Clean Your Console: How to Avoid the Ring of Death

Tech Tips

Gaming is a huge part of our company culture at the UBIF home office. We’ve got a running Mario Kart tournament during lunch and every night a group of UBIF heroes meet in World of Warcraft to run mythic dungeons.


In honor of National Video Game day (Sept 12) we wanted to learn more about what makes video game console repairs unique. Because whether you prefer Playstation or Xbox, getting a ring of death really sucks and we can help you avoid that fate.


Console repair is considered to be a simpler repair and more similar to computers than any other smart device. The inside is designed more like a classic computer with most components integrated into the motherboard. This means that there are fewer components to break or repair. From a hardware standpoint, it doesn’t matter if a console is a Playstation or Xbox, the insides are pretty much the same.


A thorough diagnostic is always the first step in any repair. A physical inspection by a tech will look for damage or blockage that could be causing the problem. Unlike computers, there is no way for a user to interfere with the operating system or code of a console, which is actually a good thing. That means that a vast majority of the time, it’s a hardware issue which are much easier to fix.


The most common problems in gaming consoles is HDMI port failure, broken disc drives and rings of death. The term “rings of death” came from the Xbox 360, which had a ring around the power button that would light up green if it was functioning normally, but would turn bright red if something was wrong. This became known as the red ring of death because when you saw it, it basically meant you had to buy a new Xbox. While the newest versions of the Xbox and PS4 don’t have ring-shaped indicator lights, the term has stuck and is still used when referring to indicator lights that tell the user that there is a malfunction.


Almost always, the rings of death and other similar problems are caused by overheating due to a dirty console.


Users get the ring of death when the GPU (graphics processing unit) is detaching from the motherboard. The GPU is attached to the motherboard with dozens, sometimes hundreds, of tiny solder points. When a console is kept in a cabinet or closed area, it is not being properly ventilated. Consoles also trap dust and hair, which block the vents. Eventually, this blockage overheats the console and the solder will melt and shift the GPU causing a system failure.


When a GPU has shifted, technicians can use a combination of directed hot air at specific temperatures and durations, and a chemical called Flux to attempt to reattach it. If this works, then it is a low cost/ high reward repair because the customer will get to leave with their system in fully functioning condition.


However, if the problem involves damage to one of the bigger components such as the motherboard, it would be in the customer’s better interest to replace the console.

Our techs want gamers everywhere to know that the rings of death are completely preventable. Keeping your console clean and in a well ventilated area will ensure that there is no build-up of dust or hair. Use a can of compressed air to clean out the vents and keep the area around the console clear and clean.


Although it doesn’t happen often, roaches can be the cause of console failure as well. Roaches love warm, dark areas and will make a home inside your system. If we discover that a roach infestation is a part of your console problems we will not be able to complete the repair as it is a health risk for our store and other customers.


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