I’ve always maintained a neutral stance where the console wars are concerned. Each device has both advantages and disadvantages, merits and detriments.

The largest advantage of the Xbox 360, hands down, has to be a lovely little issue known as the Red Ring of Death. Most everyone who doesn’t have a new model has probably suffered from this at least once. I’ve already had it happen twice.

But hey, no big deal, right? Just send it off to Microsoft, right?

The trouble is, most consoles that still suffer from the RROD aren’t under warranty anymore. Meaning your choices are to either pay Microsoft $170 dollars to send you back a refurbished console…or drop $200 on a new system.

Not much of a choice, is it? Thankfully, there’s a third option- Do it yourself. 

Option 1: Baking With A Towel

This one’s pretty simple – though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. Essentially, cover your system with a towel, turn it on, and leave it running. With any luck, the console will ‘bake’ itself, and reset the internal hardware.

Unfortunately, this is only a temporary solution. As you’d expect, baking your system has some pretty nasty effects on its inner workings. Chances are, you’re only extending the console’s lifespan for about another month or two, if that, then you’re back where you started.

Option 2: Dust Out The Internals

Though it’s probably something you should have done before your console up and zogged out, you can always take the system apart and use a can of compressed air to wash all of the dust out. There’s a small chance this could fix the problem, but at the same time it’s likely you’re going to have to try option 3.

Option 3: Apply New Thermal Paste

Occasionally, the thermal paste between the heat-sink and the motherboard can dissolve or simply ‘wear out,’ causing pretty considerable heat issues, as a result.

The solution here is simple. Disassemble your console, apply new paste to the heat-sink, and then put everything back together. Problem solved, right?

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What’s to stop your system from red-ringing again, a few months down the line? The thermal paste isn’t just dissolving as a result of wear and tear. The system’s heat-sink is designed in such a way that it can’t adequately dissipate heat.

Fortunately, we have it on our power to fix that.

Option 4: Fix The Design Fault

Believe it or not, this is actually very simple. True, you’ll need to shell out a bit of cash for spare parts, but it’s only between $40 and $60 dollars – much less than having to simply purchase a new console yourself.

See, the problem with most early-generation 360s is that the heat-sink is positioned far, far too close to the motherboard. It can’t properly dissipate heat, and as a result, the console essentially slowly cooks itself.

To fix your Xbox, you’ll need the following supplies: 

  • 4 12mm Cheese Head Screws
  • 8 M5 Nylon Washers (1mm thick)
  • 16 M5 Steel Washers (1mm thick)
  • A soft cloth
  • Arctic silver thermal compound and thermal compound remover
  • A small flat head screwdriver
  • A phillips head screwdriver
  • Torx T10 and T8 keys
  • A 1/4” Nut Driver or a Wrench and pliers
  • 13/16 Drill Bit And Drill4

Step 1: Dismantling Your 360

Refer to the tutorial I linked above for instructions on how to take your console apart. Proceed to step 2 once you’ve completed this process.

Step 2: Clearing The Case

Remove everything from the case. Yes, EVERYTHING. Even the fans. Start by unplugging everything, then removing the power button and wireless controller board, then the motherboard. Be careful you don’t get any dust onto any of the components and take extra care not to scratch anything.

Step 3: Taking The Heat-sink Off The Motherboard

First up, put some corrugated cardboard over the motherboard – you do not want your screwdriver to slip and damage something on the motherboard. If that happens, it’s curtains for your console and no amount of fiddling or tinkering will fix it.  You’ll want to take your flat head screwdriver and pry free the brackets holding down the heat-sink to the motherboard. Once you’ve gotten three of the brackets off the fourth should pop free without too much trouble.

Once you’ve gotten the brackets free, pull the heat-sink off the motherboard. The thermal paste, if there’s any left, might be holding it in place, so you might need to put a little ‘oomph’ into getting it free.

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Step 4: Stripping And Cleaning The Heat-sink

Those of you who know anything about computer hardware will see what I mean when I say “poorly designed.” Those nubs sticking up from one side of the sink? Those are X-clamp posts and they’ve gotta go. Use your wrench to get rid of them, and then toss them – you’re not going to be using them again. Once the clamps are off the heat-sink, pick up your arctic silver and start cleaning. Ideally, you want to remove as much thermal paste as possible before putting on a fresh coat and re-seating the sink.

While your at it clean the motherboard, too. Use a soft cloth or if you’re feeling daring, a toothpick, to clear off the cheap, gooey thermal paste that’s likely caked to the CPU and GPU. Follow up with a few small dabs of rubbing alcohol to clear off any additional mess.

When you’re done, everything should look shiny and new.

Step 5: Fitting The Heat-sink With New Screws

Be careful, and make sure there are no metal shavings remaining. You want to slowly and cautiously enlarge each of the four mounting holes on the heatsink that the clamps were originally attached to. You’ll need to make them a bit larger in order to fit the larger screws and washers to them. Once you’ve finished drilling, install all of the screws and washers to the heatsink. Use some tape to hold the screws in place, if necessary.

Basically, once you’ve made the holes bigger, all you need to do is put the screws you bought into the heat-sink and add three steel washers to each screw then a nylon washer. Easy as pie.

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Step 6: Re-Applying Thermal Paste

Carefully apply a thin coat of thermal paste (preferably arctic silver) to the CPU and GPU of your 360, as well as the side of the heat-sink that will be facing the motherboard.

Step 7: Connecting The Heat-sink Back To The Motherboard

Add another steel washer and nylon washer to each of the mounting screws, then start screwing them into the heat-sink. Tighten each screw until you feel a bit of resistance, then use a wrench to attach the bolts to the screws. Make sure you’re evenly distributing the force – tighten one a little, then another, then the next, and so on. If you tighten one side before the other, you could very well end up with a cracked motherboard.

Finally, once you’ve got the bolts secured, tighten each screw as much as you can.

Step 8:  Re-Seating The System

Basically, follow the steps outlined in the Dismantling tutorial in reverse. Put everything but the fan shrouds back in.

Step 9: Overheating the GPU

This might seem a touch counterproductive, but this is actually a fairly vital step in the process.  Position one of the fans so that it cools the CPU, and then turn the console on. You’ll want the GPU to get hot enough that it ‘re-solders’ itself to the motherboard, since there’s a good chance the connection’s come loose. Once you’ve overheated the GPU enough (45 minutes should do it) put everything back together.

Step 10: Your Working Console

If everything’s gone as planned, your console should be good as new!

Images via alldogvideos,