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 system).

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 terribly professional.

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 nearby.

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?