Troubleshoot Your Xbox 360 For The Red Ring Of Death
The red ring of death sometimes has a very simple fix that doesn’t require any disassembly of your Xbox 360. Before assuming that your Xbox needs repair or has to be sent back to Microsoft, you should rule out the simple stuff first. This page will provide a troubleshooting procedure to do just that.
For those who are unfamiliar with the term, the red ring of death refers to those three red lights that form a three quarter circle at the power button of your Xbox 360 when it malfunctions.
See below why this happens, what you ought to do before getting your console fixed, and finally how you can fix your Xbox yourself and whether you should.
Something You Need to Know Before Proceeding Further:
OPENING UP YOUR CONSOLE WILL VOID YOUR WARRANTY!
If you have an expired warranty or have already worked inside of the console, then there’s little to lose now. Otherwise, this will require some careful thought before you proceed.
So Why Does the Red Ring of Death Happen in the First Place?
Causes for the Red Ring of Death
There are two broad reasons why your Xbox 360 will flash the red ring of death:
1.) When the console is getting insufficient power. This can be readily identified and easily fixed without having to open up the console.
2.) The other more serious cause for the red ring of death is overheating of your Xbox. The Xbox overheats because of various design problems.
Sometimes overheating will trigger the three red light condition (red ring of death) before any damage has occurred. In such cases you will have to pamper your Xbox in various ways (described in the troubleshooting procedure) to keep it from overheating.
However, overheating (or repeated overheating) can also damage the motherboard. If this is the case, then repair of some kind will be necessary. You can either send your Xbox back to Microsoft if you have a valid warranty or you can do the repair yourself (see the “Repairing Your XBox” section below).
The heat problem and the Xbox design issues that contribute to the red ring of death are explained as follows:
Xbox 360 heat is excessive.
The Xbox 360 is packed with many high-power components occupying a small space. Now, high-power components (the CPU and GPU in particular) also put out high quantities of heat. Heat sinks, fans, and vents inside the console are used to dissipate this heat. It’s marginal cooling capacity causes this system to overheat if the airflow into the Xbox 360 is obstructed. When the heat levels get extreme enough, various design defects begin to act up leading to the red ring of death
2)Lead free solder
Xbox 360 solder is brittle.
In order to avoid using lead in products used by children, Microsoft made the Xbox 360 with lead free solder. Lead free solder tends to be more brittle. To make matters worse, the wrong type of lead free solder was used by Microsoft, one that gets really brittle with heat exposure over long periods. If you stress this brittle solder, tiny hair-line cracks will develop. The cracks can obstruct the flow of electrical current and also result in a weak solder joint that easily breaks.
3)Flawed heat sink clamp design
Xbox 360 heatsink clamp causes motherboard to flex.
The X clamp is a questionable design because it clamps down with an uneven force. This uneven pressure gets more intense when the GPU and CPU get hot, causing the motherboard to flex and warp. Lead free solder joints that are very brittle get stressed when the motherboard flexes. When this stress is repeated over time the solder joints break.
4) Left over foil on the heat sink
Xbox 360 heat sink has foil attached.
On a number of it’s units, Microsoft failed to remove some foil on the heat sink. Several “ring of death” failures can be attributed to this. The thermal compound must be reapplied if you decide to remove the foil.
5) Deficient Manufacturing Process: Soldering Temperature Was Too Low
Xbox solder process was sub-optimal.
The soldering process during manufacture was done at too low a temperature. When lead free solder is under heated, the resulting solder joint is full of voids and other defects. These weak joints won’t hold up for long even under normal circumstances. If you include the other Xbox faults such as running too hot and warping of the motherboard, you’ve got the perfect formula for failure.
6)The Graphics Chip Puts Out Too Much Heat
Instead of going to an experienced vendor for its chip design (ASIC vendor), Microsoft designed the graphics chip in house, in other words, on it’s own. They did this in order to save some tens of millions of dollars in the cost of the design.
Although Microsoft has some experience here, it doesn’t come close to the level of expertise of the ASIC vendors. As a result, their graphics chip is inefficient in that it dissipates too much waste heat.This problem dovetails in with the weak cooling system in the console.
