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XBox (Games)

Microsoft Insider Details Xbox 360 Red Ring Problems 415

Posted by Zonk
from the about-time-some-explained-that dept.
kylemonger writes "A blogger at the Seattle PI has interviewed a Microsoft insider about the Xbox 360 project. The insider purports to have the background story on the 'red ring of death' (RROD) failures and why they are so common. 'RROD is caused by anything that fails in the "digital backbone" on the mother board. Also known as a core digital error. CPU, GPU, memory, etc. Bad parts, incompatible parts (timing problems) bad manufacturing process (like solder joints), misapplied heat sinks or thermal interface material, missing parts, broken parts, parts of the wrong value, missed test coverage. Any one or more, on any chip, or many other discrete components, would cause this. And many of the failures were obviously infant mortality, where they work when they leave the factory and fail early in use. The main design flaw was the excessive heat on the GPU warping the mother board around it. This would stress the solder joints on the GPU and any bad joints would then fail in early life. There are also other significantly high failure rates in other areas, like the DVD.'"
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Microsoft Insider Details Xbox 360 Red Ring Problems

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 20, 2008 @11:28PM (#22122686)
    Because you just know it's going to fail.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 20, 2008 @11:30PM (#22122716)
    At least their diagnostics were comprehensive enough to catch all those failure modes.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 20, 2008 @11:37PM (#22122782)
    ... that a common "fix" for RROD 360's is to wrap them in a towel. This causes the bad ROHS solder balls to expand and make better connections.
    • by laejoh (648921) on Monday January 21, 2008 @06:30AM (#22124840)

      Ah, towels, isn't there anything they can't do!

      Ok, true, you have to remember where your towel is...

    • by Anonymous Coward
      ... that a common "fix" for RROD 360's is to wrap them in a towel. This causes the bad ROHS solder balls to expand and make better connections.

      This problem should be known as "XBOX menstruation" with the fix being "tampaxing":

      Person1: "Damn my XBOX is now showing the red ring and is refusing to work properly".
      Person2: "Have you tried tampaxing?"
      Person1: "Eh?"
      Person2: "Your XBOX is suffering from XBOX menstration. Tampaxing deals with the flow issues"
      Person1: "Thanks, your right tampaxing has fixed the issu
  • by toupsie (88295) on Sunday January 20, 2008 @11:37PM (#22122784) Homepage
    Even though I just sent in my third XBOX 360 for RROD repair after the great XBOX Live failure of 2007/2008, something about this interview just doesn't seem right. Why would a Microsoft "insider" risk their employment spilling well known issues about the XBOX 360 as "secrets" to a blog very read. That doesn't sound like a good career move.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by hdon (1104251)
      The informant has chosen not to reveal his identity. Did you even read the article? Bad form.
      • by rob1980 (941751) on Monday January 21, 2008 @12:22AM (#22123088)
        In the middle of '03 I tried to convince our director of "innovation" that we needed to do motion control, simple and intuitive controllers, and focus on family oriented and just plain fun content.

        Were employees lined up outside this director's door to extol the virtues of motion-sensitive controllers? If not, a sufficiently-motivated manhunt could probably narrow down who this person is fairly quickly.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by tiffany98121 (1094419)
          unless he knew the guy didn't work there any more, and that's why he felt safe in divulging that detail
      • The informant has chosen not to reveal his identity. Did you even read the article? Bad form.
        That doesn't mean he's safe from fear of being discovered. There's no such thing as 'anonymous' on the internet. Should it become a priority to find who made a post, it could be done. And, considering Microsoft's vast army of lawyers... Welp, I know I wouldn't take that risk. That doesn't mean somebody else wouldn't, but it is still a valid question to ask.
    • by rucs_hack (784150)
      Why would a Microsoft "insider" risk their employment spilling well known issues about the XBOX 360 as "secrets" to a blog very read. That doesn't sound like a good career move.

