TideLog Archive for the “Console Repair” Category

UPDATE: All my development PS3’s have now died. I have become tired of keep reballing and soldering them, only for them to die again 6 months later. I have now given up on Sony altogether, and only focus on Xbox personally, so I can no longer assist with re-marry issues

This is something I’ve done about 4 times. If a PS3 stops reading discs, it’s either the laser head unit itself that’s failed (99%), the drive board has overheated and died (1%). If the drive board has failed, you can put another logic board of the same model drive on, but it won’t work straight off. Like the Xbox 360, the PS3’s drive is electronically “married” to the motherboard using software encryption. But, unlike the Xbox, you can’t just take the drive out of a PS3 and connect it to a SATA PC to dump the keys, as the PS3 has a non standard ribbon connection. There are also no solder methods for the PS3 that I’m aware of.

The PS3 Blu-Ray drive won’t work at all if straight swapped, it won’t read PS1/PS2 (on backwards-compatible consoles) or PS3 games, Blu-Ray movies, DVD discs, or even audio CD’s, whereas a straight-swapped Xbox drive will read DVD’s and audio CD’s until the drive key is flashed across via SATA. Fortunately the PS3 drive can be “married” to restore full functionality, but only under certain circumstances such as with supported firmware. Professional repair guys like me have a service mode “jig”, which is a special USB dongle that puts the console into Service mode, and automatically remarries the drive. You can do it with a PSP and a USB stick at home, here I’ll show you how:

NOTE: This does not work on Slim PS3’s. The Slim consoles have the drive control circuitry embedded into the main motherboard like the old PS2’s did, so if it stops reading discs and you’ve tried a new laser all to no avail, you’re out of luck, you’ll need a new whole motherboard.

1. Make sure your PS3 is on OFFICIAL Sony firmware v3.55. If you are on v3.56 DO NOT attempt the steps in my article, your console will BE STUCK in Service mode. The console doesn’t work very well in Service mode, games often lock and the console freezes running certain apps, if you get into Service Mode on v3.56 you CANNOT get out again.

2. Your PSP MUST be jailbroken, and running custom firmware. I have done it using v5.50-GEN-B and can confirm it works on both FAT and Slim PS3’s running v3.55 FW.

3. Download these files (they’re hosted on this blog so won’t expire):

a. PSPJig v1.00 – this file puts the console into factory mode.

b. PS3 OFW 3.55 – This is the official Sony V3.55 Firmware. Not added to blog yet as having trouble uploading it. Google for now 🙂

c. LV2Diag.self-get-out-factory-mode – This is the file we’ll use to get out of Factory Mode.

d. PS3 Remarry v3.55 – These are the files we’ll use to actually remarry the drive.

4. To keep this article short and to the point, I’ll assume you already have the correct firmwares on your PSP and PS3. To start off, take a blank FAT formatted USB pendrive (minimum 512MB), and extract the files from the remarry zip into the root of it. Then extract the v3.55 original firmware PUP file into the root as well. DON’T extract the firmware into a PS3/UPDATE structure like you would if you were updating the system software, it won’t work, the file needs to be in the root.

The structure of your pendrive should look like this:

  • Lv2diag.self
  • manufacturing_updater_for_reset.self
  • fdm_spu_module.self
  • PS3UPDAT.PUP
  • cfg/standalone.cfg (A folder named cfg with a standalone.cfg file inside it)
5. Then install PS3Jig onto your jailbroken PSP by copying the PS3Jig folder out of the zip into your PSP/GAME folder. Start your PSP and check that there’s a PS3Jig icon under the Games menu on the PSP XMB, it will be a PS3 icon as below:
ps3jig_1
Don’t run it, as you can’t exit out of it without pulling your battery, this will reset your PSP’s clock and date!
6. Next, connect your PSP to your PSP’s first left USB port, start PS3Jig on your PSP. DO NOT connect your USB drive with the remarry files yet. You will see a screen similar to this:
ps3jig_2
Note that you’ll only see the above message up to “USB Driver Started”. You won’t see the rest until you start your PS3 up.
7. Plug your PS3 into power, and switch on the rear switch so the power light is red.
8. Now switch on your PS3 using the touch sensitive power strip, then immediately afterwards press EJECT. Your PS3 will sit there for a few seconds, and then shut down. You’ll now see the rest of the above screenshot following the “USB Driver Started” section.
9. Now, switch on your PS3 using the power button. It will now boot to the XMB, and you should see “FACTORY SERVICE MODE” written in a red box at the bottom right of the screen. If you see this, you can switch off again.If not, repeat the process. It isn’t time sensitive, apart from pressing Power and Eject.
.
PS3-Factory-Service-Mode-screenshot
Your PS3 will stay in service mode as long as you want, even after turning the power off fully so don’t worry about it coming out, we need to manually force it out, which we’ll do later. Remove the USB lead of your PSP, and pull its battery to power off, we don’t need it again. You need to pull the battery as holding the power switch won’t switch off, it simply sleeps and comes back to PS3Jig.
10. Now, connect your USB remarry drive that we created in Step 4 to the FURTHEST RIGHT USB port, and power your PS3 back on. You’ll come to a screen similar to this:
Photo-0004
I recommend sticking a BD Movie disc in before you turn back on, as this will restore BD DRL license files, essentially they authorize the drive to the motherboard that it can play Blu Ray movies. There’s a BIG note here that I need you to read, see below:
a. If the ==DRIVE INIT== section at the top is GREEN, but all other sections are RED, the re-marry was SUCCESSFUL, but only the game disc, DVD and CD reads will work. Some people have reported that sticking a Blu Ray movie disc in DOES restore BD movie playback, but it still comes up NG and FAIL on the second section. You just need to play about. Boot back into the XMB still in Service mode, and see if a movie disc will play.
b. If you don’t put a BD disc in whilst doing this, don’t worry, you can do it again any time. The tool is a bit iffy on the success feedback, but you can’t do any damage, I tried different methods when I was learning the non-dongle way of doing remarries and never bricked anything.
c. The ==INSTALL SYSTEM SOFT== section will always be red, this is because the tool is set not to reinstall firmware. Some people use this method on downgraded consoles and end up with YLOD because of incorrect syscon hashes, so it is left off.
11. Finally, once you’re happy that everything works, turn everything off. In Service Mode, games won’t play very well, they often freeze, don’t worry about this, they’ll work in Normal mode, which we’re about to get the console back into. Delete everything off the USB drive, and put the LV2Diag.self file from the Exit-Service-Mode.zip into the root of it.
12. Connect it to the furthest right port of the PS3, power on, and it’ll do the power-on-beep-shutdown process again. Remove the USB drive, and power her on, you should now be back in Normal mode again, with drive functionality restored! Congratulations! Go get yourself a beer, enjoy those feelings of having achieved something brilliant, because it is great even after doing it for the 100th time for me!

