos to you for going for it.
That's really cool. A few weeks ago. I spent a less rigorous look at my old Dreamcast. I've been trying to get that thing to work, and I now have the same problem as you, only I don't know WHERE the controller(s) are. Glad to see you got it working again.
I have considered opening my broken xbox but am intimidated by the latches on the outside. Maybe if my current xbox breaks I will try and combine them. One thing I might try this summer is transforming a snes or an N64 into a toaster.
I used to always take stuff apart that didn't work. It was usually just for the heck of it before throwing it away. But I was able to get a Sega Genesis controller to work by replacing the button with one from a different controller.
However, I don't even bother with the newer stuff. Things are so complicated now, I'd probably just start a fire lol.
That's neat. I too have an old white brick laying around, maybe I'll give this a shot one day. Good luck with your controller problem.
I used to take my old PS2 apart and clean the lens because it would stop reading discs after awhile. Cool post!
Never thought the Xbox 360 had this many problems. My Uncle has a broken PS3 and will send it to get repaired. Hopefully, it works, because it is one of the old models.
actually I had to take my original xbox 360 a part. still is in pieces however being a former IT tech I understood what was going on with the innerds. thought about taking the board and parts and putting it into a pc case (which can be done).
I agree taking the casing off without the correct tools is a real pain in the butt. still have to get the heat sink (the metal bits thing) off so I can get to the processor (the thing the pennies are taped/glued to) and add thermal paste ( used on pc processors to keep them connected and cooled with the heat sink thing) in order to get it back up and running.
As far as having issues with the controllers, check the front panel and make sure everything is on correctly then try re-sinking the controller to it. if that doesn't help then *shrug*...
It does seem strange that copper pennies would be suggested for the solution but then they use copper cores with the new processor heat sinks. Me I would have just tried getting thermal paste first. lol
On a side note; thought about modding the case for the xbox (modifying the outside so it looks cool) and yet it still sits..