      It could be that they are planning on quitting anyway, people do leave jobs. Its not exactly a secret that the 360 is shoddily built though, is it.
  • by Waccoon (1186667) on Sunday January 20, 2008 @11:44PM (#22122836)
    I also don't think they considered that DVD drives generate heat, so putting and OEM-style DVD unit directly over a low-profile GPU heat sink wasn't too bright. Meanwhile, there's plenty of empty space in the corners of the box. I understand software companies aren't particularly good at making hardware, but really...
    • by Lisandro (799651) on Sunday January 20, 2008 @11:47PM (#22122862)
      Actually, Microsofts' hardware is top notch, or atleast it used to be - it's been quite a few years since i bought something from them. Mice, trackballs and keyboards were particularly good.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Gideon Fubar (833343)
        Notably, none of these things had a GPU, CPU, heatsinks of any kind.. They did have a nice solid feel and reliable switches though.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by ozmanjusri (601766)
        Actually, Microsofts' hardware is top notch, or atleast it used to be

        They're just average now, at least the ones I've used.

        I don't think Microsoft does much hardware in-house anyway - it's all just badge engineering.

        TFA actually says the 360 team was under resourced because they just didn't have the people to do the work, though this quote was the most telling;

        MS was so focused on beating Sony this cycle that the 360 was rushed to market when all indications were that it had serious flaws.

        Microsoft rushing a product to market before it's ready. Who'd have thunk it...

      • by dbIII (701233) on Monday January 21, 2008 @01:42AM (#22123554)

        Microsofts' hardware is top notch, or atleast it used to be - it's been quite a few years since i bought something from them. Mice, trackballs and keyboards were particularly good.

        You are quite right - Logitech have made some nice hardware for Microsoft. The Xbox is not made by Logitech.

      • Actually, Microsofts' hardware is top notch, or atleast it used to be - it's been quite a few years since i bought something from them. Mice, trackballs and keyboards were particularly good.
        Their mice keyboards and joysticks. consoles are a separate kettle of fish.
      • by Mex (191941)
        For sure. Microsoft's hardware, I admit, has always been good to me. Sidewinder controllers were great, and (dare I say it) the Zune is a solid(if ugly) machine. I have MS mice from the first generation of optical releases that work flawlessly still.

        It's just that their games division is not up to tempo.
      • by Kris_J (10111) *
        Microsoft's first bluetooth keyboard and mouse set was an expensive piece of junk. Before that, I agree their hardware was pretty good (I love the first MS Natural keyboard), but since then it's all been pretty crappy.
    • by jamesh (87723)

      I understand software companies aren't particularly good at making hardware, but really...

      That's FUD and you know it! If anything Microsoft's hardware is _better_ than their software. I won't use any other mouse but a Microsoft mouse on any of my Linux servers or workstations!

      (I won't forget the smiley this time :)
  • I've managed to avoid a RROD for over a year now, which makes me wonder if I'm perhaps treating my console better than some other RROD victims are. What sort of things would cause those different parts to fail?
    • by Swampash (1131503) on Sunday January 20, 2008 @11:50PM (#22122880)
      What sort of things would cause those different parts to fail?

      The sun coming up, basically.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Chrutil (732561)
      I have had my 360 since a few months after the lauch and I have never had any RROD problems with it either.
      Then again, I'm having good luck with Vista so I guess I'm inversely jinxed.
    • What sort of things would cause those different parts to fail?
      Luck. Where I live my circle of friends have a cluster of 17 dead and warranty replaced 360's. Mostly RROD. 15 different people, 17 dead 360's. It might be the locality, the shipping route etc... but it's extremely high failure rates none the less.
    • by gullevek (174152)
      I am a very low level player, I play perhaps ever two weeks for 5~6h, and after a little bit more than a year I also got the RROD. At least MS Japan gave me a month free gold subscription :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 20, 2008 @11:49PM (#22122874)
    As recent as just a month ago in an interview with an Xbox exec and also statements from Bill Gates recently no definitive statement was made that any solution to the Xbox 360 hardware failures had been found and instead focused on what an amazing replacement program they had. That is shocking for a product that has been on the market for more than two years. With all of Microsoft's resources they still haven't been able to demonstrate publicly that a random sampling of whichever is their latest model can be operated with a staggeringly high defect rate.

