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PlayStation (Games) Sony Games

The PS3's "Yellow Light of Death" 292

Xest writes "More and more reports are appearing about PlayStation 3 consoles failing in a similar way to the earlier models of the Xbox 360, except for Sony, it's the 'Yellow Light of Death.' The BBC has an interesting article which suggests the problem could be almost identical to that which caused the Red Ring of Death — poor soldering connections. From the article: 'Several of those businesses have told Watchdog that the vast majority of consoles they see with the "yellow light of death" can be repaired by heating up specific parts of the circuit board. This process is called solder re-flow. By heating the connections between the components and the circuit board to temperatures in excess of 200 Celsius, the metal solder joints melt, just like they did when the device was first assembled. Console repairers say that this process method is commonly used to repair fractured connections, or dry joints.' But that's not the only rule from Microsoft's playbook Sony has been following; while they have admitted 12,500 out of 2.5 million systems have failed (a convenient 0.5%), they refuse to release full figures of failure rates, citing them as being 'commercially sensitive.' Unfortunately, Sony does not appear to be following Microsoft's lead with regard to an extended warranty, stating that if a PS3 fails after 12 months, it is not their problem. In the UK at least, the Sale of Goods Act would disagree with that statement."
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The PS3's "Yellow Light of Death"

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  • 12 Months? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mistakill ( 965922 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:09PM (#29473595)
    12 Months doesnt apply in New Zealand either... an item must be of acceptable quality to last for its reasonable expected lifetime... a PS3 would be expected to live longer than 12 months
  • by Shikaku ( 1129753 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:21PM (#29473643) []

    Nintendo products are quite rugged in general. The only hardware issues that people have sited a lot are the DS lite hinge cracking (which is only cosmetic) and the Wiimote strap.

    Googling turns a number between less than 1% to 2.7%.

  • Re:Affected Models (Score:5, Informative)

    by fredc97 ( 963879 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:26PM (#29473663)

    I can confirm personally that the North American launch model is also affected by the YLOD issue, as I had my PS3 reflowed a month ago to cure its YLOD.

    Unfortunately as any victim can tell you with Sony's DRM you cannot switch models (to a slim for example) and restore a backup easily.

    Most savegames will transfer to a slim after a restore, all the downloadable content has to be fully redownloaded and anything related to Singstar needs a call placed to Sony's customer service in order to allow redownload to a new console.

  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:26PM (#29473667) Homepage
    I seem to remember quite a few people with worn out analog sticks on their N64. Although I'm not completely sure if those were official Nintendo controllers, I seem to think they were. Also, the Wii doesn't have any problems because it doesn't heat up. It's actually hotter when it's in standby (with the WiFi still on) then when it's playing games, because the fan turns off.
  • Re:12 Months? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Albanach ( 527650 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:31PM (#29473681) Homepage

    The Sale of Goods Act in the UK places the responsibility on the retailer, not Sony. It also allows the consumer to claim against the retailer for up to six years after purchase.

    Most retailers will claim against Sony and probably be reimbursed, as Sony want them to continue stocking their products. However, if the retailer you purchase from has gone under, you're out of luck.

    Still it's better than nothing, and a great deal better than anything that I'm aware of in the United States. For those in the UK - remember and keep your receipt!

  • Re:Blame RoHS (Score:4, Informative)

    by dltaylor ( 7510 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:42PM (#29473725)


    Blame incompetence and cost-cutting. There is no inherent problem in RoHS (been using it for years), but you CANNOT cut corners in the PCB design or use cut-rate production facilities.

  • by Brian Gordon ( 987471 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:50PM (#29473759)

    Well that pretty much demolishes this story. Straight from Sony's mouth:

    "SCEUK has run searches of its customer complaints/warranty database to identify the number of reports made to it regarding instances of system shutdown or failure in circumstances where the front panel yellow indicator is illuminated," added Maguire. "The results show that of all PS3s sold in the UK to date, fewer than one half of one per cent of units have been reported as failing in circumstances where the yellow indicator is illuminated."

    So where's the problem? Consumer electronics have a high failure rate. Certainly more than .5%

  • by distantbody ( 852269 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:53PM (#29473771) Journal
    [This statement is currently in the public domain - 18 September 2009]

    Further to your recent correspondence with our PR agency and parent company, I am writing to respond to your queries in connection with the edition of Watchdog that is scheduled for broadcast on Thursday 17 September 2009. I should state at the outset that we are, of course, disappointed if a small number of our consumers appear to have experienced problems with their PlayStation 3 units outside the manufacturer's warranty period and we take our customer care obligations very seriously. It is for this reason that SCEUK operates a service of out of warranty repair or replacement (replacement with a refurbished unit within 48 hours at the consumer's convenience by courier). To be clear, this service is subsidised by SCEUK, there is no profit made by SCEUK on this service.

    You have informed us that this broadcast will include a report concerning faults alleged to affect PlayStation®3 consoles, and SCEUK's policy on out-of-warranty (OOW) repairs. Most importantly, we entirely refute the suggestion that PS3 consoles have an inherent defect or other design issue which is akin to any warranty issue experienced by another console manufacturer. SCEUK has sold 2.5 million consoles in the UK since March 2007 and stands by the quality of its products. Clearly the allegations you propose to air in your program might have the potential to adversely effect Sony Computer Entertainment's reputation for supplying high quality products and customer service and we take very seriously any issues that can impact the public's or our customers' confidence in those products.

