Hackit: Xbox 360 hardware failures on the rise?

e74xbox

Joystiq has been tracking the new starlet of Xbox 360 failures: the E74 error. It appears as the lower right light on the console turning red and an on-screen message telling the user to contact support with the error E74. The number of reported E74 errors seems to have risen since August 2008 and people are wondering if the more recent increase in errors are related to the release of the New Xbox Experience (NXE) Dashboard update. Did Microsoft reclass Red Ring of Death (RROD) failures as E74 to avoid warranty replacements?

From day one, the Xbox 360 has been plagued by hardware failures. So many failures that Microsoft ended up pushing the 90 day warranty up to a full year. Less than a year later they acknowledge the systemic RROD problem and extended replacement for affected consoles to three years. The RROD is named because of the three red lights displayed when the console failed. The culprit appears to be poor cooling of the console’s components. Components like the GPU would overheat causing solder joints to fail. People were able to repair their own consoles by reflowing with a heatgun. Microsoft has never officially disclosed why these systems fail. Our console purchased on launch day RROD’d, but [bunnie]’s solder joint inspection of it proved inconclusive. Every Xbox owner on Joystiq’s staff has had an RROD.

The E74 error is apparently not new. While Microsoft officially calls it a “general hardware failure“, users have been calling it a general video error since launch. It can occur when you have a bad video cable attached to the console. Users are blaming the HANA video scaler chip for the latest issues. There have been five different motherboard versions of the Xbox 360 so far. Each version upgraded the cooling and/or the size of the GPU and CPU. The HANA chip was introduced when the consoles started supporting HDMI. The original ANA video scaler on the Xenon board was a quad-in-line style SMD package with pins around the perimeter. The HANA chip on newer board designs is a ball grid array (BGA) package, which means it can fail the same way the GPU does for an RROD.

Did Microsoft change the error reporting on the Xbox 360 so they’d replace fewer consoles? No, we don’t think so. Is this a similar hardware failure? Most certainly. Unfortunately, E74 errors are only covered under a one year warranty instead of the RROD’s three year despite it being the same failure mode. Why are so many E74s happening now? There aren’t any hard numbers on how many failures there have been or how it compares to the RROD. We think that it’s just a result of more people having Xbox 360s with HDMI support now. A large portion of the Xenon 360s have been replaced with more reliable HDMI consoles, but that just means a larger install base of E74 prone consoles. More consoles means more possible failures.

Related: Xbox 360 Hacks, Xbox Hacks

51 thoughts on “Hackit: Xbox 360 hardware failures on the rise?

  1. My 360 had e74 three times BEFORE the new “experience”.. Fortunately, I purchased the three year warranty from Walmart and they’ve “fixed” it every time. so far, it hasn’t broken again. If it does, Walmart replaces it with a new 360 on the fourth time. Fingers crossed.

  2. What a craptastic hardware design. One of the worst consumer engineering failures of all time. I’m amazed that this hasn’t cause massive financial problems at MS.

  3. [eliot]: So BGAs are suddenly bad now? I don’t seem to be having this problem with any other consumer electronics with BGAs.

  4. @pokey: I don’t think the implication is that BGAs are bad, simply that their use in this situation (i.e. the inadiquatelly cooled 360).

    Also I’m sure I read somewhere that the solder used in 360s is poor, which is part of the reason they are RROD prone, and by the same reasoning E74 prone when using BGAs. Why MS wouldn’t start to use better solder is beyond me, but I may be wrong anyway (it was a while back so I may be mis-remembering conjecture as fact or something)

  5. …ok, that first sentence didn’t really make sence. I ment to say “I don’t think the implication is that BGAs are bad, simply that their use in this situation (i.e. the inadiquatelly cooled 360) is a problem for the same reason as the gpu mounting is for the rrod

  6. i remember reading something over at xbox-scene a while ago how about how one of the NXE programmers warned about how hardware failure would be on the rise after older systems updated to the new dash

    but yes crappy internal cooling , hardware design flaws etc etc just glad the jasper boards are holding up so far. That’s why i have to give props to Lain Li for there PC-XB01 case making it possible to better cool these over heated system components.

  7. microsoft doesn’t do hardware. The Zune was designed by toshiba. making something as complicated as the xbox360 (especially since it’s high power) reliable requires quite a bit of expertise, which i don’t think microsoft even realizes it needs.