    Xbox 360s were dying in kiosks months to weeks before hitting the shelves in huge numbers.
    Xbox 360s were dying at review sites in huge numbers around the time the system hit the shelves.
    Xbox 360s have been dying for two years now and there is no sign that Microsoft will ever fix the fundemental design problems of the console.

    Each new model is heralded as the one that 'fixed the RRoD problem'. And the failures continue. Each new model comes out and the very day they do owners start posting their RRoD problems.

    It is common now for people to have gone through five to six Xbox 360s over the past two years. And people who have had to have their console replaced ten or more times is not rare.

    Absolutely pathetic.

    Microsoft has forever linked their name and the Xbox label with hardware failure and shoddy design. There never has been anything in the console market in the same league as the Xbox 360 hardware failure fiasco and almost certainly never will be again. No other company in the world has the necessary nexus of unlimited resources and incompetence that Microsoft posses to ever top this sad bit of console history.

    • by NothingMore (943591) on Monday January 21, 2008 @12:38AM (#22123190)

      It is common now for people to have gone through five to six Xbox 360s over the past two years. And people who have had to have their console replaced ten or more times is not rare.
      I wouldent call it "common" for people to have gone through 5 or 6 xbox 360's. I dont know a single person who owns a xbox 360 that has had it replaced 5 or 6 times. The RROD is a problem but saying 5-6 replacements is common is a bit of a stretch.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by shannara256 (262093)

      Xbox 360s have been dying for two years now...
      Netcraft confirms.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 20, 2008 @11:54PM (#22122910)
    Don't they burn them in? When I worked in manufacturing we always burned in newly
    manufactured products for 24 to 48 hours. It drastically cuts down on infant mortality problems because only the survivors are shipped.
  • by swschrad (312009)
    initial articles about the RROD had quite enough evidence. warm, sometimes hot machine, dead and stayed dead. had it pegged right away as heat not getting out.

    I grew up as a broadcast brat with dozens of 7-foot racks of nice, hot, red tubes around all the time. the physics never changes. as the temp goes up 10 degrees, the life expectancy of the parts goes down 50 percent. batteries, capacitors, resistors, insulation... semiconductor power output, read your spec sheets. heat kills everything. the use
    • by dj42 (765300) on Monday January 21, 2008 @12:11AM (#22123030) Journal
      The "hand test" is pointless. *puts hand on the back of my computer* Well, I can feel warm air! My computer must have poor design when it comes to dealing with heat. Except that is how it is designed to work. I put it together in a way that funnels heat out the back of the computer. And I can monitor temperatures of my CPU, GPU, and hard drives, which could reveal a potential for failure. But sticking my hand on it is a sure fire way of figuring that out too?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Rob Simpson (533360)
        I believe the GP said "on a display unit, and if it's too warm", not "on the exhaust vent". If your cooling system if doing a good job, the side or top of your case isn't going to be hot, is it?
    • by corsec67 (627446)
      If a 10 degree increase halves the life of the device, does decreasing the temperature by 10 degrees double it?
      How about to -10 Celsius?
      Thus, is my frozen computer [flickr.com] going to last forever?

      (I think that a 10 degree variation from the optimal internal temperature is what should be avoided, but I am not a hardware engineer)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Splab (574204)
      What a load of BS. Yes back in the days heat was a big deal, going at 50 degrees Celsius was bad, but these days its less of a problem. My CPU is running at around 70 degrees Celsius, my GPU is at 80 degrees Celsius under load, my room however is at 20 degrees Celsius, so quite significant failures at +20 isn't happening.

      Most new consumer hardware can sustain temperature to a point close to 100 degrees Celsius before critical failure happens.

