Overheating Consoles Were The Worst Problem Of Last Generation

Overheating Consoles Were The Worst Problem Of Last Generation

With this past generation, the most terrifying thing console owners could see was a small red or yellow light that meant their several hundred dollar console was dead. Without a doubt, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 are amazingly complex pieces of hardware — each a powerful computer shoved into a tiny box. Unfortunately, as it turned out, the original versions of these consoles proved to be more than a little prone to overheating.

When one of these systems gets too hot — usually after years of use — the solders that attach the CPU and/or GPU to the motherboard melt and break the connection. This causes the system to no longer be able to boot up.

On the Xbox 360 this break in connection is indicated by the green ring on the power button turning red — hence the colourful name “Red Ring of Death” (or RRoD for short). On the PS3, you get the flash of a yellow light before the system automatically turns itself off — hence the name “Yellow Light of Death” (aka the YLoD).

I have had personal experience with these soul-shattering lights and let me tell you, there is hardly a worse feeling when you realise that your precious game system is now little more than a large, ugly paperweight. Worse yet was the moment I realised all my saved games from years of play were seemingly gone for good.

There are many do-it-yourself pseudo-fixes out there: Take the system apart and use a heat gun; blow a hairdryer through the vents; put the whole system in your oven and bake it. But sadly, these prove to only be temporary fixes — useful for little more than backing up your saved. In the end, you only have two real choices: Send it in to the manufacturer (for around $US150) and get a refurbished model in return or simply buy a brand new system. Of course, as the problem became more and more common, Microsoft and Sony started replacing a broken system for free — as long as you were within a certain time limit, anyway.

Back in 2009, a Game Informer reader survey found over 50% of respondents’ 360s had red ringed, and 10% of their PS3s had gotten the yellow light. But as new models of the PS3 and 360 were released in the years that followed, the overheating problem was largely corrected. Moreover, there are still many first-run systems that work perfectly to this day. But to anyone who has ever encountered the RRoD or YLoD first hand, it is definitely one of the — if not the — worst “zeroes” of gaming’s seventh generation of consoles.


  • I’m torn. “Red ring of death” sounds much cooler than “Yellow light of death”, but YLoD sounds much cooler than RRoD.

    • YLoD has the advantage of being very easy to express as “Why, Lord?”

      (I’m fortunate enough to have been missed by both of these issues – to date, at least.)

      I would be very interested to see how much 360 sales were inflated by RRoD replacements, vs. how much PS3 sales were inflated by people who bought one as a cheap (at the time) Blu-Ray player.

      • Don’t forget Sony were giving them out for free with 40″ or bigger Bravia’s for a decent length of time. I’ve come across a few oldies who still had a PS3 in box a year or two after getting their TV.

      • I was very much a Sony Fanboy when the PS3 came out couldn’t wait to play it bought it day one for $999 and got resistance, motorstorm and ridge racer plus I imported Oblivion from the US

        Made so much fun of my friends for owning an Xbox 360 haha then a month into owning my ps3 the drive defected… I babied the $1000 behemoth heaps so no abuse no overplay just unlucky although I later discovered this was a common fault in launch 60gb units

        It took Sony 2months to replace my console and in that time I discovered Xbox 360 and Xbox Live all over again.. Yes I have had a console RRoD my precious Halo 3 LTD which Microsoft nicely replaced in under 3weeks no questions asked, whereas Sony asked if I “dropped it” or “kicked it” to cause the laser to die… and took two whole months to get me a new one… Microsoft offered 3yrs additional warranty on the RRoD whereas Sony Virtually did nothing, PsN went down for a month and they may as well have done nothing

        After the PSvita i don’t have much faith in Sony anymore and I’m shocked people still do… id bank on the Wii U being a better console just Nintendo need to lift their game a little or a lot

  • I used to work in a games store and almost every single day someone would come in with a dead xbox360.

    I only had to deal with a handful of dead PS3s over the year or so 8 months worked there.

    • Yeah same, i worked at EB for 2 years and boy did we see our fair share of RRoD. Like you said, it was an almost daily occurrence that someone brought one in or discussed their problem with us. We only came across a handful of PS3’s and Wii’s though.

      My PS3 launch console died and so did my 360… It sucks big time.

      • I had a 40g ps3 (MGS4 bundle) that saw a lot of action and it died last year 🙁 But then i won a new one from Kotaku! So incredibly grateful.

    • We got hardly any RRoD units in Cairns EB Games store. We even got extra stock allocated to our region because it’s so hot up here they thought we would get a big spike of returns but nothing came about because of it.

