Death of a PS3: Epilogue

Those of you who have been TSA readers for a while might remember that a couple of years ago I shared the three part tale of what happened when my launch-day PS3 succumbed to the dreaded ‘Yellow Light of Death’ (YLoD).

Where I left the tale was that having bought a PS3 Slim to replace it I was trying to find my dead PS3’s original 60GB HDD, having replaced it a few months after launch with a larger one, so that I could have a go at taking advantage of the Sale Of Goods Act to get a refund or exchange. I told you at the time that I would let you know the outcome, though I did not expect it to be a couple of years later.

Wherever the ‘safe place’ was that I put the original 60GB HDD in it has remained safe and hidden these last two years. Doing some clearing out at the start of this year I decided that I had waited long enough to find the original HDD. Rather than keep my dead PS3 around any longer I decided to just get rid of it.

I could have tried to repair it but so many of of those repairs turn out to be temporary and it had been sitting unused on a shelf for so long that, to be honest, I just could not be bothered with it anymore.

Before disposing of it though I did have one last question that I wanted it to help answer; was its death my fault? One of the reasons put forth by some as a cause of the YLoD is that the user is often to blame for not keeping their PS3 clean enough.

Mine had lived on an AV rack that is dusted regularly and there was no evidence of dust buildup on any of the air intake or outlet grills. At the time, and several times since, I have been told that my PS3 would have been fine if I had diligently vacuumed it out weekly to prevent any dust buildup inside.

Now I don’t know about you but I have never given my consumer electronic kit a vacuum, regularly or otherwise. My house doesn’t get particularly dusty and I have no furry pets shedding all over the place so I have never considered it necessary. Indeed, I would consider it a design flaw if a piece of consumer electronics needs vacuuming out regularly when kept in the average home environment.

A curious mind can be a danger to free time though, so before disposing of the old shiny black beast I determined to answer the question of whether vacuuming was likely to have saved it. Time to get the tools out.

The first appreciable sign of any dust during the disassembly was on the inner portion of the fan blades but it was a pretty insignificant amount to see for someone who is used to taking PCs apart. The main heat sink assembly with its cooling fins and heat pipes, where I’d expected to see dust, was surprisingly clear.

The only noticeable build-up was on the outside of some of the EMC shield which had sat just inside one of the intake vents. Here, small dust bunnies had begun to form but the population was far from becoming out of control or a problem.

It was possible to see that some had climbed through the holes and onto the motherboard itself though, so off came the EMC shield. There inside were a handful of small bunnies clinging tightly to what had once obviously been some very attractively charged electronic components.

Again they were not present in sufficiently large numbers or of a size where they would have been the problem. Most of the motherboard was entirely free of dust and showed no signs of damage from excessive heat or electrical shorts.

My conclusion was that it was likely that the usual cause of YLoD had killed my PS3, cracking of the solder joints underneath one of the main chips. There was probably nothing I could have done to prevent it other than to have not used my PS3.

There would have been no harm done had I gently hoovered the air intakes and rounded up those few errant bunnies but neither would have doing so saved my memory card reader-equipped piece of gaming hardware. PCs regularly fill up with far more exotic dust-based lifeforms and continue to work for years and you should expect your PS3 to be able to operate without regular application of a vacuum cleaner.

Don’t Forget To Deactivate

One useful thing about the entire exercise was that it reminded me that although the PS3 was dead and so couldn’t be used to deactivate itself from my PSN account it was a perfect time to use the web-based method of doing so. A great guide to doing that can be found here.

Not only was I able to deactivate my PS3 but it also showed me that my old long-passed-on PSP-1000 was still registered. At the time, it was a couple of weeks before the PS Vita launched and I certainly would have been very flummoxed if my PS Vita had failed to properly activate because that old ‘1000 and my current ‘3000 were using the two valid activations.

You can only deactivate devices using the web interface at most every six months, so that ethically-challenged gamers cannot keep activating and deactivating a host of different PlayStation consoles on their accounts, but if you have either sold on or otherwise retired any PlayStation consoles that were tied to your PSN account it may be worth checking that they are not still taking up any of your limited activations.

And that ends the tale of the death and its aftermath of my launch-day PS3. I did not bother to reassemble it and merely took the bag of bits to the local recycling centre where the circuit boards and scrap metal could be processed as far as possible to recover the raw materials. Who knows, perhaps it’s already been reincarnated as a toaster? As long as they didn’t reuse any of the solder it should be fine.