      Oh and smart consumer putting a hand on the product? are you fucki
      • by dbIII (701233) on Monday January 21, 2008 @02:09AM (#22123718)
        The co-efficient of thermal expansion for copper has not magically changed since back in the day. Stuff moves back and forth with heating and cooling cycles and you often get thermal fatigue if there is a large enough temperature difference and constaints on parts. Solder is not very strong (and expands at a different rate to copper) so it doesn't take a lot for it to break away from a joint. In this case there are temperatures so high that people have done the towel trick to actually melt the solder so the difference from cold to operating temperatures would be large. The boards are even warping in the heat giving you yet another mode of failure as the tracks could peel off and component pins are stressed.

        Most new consumer hardware can sustain temperature to a point close to 100 degrees Celsius before critical failure happens.

        Interesting comment, but you really can't sensibly extrapolate one part of a graphics card to "most new consumer hardware". Conductors increase resistance with temperature. Semiconductors sometimes increase resistance at an almost exponential rate and usually have a point where they become full insulators. Electronics that operate at 100C+ is specificly and expensively designed to do so. A big lump of copper and a fan is usually easier. Of course sometimes cases are hot because that is where the heat is getting away - I have a little fanless machine that looks like a BBQ plate and the entire case warms up significantly, which is better than one hot spot of a higher temperature.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 20, 2008 @11:54PM (#22122914)
    it's called 360 because of the trip it takes
    from microsoft, to you, back to microsoft, to you again

    http://bash.org/?806949 [bash.org]
  • Nothing new! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by superash (1045796) on Sunday January 20, 2008 @11:56PM (#22122930)
    The insider purports to have the background story on the 'red ring of death' (RROD) failures and why they are so common

    What background story? Cheap parts, not enough testing blah blah...Where are the specifics?...and the causes mentioned for RROD were already known ages back.
  • Maybe because whenever I purchase computing equipment (be it a desktop / laptop / console) that generates enough heat to scald my palms, I always buy those mini desktop fans and point it to the thing the whole time it's on...
  • by Matt867 (1184557)
    You simply cannot trust a product from Microsoft not to screw up. I seriously doubt any of us Windows users haven't had to reformat at least once (of the Windows users here anyway). I bought a Zune and it was dead in a month. On top of that me and 3 friends got x-box 360's one way or another and 2 of them got the 3 RRODs(I honestly don't use my 360 much, this computer completely blows it away as far as gaming, it can boot 3 different OS's, it allows me to network myself without paying a forced subscription
    • by coaxial (28297) on Monday January 21, 2008 @01:01AM (#22123346) Homepage

      I bought a Zune
      Well there's your problem right there.

      Honestly. You're ranting about how bad Microsoft is and how stupid anyone is to buy a Microsoft product, but you go on to give an entire litany of all the products you repeatedly purchase and how they repeatedly suck. Apparently, you haven't learned your lesson, and by your own standard, are a fool.

      this computer completely blows it away as far as gaming, it can boot 3 different OS's, it allows me to network myself without paying a forced subscription fee, AND it doesn't get hot enough to warp its own motherboard. Beat that Microsoft.
      Well given that your machine boots XP, or as I strongly suspect given your apparent propensity to purchase anything Microsoft, Vista, I don't think Microsoft has to beat that. They have your money, and another customer on the upgrade treadmill.
    • You simply cannot trust a product from Microsoft not to screw up. I seriously doubt any of us Windows users haven't had to reformat at least once (of the Windows users here anyway).

      Been running Windows since 3.1.... Three XP machines currently in this computer room.
       
      Not one reformat.
  • by feepness (543479) on Monday January 21, 2008 @12:09AM (#22123014) Homepage
    Is why it's still hot when the fans sound like a 737 revving for takeoff. The PS3 is pretty much silent, has more stuffed into the box, and has a nearly flawless record!
    • by FuturePastNow (836765) on Monday January 21, 2008 @01:17AM (#22123426)
      If you look at "take apart" pictures on the web, it looks like about one-third to half of the PS3 by volume is heatsink. It has a single large fan that spins slowly, vs. two small fans on the 360.

