Adding A Fan Where Microsoft Should Have

The Xbox 360 is a great console. But unfortunately, some units are quite susceptible to overheating, resulting in the horrifying red ring of death (or RROD for short!). Sometimes the damage is done, and you’re pretty much out of luck. But if it’s a two light RROD (indicating inadequate cooling), there’s something you can do to save it. It’s simple — just add a fan.

If your unit is showing the two light RROD, open up the Xbox and take a look at the main heat-sink. You’re probably going to have to re-seat it with new thermal paste due to heat overload. That’ll fix your problem for a bit, but it’s more than likely going to happen again.

[Doyle] did this and it solved the RROD — but checking temperatures, he saw that the chip still hit about 80C in less than 30 seconds of being on! So he decided to add an extra fan.

He got the idea from [rgall0’s] guide, which shows that on earlier Xbx 360’s, there’s actually an unused header that can provide power to a 3-pin fan — selectable between 5V and 12V using a bit of solder. Cut a hole in the case, mount a fan above that heatsink, and you’ve got yourself a properly cooled Xbox.

For a more seriously cooled Xbox, why not relocate the optical drive to the outside, and throw in a computer processor heat-sink with a fan in there instead?

43 thoughts on “Adding A Fan Where Microsoft Should Have

  1. A coping saw and a rats tail file would have left a smooth round hole but I spose it comes down to what tools you have.

    But nothing can stuff something up as fast as a power tool!

    After seeing this you wonder why there wasn’t a fan there in the first place.

    Cool hack!

    1. 20 cents by 80 million units shipped is why.
      They only need it not to fail until the warranty expires, and ideally shortly after it does expire to ship the next unit.

      They have already factored in consoles that are used 24/7 which will fail after 4 months, into the cost benefit calculations.

      But maybe I’m too cynical.

      1. No, I think you are just the right amount of cynical. I have no doubt that most manufactures of common consumer electronics put a lot of thought into getting that balance just right.

        Last just long enough, to not discourage the costumer the buy their brand again. But as short as possible to be able to sell them a new product sooner.

        Besides you are right, shaving a even just few cents of production means a lot in a production that large.

      2. Nobody designs anything for quality anymore. This oversight was intentional on microsoft and they did not expect it to bite them in the butt as bad as it did. the RROD (Red Ring of Death) backfired on them so hard they were forced to give free refurbs to everyone that had one fail. at that point the $0.20 per unit cost looks really cheap, and kicking the manager in the groin that though that it was a good idea to reduce cooling is a great idea.

        Honestly I think all companies should have a standing policy that any MBA on staff will get his groin kicked if his cost savings idea backfires.

        1. After working in PV&V I can confirm your first statement. I have been on several teams where the design guys ask us why their parts failed quality testing and they just don’t understand. Schools don’t teach (or don’t require) design for quality classes.

    2. I figure he used a knife as it’s quite clear he’s into butchery.
      I don’t believe it could have been made to look any worse.
      Cutting a hole with a soldering iron and not bothering to file it afterwards would be prettier.

      1. Maybe not everyone is as perfect as you seem to be.
        It could be that he did the best he could with the tools he had available and his skill set. Maybe he didn’t care what it looked like and only cared if it worked. Maybe he just wanted to get it done and get back to playing his games.

        Try to have a bit of empathy for your fellow human beings and stop whining over inanimate objects.

        1. Yes, I could have done an excellent job, using my workshop and its numerous tools, but at 13 years old, all I had was my brother’s toolbox and I couldn’t use it if he was at home. B^)

          1. It’s a hole. Hole’s a hole. It doesn’t have to look nice, it’s a functional hole, not a decorative one. Long as air gets in, it’s serving it’s purpose.

            If he gave a fuck, I’m sure he’d have done a better job, but dude just wanted a hole.

    3. > wonder why there wasn’t a fan there in the first place
      Because people don’t like noise?

      I for one hate fans (*). They are the lazy engineer’s solution. Ideally the device wouldn’t consume so much power and produce heat in the first place, but if it must, then please use a proper heat-sink / radiator (make the case a heat-sink / radiator).

      As far as I know, fans you typically see in consumer electronics are there because they turn out to be cheaper than sufficiently large heat sinks (and obviously lighter).

      *) can anyone point me at a replacement for the super-noisy fan of a HP5328A?

      1. A “proper” heatsink would have to absolutely gigantic. There’s no desktop/tabletop device that can afford taking up the entire frigging table. You wouldn’t have decent laptops without fans. Consoles would be much lower power than they are today (and the graphics war is a huge war). Even my N64, which had a big chunk of aluminum for a heatsink, would overheat if it was left on for 20+ hours.

  2. I have one of the affected units and I doubt this fan will hold up against long plays of games that do stress the system enough to overheat it. The real culprit is two fold.