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I’m seeing a massive trend on the Internet, and I don’t like it. People are taking free service manuals available on the internet, collecting them, and then selling them on. I feel this is illegal, because:

  1. They don’t own the copyright to the service literature.
  2. They don’t have the rights, nor permission to SELL for profit, or a license from manufacturers.
  3. They often charge extortionate prices!

All for stuff that isn’t theirs! Tradebit, eBay, and all the other sites that charge on a per-manual basis, I don’t agree with, and detest them hugely. Add to that they often slap their own watermarks on, secure the documents with passwords (tampering with stolen goods) so that no-one can edit them. Service manuals are only public because they’re ILLEGALLY LEAKED, so all these arseholes are committing a criminal offence, by selling stuff that isn’t theirs.

Sites that offer unlimited downloads for a tiny monthly fee I agree with, as these aren’t extortionate, and they host the files on a server they pay for, so you’re not actually paying for the material, just the right to access the website. The ones I use even have permission, and pay royalties to manufacturers.

So, eBay sellers like “servicemanualseu”, and all those Tradebit cowboys selling a single 3 – 30MB file for $19.99, AVOID them. I often find that a quick Google reveals the stuff is available free elsewhere anyway. I’ve reported people like these to manufacturers, and a few have actually been disciplined, good riddance to ’em and all! These cowboys’ excuse is “we charge so much to stop DIY’ers”, but it isn’t your place or right of decision to say who can have them and not.

I have links with people in the electrical repair industry, being a qualified technician. I pay far less for a bunch of manuals from a manufacturer that wouldn’t even buy me a Tradebit cowboy’s single manual!

 

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I’ve been using my PS3 for the last few days, on two different full HD TV’s, one, Greg’s TV, a 32″ LCD Full HD Sony Bravia, and Kassie’s Samsung 50″ Full HD TV, and I’m far from impressed. GTA4 on PS3 is supposed to (according to the box) be able to do either 720p, or 1080i/p. It never did 1080, except at the XMB, on both TV’s, whereas the 360 does full 1080p straight away!

The aliasing on the PS3 was terrible, on all the games I tried (FIFA 09/10, Stuntman, GTA4) and they all only hit 720. I’ve now decided to sell the PS3, and stick with my 360. I repaired a Slim yesterday, and the fan in that is the nastiest thing I’ve seen since a laptop:

The fan is all plastic, tacky, and typical of Sony downgrading. The PS3 has gone downhill ever since its release, and here’s my full list of faults:

1. Features have been removed (cardreader, PS1/PS2 compatibility, Other OS) that made it better than the Xbox in terms of utilities.

2. The games don’t run at full 1080 when they are supposedly supposed to, and they look aliased and god awful.

3. The PS3 FAT had just as many faults, if not more than the original 360 (discs not reading, video not working, YLOD, RLOD , total failure of the PSU because it got too hot). The 360 has only ever suffered mainly RRoD faults, and the occasional DVD read error. Playstations have had laser failures since the brick Playstation 1, they still haven’t learnt how to manufacture a laser correctly. I’ve never once had to fix a 360 with failed PSU or no video without reason (E74)

4. The Slim PS3 is junk, the components are shrunk, the fan is noisy and cheap, and the games STILL DO NOT run at full 1080. The only thing that makes the PS3 somewhat if at all better than the 360 is that it has a BluRay drive, which is a con anyway, as the same games on 360 fit on DVD, nd they’re better quality!!