      You can use the same principles to build quiet computers- large heatsinks with big, slow fans cool more quietly and more effectively.
    • by TheHawke (237817)
      They put a set of Delta fans in there. More specific, the fastest turning, loudest model that Delta has on the market for that size.

      That is how bad the heat issue is with the 360. If they put anything slower or less CFM, their little 360 would cook at 360 degress, and then some.
    • by mjwx (966435)

      Is why it's still hot when the fans sound like a 737 revving for takeoff
      Now I have travelled on a 737 and I can assure you the compressors are not that loud.
  • by Hamster Lover (558288) * on Monday January 21, 2008 @12:31AM (#22123148) Journal
    The very first thought I had when I saw tear down photos of the 360 hardware around the time the console was first released was how idiotic it was to place the DVD drive directly over the GPU, which had a pathetically inadequate heatsink in comparison to the CPU. I am not any sort of engineer, but years of tearing apart and building computers led me to conclude that the particular arrangement of the GPU under the DVD was poorly thought out.
    • I'm not engineer either.
      Still i would have thought a smart idea would be for the Airflow guide to channel air flow over both heat sinks.

      The pictures would suggest otherwise.
  • by Aereus (1042228) on Monday January 21, 2008 @12:59AM (#22123332)
    This reminds me of the episode of Venture Brothers where they go to the space station and it has a single red light labeled "Trouble" that blinks when any problem occurs... :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 21, 2008 @01:13AM (#22123396)
    "Digital backbone" and (my favourite) "core digital error". As usual, Microsoft having to come up with their own terminology for what the rest of the real world would refer to as "hardware flaw" or "engineering mistake".

    We'd better start calling the RROD the "ruddy halo of definitive binary turkey washout".

    Microsoft -- reinventing the wheel... into some kind of odd mix between a rhombus and a Moebius strip.
  • by Blackknight (25168) on Monday January 21, 2008 @01:59AM (#22123662) Homepage
    The biggest cause of failures that I've seen on the Xbox commmunity forums is from MS' flawed heat sink clamp design. Take off those damn x-clamps and 90% of the time the system will boot right up without a problem.

    Here's a thread with more details, and instructions.

    http://forums.xbox-scene.com/index.php?showtopic=595746 [xbox-scene.com]
  • Ringu? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Chas (5144) on Monday January 21, 2008 @02:05AM (#22123692) Homepage Journal
    So you see the ring and your XBox dies...

    There's a movie in there somewhere...
  • Mine is a year and a half old now, still works like the day I bought it.
  • BGA-problems (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mach1980 (1114097)
    BGA:s have always been a pain to work with. Ericsson had similar problem during the 90s with some of their mobile phones.

    If you think thermal expansion is hard think about the stress introduced in a SMA due to users pressing buttons.
    • RoHS (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lophophore (4087)
      BGA problems are exacerbated by the use of lead-free (F*cking RoHS [wikipedia.org]) solder. This is not just a XBOX 360 problem, my iPod mini died because of crummy solder under the portalplayer BGA chip, apparently a common failure. The RoHS initiative has caused some of the most unreliable electronics to be made in 30 years.

      Manufacturers are still learning how to deal with lead-free solder, and until they do, you can expect your shiny electronic gadgets to turn into bookends and doorstops with grim regularity.

  • Google confirms it:

    421,000 hits for RRoD
    1,670,000 hits for BSoD

    Impressive considering the Xbox to Windows ratio.
    • No more BSODs... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Myria (562655)
      Windows XP and later reboot instead of show a BSOD when it bugchecks. This can be disabled, but only a small percentage even know about it. Sneaky Microsoft marketing tactic there.
  • my... (Score:3, Funny)

    by cosmocain (1060326) on Monday January 21, 2008 @03:47AM (#22124160)
    ...coffee machine's got the same problem. almost every day there's a ring of red light flashing and it stops working, but then i refill the water and the RRoD disappears. Maybe you should try this with the Xboxes as well - i'm almost sure that the RRoD will disappear INSTANTLY!
  • by AbRASiON (589899) * on Monday January 21, 2008 @05:04AM (#22124532) Journal
    I can tell you now that mine, while only a month old doesn't get tooooo hot and hasn't broken,... THE NOISE PROBLEM IS ANNOYING.
    Yes, I said problem, it's simply un-acceptably noisy, sure if you're playing Sporty Mc Loud cheer 09 or Explosion masher 12 that's fine but for an RPG or or any adventure style game, ugh!.