  • I think the move to peer-to-peer multiplayer was far worse. So much lag in every game, it was impossible to play multiplayer on consoles. At least it kind of looks like Xbox One is moving back to server based multiplayer, which should make it fairer.

  • Goddamn YLOD, I miss my Phat PS3, before it started overheating, it was flawless. This bloody slim though, is a cheap cost cutting piece of crap which wont even run PlayTV without bugging out.

    • Im pretty sure that was the latest Play TV update – Uninstall the update as it broke the application completely on my PS3 (was a phat 40GB one) – how it got through testing is beyond me.

      • Yea I had to run the original off the disc on the phat, but either one bugs out on the slim. PlayTV has most definitely been left to rot, I can’t even think of an update being released since the slim launched.

      • because you have hundreds of dollars worth of games and accessories for the xbox 360, it’s not a simple as just buying a PS3 and away you go, its an expensive journey changing sides mid game.

      • YES – this times a thousand. When mine eventually RROD I swore that I would never buy a Microsoft game console ever again. Some people paid $700 for their first console, $500 for their 2nd and around $200 for their 3rd – All RROD. They never learn. My next console will be a PS4.

        • I don’t get it — Microsoft did free replacements. I replaced mine for free twice. All you had to do was call them up, send it in, and they’d either repair it or send a new one back a few days later. I don’t understand why everyone went and bought new ones and then complained about it.

          • Yes, 3 were replaced for free, then after the three year warranty ran out I paid a hundred to get it replaced so I could finish the last few games I had on it. Then I refused to buy any more games for it.

    • I have had around 6/7 counts of RROD on my 360’s.

      First one happened the day i brought it home (day 1 of release), insta-death. It the new one proceeded to be repaired 5 times or so then replaced (by microsoft), then this new one finally died outside the extended warranty where i was forced to buy a new console which angered me beyond words.

      I now have the MW 2 special edition console and that started getting problems about 1 1/2 years ago with the disc drive not opening properly without a disc in it. Otherwise its perfectly fine.

      While i own a ps3 too i never considered switching “primary consoles” because the ps3 is inferior in every respect when it comes to online, I never had a problem paying the $42 (anyone who buys 12 month cards locally is a sucker, can get 12 +1/2/3 for $50 nowdays) a year for a superior service. Hell the original Xbox live on the Xbox was better than the ps3’s.

  • YLOD was more a general failure, it usually meant BD failure. While the RRoD also was general, it was much more often than not the heating issue, caused by poor design and ill fated manufacturing techniques.

    Look at the design of the XBone, I’ve never seen a more basic internal design, it’s big because it wants to avoid the problems of 360. They have been very risk averse in the design. Looking at the PS4 it’s an engineering masterpiece, but it may be pushing the envelope for the first iteration of a console. I’m sure they are trying their best but it may backfire.

    • I had a BD drive die, the console didn’t come up with any errors whatsoever, it just wouldn’t read that a disc was inserted at all, and I’d have to do the force shutdown eject to get a disc back out. When my console YLOD, it was most definitely overheating issues. Fixed it with the heat gun trick, but died again 6 months later, fixed it again, died again 3 months later. Luckily my friend won a slim from work via a need for speed comp and I bought it off him for cheap.

    • Looking at the PS4 it’s an engineering masterpiece, but it may be pushing the envelope for the first iteration of a console.

      Haha seriously? I’m not defending the Xbox One because that is just a rectangle. But seriously, the PS4 being an engineering masterpiece is total hyperbole. It is at best just a rhombus. Guess what, it’s black as well. They’re both the same with little to no defining feature separating them.

      The only reason I am getting a Xbox One is that I like Windows, I got my Desktop, Surface Pro2, Windows Phone and now XBone. Roommate is getting PS4 so I’ll get to play all those games as well.

      XBone & PS4 are the same.

      • LOL… Have a look at the internals of both systems then see the difference. I said ‘engineering’ not design, kid.

        • Yeah, Engineering is not just internal hardware “kid”, have you not heard of design engineers and software engineers or have you not run into any during highschool? Also, my point still stands. The hardware is hardly that different and no one can unequivocally state that one is more powerful than the other. If you want to justify your purchase made on hardware alone that you “believe” is better than go ahead. I know they’re the same, I’m getting both, Its silly to think one is far superior than the other. Though you say Xbox is basic I don’t PS4 running dual operating systems with a real-time 3D camera constantly able to relay input being packaged in the basic model.

  • Yep RRoD three times. Every time I took it back to EB and got a free replacement.

    Law in aussie states it must last a reasonable time span.

  • My 80GB PS3 is still kicking just fine. I personally also don’t know a single PS3 owner that had a failure, but plenty of 360 owners that did multiple times.