5. Firmware “updates” break features. Take for example a FW upgrade that caused people’s BD drives to not read discs? And the recent 3.5 update where 3D discs are choppy and out of sync? Yeah, nice, Sony. Not. They’re acting like they created 3D, which they did not.

I’m normally unbiased in my repair work, but here is my conclusion: Sony is JUNK, JUNK, JUUUUUUNNNNNKKKKK!!!! I’m so glad I gave up on them after my 3rd PS3 laser replacement. They’re still as damn bad, if not worse. An insult to the Japanese, and I love the Japs, as my lil lady is a Jap, and proud of it, Sony just mar their electronics industry. At least Microsoft offered a 5 year warranty, and the new 360 Slim is superior to the older consoles, and all the shite Sony have ever put out. My 8 year old Xbox 1 is still strong, modded, but with all original parts except HDD, so go figure….

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The new fan arrived this morning, and I fitted it. It’s all working as it should, and I’ve been out and bought a wireless controller and GTA:IV so I can roadtest it doing some Serbian terrorism!

I might replace the power supply, as the one that’s fitted is one that gets quite hot. There’s a cool running one available, so I’ll give it a try to keep the system heat level down. The Other OS feature has been removed, someone’s already updated it to 3.30, which was a FW with it deactivated. Oh well, at least everything else works, DVD & Blu-Ray and PS1/PS2/PS3 games all work fine, so I’m happy!

Refurbishment and repair is what I love, and am good at it, I’ve made a lot of profit from electronics repair!

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It arrived yesterday, and I stripped it today. The fan was jammed, it seems to be badly out of shape, the metal frame is bent and the fan coil assembly itself is slanted. It’s a 19 blade, so not one of the rubbish 15 blade ones Sony decided strangely to replace them with. The seller has used a hairdryer/heatgun in the vents to fix a previous YLOD, so the casing and heatsink plastic surround are warped.

Other than that, it powers, runs the XMB, and plays PS1 & BluRay games, and the hard drive works. I’m gonna get a new complete casing and a new fan is on its way via Special Delivery Next Day as I type, so it should be running again in no time! Here’s my total cost of ownership calculation for the stuff it needs:

Console from eBay with faulty fan and possible risk of YLOD = £69 inc £14 P&P

New complete casing to replace the heat warped one from the amateur hairdryer YLOD “fix” job of the old owner = £16

Used working 19 blade cooling fan = £16.98 inc P&P

Future BGA re-ball if it ever YLOD’s on me = £0 as I’m doing it myself

Possible future 120GB HDD upgrade = £30

Total = £138.98

So, still cheaper than buying a used fully working one, or a featureless Slim new. This 60GB FAT has the cardreader, PS1/PS2 backwards compatibility, and the Other OS feature. The Slim costs £229 without all that!!

Damaged repairable is the way to go if you have the skills and experience, which I have. I also don’t use towel, reflow or hairdryer tricks, only professional BGA re-ball, so I’m a winner!

Reflow must not be confused with re-ball. Re-flow is simply heating the component up to re-melt and bond broken solder, whereas re-balling involves renewing the solder balls completely and re-soldering with a hot air rework machine using more heat to ensure higher melting point. This reduces the risk of the solder melting at the console’s normal temperature.

You see? I’m not a bedroom enthusiast, like some of the “been in the console repair business 4 years” people that claim they can do it all because they’ve taken one console apart and watched YouTube. I’m a pro, I’ve been doing it since the Amstrad 464, before the Web or YouTube really existed!

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My ill PS3 hasn’t arrived for surgery yet, but while I’m waiting for her to show up, I thought I’d do a guide on taking one apart. Taking the PS3 apart is an involved process, and we don’t want to rush, so make sure you have at least a couple of hours spare to do this if it’s your first time. Also make sure you have proper lighting and the right tools.

This guide is good for all versions of the FAT PS3. I disassembled a 60GB model carcass I had knocking spare that was still in one piece. It has a completely blown motherboard due to a power surge, so I’ve not lost anything, but you’ll want to be extra careful!!

NOTE: This guide DOES NOT cover YLOD fixes. I do not use “fanboy enthusiast”  reflow methods, and only use re-balling techniques, which involves specialist knowledge and expensive equipment. This article only covers teardown procedures.

You will need:

●     Torx screwdriver
●     Phillips head screw driver
●     Small flathead screw driver (for removing the rubber foot)
●     Somewhere with plenty of space that is well lit and that wont build up static electricity. (Mainly anywhere but carpet)

So, here’s my dodo-dead PS3…..all ready to be taken apart, for the third time, as it suffered two YLOD’s previously, before being professionally reballed by myself prior to its shocking total death and acquisition as scrap…..

On the left side of the console you will see some rubber feet. The first screw to be removed is underneath the rubber foot circled in red in the pic below. The warranty sticker covers it, so this will need to be removed (INVALIDATING YOUR WARRANTY, so be warned!) The foot can be pried out with a small screwdriver. Then underneath is a Torx security screw. You will either need a Torx screwdriver, or a flat head screwdriver that will fit in the screw. Once the screw is removed, set the foot and screw somewhere safe.