Microsoft has gone to an ASIC vendor in the US and had the graphics chip redesigned. This move goes a long way to resolving the overheating problem.However, there are lots of Xbox units in use that still have the old graphics chip. These will continue to be susceptible to heating problems.
Troubleshooting Tips for the Red Ring of Death
Xbox troubleshooting before you do repair.
Before sending your Xbox 360 off for repair or opening up your console, you should consider these suggestions first. If you are one of the lucky few, your Xbox has not sustained any heat damage yet. Keep those fingers crossed.
Xbox trouble shooting procedure
- Restart the console.
If this did not work, there could be a loose cord or cable. First, any cables and power cords that can be removed should be disconnected. Unplug the power cable from the wall plug. Firmly reattach all cables and cords back into the console. Now connect up the power and turn on the console.
- If the above step didn’t work, then try turning off the console, unplugging the power and then disconnecting the hard drive. Now plug into the power and turn the console back on. If console does not show the three red lights error, turn it off and disconnect the power cord from the wall. Finally, reconnect the hard drive, plug in the power, and turn on the console.
- If you are using a defective surge protector, plug strip, or extension cord, your xbox may not be getting adequate power. Try plugging the power brick directly into the wall. This sort of thing happens more often than you might think. My DSL connection used to be very unreliable until I bypassed my surge protector and plugged my modem directly into the wall. I should have done this in the first place rather than making a lot of angry (and useless) phone calls to my internet service provider.
- If you think that your machine has overheated, then turn it off and let it cool down. Ensure that the cooling vents are not blocked in any way and keep your Xbox 360 in a ventilated and open area.
- Do not place near it any sources of heat. There are obvious sources like heaters and radiators and such. But less obvious sources include the electrical devices that are sitting on top or beneath your xbox.
- Try removing any dust buildup inside the machine.
- Cool off your console with a small fan.
- Tip the console on it’s side so that more surface area is exposed to the surrounding air.
- Don’t forget to keep the power brick cool, so keep it off of shaggy carpeting. Better still, place it on an elevated surface. You can even hang the power brick by its cord off of a hook.
- Keep the rear of the console clear. Don’t push it up against a wall and keep any debris away. This includes not allowing any cords and cables to get all bunched up in this area.
- Don’t do any all day gaming marathons. Limit your gaming to just a few hours, then turn it off and let it cool down for a while. The warmer the room temperature is the shorter your playing time should be.
- XBox 360 Cooling Systems
If the above cooling suggestions weren’t enough, there are plenty of external cooling devices designed for the Xbox 360 being sold on Ebay.
Two things you should NOT do:
1)Xbox towel trick
Bake your Xbox – Otherwise known as the towel trick.
Wrapping a towel around your Xbox so that it gets hot enough to melt and maybe join some broken solder joints will also bake the internal chips.
Even if you pull this off without causing damage, the fix is only temporary in most cases. So there’s not much to gain from this risky technique.
2)Freeze your Xbox.
Don’t put your console in the freezer or out in very cold weather. Trying to cool down an overheated Xbox in this way is very hard on the internal electronics which were meant to operate near room temperature.
If all else has failed…Repairing Your XBox
The Xbox 360 Three Red Lights Fix
If you’re still having problems after trying the above suggestions, getting your machine repaired is the next step. All Xboxes experiencing the ring of death have had their warranties extended for three years beyond the purchase date. If you have opened up your console this warranty is void.
If you’re not used to working with your hands, then sending your Xbox back to Microsoft is the safest way to go. But expect a few weeks of delay before your repaired Xbox gets back to you. It doesn’t make sense to do otherwise unless you’re feeling comfortable about doing the repair yourself.
An expensive but quicker option is to send your console to a repair shop.
For those who are inclined to take matters into their own hands, the quickest and cheapest option is to repair it yourself using this guide. If you can follow directions, it’s fairly simple to do. My buddy recently repaired his kid’s Xbox.
This guide will fix these problems:
- Freeze ups
- Distorted Graphics
- 2 red lights error
- 3 red lights error (ring of death)
- 4 Red Lights
- E74 Error (this is the error where you get text on the screen saying E74)
The fix will take you 1 to 2 hours to do and can be done with some common household items and tools. It has full videos and a guide to take you through each step with ease. Nothing in the repair process is left out.
If you do this fix following the videos you will have a working Xbox.