    I got my PS3 and 360 within a week of each other (good deal here in Australia at the time) and the 360 is almost not being used at all due to the noise, it's just frustratingly loud AND it can't easily be fixed.

    The PS3 is quiet for 2 fantastic reasons,
    1: the developers can COUNT ON there being a hard disk inside it, so they use it, infact all games install 300 to 1000mb to the hard disk, increasing load times on the repetetive data and dropping laser wear / noise
    (not so the 360, thanks 'core' and 'arcade' models... sigh)

    2: the data per square inch on the blu ray disks is substantially more, meaning it can spin lower and still deliver data relatively quickly.

    I was playing Crackdown the other night and my g/f* called me, so I paused the game, then muted the home theatre system, I'm trying to talk to her but all i can hear is the whirr of a 16x dvd rom spinning at full speed,... big big sighs
    I own the premium ffsake Microsoft, FORCE the developers to code in, if there IS a HDD found, to utilize it properly - because right now all i'm hearing is dvd's spin, how that's going to go on the disc spin motor over the years who knows?

    While I'm on this topic:
    Everyone has likely heard that GTA4 will be better on the 360 due to better game engine code, the PS3 is running it slow (or was?)
    Problem is, one thing GTA is RENOWNED for is the constant disc access, chirp chirp chirp on PS2 and Xbox 1, HDD flash on PC - through GTA 3/ VC and SA
    Do I really want the disc thrashing about on the 360 version when I could get it for my PS3 and (likely) have the developers utilise the HDD a lot better?

    Decisions decisions.
  • I'm scared (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Taulin (569009) on Monday January 21, 2008 @08:31AM (#22125294) Homepage Journal
    Annually now for two years I had to send mine back in. This last time it started as lock ups, and the support said it wasn't covered under the extended warranty since I didn't have three red lights. Luckily for me the lights came on a few days later. There are only two more years to the extended warranty, and I wonder what will happen after that. The support guy told me 99% of the time they will just give you a new box as they are trying to take all the old ones off the market.
  • by stormguard2099 (1177733) on Monday January 21, 2008 @08:41AM (#22125328)

    if you want to take a gamble and enjoy working on electronics it's a good option though.
    After hearing this I know I'm sold on the xbox 360!
  • by Kaldaien (676190) on Monday January 21, 2008 @12:54PM (#22127736)
    I used to get the "red ring of death" from time to time; I thought it was due to overheating, so I moved it somewhere with better ventilation. Turns out it was a problem with the wiring in my house. Apparently the 360's external power supply is _very_ sensitive to brownouts. I've got the power supply in a place where I can see the colored light now - the "red ring of death" doesn't just apply to the XBOX 360 itself :)

    I plugged the 360 into my UPS with AVR, and the problem's completely gone. I always thought the AVR stuff they try to push on people buying home theatre equipment was a scam (considering the things can cost $500+ and don't even provide uninterruptible power), but apparently some consumer electronic devices really are anal about line voltage.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Frenchy_2001 (659163)
      Apparently the 360's external power supply is _very_ sensitive to brownouts. I've got the power supply in a place where I can see the colored light now - the "red ring of death" doesn't just apply to the XBOX 360 itself :)

      Which is still shody engineering, as most cheap (and obviously lower power) transformer that you will receive with any electonic equipement will take anything in input
      - from 100V or less to 250V or more
      - 45 to 65 Hz if not wider
      and convert it into their output quite reliabl

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