Once the screw is out, slide the top of the case to the left. It will require a bit of force to slide if you’re opening the console for the first time. After the top slides as far as it will go, lift the top and it should come off as below:

After the top is off, there will be another cover, the main system cover. You will need to remove the 7 long screws circled in red. Why Sony decided to give the PS3 a separate “top-hat” is beyond me, it would have been easier all as one, as with the PS2, unscrewing from underneath!

Once the 7 screws are removed (set them aside safe), gently lift up the back corners of the top half of the console. There are 2 small clips near the back you may need to undo with a small screw driver. Now the top of the console should just lift off (with a bit of gentle force) and you will see the guts of the PS3. The PS3 has a lot more guts than the 360, a bit way too much in my opinion, too much metal and plastic. Getting a 360 open is nowhere near as hard for me, it takes me less time, and the innards aren’t as cramped!

As you can see, and as I know from experience of Sony repairs, as with all their other consumer goods there’s tons and tons of metal, screws and ribbon cables! It’s as secure as GTA4’s Liberty City Penitentiary in here there’s so much metal, held down by so many screws!! Hence the weight! Wait till you see the cooling unit….

First, the power supply (The silver box on the left) has to be removed. Remove the screws circled in red, and take out the plug (next to the front left screw. See it?), the power supply will just lift out.

Also, take out the mains plug in the back of the power supply. The power supply should now be completely disconnected from the PS3. I like to disconnect the big rear cable first, I’m always cursing the thing when I do it last and I lift the PSU out without disconnecting it! It is tight, though, and probably easier to do after the screws are out so you can lift the supply out. I’m a glutton for punishment…..

After the power supply is removed, the Bluetooth board (in the 60GB models, it also has wireless) needs to be removed. Unscrew the 4 screws and unplug the ribbon cable and the board will just lift out. Note that you have to “flip” the brown tab on the ribbon socket, it isn’t a pull out type, so don’t try, you might damage it. Flip it up and away from you and the ribbon.

Now we need to remove the Blu-ray drive. This is quite easy. Lift the drive up about 2” and you will see a really wide ribbon cable, the data cable, connecting the drive to the motherboard. Unplug it. There will also be a plug near the front of the Blu-ray drive that controls the motors for the spindle and slot load/eject mechanism. Unplug it as well. The drive will then just lift out.

Underneath you’ll see the main data ribbon cable. This time, not a flip and release job, but a pull out clip. Pull it towards the ribbon:

Now you will (hopefully) see the same as what is below:

Next, we have to remove the small Power\Reset & Eject button circuit board. This board is attached to a small metal bracket. Remove the 4 screws holding the board and the metal bracket and unplug the small ribbon cable (a flip top!). The board should now easily lift out.

It’s time to remove the motherboard! To get it out, remove the screws circled in red in the pic below:

Once you’ve removed the screws, gently lift out the whole motherboard along with the back panel like I’ve shown below. Start from the back, where the vents are, and lift towards the front (away from you if the rear of the console is facing you). Make sure you have taken out the plastic HDD cover with the HDD sticker on it! Otherwise the clips on it will get bent!!

Make sure to support the whole assembly, as the heatsink system is darn heavy, you don’t want to drop anything. I had a friend dropped his board assembly back onto the base, damaging it, because he was only holding it with two fingers!

After the bottom of the PS3 case is out of the way, you can admire the huge monster cooling system on the bottom of the motherboard.

After you’re done marvelling at the hugeness of the fan, remove the plastic back panel. The are 4 small plastic clips (2 on either side of the motherboard) that you need to lift to take off the back panel. then, unscrew the fan screws, unplug its cable, and remove the huge mammoth fan:

Check out the size of the fan! (It looks a lot bigger in real life.) The first time I stripped a PS3, I realized a flaw that most fanboys seem to miss. The fan seems more like a cheap laptop fan with sleeve bearings, rather than the quality rifle bearing fans with tough plastic frame in the 360. Take a look, it looks cheap:

Anyway, back to the article. Flip the motherboard back over. Unscrew the 4 screws (circled in red) holding the 2 metal heatsink support brackets down. Once these screws are undone, take off the brackets:

It will now look like this, ready for the heatsinks to come off, so be careful moving it:

After that, flip the motherboard over again. Now gently pull up on the heat sink. Be gentle here. The cooling system will lift up off the CPU and GPU and come off completely. A bit of force will be required here as the heat sink will be stuck down to the CPU and GPU with white thermal paste, which has possibly cured and hardened.

Here again, my keen engineer eyes noticed a flaw. Look how close together the fins of the heatsink are. The fan has to PUSH the hot air through the tiny gaps. The 360’s fans PULL the heat AWAY from the heatsink, not push through it. It’s alright blaming solder and the CPU die size for the heat, but it’s the efficiency and quality of the heat transport system that matters too. In the case of the 360, it was more the solder and die size that causes RRoD failures, but the PS3 in my eyes has this poor cooling too as well as the same die size and solder issue as the 360. Sony seem to have made it huge with a huge (cheap) single fan to compensate, but after a while of use, the failures start.

