Article: A Guide to Understanding the Xbox 360 Red Ring Errors

Let’s take a close look at the truth behind the infamous Xbox 360 RROD…

Your Xbox 360 gaming console represents a considerable investment on your part. As such you expect the console to perform to your expectations. In short, you reasonably expect the 360 to be free of manufacturer’s defects and operate normally during game play. Unfortunately for many gamers, this is not the case. An astoundingly high number of Xbox 360 owners have experienced one or more of the red ring errors and the accompanying frustration that these errors create.

What are These Errors?

The Xbox is prone to a number of errors. These errors are usually displayed through the Ring of Light, in the form of flashing LEDs that illuminate red. Four different broad category error types can be displayed in this manner. The Xbox 360 Red Rings of Death is the most infamous of these errors, but is by no means the only error that Xbox owners can experience. In addition, the Xbox can experience errors such as loss of video output that are not accompanied by a Ring of Light error code. The large number of error codes can make understanding the situation somewhat problematic and confusing.

In addition to the Red Ring of Death (aka 3 red light error or RROD), the Xbox 360 can display the 2 red light error, which indicates general overheating of the system, the 4 red light error, which indicates that the console is unable to find the AV cable and the 1 red light error, which can indicate a host of problems, though Microsoft labels this only as “hardware failure”.

What are the Most Common Errors?

Two of the four errors listed above are most common. The 3 red ring error is possibly the most common. This error cripples your Xbox 360, making it useless. In the case of this error occurring, the only action you will be able to perform is to turn the console off via the power button. However, the 1 red light error is also relatively common. This error will be accompanied by an Exx code displayed on your television screen. E74 is the most common error, though there are many, many more that can be displayed.

What Causes These Errors?

The Xbox 360 Red Ring of Death error is caused by a system malfunction, due to Microsoft’s unorthodox design and implementation of the system. While the manufacturer identifies this problem only as a “general hardware failure”, the cause is well documented in the aftermarket community. In short, the problem stems from several issues:

* The use of “X-clamps” to secure the heat sink to the CPU and GPU
* Incorrectly sized heat sinks used during manufacture
* The incorrect lead-free solder used to secure the CPU and GPU
* A poorly designed cooling system
* Incorrect formulation of the protective thermal paste applied to the CPU and GPU

The X-clamps used to secure the too small heat sinks create heat buildup below the sensitive GPU chip. This heat makes the solder holding the chip in place brittle, creating small cracks and fissures in the solder, itself. During motherboard flexing, the solder breaks, allowing the GPU chip (and sometimes the CPU chip, as well) to come loose from the motherboard. This breaks continuity in the system and results in the Red Ring of Death.

Unlike the Red Ring of Death, the 1 red light is accompanied by error codes. These codes are supposedly required when you contact Microsoft support for help with the issue. Some of the most common codes found are:

* E64: An indication of a DVD drive error

* E65: An indication of a DVD drive error

* E66: An indication of a DVD drive error involving incorrect firmware

* E67: An indication of a hard drive error

* E68: An indication of a hard drive error

* E69: An indication of a hard drive error

* E71: Indicates a dashboard update error

* E72: Unknown error

* E73: Indicates a failure of the Ethernet port

* E74: Indicates an error in the AV cable, though the GPU is usually the actual cause

* E76: Unknown error

* E79: Indicates a hard drive error

As you can see, these error codes seem to indicate a number of disparate causes. However, retrieving the secondary code through the Ring of Light reveals that most of these errors are due to overheating of the motherboard and malfunction of the GPU chip. This situation is due to the same conditions that cause the Red Ring of Death.

Can I Repair the Problem?

Microsoft would like nothing more than for you to send your console back for repair. If you are out of warranty, they make $150 off each repair. However, you can repair these errors on your own, without the assistance of Microsoft support. As a note, if your console is still under warranty (three years for the RROD and 1 year for other ROL errors), it is highly recommended that you return the console for repair.

Returning the console for repair by Microsoft will result in more than just the $150 charge, for owners of consoles with no warranty coverage. Shipping costs to and from the repair center will also apply and can be quite expensive. In addition, the repair process can take up to two full months, leaving you without a way to play your games during the interim.

That said, you can easily repair the console at home, using little more than tools you already own and inexpensive materials. The process is surprisingly simple and only requires that you adjust the cooling system of the console so that heat is dissipated better and that the GPU and CPU are secured to the motherboard evenly. Many console owners are hesitant to perform the needed repairs, believing that they must know something about the inner workings of the Xbox for the repair to be successful. This is not the case.

In fact, anyone can complete the needed repairs, quite easily. No special knowledge or training is required. All that is required is a quality guide that will walk you through the repair process, step by step.

About the Author

Anthony Uccello is an avid Xbox 360 gamer and has been playing video games since Atari. He bought his Xbox 360 the day of the launch and was enraged when his Xbox 360 stopped working because of the red ring of death error. It was then he founded and has been helping people fix their Xbox 360’s.

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