Xbox 360 "RROD" it happended...

It took approximately 15 months for the event to occur, but as it has happened to so many others the RROD was not unexpected.  My son creates lots of computations on his 1 teraflop Xbox 360. Needless to say the gaming community is not very amused with Xbox 360 technical problems.  More about community in a future post.

The console in our house suffered from the lower right quadrant ring of red light, otherwise known as the "E74 System Error."  Microsoft has extended the 1-year warranty to 3 years for the RROD error, but the E74 System Error still only carries a 1 year warranty.  It is becoming obvious that the common hardware failures are interrelated (heat and cold solder joints) but go figure.

Next came the big decision.  Pack up the Xbox and ship it for a costly repair that will take 1 month or do it myself?  There is plenty of information out there in the cloud as to how one can fix the problems that statistically should occur at a much lower percentage.  My soon to be 15 year old son is contemplating a career in engineering so we said let's void the warranty that has already expired and see what happens...

To attempt a fix you need to disassemble the whole unit down to the bare motherboard.  This includes opening the clever injection molded plastic case that has no screws, the metal case that requires Torx screwdrivers, the control PCB that drives the (see picture above) on/off LED button, the CD drive, the air plenum, the heatsinks, the dual cooling fans, the drive power cable and the drive data cable. Next you need to unscrew the motherboard from the metal case in order to expose the back of the motherboard.  Here is where the infamous x-clamps reside. You need to remove the x-clamps that secure the heatsinks to the 2 custom ASICs. The 2 ASICs are pretty impressive. A custom multi threaded (2) multi-core (3) IBM PowerPC-based CPU and a custom ATI GPU. Polygon performance is 500 million triangles/sec and 48 billion shader operations/sec.  No wonder the HPC community is programming GPUs for their computational might.  512 MB of 700 MHz GDDR3 RAM feeds the GPU. Memory interface bandwidth comes in at 22.4GB/sec. Not bad at all but here lies the problem.  The Xbox is a screaming number cruncher which produces electrical resistance and as a result heat.  Thermal expansion (heat) and thermal contraction (cool) cause the motherboard to be bent by the x-clamps.  Repeated cycles of this causes cold soder joints. One bad connection on a signal and your Xbox is toast.  By the way server engineers have been dealing with this issue for years. The thermal problem can be solved, but it can and usually does as the result of adding cost to the product. In my opinion the issue for the Xbox is that it is an extremely high volume product and trading off added cost versus margin to a gaming console is a difficult balance.

The fix basically involves reflowing the solder balls in the CPU, GPU, RAM area with a heat gun. Assuming this is successful you have to put the whole game console back together.  But before you do this you replace the x-clamps with metric screws to attach the heat sinks.  You have to be very careful to clean the old heat paste completely from both ASICs before applying artic silver 5 thermal paste.  If you do not do this correctly your heatsinks will not work efficiently and your unit will overheat quickly.

We put the whole thing back together and powered it up around 10:30pm after spending about 6 hours working and 2 trips to the hardware store and RadioShack . It worked!  My son was happy as he was able to get to level 65 on Call of Duty 5.

I suggest that if you want to increase the odds of not getting RROD on your Xbox then mount your console in the tower position (standing on end) rather than flat like a laptop.  When the console is in the flat position the motherboard is on the bottom of the unit and cooling is more difficult.  When the console is mounted on it side (which is a valid position since it has skid pads on its side as well as bottom) the motherboard is cooled more efficiently. It's even better if you can can mount the Xbox on 4 small blocks so that more cool air can flow into the unit from all top, bottom and side intakes.

It was fun showing my son aspects of engineering in practice but even more enjoyable to actually have fixed the console for him.  On the downside-- given the data out there on these RROD problems, I know the unit will ultimately fail again...

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I have sadly had the red ring of death, and had to buy a new xbox 360. Taking your advice (and for the fact that I can't really take much chances) I will stand mine on its side. Thanks for this info.

Posted by Stanton on March 24, 2009 at 10:49 AM EDT #

Damn, something microsoft never suggested. Will be doing so from now on.

Posted by guest on March 27, 2009 at 01:42 PM EDT #

"costly repair that will take 1 month " er huh?

1 print labels
2 ship xbox
3 pick up xbox

the entire process takes about 5 - 10 days and it is free (usa/can).
i have sent back 4 360's, 2 elites, (with) expired warranties - no problems.
it's people like you who propagate this gossip and force jaded novices into taking leaps into the unknown, not to mention voiding whatever warranty they may have had remaining.

Posted by Jennifer on July 08, 2009 at 05:37 PM EDT #

Good post here is my 20cent for fixing Red lights of xbox360

Posted by johnlen on July 25, 2009 at 06:19 AM EDT #

whatever Jennifer, how bout the people without warranties. this is useful information.
Cheers mate. Love your work.

Posted by Jeff on August 05, 2009 at 07:31 AM EDT #

I like the idea regarding the vertical position for prevention. I just wanted to say that there are some repair products out there that can get the red lights out in much less time than 6 plus hours, and they're pretty inexpensive.

Posted by Jerry H on August 16, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT #

id lie it down cos if you stand it up you block a main airflow vent
but if you do this the mother board bends easyer...
so any way you do it you are still screwed
im getting an elite tomorrow
only way to stop it is to not play it too much
any advice?

Posted by N/A on October 07, 2009 at 06:37 AM EDT #

[url=]XBox 360 Repair - 3 Red Lights Fix - XBOX 360 Repair Manual[/url]

This will solve all your problems to do with RROD


Posted by J on October 10, 2009 at 08:44 AM EDT #

Thankfully since this article has been written, Microsoft have resolved this problem on newer revisions of the xbox 360, hopefully not too late to repair their damaged reputation.

also there are several methods to fix this problem perminatly on older models which have failed, so be sure to investigate getting yours repaired before binning it, presuming it is out of warranty.

Posted by xbox 360 RROD Repair Rochdale on November 26, 2009 at 05:56 PM EST #

Continually Microsoft has ducked attempts to specifically discuss Xbox 360 failure rates and attributed some of the public issues to problems with the customer service center. I wasn’t going to send it back to Microsoft to fix a problem they were already responsible for. Certainly not when I was going to have to pay for it AND wait 4 to 6 weeks. Instead I have been using the XBOX 360 Error guide successfully, and have resurrected 11 dead XBOXes in roughly an hour or less each.

Posted by how to fix xbox 360 e74 error on January 20, 2010 at 03:39 PM EST #

i got the red ring of death and just used this software it fixes your rrod in less than an hour give it a go guys!

Posted by imran Malik on February 11, 2011 at 02:42 AM EST #

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The blog of Bob Porras - Vice President, Data, Availability, Scalability & HPC for Sun Microsystems, Inc.


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