Anyway, convection lesson aside, on the bottom of the heat sink and on the CPU and GPU will be white thermal paste. This is used to help transfer heat from the chip to the heat sink. Do not touch or eat this stuff! You MUST clean it off and replace it! Do not listen to enthusiasts claiming you don’t. Once old bonded paste has its bond broken, it becomes useless, and will not cure or bond again, resulting in inefficent cooling, and another YLOD…. I recommend Artic Silver, silver based paste is the best, but don’t put too much on, as it can be capacitive, resulting in shorts of components if it gets near them.

After you get the heat sink off, you can lift up the metal heat transfer shielding. Be very gentle with this as it is very thin and bending it could possibly cause the shielding to short out something on the motherboard when the PS3 is reassembled.

Now flip the motherboard over again, and remove the metal shielding on the other side and you will
now see the naked motherboard:

Top Side:

Bottom Side:

That’s it! We’re done with disassembly! To re-assemble, just follow my tutorial in reverse, making sure you plug in all cables fully (ribbon cables are finicky, if inserted slanted, can cause short circuits), and be very very careful with the heat transfer shields so that you don’t bend them and short out or crush something.

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I haven’t worked on a PS3 for a while, at work or home, so I decided to find a faulty one to tinker with, and teach Greg how to fix PS3’s while I was at it, as I’m the only one at KC who can fix consoles. So, I’ve bought one on eBay that supposedly has a faulty fan.

Mmm, simple fix, eh, you might think? No, not always so. A faulty fan on a Playstation can be several things. I’ve done failed fans in PS2’s as well.

A) Failed/stuck fan

Sometimes the fan’s just stuck, or outright given up. The PS3 fans are a lot cheaper than the high quality rifle bearing ones in the Xbox360, and they either seize up because of dust, heat, or sleeve coil/solder failure. To verify it is the fan, piggyback a multimeter into the fan connector on the motherboard (you’ll need to run the motherboard out of the case, the fan and socket are underneath the base). As long as the voltage is between 5 – 12v depending on the heat, it’s fine. Replacing the fan will solve this scenario, just make sure the fan is mounted tightly and where it can’t get stuck, as there’s play in the mounting holes for fine adjustment.

B) Failed temperature sense diode/thermostat control chip and/or relative fuses

If the voltage is non existant or too low/stuck on full at cold, with the fan not speeding up in relation to the heat rising, the temperature sense diode and or thermostat may have failed or be failing. The symptom of the fan being on full on a cold start is a result of this, the diode resistance sticks high making the controller chip think the CPU is too hot. A completely failed diode and control chip/fuse means the voltage will be at 0v. Resulting in an expensive rework and diagnostic job. Not for n00bs or towel trick merchants.

C) Failed fan voltage rail

The fan is fed through the thermostat controller, and this itself has fuses. If the voltage is at 0v, and you believe the diode/chip is working, replace the fuses (surface mount).

D) Failed Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) sense line

A failed sense line (pulse width modulation) will result in the PS3 thinking the fan isn’t spinning even though it will be operating normally. The console will inevitably shut down. Every RPM of the fan sens out a pulse, the faster the fan turns the more pulses it sends out to say “this is how fast I’m turning!” and the controller determines the RPM based on the pulses.

This can be either the fan, or the RPM sensor in the control chip. First cheap fix, second, expensive, as the whole control chip needs to be replaced.

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As the Laptop Doctor of my firm, Kitamura Computers, it’s my job to look after my patients. I make sure they all get operated on, stripped down, and rebuilt to factory procedures. Here’s the patients currently in Dr. Tidosho’s IT surgery right now:

Patient 1: Tiny A360 1.1GHz 14″ laptop

This machine came to me, and she’s almost perfect! I’m an ex-Tiny engineer, and did the job for nearly 6 years, servicing many, if not all of Tiny’s range, and I’ve never seen an A360 as perfect as this one in nearly 4 years. They’re nearly 10 years old! This one was in someone’s loft for years, and has been very well preserved. The only damage is to the vents at the back.

Specs:

Pentium III 1.1GHz Coppermine CPU

512MB SDRAM

DVD/CD-RW Combo

30GB HDD

Original Tiny branded Windows XP install, complete with OEMInfo branding and recovery partition

Fault:

There isn’t one, really, apart from a dodgy keyboard. A few keys don’t work at all, and the Shift keys seemed to be stuck, and StickyKeys kept activating on boot-up, resulting in all icons highlighting. I washed the keyboard using my tried and tested method, it stopped the Shift problem, but didn’t fix the failed keys. I borrowed the keyboard from a preserved Tiny A440 I’ve had for a few years, so I could put all updates and software on.

Status: Awaiting new keyboard before being sold.

Patient 2: Compaq Presario 2500 Celeron (Upgraded to Pentium 4) laptop

This machine is in lovely condition. It’s almost like it was used only a few times. It’s been in our store for years at our storage in Warrington. The screen is smashed, and needs replacing. I’ve stripped and rebuilt it, and the inside of it is mint. No dust, nothing. All screws factory tightened still with thread glue. I’ve upgraded the CPU to a Pentium 4 from a Celeron, to increase its value when I finally sell it. This lil thing’s going to be worth something!

