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Dead 360? No Warranty? Look Here.


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#1 BenS

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 12:07 PM

This post is only to serve as documentation of my "dead" 360 and what I did to fix it. There are no guarantees that this will work for your application.


NOTE: Please note this process involves dismantling your 360, which will void any and all warranties you may or may not have. My warranty was up, and I had not purchased an extended warranty.
(I'm a cheap bastard.)

This applies to 360 suffering from the "three red lights of death," or red lights from three o'clock to twelve o'clock around the power button. This means "General Hardware Failure" and does not point to any one specific item.

My 360 would boot into the dashboard without any trouble, but once you started a game, it would only run a few seconds. I suspected the dashboard would not give the system much of a workout, but games would, so a heat problem was an avenue to be explored.

There are ways to get a more specific trouble code out of the 360 when this happens. I'm not going to get into that now, but this link will tell you how to get the additional code and how to interpret that.

I was unable get the secondary error code because my 360's troubles were very erratic. Sometimes it would let me play for a few minutes and then freeze up. Sometimes it wouldn't even get past the intro screen during bootup without freezing. Sometimes it wouldn't boot at all and give me the three red lights, but not every time.

I called MS support only for them to tell me for a low fee of $130 they would fix it for me. Or I could use the extended warranty I might have purchased when I bought the unit. I obtained mine from Ebay, so I'm out of luck there. I decided to dismantle my 360 and see what I could find.

I discovered the GPU chip on my 360 possibly had some sort of thermal interface material (TIM) failure. I compared mine to how another one looked over at Anandtech and discovered mine was indeed different. Mine had some sort of metallic silver cover over the heatsink paste on the heatsink, and very little if any paste actually came into contact with the GPU die itsself.

Note: Some TIMs are designed to have a cover over the paste. I personally have never seen one, so at least to me they are rare. (I've been building PCs since 1996.) Your experience may vary. What I found on my 360's GPU could actually be a fully functional TIM in theory, but mine seemed to be experiencing overheating issues.

Have a look. Here's my GPU. Click for large versions.
IPB Image

Here's Anandtech's.
IPB Image

Notice anything different? My GPU has a mirror finish; it is super clean. Anandtech's has thermal paste smeared all over it. That is what I was expecting to find in mine.

Here's a picture of what I believe to be the source of my 360's problems. The silver pad covering the thermal paste on the GPU's heatsink.

IPB Image

Another interesting fact is that when I pulled off the CPU heatsink, it looks like Anandtech's GPU. Thermal paste applied directly to the die itsself.

IPB Image

And the CPU's heatsink. Notice it does not have the same silver pad covering the thermal paste.

IPB Image

With the troubleshooting gears turning in my head, it made sense that the GPU might be overheating. I thought I would replace the TIM with some Arctic Silver, and see what happens.

So far, this repair has worked for my 360. I've been racking up as much play time as possible, so far 2+ hours, and no lockups whatsoever. This is the most it has let me play in two weeks. Before, I couldn't play 2 minutes without it locking up, much less an hour.

Please consider your options before opening your 360 up. If you feel like you are pretty handy fixing computers, handling sensitive hardware, and working with basic tools, you should be fine.

Now let's get down to business.

Tools you'll need:

A thin hex head L-shaped wrench OR a probe tool of some sort.
1 T-8 Torx screwdriver
1 T-10 Torx screwdriver
Plastic scraper tool or pocket knife
Arctic Silver or other brand high quality heat sink paste
1 Brillo steel wool pad
Cleaning supplies

I'm not going to detail how to get the 360 apart, you can follow instructions on how to do that here. You'll need to get the motherboard out of the metal cage, and pop off the heatsinks from both the CPU and GPU.

Once you get the GPU heatsink removed, look at the thermal pad on the bottom of it. Does it have a rectangular metallic silver cover on it? This is how mine looked. I suspect this thermal pad is insufficient for the amount of heat generated by the GPU.

NOTE: If yours DOES NOT have this metallic silver cover, your hardware faults might lie somewhere else. However, since you're this far already, keep going. Better cooling for your 360 would never hurt.

Scrape off the thermal pad from both the aluminum GPU heatsink and the copper CPU heatsink. I used a Brillo steel wool pad for this, and it worked great. It even polished the bottom of the heatsinks a little bit. If you get the heatsinks wet, make sure you dry them thouroughly before reinstalling.

Now clean the remaining thermal paste from the GPU and CPU. My CPU had the most paste on it, so it took the longest. I used small pieces of a paper towel slightly dampened with 409 and it worked fair. You may have a better method of removing thermal paste from a CPU, so use your judgement here.

Once clean, apply your thermal paste to the CPU and GPU dies. Don't apply too much, just enough to cover the entire die.

Now reinstall the heatsinks, put the 360 back together, and enjoy.

As a side note, I've chronicled most of the process I took on my blog. I would be VERY interested in hearing from others in my situation. No warranty options, and willing to pull off their GPU heatsink to see if they have the silver pad on the heatsink like I did. If you do, PLEASE email me: bspradlin AT gmail DOT com.

#2 robivy64

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 12:56 PM

I'd recommend a thermal paste removal solvent such as Arcticlean over household cleaners. I think MS knows there is a problem with heat here, and they have been experimenting with changing out/adding components to see what works best for cooling. That stock thermal compound on your 360 looks abismal.

Out of curiosity what is the manufacturing date of your 360? This may help determine around what time in the production run they used these cheap materials.