    BGAs are in fact ridiculously difficult to design for reliability. There are a ridiculous number of things you have to consider when you put them into an end product. I’m pretty sure the high power density requirements of the xbox chips make it a hell of a lot harder.

    i don’t think there’s actually “cheaper” solder that you could even readily use. though if rohs didn’t go through and people didn’t have to use this ridiculous lead-free crap, i’d bet the xbox would be quite a bit more reliable than it is right now. . .

  8. My XBOX 360 Elite Resident Evil edition gave the e74 Error with lots of foreign writing on the screen immediately after installing the NXE Upgrade on launch day. (This is 1 hr after I exchanged my original Elite due to rrod earlier in the week). I hit it with the Fonzi slap and it worked just fine after that.

  9. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find any reliable pictures/references for what people are actually reporting wrong, but now that I think of it, if this is actually due to microfractures, probably has something to do with mismatched plating on the failed IC and the solder they used (my guess is the IC manufacturer screwed up the plating and microsoft didn’t check–seems to happen a lot).

    If there’s a good correlation between the new xbox software and this particular failure, i think it’s not hard to see why this might have happened–presumably the new software uses this chip more than the old software. This would require that the fracture failures are probably temperature dependent, which is quite likely.

  10. I have my 360 die exactly 3 days ago. And for roughly $3 in parts I fixed it completely and utterly. Thank you satan!

  11. As an production manager of a small electronics company I have seen first hand how painful it can be to use bga packaged parts. But As people want more powerful compact electronic devices your going to see more and more. Any number of problems occur when using bga’s they are easily broken when torque is applied to the board. You can have air bubbles in the paste, microfractures in the solder joints and ROHS solder is useless. Rohs is effected by temp change much more then leaded solder pastes. Not to mention poor IC quailty could cause the exact same problem.

    Not to mention why is the 360 getting bashed so bad for RROD when sony’s PS2 had a 70% recall. I’m still using an Xenon box…. Meh

  12. @ Greg, i too use a good firm pimp hand to get my 360 back from the e74, i don’t know what is up with mine but the e74 error i get seems to be fixed with a slap.

    the whole e74 error for mine doesn’t seem fatal, i don’t know whats up with it it does it some days and other days it doesn’t do it at all. It all did happen only after the new dashboard update, yet another reason to hate the update.

    And for the whole heat thing, i have gone through 2 360s so far, and my warranty ran out on this one so i am really considering the li-lan xb01 mod since im quite tired of having my xbox sound like a jet engine full of marbles, yes the fans are dying.

  13. If the BGA’s are anything like the (censored) in the HP DVx000 series laptops this explains a few things. I’ve seen quite a few with the infamous “no screen/lines” problem caused by failed balls on the graphics chip BGA, and fixing with a heat gun works for a while but never lasts long.

    There’s also a similar fault that affects the RAM on some Sony netbook clones (the little 10.1″ screen variety) where the BGA soldered RAM is flexed by the screen hinge and fails. In fact if you have a laptop which no longer boots it is well worth attempting to disable the onboard soldered RAM by asserting the /CS line connected to all the chips and installing a new SODIMM in the spare socket, have done this and it works.

    email mandoline at the cable and wireless guernsey isp dot net

    -A

  14. it’d be interesting to know what the actual failure rate is for these consoles. since getting my ‘elite’ at around this time last year i’ve been a bit worried about getting a red ring of death, since you hear about it almost automatically in any online discussion where the xbox is mentioned. so far, though, i really haven’t had any problem.

    the internet tends to give a polarised impression of anything like this, since why would you post a message if your xbox was working fine – i bet the actual failure rate isn’t nearly so bad as it looks like from this point of view.

    i think manufacturers should be legally bound to publish the failure statistics for their products. in some cases it might actually help them out, since if the 360 failure rate is in fact only 5% or something then it’d reassure those who wanted one but didn’t want any hassle.

  15. having had 3 360’s RROD I’m now starting to wonder if MS did it on purpose as evertime I’ve gone out and bought a new one while the other one’s been away (sold the 1st ‘spare’ – kept the 2nd). As I don’t want to be without my xbox I was willing to have 2 – and I know a lot of people who have done exactly the same thing.