Specs:

Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz CPU (Upgraded from crappy Celeron!)

40GB Toshiba HDD

15″ Quanta TFT screen

DVD-ROM drive

ATi Mobility graphics

Fully working brand new original battery

Status: Awaiting new screen, and Windows installation.

You need to be really careful with Compaq/HP machines. If you replace the screen on one, MAKE SURE you replace it with the EXACT same model that came out. There’s an EEPROM chip that stores the characteristics/geometry of the screen, and if it’s not right, the screen won’t work. You need a Compaq Utilities disk, that’s SPECIFIC to the machine, to reprogram the EEPROM to the screen.

Patient 3: Acer Aspire 5040 AMD Turion 64 laptop

This one’s come to me from a dear friend of mine, Lindsay Wootton. She’s broken the screen by leaving her glasses on the keyboard, and closing the lid. It’s really bent and smashed the screen badly, bursting some screen surround clips, and shattering the backlight (her glasses didn’t survive, either!). The machine also kept shutting down, due to overheating, but I cleaned the heatsink out, and the computer stays running. I’ve stripped it down completely, and vacuum reworked some switches that were worn (the trackpad button switches are soldered to the motherboard, and all power/hotkeys switches) and cleaned it all out for her, renewing thermal paste, and thread glue on all screws, to keep them tight.

She’s one of those chicks that loves Messenger, and Limewire, so I’ve had to clean the usual spyware and toolbars off it for her, using an external monitor. She had Norton on, and it allowed it all on, so there goes to show just how good Norton ISN’T!

Specs:

AMD Turion64 2GHz Mobile CPU

512MB RAM

80GB HDD

DVD+/-RW DL drive

Status: Awaiting new screen ready for fitting. I’m also fitting her a new keyboard, the impact has caused a few of her keys to fail, plus a new screen surround and lid. These 3 items I’ve got in my company laptop graveyard (we have literally thousands of laptop carcasses!) so they’re easy enough to source. Literally, locally sourced parts!

Acer laptops sometimes scare me, they’re very cheaply made, and once all screws are removed, fall apart VERY easily! And I’ve done hundreds, following Acer service literature!

Patient 4: Advent 7039 AMD Athlon64 3000+ laptop

I’ve done literally hundreds of this range of laptop built on this chassis, having worked for PC World when they were in the market, and at Kitamura, as can be seen from our forum. The Pentium 4 variants, and AMD. But, none of them surprised me as much as this one. It was bought along with an Advent 7036, a P4, and they were both perfect after I’ d serviced them.

Then, the day I was going to sell the 7039 to a customer, the screen processor failed! The screen just goes white. A perfectly working screen, rendered useless, unless I rework a new chip or PCB on to the screen. It’s a Quanta that uses heat soldered ribbons to interface to the LCD, and they’re a bugger to do. It’s now just sat under my office desk, with my 7036, which still works and gets used as a DJ machine, waiting for a screen!

Specs:

AMD Athlon64 3000+ CPU

512MB DDR RAM

40GB IDE HDD

Pioneer DVD-/+RW drive (upgraded from combo)

ATi Radeon Mobility 9100 graphics

So, there you have it. An insight into one of the things I take great pride in. Laptop repairs. I’m not like your average British, Pakistani or Indian cowboy rip off shop. I’m professionally AND self taught, follow all manufacturer service documentation, and take great care and pride in each and every machine I service. I actually do put a lot of these rip off merchant jobs right. I get machines in with long screws where they shouldn’t be, circuit assemblies not seated or screwed in correctly, machines with thermal paste missing, screws and covers missing. They go out of my care perfect!

Kitamura Computers is a different company to the rest of them. I named the firm after Kassie’s dear friend Ryoko Kitamura, who sadly passed away tragically in 2005. They’d known each other for 12 years, and I dedicated the company to her. Every machine that comes in has the care and dedication to the job that I’ve been campaigning for in this industry for many years. I’m sick of immigrant Pakistani and Indian people, coming into this country, Brits too, and making a mockery of the IT repair industry, and the British people, ripping them off, and doing a shoddy job, thinking because they’ve built a computer they can do it all. It’s taken me many years to get as trained and professional as I am. I’m nearly 25, and have been doing computers since I was 9. And I’ve always taken massive pride in it, even as a child. I studied, and studied, and then practically performed the job.

And I’m bloody good at what I do. And British. I can proudly say that, and have about 300 happy people to back me up from over the years, neighbours, friends, and family, plus other colleagues from all the firms I’ve worked for, both good and bad.

Now I’ve got my lovely girlfriend Kassie backing me with Kitamura, she’s better in IT than I am, at 30, she’s very experienced with Linux and Mac, and has taught me extensively, and pulled me out of tricky situations, and being Japanese, has a lot of playfulness and charm. We also have Ryoko’s spirit looking over us. We’re a concrete firm, and I’ve watched many cowboys finally hit the dust since we were established. Good riddance to you all. It’s about time decent friendly experienced independent technicians like me survived, rather than immigrant ripoffs, and massive conglomerate monsters like PC World, who don’t really care about you, just money. It’s nice to be able to walk into an independent shop, be looked after, and have a laugh and cuppa at the same time. I did it myself with Bob Gorton, from Radiovision in Little Lever. He was my local repair guy, and we became good friends up until he retired, and sold his business in 2000. He also taught me a lot about professionalism. I probably wouldn’t be as professional as I am without him, instead sucked in by cowboys like PC World.