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34 Comments

  1. I’m always a little amused when reading peoples experiences with the YLoD and all that… my 60gb Launch is sill going strong. My thinking has always been some type of thermal shock…

    I’ve always had (since I bought the PSP ) was enabling remote play on the PS3 via wireless so the fan is always working even when powered down.

    Obviously this will not help me if my laser decides to fail and can’t read the discs any more!

  2. Great article here, I myself always wandered if the dust was an issue, and heard to vacuum obviously I never have.

    And the web based deactivation works a treat. My brother bought a psn game and wanted to download on mine when he stayed however was activated on a few devices previously. Just went through and deactivated all the machines happened in like 5 mins. although means all those epic game sharers out there can continue to do so more.

    • Thanks for Hearting my LBP level btw ;)

  3. I’m still yet to give up on my Fatty, and as such I’ve sourced a friend of a friend who is going to resolder the CPU and GPU for me for free (the initial option was £120 using an X-Y machine however that clearly wouldn’t have been a sound investment given that a new PS3 is likely to be that price very soon). Like you, only the solder cracking seems to be the cause of it not working and even though it lasted 4 years, it was unavoidable. Even without excessive use, the solder would have eventually cracked from cooling/reheating/cooling/reheating….

    • how does he plan on resoldering bga’s ?

      I think you mean reflow.

      • No idea – I’m not technical, but he says he has the equipment to do it, rather than the hash-job I did of just using a heatgun. Since it’s bound for the tip otherwise, doesn’t seem like I can lose?

      • probably a low cost pdr machine with some stencils and solder paste. better than reflowing but still no guarantee. best of luck mate!

      • No sure, but like I said I have nothing to lose. Cheers mate ;)

  4. My sisters boyfriend had a go at fixing mine. It turns on but the disc drive doesnt work and neither do the apps like BBC iPlayer. Very strange.

  5. deactivate??? oh bollocks that’s why i cant watch videos on my new slim..
    my old one is still active lol..
    and my psp still live somewhere oops..
    nice article greg..
    i think its just the luck of the draw
    i went through 4 xbox ‘s in a year due to various break downs.
    my mates 60 gig fatty has just died and that was an original ps3
    sometimes chickens…….

    • Yeah, some just fail sooner rather than later. I’ve been visited multiple times by the RRoD too. It’s a sorry situation that this generation’s HD consoles have been so fragile. I’ve never had hardware failures on consoles before (I escaped the troubles with the PS2 DVD drive).

  6. Why can I only deactivate all of my devices at the same time? Come on Sony…
    How does the activating process work? Does it just activate the devices automatically the next time they access the PSN with my account or do I have to go through the Settings and click on “Activate Now” or whatever it is called?

    • You need to do it manually on each device. Via PlayStation Network->Account Management->System Activation.

      • Wow, and for a split second I was thinking Sony finally came up with something that was intuitive and user friendly… Why did I even bother to get my hopes up?

      • There is still an online option to activate and de-activate your consoles, but it names them My PS3 System 1, My PS3 System 2 etc…… so it’s a lucky dip as to whether you’ll choose the right console…..my SEN account shows 5 PS3’s that can be activated/de-activated, but I’m clueless which is my current model and which are now melted versions!

        https://account.sonyentertainmentnetwork.com/login.action?service-entity=psn

      • Freeze, doesn’t the ‘Activate System’ option on the website just tell you how to do it manually on the console itself? It did a few months ago.

      • Yes, I just tried it on PS3 System 3 (midway should be safe) and as you say it just gives instructions how to do it.
        First time I’ve ever tried using it so wasn’t aware that it just instructed how to do it manually on the console……a bit pointless really! :P

      • There was indeed a time when you could deactive a console, one by one, on the web. In my case, I even had them renamed so I always knew. But not it’s pretty useless to name them since they only allow you to deactivate them all at once, and only once every six months. Seems a little harsh.

  7. I personally vacuum all the fans on the outside of the PS3 which seems to be keep it going strong.

  8. Ah, lovely to know, Greg. Sony still wriggle out of a main-board fault but there we go. The consumer has lost this particular battle as it just wasn’t happening enough to hit RROD momentum that slapped Microsoft silly.

    Hope the new one is ticking along nicely (and quietly).

    • *taps head* Touch wood, the replacement Slim’s put in faultless service for the last 2 2/3 years.

  9. I don’t use my PS3 (the 40gb model, with a 320gb HDD inside) much since I got my Vita, but it is terrifyingly loud when I do.

    Hopefully it lasts until I can afford the next generation…

  10. My PS3’s laser went a little while ago but my warranty was well out of date so I could do nothing. If I were to buy a new PS3 then I’d leave it on all the time, folding when I’m not using it

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