360 Degrees of Separation

Young Bill Gates
Young Bill Gates

As if the dark days of winter were not dreary enough, there is a pall of quiet desperation hanging over my house. Not the whole house, just the family room.

We are suffering from the loss of the Xbox 360.

The darn thing up and died over the weekend. This means no Grand Theft Auto. No Call of Duty Modern Warfare. No Left 4 Dead 2.

I’m not much of a gamer, so I don’t feel the pain. When I play it only takes seconds to be cut down in a hail of bullets or eaten by zombies. At 48 it’s hard to remember which button fires your gun and which one is for running away. And no matter what team I pick in Madden NFL 09 they end up looking like the Detroit Lions.

But to a fourteen-year-old boy? Xbox failure equals crisis.

So as fixer of all things digital and analog, the first thing I did was get online and try to figure out how to repair it myself. How hard could it be —it’s just a computer.

What I found were various homebrew remedies guaranteed to solve the problem . One of them involves wrapping the Xbox in towels and letting it get very hot, as if you can sweat the demons out of its circuit boards. Another called for drilling holes in the motherboard and installing scores of tiny plastic washers.

Now the Xbox is in a cardboard box somewhere between here an Arizona on its way to be repaired. The good news is that Microsoft did such a lousy job building these things that they actually fix them for free, even if they’re a year out of warranty. They even paid for the shipping.

The Xbox shall return. Until then we will…I don’t know, talk?

15 thoughts on “360 Degrees of Separation

  1. Holy crap! Your an xbox gamer too? Perhaps I will recant on some of my opinions about you. Seeing as to how you were wise enough to choose a 360 over the PS3, you’re “okay” in my book.

    *Stay away from the “quick fixes” you’ll find online. Essentially, the techniques try to super-heat the solder, and restore the connection of the internal components. But not only will those “fixes” void your warranty, but you just might burn your house down in the process.

    By any chance, are you a Modern Warfare 2 gamer?

  2. I’m completely inept, actually. What I would like, Yes, is a flight simulator for 360. Pretend I’m Sully and put it down in the river —that’s my idea of fun.

    We’ll see how long the unit lasts when it comes back from Microsoft…

  3. Rob:

    When my 15 year old son’s Xbox 360 died in October, I felt bad for him but inside I was secretly rejoicing! I could now have my son back and maybe even get him to do his chores and concentrate a little more on his schoolwork. I just do not understand “gaming” and I think it is a tremendous waste of time, kids should be outside getting exercise and fresh air. I could not afford to get it fixed, as it was out of warranty. Low and behold he did some checking on the Microsoft website and also found the free fix for the Xbox 360. My fears had come true, the center of my son’s universe would be repaired and I would once again lose him to the snipers of Call of Duty. I shipped it to the repair center on a Thursday, they received it on a Tuesday and we received an email that Wednesday telling us it had been repaired and on its way back. We waited for a week for it to arrive back and checking the UPS website for tracking. After a few phone calls to the repair center we discovered that it had not been shipped at all. It was packaged and ready to leave the repair center but UPS had not yet picked it up. I have heard this same scenerio from other people. Keep a lookout for the email telling you it was repaired and shipped back and then use UPS tracking to make sure it was really shipped. If not, get on the phone with the repair center and have the issue escalated. All in all the whole process took about two and a half weeks.

  4. Rob:

    Let me know what happens. The outgoing tracking number that printed on our shipping label had already been used in June. I think this repair center is an outfit that Microsoft hired just to do this type of out of warranty repair and you are not actually sending the Xbox to Microsoft. As soon as you get an email saying it is on its way back to you, keep watching to make sure it actually is. If you don’t see any movement for a couple of days, it means it is sitting in the repair center. Start calling Microsoft (hopefully you get someone who speaks English)and demand that it be picked up by UPS and sent back to you. Good luck.

  5. Oh crap….I mean dog poop. I did not realize that Microsoft would fix them for free (provided it actually gets returned to you) Had I known it would have saved me beaucoup bucks in buying a new one for christmas. Maybe I will hve the original one fixed so that we have a spare,,,,,,Did you contact Microsoft on line and they sent you a shipping box/label? Or did you call them. Thanks!

  6. #6: Not to get all nerdy on you, but there are various levels of Xbox FAIL.

    It’s all about the Red Ring of Death (RROD). Normally, the round display on the front of the Xbox is made up of four green glowing segments. If something goes wrong and they show red in all four segments (4RROD) Microsoft will fix it for $100. If your display show three red segments (3RROD) they’ll do it for free. Crazy, huh?

    I processed the warranty service online and they emailed me a shipping label. Packing was my responsibility. They used to provide a special pre-paid box, amusingly known in the gaming community as a coffin.

  7. Rob, I believe the 3 RROD is supposed to mean “hardware failure”. It’s usually caused by the xbox becoming so hot from prolonged use, that the solder connecting various components becomes to hot and begins to melt.

    Now as for the 4 RROD, I believe that is a disc reading error. I had a similar problem with my first 360. After months of prolonged use, I began noticing a significant buildup of dust inside the disc tray. That’s when my xbox stopped reading every disc properly. There were several times when my xbox would freeze, or just wouldn’t read the disc after I inserted it. But I’ve heard from various sources that the reasoning behind the dust buildup was due to the “Ntercooler” fan attachment which was sold as an option when the 360 was first released.

  8. Rob, the problem stems from the xbox 360 being rushed into production. Had Microsoft done much more extensive R&D, I’m sure they would’ve noticed the problem with the 360 over-heating. But, look at the bright side, Microsoft fessed up to their short-comings and replaced/repaired the broken 360s. Not to mention, the newer 360s were supposedly built to prevent the problem that occured with the initial launch of 360s.

  9. Rob- Thanks for the clarification. I will ask dear son what happened and then go online. He mentioned the word “motherboard” (I think) and immediately lost me. All I comprehended and understood was “Cheaper to buy than repair” and “new one for Christmas”. That will teach me to listen better and go online!!


  10. It would be even more devastating in our household since not only does the xbox 360 play games, but it’s also what we use to stream netflix onto the tv.

    I’ve recently been experimenting with Last FM too. The baby loves it.

  11. Ellen: On 1/29 I took delivery on a shipment from the repair center. Inside was a brand new unit. They may have done a lousy job building those things, but they did right by us.

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