Yellow light of death

My PS3 is one of the original 60GB launch systems; as such it’s getting a bit long in the tooth. But it still gets used every day for either streaming my movies, or playing the kids games. Or both.

Until Tuesday evening, when it suddenly beeped three times, and turned itself off, with the power light flashing red. Trying to turn it back on again didn’t work, and neither did power cycling it. At which point I did some research, and discovered that this is known as the “Yellow Light Of Death”, or YLOD for short. It’s the way the PS3 indicates a catch-all hardware problem, and basically means the console is dead, and needs to be sent back to Sony for repair

Which would be OK, but since mine is well out of warranty we’re talking a significant bill to repair it, and in all likelihood I wouldn’t get back my rather rare launch system, with all the additional hardware that helps with backwards compatibility for PS2 titles. Not good.

It transpires that early PS3 systems like mine used 90nm Cell B/E processors, which were very power-hungry hot-running processors, and Sony didn’t do a very good job mounting the heatsinks in the early systems. This resulted in the systems running hot, and eventually causing dry solder joints to form between the CPU & GPU and the motherboard, resulting in these YLOD hardware failures. These problems are much less common on the newer PS3 Slims, which user newer 45nm Cell B/E processors that generate much less heat (200w total system consumption, compared to nearly 400w in mine).

Fortunately some enterprising people have managed to find a way of fixing this by making their own hot-air reflow solder station out of a standard hot air paint stripper, and have been able to re-flow-solder all the surface-mounted components around the CPU/GPU, fixing the dry solder joints and restoring their PS3s to life. And better yet they’ve posted videos of how to do it, so others can repeat their success.

So I did.

Going slowly it took me about 3 hours to strip the PS3 down to it’s bare motherboard, heat up the components so their soldered connections re-flowed and remade themselves, and then to rebuild it afterwards. I must admit that I wasn’t expecting it to work – but then again I had nothing to lose beyond a spare evening and £5 of thermal compound to remount the heatsinks with.

But the result is that the PS3 is now working again, and in practice, probably better than it has for a long time; by resolving the poorly mounted heatsinks and using a better quality of thermal compound the fan can now run much more slowly, and still provide better cooling. So it’s much quieter while streaming movies. Which is perfect.

Except I rather fancy getting a second generation Apple TV and hacking XBMC onto it to produce a really smart media hub, and fixing the PS3 has just made justifying the expenditure on that a lot harder!

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One thought on “Yellow light of death

  1. Pingback: 60GB Playstation 3, finally RIP « Richard's Blog

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