Last week I wrote a post about how I was going to trade-in my Xbox 360 for $50 as credit towards the purchase of a new PS4 Pro.
On Wednesday evening, before going to bed, I decided I’d fire up my Xbox 360 to delete any of my personal info from the console and also apply any updates that were required so it’d be all ready for the trade-in. It’d been years since I last turned it on but it everything was still plugged in. I hit the power button, turned on the TV, and waited for the 360 to boot up. I saw about a second of the dashboard appear on my TV before the 360 abruptly shut down. I looked over and there were two flashing red lights on the console. While not great, at least it wasn’t the infamous three flashing red lights, also known as the “red ring of death“. I turned it off and then turned it back on again, a problem solving technique used across the globe. It immediately went to two flashing read lights again. I tried this about five more times with no change in outcome.
I did some digging on the Internet and it turns out two flashing red lights means something is overheated. The Xbox 360 was able to tell me it was the CPU that was overheating. I could hear the fans working so that wasn’t the cause of the problem. A little more Internet research revealed that old Xbox 360 consoles, especially ones like mine that are now about ten years old, suffered from dried up thermal paste. This paste is a filler material between microchips that get really hot and the heat sinks that try to cool said microchips. Essentially, electronics designers stick a hunk of metal against CPUs and GPUs to draw the heat off them through conduction. The heat is then dissipated away through the hunk of metal. The thermal paste is used to fill in any tiny air gaps that might exist between the hunk of metal and the microchip. Air acts as an insulator so it will trap the heat in. This paste can dry out after years and the chip will get too hot to operate.
Luckily, I had a tube of thermal paste on hand from when I upgraded my CPU in my desktop. The problem was I didn’t know how to take apart my Xbox 360 properly to get at the right parts. I spent the whole next evening watching YouTube videos of how to disassemble an Xbox 360 without breaking anything. It was quite time consuming finding the right videos to show me what I needed to know. I also would have been screwed had I not had a set of proper screwdriver bits including Torx ones.
It took all of Thursday evening to pull apart the entire console, revealing the motherboard and the heat sinks. If you’re curious, it was this video that probably the most helpful in showing me how to take it all apart. I probably would not have been able to do this unless I had such instructions.
I spent all of Friday evening cleaning up the remnants of the original thermal paste on the heat sinks. Microsoft used this terrible paste that became quite sticky, so it was really difficult to clean off. Once I got enough of it off, I applied new paste and put the heat sinks back and re-assembled the console.
As I plugged everything back in, I was half expecting it to die again but to my great surprise, it turned on and there were no errors. Just to make sure, I played skate 2 for about two hours in a daze of nostalgia. I hadn’t played it in years and many fond memories came flooding back.
Happy that my repair job had succeeded, I packed up the console in its original box, ready for trade-in. On Saturday, I went to EB Games where I was able to get the $50 and I bought a PS4 Pro, thus ending this long saga.