10 March 2011

Project "Sony Playstation 3, 'Phat' White"

so i decided to make a small gamble by getting a faulty Sony Playstation 3 from a seller last week. it suffered from the "yellow light of death" otherwise known as YLOD which is where the indicator light on the unit blinks yellow instead of the usual green colour indicating a hardware failure. while this indicator light does not give specific information on the exact nature of the failure except that it is hardware, it is well known in the Playstation world that the first few generations suffered from a very common hardware failure: dry or cracked solders under the graphics processor (GPU) and/or the main processor (CPU).

basically the older models of Playstation 3's (know as the "phat" version) tend to overheat and the lead-free solders under the GPU and CPU would fail due to the high temperatures. the solders would either become 'dry' or crack, causing a break in connection between the chip and the circuit which then causes the hardware failure and the YLOD. i didn't manage to get a picture of the yellow light but you'll find it easily by googling it.

one of the reasons for this failure is possibly due to a poor cooling system which many people have complained about online. i say possibly because although there have been numerous rants about the default fan in the unit, i found out that it was pretty huge and it was able to move a lot of air through the system. i suspect that the many people that have complained about this might have placed their unit inside an entertainment cupboard or shelf, which basically transforms the shelf/cupboard into an oven.

another reason would be the law that Sony has to follow when it designs a new console, which is that any toy that is sold to a kid cannot contain any form of lead. while this is really great for kids everywhere, leaded solder can withstand higher temperatures than lead-free solder and is better suited for use in the PS3...so...too bad for that...

anyway, there are a few ways to fix a YLOD PS3 but you will require proper equipment. one of the ways is to reflow (melt) the solder under the GPU and CPU and hope they form a new contact where it was previously broken. another way is to remove the GPU and CPU completely and remove the old lead-free solder and replace with leaded solder. the former is much easier than the latter, and in this post i have done the reflow method.

it goes without saying that once you open up the PS3, you'll have to remove the warranty sticker covering the first screw you need to open. it comes off easily, leaving behind many reminders that you have just voided your warranty. since this was a really old unit i had no trouble ripping the sticker right off.

there are quite a number of screws of different sizes so be sure to be clear which screws of which size goes into which hole. the sequence i dismantled the unit shown in the picture above is:

1. blu-ray drive (big box on the right side)
2. bluetooth module (the PCB in the bottom left corner)
3. power supply (box on the top left side)

once those are removed, all that's left is the main PCB itself.

the most tricky part of this procedure is the reflowing itself and my brother did all of the work here because i don't really know how to use this equipment so i came to watch and learn. the board is first preheated to prevent it from cracking from uneven heating like so:

we used a heat gun on the GPU and CPU which pumps out air at 350 degrees celsius. this causes the solders below the chips to melt and reform their contacts with the circuit. the aluminium foil is there to protect the other components around the GPU and CPU from overheating.

after that is done, all that's needed was a new coat of thermal paste and then it was ready to be reassembled.

hooked it up to a television set and....it lives!!

sadly this method is not a permanent fix, as the solders will eventually become dry and crack again one day. but this fix has shown that the problem with the Playstations are indeed due to their faulty solders on the chips.

if you notice that most of the recent posts are all about gaming related stuff, you're spot on...because i'm having my industrial attachment now and i don't have the time to find any antiques to restore...i am planning to do some DIY electronic projects in the coming weeks but that's for later...

1 comment:

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