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The Red Ring of Death

The Xbox 360 was part of the seventh generation of consoles, alongside the Nintendo Wii and the PlayStation 3. The Xbox was a huge improvement over its predecessor in just about every way imaginable – better specs, more comfortable controllers, a wider range of games, and larger storage technology. Despite the improvements, there is one aspect where the 360 failed to live up to expectations and a common problem for thousands of gamers across the world: the red ring of death.

The red ring of death was almost assuredly a sign that your console was internally broken, and for many, it would require them sending it back in to get fixed or replaced. It was such a common problem among the original iterations of the 360 that Microsoft eventually spent billions getting it sorted. You would know immediately, as the little lights that surround the on button, which were usually green when the console was running, were now red.

So, What Caused It?

It starts with how these kinds of systems work. Like a computer, a console uses a large printed circuit board known as a motherboard. This is where all the smaller components sit, such as the processor and the graphics unit. When these components are on, they generated a lot of heat individually. Put together in one, small box, and the temperature soared. Of course, designers always keep temperature and heat in mind when they design these kinds of machines, but sometimes things can happen that they can’t predict.

When the consoles were first shipped, players took them home and started enjoying their games. Whatever the game was, from the latest shooter to blackjack 21 online, it made the 360 produce heat in vast amounts, and often enough, the machine’s cooling systems couldn’t always keep up.

Red Ring of Death Xbox 360
The console generated so much heat, in fact, that it caused the metal in the machine to expand, and as it expanded, the processing chip on the motherboard would become dislodged or pop out completely. Without the processor, the console simply could not run properly, and the only way it could display that there was something wrong was by displaying the infamous red circle of lights.

How Was It Fixed?

For a long time, many people didn’t understand what the problem was. Unlike a computer, consoles are closed systems that are built to fit together with very little space in between, meaning they were incredibly difficult to open and fix, even for experienced technicians. One fix that was popular was to wrap the console in a thick blanket and leave it running. As it gained more heat, the metal would once again expand and the processor would fall back into its seat. More often than not, this method did not work at all.

The only fix that was available for most people was to send the console back to Microsoft to have it either fixed or replaced, and that’s how it was for many of the players that owned their first Xbox 360 console.

Eventually, Microsoft fixed the problem, giving the console better forms of heat control, and it is not something you would ever experience with a modern console. The red ring of death, however, will always be a part of gaming history.