    Is this a cunning ploy? ;)

  16. Um no. The 3RLOD/E74 is controlled by hardware. No update that Microsoft could have done could have made more RROD errors come off as E74 errors. And I strongly doubt that the NXE has anything to do with it. If you know anything about the RROD/E74 error, it is because of one of the BGA solder connections between the GPU and the motherboard breaking because of various forces on the chip and because of the expansion and contraction of heat, and heat is very poorly managed in the Xbox 360. When the system turns on, I believe it is the Southbridge IIRC that does a small hardware test of the system, if it sees that there is something wrong with the GPU, (or any other component for that matter) It’ll put out an error message. Depending on where the solder break occurs on the GPU, that is what error is put out. RROD (error code 0102 for those who are know what I am talking about) is the most common error, followed by E74, and then no video. If you turn on your console, and it does the green lights and you can hear the console booting up on your speakers but see nothing on screen, that means one of the solder balls broke connecting the GPU to the video out of the system, but the Southbridge has no way to test these connections so it thinks the system is good, but you end up not seeing anything on screen.

    There would be no way through a software update that Microsoft could change the console’s decision making to make it display E74 instead of 3RLOD so as to not have to doll out another free repair. They could only do that with a hardware update, the new Jasper consoles which have a new Southbridge MIGHT have been modified to do this, but I don’t see Microsoft going that low. And the Jasper consoles have the new 65nm GPUs which produce less heat which SHOULD reduce the number of failing consoles, but I don’t know how much good it is going to do because of the X clamps that hold the heatsinks on the chips which cause the uneven pressure that works with the heat to warp the motherboard and break the solder connections.

    So in conclusion, it is luck of the draw if you get E74 or the RROD. Microsoft can’t magically make your console e74 instead of RROD. Unless they were to mess with the core architecture of the system which might cost more money (hardware updates cost a lot of money) then just repairing the RROD consoles for free. And besides, new Jasper consoles shouldn’t RROD as much. In any case I am incredibly dissapointed at Microsoft’s attempt to fix the RROD situation once and for all. At the beginning of the life of the 360, sure it was excuesable, but now it still happens? Unexcuseable.

  17. My launch console got the E74 error right after installing the NXE. I had just restarted the console after the update. That was the first of many errors it had. Eventually it just stopped displaying anything.

    I would have called support had I not installed a case mod. That’s ok. My new 360 is a lot quieter.

  18. One thing I notice is that most 360’s dying are from people who leave it on all the time. I have 2 of them 1 new 1 launch day. BOTH work perfectly as it is turned off after every gaming session and I have the 3 fan add-on in the back on both. Everyone I have found that had a dead one leaves it on 24/7 (for my buds to have a gaming server… you’r “buds” can get their own damn gaming server) or does something stupid like puts it in a cabinet and does not mod the cabinet to have exhaust fans high and intake fans low, etc….

    It runs hotter than the surface of Mercury.. use your brains and add active cooling as well as turning it off when you are not playing it.

    Granted I could be “lucky” and have good units, but I doubt it. I am fairly certain that it’s due to misuse and abuse. Just like the DVD scratching the 360 does.

  19. I’ve had the “red ring of death” several times on the 360 I bought my kids a little over a year ago. All I’ve ever had to do is reboot it, or unplug it for a minute if that doesn’t work. It hasn’t done it in quite awhile, and there wasn’t any rhyme or reason (apparently) to the failures. It has done it in the middle of several hours of gameplay, and it has done it after sitting turned off overnight. Overall it has been a good buy. I hate to say it, but I agree with the guy calling himself fartface. Gaming consoles have always been made with cost in mind. I leave my pc’s on 24/7, but I make the kids turn the xbox off when they’re done. It just seems like common sense to me.

  20. had a few freezes after hours and hours of playing, but no other errors thus far (knock on wood) and my 360 is over 2 years old (20gb hdd one) – can’t check exact version of xbox as i’m typing from work.

  21. Microsoft could have avoided the whole problem by simply using silver thermal paste between the heatsink and processors. Anyone who has got the rrod, disconnect your system, cool it in the fridge, reconnect it, if it starts up youlll be good for a little bit before you rrod again (5-15 minutes). Crack open the unit remove gpu heatsinks, reapply arctic siver themal paste after a thourough cleaning. Also, DO NOT use the nyco external cooler for the 360 as it feeds off of internal power eventually killing your system.

  22. The E74 is caused by solder joints cracking,Bridging,or just coming loose. Most of the problem is caused by the board flexing, add enough heat and your solder will break or come loose. The metal case that the Motherboard sits in is not 100% flat (the points that it sits on are different heights), this causes the board to flex, and the solder to come loose or crack.

    go to this site…they explain everything, and tell you how to fix it.

    http://xbox-experts.com/e/index.php

  23. i bought an xbox 360 when they first came out. ended up sending it back twice first from red ring of death then dvds would play but games wouldn’t i still have a friend with the first xbox 360 shipment xbox and he’s never had a problem with his.. idk I’m guessing microsoft’s trying to reduce prices by not fully testing their systems.. (soly a guess and nothing more i support microsoft but i hate them with a passion as well..)