    • I’ve got five friends who YLOD their phat, and one friend who had a 60gb which had the BD drive die, the WLAN card die, and the sound card die. At least it still turns on? :p

    • Had my X360 and ever replaced it. Traded it in the other day towards my new XBone. I personally didn’t know anyone who had a YLoD or RRoD.

  • I went through seven 360’s. Mind you, I had EB’s extended warranty on it, which meant that I could go back and swap the console for a brand new one. After a time they changed from offering a brand new console to a “refurbished” (ie pre-owned) replacement, and they died even faster. Before my two year warranty ran out I managed to snag a pretty decent one which I only used for must-play exclusives, as by then I had a Wii and PS3. I honestly couldn’t tell you whether it still works – it hasn’t been turned on in forever.
    The 360 debacle cost EB millions of dollars in replacement consoles, and that’s why the ESA’s are now not worth the paper they’re printed on.

  • The RROD was much more common but at least your data was in a removable hard drive you could simply plug into a replacement, data was impossible to get of a busted ps3 AFAIK.

    • The only way to get it off was to re-flow the mobo in either an oven or with a heat gun, which then voided any warranty you had. Removable hard drives all of a sudden become pretty pointless when they’re encrypted to the serial number of your console.

  • I got hit by both.

    First 360 had the disc drive die in a week. Second 360 got RRoD. 3rd (fixed/refurbished guts) is still kicking but I think I’m going to trade it in towards my PS4 because I don’t expect it to last forever.

    First PS3 was free with my TV, lasted 4 years before YLOD, I didn’t hesitate to buy a new model which will spend its retirement as a blu ray player in another room.

  • I was horrified when I learnt my friend wrapped his 360 in a blanket and ran it until the solder remelted and fixed itself.
    Honsetly glad I waited for the elite which I had almost no trouble with and is now little more than a DVD player.

  • Red ring fix is so damn easy, all you need is some heatsync paste, a torx screwdriver and a Phillips head.

  • When my first 360 died my brother jumped through all the hoops with customer service to get it repaired. When I got it back I sold it as is and ‘upgraded’ to an Xbox elite. HDMI output snazzy!

    When my second 360 died MS had got the process down to a fine art. I jump on thier website, punched in my serial number and printed out the automatically generated packing slips and shipped it off. In both cases I had them back fixed in a week. The second unit is still the one I use to this day. it works.

    When my US launch PS3 died I managed to get it reflowed and working long enough to deactivate the thing and put it into the closet to be forgotten.

    The built to fail nature of launch consoles for PS360 was/is a joke. At the very least in both cases there are solutions in place to not lose game saves not to mention the fact that DLC is never lost.

  • I almost cried when my 360 got the RRoD… then about 3 months later i tried to turn it on again and it fixed itself and it’s still going strong now!!


  • I’ve had the RRoD flash up once (but not actually break the console) though sadly my 360 did succumb to a loose video connection – it would start up fine and even play audio but no video at all.

    Similarly the PS3 hasn’t had any YLoD but the drive did break down whereby it wouldn’t read discs and needed a hard eject to get the discs out.

  • My rrod happined 2 days before the launch of halo 3 (had anticipated that game as soon as I finished halo 2’s campaign)
    Havent been more shattered ever.

  • My PS3 literally died tonight – 3 blinking red lights may need new PSU or GPU Reflow but its not happening cost of fixing it is waste of time now PS3 is so cheap. But I guess its done its time, time to move to the next-gen, going to Denver for PS4 launch on Friday anyway…

  • I’m on my fifth box. Granted, MS replaced the previous four free of charge, but it was always annoying. The first three times it was my only console.

    My current xbox is quite possibly dead. I’ve only really run Borderlands on it from 2010 (which is why I’m not buying an xbone). It often crashes.

  • I’ve never bought a 360 and never will, but I always wanted to play some exclusives (as few as there are). A friend said he had an original 360 which had red ringed in his closet, so I said if I fix it can I have it? So after a 8 hour session fiddling inside I managed to get it working again and it lasted for a few months inside its case. It eventually died again but then I got sick of opening that TERRIBLY designed case so I’ve left the metal frame out in the open, and it’s been going for ages, I’m pretty confident it wont melt again. Free 360 wew!

  • I’ve fixed a few dead ps3 but overheating? More seemed like the dodgy lead free solder that was used as opposed to heat. Yes heat would trigger it but heat wasn’t the cause.

  • I had my 60gb fat PS3 die about 2 weeks before Ni No Kuni was released. I had the system pretty much since release so I figure I got some mileage out of it but still frustrating. Hearing the fans kick into overdrive not 2 minutes after starting the machine was always a point of amusement, wondering just how much longer I could push it till it finally packed it in.

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