Xbox 360 Gets a $5 Fix

DN Staff

December 10, 2012

3 Min Read
Xbox 360 Gets a $5 Fix

I had a problem recently with my Xbox 360, which, up until one day a couple of months ago, had operated fine for about three years. That day, I turned it on to find that, while it powered up, it never actually booted, and the disc drive was no longer responding. Thankfully, I did not see the dreaded "Red Ring of Death" (a sordid tale of poor solder joints), so naturally I assumed something was wrong with the drive.

I went to my old IT method for fixing a stuck drive: using a paper clip to manually pop the drive loose -- that didn't work. There was no access to the gears. This forced me to disassemble the entire unit to get at the drive. Upon inspection, the drive was still locked up. After working the parts loose and reassembling, the original problem persisted.

I went through Microsoft's official troubleshooting guides, which amount to a couple of basic checks ("Are you sure the console is plugged in?," etc.). After you've gone through these motions, the guides dump you into a request for service form. This, of course, costs $120 plus tax, conveniently the same price as a refurbished unit. Figuring the drive was dead, I began to look at buying a replacement drive.

But it wasn't that simple. In an effort to combat piracy, the firmware on the disc drive is keyed to the motherboard, so a replacement wouldn't be recognized by the console. The only way to get a replacement drive recognized by the console would be to get the firmware off of the existing drive and flash it on to the console, which, if I had been able to do, I probably wouldn't have needed a replacement drive in the first place.

One last desperate Google search revealed that sometimes the disc drive power cord dies, rendering the drive unusable until it is replaced. Since I was either going to liquidate my 360 collection or buy a new drive, I purchased a replacement cord for $5 on eBay. After receiving the cord -- and honestly not expecting that to fix the problem (the cord is essentially jumper wires between two jumper blocks, reversed in position for who knows why) -- lo and behold, my Xbox is working again.

I've been gaming for about 25 years, and while I've heard of old systems not working anymore (everyone I knew growing up eventually worked out a ritual to get their NES to work), I've never heard of a console going bad before it got replaced by a next-generation system. I haven't fully investigated what exactly failed in the original cord, but I suspect it has to do with the lack of strain relief of the cords wound around each other.

This entry was submitted by R.J. Hill and edited by Rob Spiegel.

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