    For one the CPU/GPU cooler isn’t seated tight enough against the chip to be very effective. Adding thin plastic washers to the underside where the mounting screws go through the board is plenty to address this problem. I went with 0.65mm washers cut from acoustic guitar picks.

    The other part of the problem is the thermal pad they used in the earlier models. It’s the same stuff you get on cheap CPU coolers for a PC, not even the better grade you find in laptops. I opted to replace it with good ol’ AK-100 silicon thermal paste.

    After applying both of these solutions, I haven’t seen the CPU get much higher than 50C. The other issue this causes is that the heat not making it into the heat sink is being sunk into the ground plane. It’s fine for majority of the components on the early models except for a handful of resistors near the power button where there isn’t all that much metal to absorb the excess heat. I believe this is what causes the actual RROD issue considering the fix for that is to replace those resistors.

    I have to offer my sympathy to anyone still rockin’ a first gen Xbox360. Mine has seen so many hacks to keep it alive, enough that the console is banned from Xbox Live. It all started with a simply hack to fix a problem in the southbridge where it would lose the ability to eject disc (another side effect of the heat issue). Spiraled out into “I put so much work into this thing that it will live again”.

    1. I ended up using a USB drive to replace the hdd on my old one (yes, after nice new thermal paste and such) and that seemed to help even more. You don’t have the hdd on the side and less power running it=less heat. Maybe ya could give that a shot and see if it helps (if ya haven’t already). I also have another unit that I just gave the steampunk treatment to: It looks quite cool without the plastic on it and the acid rusted up the holed cage real nice. Slapped some other stuff on it like the guts of an old AM radio on top and a a camera iris for the ring of light and she was lookin’/performin’ good :)
      Right back at ya with the “keep em running” love ;) Best of luck with your consoles.

      1. Have done that but opted to solder down a SATA adapter. The kind that had power and SATA molded together for hot plugging. I found the power lines next to the header-less SATA holes on the board were exactly what you need for a HDD and as far as I can tell were unused by the console itself, just had solder filling the eyes is all.

    1. Wow, chief, ya went the extra mile and a half :) Good job and glad she is still churning out the fun :) On a funny side note: I nearly accidentally bought a $49 print of your lengthened capacitor leads to lay flat lol. I may still as a joke gift to my wife this xmas heh heh. Hopefully she will get me glasses :/

      1. Took some work to do, so fancied framing an image of it myself actually =P. Now that i actually have a Dremel i may be able to do a better job of the custom case. Like the main article, I used a normal sized cordless drill, a junior hacksaw blade, sharp knife and allot of Pollyweld. Quite surprised at how dust free it keeps actually. lol just pop the fans to full and watch it blow away =P.

          1. The case is polycarbonate as I have sheets left over from making LCD protection. Polyweld does a good job in bonding it together, just need to make sure you have a steady hold and a flat contact surface as its a liquid not a paste that fills gaps.
            As for the fans, I’m just switching between two power lines with a standard 3 pole switch, but a pot could be used to vary the speed more accurately. Would suggest using older fans (Thus models designed for a P4), as I’m unsure if newer fans designed with PWM in mind would react right.

  3. I did a similar mod to my 360 opened case cut metal surrounding fans removed plastic at rear then Xbox decided to ban console for no reason after a few emails to Microsoft they said it was a mistake a person with a gamer tag similar to mine should of been banned but they could not un bann unit so they asked me to send old unit back even though it was 8 years old and case modded they replaced it free of charge with an xbox360 slim free of charge I have a lot of faith in Microsoft now

    1. Had a similar reaction from Microsoft good few years ago (erm more then 15). Had a First gen Sidewinder Force Feedback wheel, game port =S , and the cable ended up being damaged through over use and vigorous Colin McRae Rally or Monster Truck Madness sessions. Called the helpline to get the pinout and cable diagram for my dad to re-solder. They basically said “Thank you for asking, but we are unable to provide that information I’m afraid.” they then asked for our address. They sent a brand new USB version of the wheel Free of charge. =) Now that’s customer service.

  4. While it’s working, if the look bothers him (and personally I’d worry about debris getting into the case with that opening) he can re-case the unit later. Consider this a proof of concept before putting time into aesthetics. Again, if the user wants to make aesthetics important. Lots of ugly things I own work well, and until such a time as the overall appearance bothers me, they’ll remain ugly.

  5. Somewhere… Someone…. Has Sparc 5 Workstation.

    With a fan installed above the SCSI HDD. Dremel cut. Your are welcome. It wasn’t a big deal. It was common sense.

    *free shrugs* Thanks to [rgall0] for informing of the placement, documenting his process properly and explination.

    STFU [DFUQ-O]! Just a mass of QUERTY key selections you think are clever….You don’t contrib, extrapolate or suggest anything positive except how you are met by difficulty by your lifestyle choice.

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