Kitamura Computers is a mixed firm. British, so we’re local professionals, with a sense of humour and a strong sense of Japanese charm, professionalism and friendliness. Your machines are in caring hands with us!

Plug my own firm, on my own blog? Why not? Self marketing is its own reward!

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The drive looks like a BenQ, sounds like a BenQ, but ISN’T a BenQ! It’s in fact one of the new Liteon drives, that isn’t Plug ‘n’ Flash, like the BenQ. It has the same mechanics, PCB and casing, but different software, Microsoft’s latest crackdown on firmware modders.

You need to do the “half open tray” trick like the BenQ, but can’t power the drive down and up to keep it open, otherwise get Bad Serial Data errors. You need to either cut traces on the PCB to solder a switch and resistor, a bit like the old Hitachi 79DJ drives, or you can use an XeCuter Connectivity Kit Pro v3.

All I need to do is dump the key, and inject it into the BenQ VAD6038 from my Core (which has now given up completely, by the way, the console, not the drive), as I can use Bad Flash recovery on it, it’s much easier to work with. A lot more difficult than first thought! I just hope it’ll work with the Elite, and they’ve not locked the console to the Liteon in some way.

A new learning experience to add to my 360 repair skill arsenal…

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My 360 gave up again yesterday, and then came back again…. then died again. And then came back again!

So, I’ve preserved her precious last breaths, god bless her, and bought myself an Elite, hopefully with the new Jasper board. It’s the new 65nm die revision, with the extra 256MB Hynix RAM for the NXE updates. The GPU’s been revised too, for less heat, so (less chance of, NOT NO CHANCE like some are saying) of a RRoD.

If I do decide to mod, I’ll probably use my BenQ drive from my old Xbox (that’s if the Elite doesn’t have one), so it’s an easy firmware dump, key extract, inject into hacked, reflash job. Piece o’ cake!

I just can’t understand why they’re STILL USING electrolytic cans in the new boards. Solid state Jap cans are all the rage now, and are much less prone to drying out, or bursting. PC mothrboards have been using them for a while, and I personally replace electro with solid in any repairs I do.

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I used a heatgun to heat the heatsinks up really hot. This is NOT something everyone should try, as the air from a heatgun is very dry, and can cause dry joints, so should not be done directly at the chips themselves, or for long periods, as the temperature is a lot hotter than a hairdryer. I use it as a very controlled last ditch attempt before properly vacuum reworking and replacing chips. I then ran the console without the fans connected, until it shut down, and then let her cool.

She’s been fine ever since, and has been run for about 7 hours following the repair, with cool off powerdown sessions in between. Fingers crossed! And no towel tricks or RRoD “FIX” kits in sight! LoL, who needs “bedroom experts” with the wrong tools and skills, such as *cough* Mark Pickavance *cough*?

Hehe 🙂 I don’t *think* I’m good, I KNOW it! LoL 🙂 As my Saints Row chick says!

Update 29th Jan: 24 hours runtime, still going! She’s been warmed up, powered up and down several times today, and she’s a darn fighter, a lot more than Greg’s ever was…

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I don’t know how much longer she’s gonna keep fighting back, because the tearing has just come back:

She’s been one heck of a good console, and this is the first time anything like this has happened to me. I’ve seen it at work many times, and never thought it’d happen to me, not after so long, but it has. I suppose I’ll get myself a nice new Elite, mod it, and not go on Live, so that if I ever need to go on Live, once a method that works to stop you getting banned comes, I’ll use it, because the Stealth firmware let me down the first time I used it, and I no longer trust it as far as its so called “Live Stealth” is concerned.

It’s looking snowy for my chick in Saints Row 2, she looks a bit snowed up!

As long as I don’t turn it off, it’ll stay running, it’s just, well, snowy!

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After 3 solid loyal years, I think my Core 360 is about to die. I’ve just been playing Forza 3, whizzing my 680hp Viper SRT-10 round Suzuka Circuit, and the telltale black and white tearlines have appeared on the picture. Exactly the same sysmptoms as my friend Greg, 2 days later, the E74 error occurred, and never again did his console play another game.

So I’ve unplugged it, and will let it cool, see what happens. In the meantime, I’ve got two options, the Easy one, and the Techie one:

The Easy method:

Go out and buy a brand new gorgeous Elite, with new motherboard, less heat.

Or:

The Techie method:

Rework my Core with NEW CPU & GPU chips, replacing the solder balls with lead ones. I use more heat than the factories, so I know it will last longer.

And before you geeks kick in, NO I WON’T use your foolish Towel or X-Clamp fixes!