  24. John and brownsy67 are right. E74 is caused by a GPU solder ball fracturing. Heat isn’t so much the issue as the constant changing in temperature because the ROHS compliant solder (which is already poor) becomes weaker as the 360 heats, cools, and heats again…

    Like brownsy67 said, the whole problem could be solved with a redesign of the case and x-clamp brackets that hold the heat syncs in place. I would also add heat spreaders to the chips and clamp down the heat syncs on them tighter.

    The heat spreader would be important for distributing pressure evenly across the whole chip. In the case of my Elite, I solved E74 by placing plastic pieces around the edges of the chip to put pressure on those solder balls because when the die in the middle is pushed down, the sides tend to receive little pressure. This worked for a while, but the error came back as the plastic compressed under the pressure and heat. Thus, a metal heat spreader should do the trick…

  25. In reply to the guy that said a software update couldn’t affect what error is given. Well maybe not directly. However they can change the way and the intensity with which components are used and so indirectly the type of failure that occurs. So it is entirely possible although not likely to be intentional.

  26. I have to agree with bob on the issue of whether or not software can effect hardware failures. We’re talking about, potentially, a heat issue here and how hard the software pushes the hardware can make the difference and push the systems that are borderline over the edge. Also, it would be interesting to know how long the people getting these errors have had their systems (on the average). As time goes on, it’s natural for the rate of product failures to increase as the number of systems in the wild increases and those systems have more time to fail due to fatigue.

    As for the BGAs, I’ve heard a number of things about that. What I heard, in relation to the 360 in particular, was that the manufacturer didn’t have a lot of experience with using BGAs and ROHS solder together. This lead to them not using the ideal temperatures for the process and lead to crappy solder joints. Not sure how true it is, but it’s one more possible way things went wrong.

  27. @ Fartface, this is a game console made for average “consumers”. It’s not like they are marketing the xbox exclusively to network/system engineers or NOC Technicians. You SHOULDN’T NEED to add fans to your game console, it should provide for it’s own adequate cooling out of the box, nor should you have to worry about putting it into a server rack with excellent ventilation and it’s own A/C plant.

    Microsoft should have expected people would leave their system’s on 24/7 and put them into cabinets or on top of hot television sets, that’s where NORMAL PEOPLE put living room peripherals!

    Don’t blame the average customers when this is all Microsoft’s fault, the only thing Xbox owners are guilty of are buying Microsoft products, and they are already getting adequate punishment for that.

  28. Agreed…I manage to get by alright with the help of an xbox repair manual, but these errors are happening far too frequently. This isn’t the kind of performance that will keep Xbox in the running against ps3 or wii. Reliability is a big factor in any gaming console…it might be cool, until it stops working.

  29. I had an E71 code last night. After a quick heart attack I tried cycling the PSU and then removed the hdd and booted it and played a game then backed out to dashboard then shut it off reattached hdd and fired her up. Everything worked fine and I could play COD but when I backed out to dashboard it gave me a save error message. It seems like the game was updating something in the background at dashboard. Probably a map patch for glitchers. Still, it usually asks you first. I guess I’ll delete my COD files and re-DL em. As a side note, I have read that setting the box to boot directly to game (instead of dashboard) helps a great deal with the E71 and E74 codes. I boot to dashboard because the wife likes her Netflix, but ya might wanna give it a try.

  30. I fix a lot of 360s. Recently, I got a E74 on a non HDMI (no scalar bga) xbox. Reflowing the GPU brought it back. How can this be?

    Microsoft must have changed something since previously no HDMI-less 360s got the E74.

  31. I suspect it’s a combination of the crappy RoHS solder,cheap PCBs and poor cooling causing e74.

    RoHS was invented by a bunch of politicians who obviously have zero experience in electronics manufacture and materials engineering.

    The main issues with RoHS solders is they are often plagued by tin whisker esp the cheaper solders and the reflow temps are higher stressing components more.

    The RoHS solders actually cause much greater environmental damage in their manufacture then the lead based solders do so they don’t save the environment.

    BGAs themselves are not unreliable if the chip carrier and solder match the expansion coefficients of the board.

    I have a few ten year old macs that have BGA components that still work just fine.

