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Finding a Fix for the Red Rings of Death

red ring of deatchHas your Xbox 360 been incapacitated by the Red Ring of Death? Has your investment been turned into nothing more than a frustrating conversation piece, rather than the powerful gaming solution that you thought you were getting? The Xbox is one of the most popular and powerful gaming platforms on the market. However, it is also predisposed to a whole host of problems. While errors such as the 1 red light error and the "black screen of death" have cropped up, the single most common error with the console is the Red Ring of Death.

What is the Red Ring of Death?

The Xbox gaming console uses the Ring of Light to communicate error codes to you. The Ring of Light is the circle of LEDs located around the power button. The 3 red light error, also known as the Red Ring of Death or RROD, lights up three of the four LEDs in this circle. The lights illuminated are in the first, third and fourth quadrants, leaving the upper right light dark. In addition, as the name implies, the benevolent green color usually used to illuminate the Ring of Light changes to a more sinister red color. (Mac OSX Games never give you a RRD)

Why Won't the Lights Go Away?

Unfortunately, if you are experiencing the Red Ring of Death, the lights will not go away in most cases. However, you can attempt several troubleshooting steps to determine if the error is nothing more than an erroneous operation. The simplest troubleshooting step is just to reboot your system. However, do not be surprised if this does not work and the lights remain flashing.

If you are experiencing the actual error and not a false code, the only action you will be able to take is to power off your console. The error will not allow any other actions until a viable repair has been completed. Finding a suitable Red Rings of Death fix now becomes imperative.

Are there any Symptoms Beforehand?

The 3 red light error can strike without any symptoms. However, some consumers have reported a few symptoms prior to system shutdown. For instance, errors with graphics rendering are relatively common. These can include pixilated images, streaks, lines, color distortions, incorrect tint and other anomalies. It should be noted that these symptoms can also appear before loss of video output, as well as due to other conditions, such as AV cable damage, AV jack damage on the television and more.

What Causes the Error?

The 3 red light error is caused by errors on the part of Microsoft during research and development. During their relentless drive to market the console, Microsoft reduced the size of the GPU and CPU heat sink. In addition, they incorporated several incorrect materials into the design without fully testing the console for durability and reliability under normal usage conditions. The factors that contribute to the incidence of 3 red light errors are:

  • Incorrect thermal protective paste used on the GPU and CPU
  • Heat buildup due to X-clamp mounting method for GPU/CPU heat sink
  • Incorrect lead-free solder usage
  • Inadequate size of heat sink for the application
  • Inefficient cooling system design
In essence, the situation boils down to heat and low-quality materials. During usage, the heat produced by the console renders the lead-free solder brittle and prone to breakage. This poses a problem because the motherboard flexes with the application of heat. This flexing action places force on the GPU chip. The brittle solder now cracks and breaks, allowing the GPU chip to break contact with the motherboard. The GPU is responsible for producing the graphics for your games; without it, you have no gaming system. The break in continuity due to heat-induced breakage and expansion results in the Red Ring of Death.

Can the Problem Be Fixed?

A fix for the Red Ring of Death is possible. If you find yourself in the unenviable position of needing a repair, you have two options available.
  • You can choose to send the console back to Microsoft for repair. The warranty for the RROD error has been extended to three full years from the date of purchase, helping many owners repair their consoles for no cost. However, if your Xbox is out of the warranty period or you simply do not wish to wait for the two months it takes the manufacturer to repair your console, another method must be found. Out of warranty repairs for the 3 red light error cost at least $150, not including the cost of shipping the unit back to the repair center. You can find a more affordable option, though.
  • You can choose to repair the console yourself. While Microsoft may charge $150 a pop to repair the Xbox 360, the repair can be done at home for almost nothing. In addition, the repair is simple, fast and effective, ensuring that you are able to get back to gaming with minimal fuss. 

What Does Repairing It Myself Entail?

Simply put, repairing your Xbox 360 on your own is easy. It requires nothing more than modifying the cooling system of the console and can be done with tools that you likely already have in your home. Finally, the cost of materials is very low, giving you a low cost repair option that truly works.

That said, you must choose the correct repair method. Numerous options can be found, though not all of these will work or are even safe to attempt. For instance, the "towel fix" can cause fires and permanent damage to your console, while the "freezer fix" can result in short-circuits and the threat of electrocution. Choose a repair method that offers proven results and safety.

About the Author

Anthony Uccello has been an avid gamer since the Atari days. He bought an Xbox 360 the day it was released. Sadly his Xbox 360 got the red rings of death and he was out of warranty. After searching for a repair and fixing his system he founded his Xbox 360 repair site and has been helping people fix their Xbox 360 problems ever since.

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