UPDATE: She’s had it. The E74 error is now displaying, in all its multilanguage non-glory, on my Toshiba 42″ plasma:

It’s just a single segment flashing, but, who cares, an E74 is an E74 nonetheless, and it’s the GPU that’s ill:

Seeing as I’ve got nothing really to lose, as my console’s modded anyway, I’m gonna heat her up, nice and hot, to see if I can prolong the life a little longer, I want to get to Level 30 driver skill on Forza 3, and I’m at 27!

Update 2: She’s BACK again! But, for how long?!? She’s a fighter, that’s for sure!

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Anyone out there suffering Red Ring of Death? E74 errors? Stop! Do not be tempted by “Towel Trick 100% FIX” or “X-Clamp FIX” methods you see on YouTube, or Google, because they’ll do more harm than good. The next time you’re thinking of seeing that Pakistani bloke at Bowlers, or sending it off to Farnworth, Bury or Bolton Market, DON’T! To see why, from a professionally qualified electrical repair engineer (me), read on….

Towel Trick

The towel trick is probably the WORST of the “fixes” because it involves wrapping a towel around your console, and running the machine so it gets as hot as possible, in the hope of fixing the Ball Grid Array solder balls under the CPU and graphics chips. This in itself, is not only a FIRE RISK, but goes against electronics etiquette. Running any electrical chip over its rated temperature is bad for it, as they’re made up of thousands and millions of transistors, and as soon as those transistors get overheated, they start failing. A chip is designed with what are known as stress bearing transistors, which are spare redundant backups. When too many fail, that’s when you start to notice lockups, crashes, and the RRoD, it isn’t just the solder balls that causes the RRoD.

So, given this, wrapping a towel round the machine and deliberately overheating it is stupid, and AMATEURISH. It may solve the problem for a bit, but actually DOES MORE DAMAGE internally that YOU CAN’T SEE!

X-Clamp “FIX”

The 360 uses a heatsink bracket known as the X-Clamp. The X-Clamps clamp the heatsinks to the processors. There are 2 processors. The GPU (Graphics Processing Unit), and the CPU (Central Processing Unit). The processors get quite hot during use and emit a lot of heat..they can get as hot as 50 – 60 Deg C at idle, and higher than that under load, depending on the operating environment. All computer processors are the same. All computer processors emit a lot of heat…but most run a lot cooler because computers have better cooling than the 360. The 360 has two rear mounted 80mm fans, to pull the heat from the CPU and the GPU….a PC usually has separate units for both. This is why the 360 suffers.

The processors would pretty much instantly overheat if you didn’t have heatsinks, the thermal cutoff for the chips is around 90 degrees C. Heatsinks are basically big lumps of metal with fins that spread the heat out and dissipate it into the air. Since air is not a good conductor of heat, that is why heatsinks always have multiple fins…the more surface area, the more heat dissipation.

The X-Clamps work by holding the heatsinks down onto the processors with even force on each corner. If the force on each corner was not equal, this would result in processor damage, or cooling issues. They pull the heatsink mountings down onto the motherboard, pulling the motherboard downwards. But they also push up on the motherboard close to the middle of the processor resulting in warping of the motherboard. The constant heating and cooling of the whole assembly warps the motherboard, causing the solder balls under the chips to break, causing intermittent contact, and the dreaded RRoD.

The X-Clamp “Fix” works by increasing the amount of downforce on the chips. This is STUPID, as the kits often take the downforce limit well over the manufacturer limits, usually about 44lbs of force, all the way up to 70 – 80lbs. This can crack chip cores, motherboards, and then make that £30 repair cost £129 for a new console!

Another amateurish “solution”. Most of these “enthusiasts” have no idea about electronics, because if they did, they’d think twice.

The CORRECT Fix – Vacuum Rework

The correct method is to have the chips “reballed” with what is known as a Vacuum Rework Station. This is a very expensive piece of equipment that can be used to desolder, re-ball, and re-solder the chips. It uses hot air, and can do the job professionally. It too depends on the skill of the person doing the job, as the solder balls have to be placed by hand precisely before reworking.

I do it on a regular basis, or at least I did until Microsoft introduced the extended warranty. I still perform the service on out of warranty consoles, and for just £70. For that, you know your console is done professionally, and not by a bedroom expert on eBay. I also replace defective chips, too, if needed.

I’m so sick of people complaining that their problems re-appear after using the “LEENDARY TOWEL TRICK THAT CURES!”, I just had to speak out. I’ve done it on several forums, too.

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I’m sick and tired of “bedroom experts” on YouTube, and in magazines. Three so called “professional” repairers have been using the wrong tools to open an Xbox. When I first started in console repairs, back with the Megadrive, I’ve always used the correct tools, and spent the cash to buy them.

So, Mark Pickavance from Micro Mart, and the black guy in the YouTube video from www.XboxSlave.com, you DO NOT use a SCREWDRIVER to open the casing clips, and the sidepanels. You use one of these “opening tools”, like mine, below:

xbox-opening-tool

Are you all really so amateurish that you take ages to open the case, and damage it? This tool has the case open in seconds, it releases all the clips in one go! They’re not even expensive, a couple of quid/dollars at most!

Remember, in this industry, it’s not how many consoles you can do, but HOW WELL you do it. I do it professionally, and have to keep consoles looking pristine, I pride myself in it, my business looks good.

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