    An alternative they could have used if they wanted to use a cheap PCBs would have been the PPGA and PQFP carriers since these can flex.

    Or they could have simply spent money on cooling fans and heat sinks like Sony.

  32. I had 2 360s rrod and my 3rd one, just this last weekend started the no video problem. My roommate has been through a rrod and an e74. I’d say the e74 is the new rrod. You don’t think Microsoft would change the way a failure is shown to lower the amount of boxes they would have to replace/repair? That’s a lot of faith in Microsoft. We need to focus on the the product quality!

  33. hmmm i was wondering if ms has infact tried alot of the ideas that people come up with (interet)(forums)etc…….and possibly some of them dont work if not some maybe most maybe even before we have tried them perhaps?im sure they have but it all goes into GREED!!!!!!!!!! and not cost-effective for them so we get sorry ass X-clamps that bend and warp that cause the problem

  34. they need a socket for the cpu and a fan on top of the heat sinks for craps sake they cheaped out… I bought a few 360’s RROD and fixed them gave one to my bro and sold the other to a coworker.. they still work, even today.. I dont think the x clamps are the big problem, they pull at the outer ends and in the center there is a type of fulcrum that pushes back on the center point of the x clap so it kinda fits snug but not tight as all hell like the RROD fix using .05 mm bolts er what ever the mm they are… almost every problem the 360 has is reversible… of course they shouldn’t have deployed an expensive product to kids who saved up for it to let them down from cheap manufacturing, I wouldn’t mind if the 360 was larger to accommodate for the right hardware..

  35. the 360 that i got had the rrod i recived it in pieces from a friend i put it back together with the x-clapm fix and no dice ive tried different compound applications different torqing of the bolts overheating numerous times then i found out later on that my friend got the rrod every now and then so he would put a fan on it and it would go away for a couple of days then more frequently
    it would appear until thats all he saw so….to people who stumble upon this forum for help the odds of fixing the ones that are second hand cant always be fixed you never know the history of the system how many times it overheated etc……i believe the x-clamp fix works i just had no luck with it on that system (lol plus it was a 2005 model ive heard they are the worst)

  36. I now have a 2009 box so hopefully that will last me awhile. I see that Microsoft now includes the E74 error in the 3 year warranty. Looks like I wasn’t too far off from my theory.

  37. i need some advice i bought 2 xboxes (original) for 15 dollars on the side of the road lol one i did a voltage adjustment and got it working the second one on the other hand is a launch release xbox >< which means no error code and it blinks red after bios loads so i removed the HDD and put
    it in the working xbox and i got an error 7 so i think the HDD is timed out my problem is how do i clone it? can i softmod the working one and hot swap? or clone the working HDD from the working xbox and use it on the older system some how? i know there is an issue with the eeproms containing the HDD key for a specific HDD for that specific mobo so i was wondering if there is a way by softmodding it ive noticed that you can back up your HDD for the softmodded xbox but ive never seen anything about backing up a HDD to fix another it sux that all that is preventing me from loading it up is a HDD issue any comments and help would be highly appreciated and sorry this isnt a xbox 360 issue lol

  38. Greg,
    Hitting it with the “Fonzi slap” and it worked just fine after that, demonstrates there is a dry solder join there for sure.

    Dry joints are caused by bad workmanship and overheating, they are quite common in the old CRT based monitors and TV’s and I mean old, most times I see this on TV’s is when they are many years old.

    It’s extremely poor quality control and shoddy cheap labor that cause these issues so early in an appliances life.

  39. Hey there people, I just wanted to holla and tell you that I found a great site. For those of you who don’t want to spend stupid amounts of money on pay-per-view fees to watch UFC 108 online FREE in full HD. Better then spending $55.95 on it eh?

  40. Hi there guys, I just wanted to holla and tell you that I found a great site. For those of you who don’t want to spend ridiculous amounts of money on ppv fees to watch UFC 108 online FREE in full high definition. Far Better then spending $55.95 on it eh?

  41. i liked the 1st xbox so naturally i bought the 360. i love the controller and xbl but my ps3 has lasted thru 3 360’s. And psn is free and soon gonna offer a premium service. my advice is buy a ps3 and wait on the next xbox. bc the 360 hardware is garbage. awesome games. but what good is games when the system is getting sent off to get repaired? ms rushed the 360 out to get a yr head start on sony and us gamers r paying for it by putting up with the hardware failures. the ps3 has alot of games out now and a ton of features the 360 doesn’t… im on my ps3 posting this

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s