27th March 2016
Repair

Repairing an Original Xbox

The original Xbox console, Microsoft’s first foray into the console hardware market, was released back in 2001. After over a decade of service, it is no surprise to find a number of these consoles exhibiting faults.

I came across one such console in a lot bought on ebay. When turned on, this console appeared to function perfectly. Unfortunately, it liked to be turned on all the time – the console would switch itself on automatically without requiring a button press. It turns out that this is a common problem, fixable with a small amount of wire and a soldering iron.

Opening the Console

Removing the feet and lifting the two stickers on the base of the console provides access to the 6 torx security screws holding the console together. With these removed, the top half of the case can be gently lifted from the lower half and placed to one side.

Xbox with lid removed
Inside the Xbox case. The optical drive (left) and hard drive (right) need to be removed to access the motherboard.

The motherboard not yet accessible, as it is covered by the Hard Disk Drive (HDD) and Optical Disc Drive (ODD). These are attached to their own plastic trays, which are screwed both to the console shell and a central screw connecting the two trays together. To lift the two out, the cables need to be disconnected and released from the plastic retaining clips holding them in place. The drives themselves can remain attached to the plastic trays. The HDD must be removed first, as it overlaps the ODD.

With the drives removed, the motherboard is exposed.

Xbox with drives removed
Removing the drives gives access to the Xbox motherboard and power supply.

To remove the motherboard, the power supply (PSU), case fan, front panel and 2x controller port cables must be removed. It is also useful to remove the PATA cable from the motherboard to keep it out of the way (this is the cable that connected to the HDD/ODD). The screws can then be removed, and the motherboard removed from the Xbox shell.

Xbox Motherboard
Xbox motherboard, removed from the case.

I decided to wash the board using 99.9% isopropanol, and a soft sponge to remove any dirt or dust. The isopropanol (also known as IPA) is a type of alcohol, which lifts dirt from the board, while the sponge wipes the dirt away. At this point, I also decided to remove the two heatsinks and replace the thermal paste underneath. IPA was used to clean the old paste under the CPU, while the thermal adhesive on the GPU required both IPA and a blunt blade.

The Fault

The issue occurs due to damage to the traces that connect to the power circuitry. It is believed that some versions of the console are affected by a containment getting into the board, where it slowly causes the traces to corrode. As the traces deteriorate, the console will begin to show signs of the issue.

With the front of the board facing towards you, flip the board over to the side. The traces in question can be found along the front of the board. Using the grid coordinates labelled on the silkscreen, this area is in the ‘V’ section.

On this board, damage to the outer trace is clearly visible, next to the ‘7’ silkscreen marking. It appears that only one trace needs to be repaired. In some cases, more than one trace will be damaged.

damage
The damage to the outer trace is clearly visible, slightly to the right of the ‘7’ marking.

Following the damaged trace will lead you to an area where a piece of wire can be soldered, to bridge the connection. If you are struggling to find a point to solder to, there is a great guide on ogxbox.com which explains where to patch each trace.

Once you have found two points to bridge the connection, prepare a piece of wire long enough to reach both points, with a bit to spare. Ensure that the wire can be routed around any screw holes or larger components. Then solder the wire in place.

repair
Board repaired with a wire. Tape has been added to keep the wire away from the screw holes.

I added some tape to the wire, to keep it in position and ensure it remained clear of the screw holes. This isn’t necessary, but could make things easier later on.

Repeat this step until all of the traces are repaired.

Reassembly

With the traces fixed, the board can be put back into the case. Plug the power supply, fan, controller ports and front panel back into the motherboard, and screw the board to the case.

Attach one end of the PATA cable to the motherboard. Leave the other two parts unplugged for now. Also plug in the optical drive power cable. Put the optical drive back in place, and plug the power and data cables into the drive. The hard drive can now be inserted, taking care to line up a notch in the plastic tray with the optical drive tray. With this in place, the cables can be reattached to the hard drive.

At this point, I would recommend testing the system, before screwing the drive trays in place. If the system is now working correctly, the screws can be inserted; if not, the trays can easily be removed to check the attempted repair.

Put the lid back on the console, reinsert the screws, and enjoy your repaired console!

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