-R

#3 xboxexpert

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 01:11 PM

I've done it before, liked this tutorial, great pictures...Added to the main 360 Tutorials, located here, under Cooling Mods.

Welcome to the forums's BenS! Great way to start off posting.

-xboxexpert

#4 BenS

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 01:58 PM

Thanks guys. xboxexpert, I apologize if I put this in the wrong forum.

This problem seems to be plaguing 360 owners like me who have owned one since launch, and have worked fine for 6+ months, and now are dying. I'm not sure why the thermal compound breaks down after this period of time. I didn't play my 360 very much to be honest, maybe 1 hour a week here lately, at the most four or five hours a week back around Christmas.

robivy64, if I remember correctly, I want to say the build date was 8/28/05. I may have the day wrong, but it was August 05. It was stamped everywhere inside. I would LOVE to know when Anandtech's was built. I might email the author of that article to see if he or she remembers.

#5 patrick2269

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 12:30 AM

You do know that you could have purchased an extended warranty from Ms for $30. It donít mater how are where you got your 360, you even donít need a receipt, and you can buy it at any time (Say your 360 is out if warranty and it just died, just call in buy the extended warranty for $30. Wait 3 days for the extended warranty to take affect. Call back in and have your 360 replaced). Just as long as you have $30, and an intact warranty sticker, it all works.

A MS Rep. told me about this loophole, and it saves people $100 smile.gif

#6 BenS

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 02:30 AM

QUOTE(patrick2269 @ Jun 16 2006, 07:37 PM) View Post

You do know that you could have purchased an extended warranty from Ms for $30. It don’t mater how are where you got your 360, you even don’t need a receipt, and you can buy it at any time (Say your 360 is out if warranty and it just died, just call in buy the extended warranty for $30. Wait 3 days for the extended warranty to take affect. Call back in and have your 360 replaced). Just as long as you have $30, and an intact warranty sticker, it all works.

A MS Rep. told me about this loophole, and it saves people $100 smile.gif


Isn't MS's warranty $50? I asked to buy one, but was flatly refused by the rep I spoke with. She told me you could only buy one within the 90 days after purchase.

Regardless, I already had arctic silver lying around in my toolkit, so total out of pocket cost for my fix was $0, and about 2 hours work time vs. $130, in addition to a month+ turnaround time to get a replacement shipped to me.

Edited by BenS, 17 June 2006 - 02:37 AM.


#7 patrick2269

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 02:38 AM

QUOTE(BenS @ Jun 16 2006, 09:37 PM) View Post

I asked to buy one, but was flatly refused by the rep I spoke with. She told me you could only buy one within the 90 days after purchase.

Regardless, I already had arctic silver lying around in my toolkit, so total out of pocket cost for my fix was $0, and about 2 hours work time vs. $30, in addition to a month+ turnaround time to get a replacement shipped to me.



LOL, I guess it pretty much boils down to what Rep. you talk to.

#8 patrick2269

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 03:05 AM

QUOTE(BenS @ Jun 16 2006, 09:37 PM) View Post

Isn't MS's warranty $50? I asked to buy one, but was flatly refused by the rep I spoke with. She told me you could only buy one within the 90 days after purchase.


The Rep. I talked to told me the 1 year warranty had went down from $50 to $29.95, and when he told me that I decided to buy a 1 year warranty becaues my new 360 they sent me had been out of warranty for almost 30 days.

#9 Matt_Tracy

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 03:14 AM

I sent you a nice, long e-mail, BenS. Thank you for the tutorial. smile.gif

#10 cadavra

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 06:24 PM

QUOTE(Matt_Tracy @ Jun 17 2006, 03:21 AM) View Post

I sent you a nice, long e-mail, BenS. Thank you for the tutorial. smile.gif


Did this method work for you?

#11 Matt_Tracy

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 06:43 PM

QUOTE(cadavra @ Jun 17 2006, 12:31 PM) View Post

Did this method work for you?


Yes. I did this last night, popped in Madden, played for half an hour, popped in PGR3, played for another half hour, and turned it off.

Before doing this, the 360 wouldn't even boot to the dashboard.

#12 Xfab29

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 07:10 PM

worked for me too

http://forums.xbox-s...howtopic=522125

no problem of overheating biggrin.gif

#13 BenS

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 07:47 PM

Awesome! Thanks for trying and reporting back smile.gif

#14 WildMonkeys

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 10:34 PM

Great article, thanks man!

I had a launch 360 (through every10minutes) and I didn't buy a warranty - however was lucky enough to find my 360 overheating with just 10 days left of the 90 day preriod. It was the day after a 3 day holiday when I called in and the rep told me 3 day turnaround, but said it might be longer because of backup. I got it no later than 6 business days ship - recieve, but instead of the same xbox I got a different "refurbished" (one I assume was already sent back and fixed since it's manu date was earlier than mine) box + an extra HDD (though it had scratches all over it; still netting me +95$ on ebay)

All - in - all I'd have to say if you still have the 90 day (or bought a warranty) definately go for it. Best product support I've ever experienced.

P.s. unless they explicitely tell you to include the HDD in shipment (especially if you have a prem.) don't send it to them - you'll get an extra back wink.gif

Edited by WildMonkeys, 17 June 2006 - 10:36 PM.


#15 Tim H. C.

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Posted 18 June 2006 - 08:25 AM

How do I remove the paste from the GPU and CPU itself? uhh.gif




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