Simple fixes breathe new life into aging game consoles

dreamcast_repair

While the Sega Dreamcast has long been out of production, there is an avid fanbase that loves the console dearly. As with many CD/DVD-based consoles, the Dreamcast can sometimes run into issues reading discs, at which point all games are unplayable.

Instructables user [Andrew] got his hands on a pair of the consoles and found that one could not read CDs, while the other suffered from a fried controller interface board, the result of a controller wiring mix-up on his part. Determined to get the consoles up and running again, he disassembled them and got to work, sharing his fixes with us.

The CD drive fix is a pretty standard one. He first needed to locate the potentiometer that regulates the laser. Once he did, a slight counter-clockwise turn is all it required in order to increase the laser’s voltage. Once he did this, he popped in a game to see if it worked. No longer greeted with a disc read error when he powered on his Dreamcast, he reassembled the console and began work on the other one.

To fix his controller issues, [Andrew] had to remove the entire controller board from the console. He eventually located a resistor that had been damaged by his wiring mishap, and replaced it. The console was tested and seeing that the controllers worked again, he put everything back together.

While this pair of fixes is not incredibly complex, it’s nice to see people sharing their tips for bringing these consoles back to life.

Comments

  1. schnulli says:

    Nice post! Not that it’s new to me that many things can easily be repaired, but i didn’t know the thing about fixing cd/dvd drives by increasing the voltage for the diode. I’ll have to try this when I get the next old drive that refuses to work.

  2. arfink says:

    Simply increasing the power being sent to the diode is certainly a simple fix, but one which can not be done indefinitely. However, given the rarity of the GD-ROM drives in the Dreamcast (and Sega Naomi) it’s nice to have some way to squeeze a little more life out of the system.

    Also, interestingly enough, while the Dreamcast can read CDs, the actual game disks are more properly known as GD-ROMs. GD standing for Giga-Disk, a unique disk format used only by Sega IIRC.

  3. Q says:

    The laser fix is an oldie, I repaired my dreamcast this way, I was so excited and relieved when it started playing games again :) The more awareness created for this fix could save a lot of poor Dreamcasts going to the dump, and maybe inspire some heated, drunken nights of Third Strike again ;p

  4. NoBrainNeeded says:

    Be careful when doing this sort of fix. I have over adjusted a potentiometer and the laser became too powerful. This resulted in several expensive coasters.

  5. Brennan says:

    FYI a lot of the dreamcast CD drives have been destroyed by using burned games on CD-R’s. It causes the laser to jump around a lot more from data fragmentation and the motor gets burned out faster, from what I remember. So as easy as it is to burn Dreamcast games, it’s much easier on the hardware to just pony up for the originals.

  6. Rachel says:

    The burnt out component is a fuse, not a resistor. It’s even labelled as “F1″.

  7. Bob says:

    I wonder did he get his Battletoads disk from gamestop?

  8. Jeannot says:

    it’s the same kind of trick that did fix backup reading on my gamecube.

  9. Pilotgeek says:

    Dreamcast FTW! My Dreamcast had the fuse blow on the controller board as well. Simple fix. No issues with the disk drive after all these years however… I guess I’m lucky.

  10. dext3r says:

    This might help someone somewhere; I had an issue with my Dreamcast where it would turn itself off after a minute or two of booting. Turned out to be a broken fan. Once the fan starts spinning up, the system will boot as normal.

  11. jeff says:

    I’ve had a problem with low laser output in which the most of the light passed through the cheap semi-transparent CDRWs. Gluing a sheet of paper on the top of the CDRW works since it reflects more of the light. Just don’t run it a 48x.

    btw I might be wrong but I’m pretty sure he increases the current, not the voltage, since this is a laser diode.

  12. Mike says:

    It’s probably a potentiometer being used as a rheostat for the laser diode. It’s been a long time since I had a Dreamcast. I definitely miss it. :(

  13. Pudrik says:

    If someone needs more console related help and guides digitpress forum is a good place to start :)

  14. Tecratal says:

    If i remember correctly F1 is a fuse and a resistor. Its rather common issue and easy to fix. A regular resistor of the same value may be use but will risk damaging other things if you short it again.

    Also in the past i tore the ribbon cable going from the cd drive to the console, I found a replacement that was close enough in a regular cd rom drive for a pc.

  15. RobKohr says:

    Amazon still sells new dreamcasts sold by Sega :)

  16. Jem says:

    @Brennan

    How do you get data fragmentation on a CD-R that’s written to once?

  17. numpad0 says:

    @Tecratal – that’s correct. the F1 on the controller board is a fuse, not just a resistor, and its value is very low(~10 ohm or so). It should better be replaced with resettable fuse or polyswitch. I’ve done it on mine and works fine.

  18. Ken says:

    @Rachel

    No kidding right?

    I highly recommend using fuses instead of the resistor. The controller itself has a 3.3V LDO in it, but the VMU system uses 5V TTL levels. If current draw causes the voltage to drop excessively, the VMU’s EEPROM will be corrupted and save data will be lost.

    You can get 500mA axial fuses, but they are a little hard to find. Digikey has them though.

    DIGIKEY #F2311-ND

  19. Whatnot says:

    Thank you hackaday to have adopted the habit to put in the story that it’s on instructables, I appreciate that since sometimes I really don’t feel like visiting that site.
    So thumbs up :)

  20. Bob says:

    Those tips are old and well known.
    He didn’t give the best tip: cleaning the pins between the mother board and the PSU (scratch them) and cleaning the fan will fix reboot issues.

  21. andrew aka sillyzombie says:

    ok to every one bitching and moaning, i sent this in since they asked me to send any thing else i made after my belt buckl project. also i was having 0 reboot issues just disc reading issues and a bad controller port. i cleaned the fans any ways, the system i got for free (disc reading issue) smelled of cat pics and was very dirty so i went over that thing with sooo many cleaners, so trust me i cleaned that thing well.

    also i know the tips are old but they are not very well known and sometimes are not fully detailed like most nintendo fixes.

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