    From the correspondence to date, I have serious concerns as to the accuracy of these allegations and the likely tone of the Watchdog report. The information that you have provided suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of the technical issues and a mis-characterisation of SCEUK's OOW repairs policy. It is in all parties' interests that your reporting does not contain inaccurate or distorted information and the facts are presented in a manner which is not misleading or exaggerated. I trust the detailed information in this letter will enable the BBC to adopt a more balanced and sober approach to this issue than we have experienced to date.

    1. You have indicated that a number of viewers had contacted you to complain about a fault affecting their PS3 systems, whereby "a yellow light appears and their console then stops working - anecdotally called the 'yellow light of death'" (your email of 18 August 2009).

    2. You clarified in your letter of 25 August 2009 that the majority of those viewers had experienced problems with the 60GB launch model of the PS3. In that letter, you went on to say that, after examining three PS3 systems that had "displayed symptoms" of this fault, the consultancy Electronics Yorkshire noted the presence of higher levels of voids in soldering than would have been expected, in the case of two of those units. Your letter continued: "These voids can be problematic in some cases, but by no means in all cases. In some instances,... these voids can fracture at the inter-metallic interface... If this fracture was to occur on a vital connection, it would stop the console from working. [Electronics Yorkshire] is of the opinion that this problem [presumably: excessive voiding] has occurred during the manufacturing process and not as a result of consumer use or a thermal effect during use."

    3. Your letter went on to say that, in the opinion of three commercial repairers of PS3 systems, the supposed "'yellow light of death' fault is caused by a soldering issue".

    4. With respect, neither your letter of 25 August nor any other information you have provided (including the Electronics Yorkshire report) establishes that there is such a thing as a "'yellow light of death' fault". In this regard:

    The phrase "yellow light of death" has been adopted by certain members of the online community to describe the s
  • WTF? (Score:4, Informative)

    by topham ( 32406 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @11:00PM (#29473801) Homepage

    With a failure rate considerably lower than Microsoft you are seriously going to harp on Sony? Really?
    Who wrote this, Microsoft?

  • by marcansoft ( 727665 ) <{moc.tfosnacram} {ta} {rotceh}> on Friday September 18, 2009 @11:08PM (#29473835) Homepage

    The Wii has issues with what might also be poor soldering. On the Wii it causes pixel "snow" to appear, which is more prominent with some games than others. Mine started doing it and then spontaneously fixed itself. Others have had less luck.

    People tend to blame the WiiConnect24 idle mode for it ("yellow LED mode"). The WC24 power design of the Wii is extremely poor (that's why it's such a power hog in that mode, even though the main CPU is, in fact,off). The secondary ARM core used for WC24 stuff lives on the same die as the GPU ("Napa"), and my bet is there's a lot of leakage current and they probably don't turn off power to the GPU part. It also doesn't help that the idiots at BroadOn didn't use a wait-for-interrupt instruction in the IOS idle loop: that ARM chip is running at 100% CPU utilization even during the idlest of moments in WC24 mode (the idle thread spins around endlessly). Even though it's an ARM core, it's shoehorned into a (relatively) power-hungry GPU process and runs at 243Mhz (full time, due to the stupid software issue above), so my bet is it chews up quite a lot more power than your average cellphone ARM core. You can prove that pretty much all of the Wii is on in WC24 mode, minus the CPU: there is power going to the expansion ports (easily measured), the main power buses are on (IOS needs NAND flash and the GDDR3 RAM, among others), and even the video output hardware is on (bugs in homebrew have at times caused a video signal to remain present on the output after switching to WC24 mode).

    The fan is off in WC24 mode, so the end result is that the Hollywood chip gets quite warm for extended periods of time. People speculate that this causes the failures.

  • by Brain_Recall ( 868040 ) <> on Friday September 18, 2009 @11:32PM (#29473905)
    I had to look up CGA (no, not Color Graphics Adapter). He means Column Grid Array. Essentially they turn the solder balls into solder cylinders.
  • by MediaStreams ( 1461187 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @11:40PM (#29473935)

    Just take a quick look at this thread: []

    Basically a former Microsoft employee is behind these lies about the PS3's reliability.

  • Re:12 Months? (Score:4, Informative)

    by stimpleton ( 732392 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @11:45PM (#29473969)
    Yes, and in NZ the Case Law is based on a case a woman took about her washing machine where the motor failed after 2 years. In that decision the adjudicator ruled "A person should expect a washing machine to last 4 years without requiring significant repair".

    As a side note , a contract limiting this is against the law and instantly nullified. Making those "extended warranty" things pointless. A rort is a kind term.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 19, 2009 @12:36AM (#29474215)

    solder reflow is a fix for cracked joints. cracking joints is a common problem with lead free solder because it is brittle. heat expansion or any other flexing breaks it. exposing it to cold [] will also destroy it.
    xbox had this problem.
    some laptops have had this problem.
    nvidia had problems with some of their graphics cards because of this.
    all lead free solder. this is why RoHS has exemptions for aircraft electronics and medical equipment.

    lead solder is soft so it doesn't to crack. the only other durable solder available is gold.

  • Re:12 Months? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 19, 2009 @12:59AM (#29474333)

    Most retailers will claim against Sony and probably be reimbursed, as Sony want them to continue stocking their products. However, if the retailer you purchase from has gone under, you're out of luck.

    If you purchased your console with a credit card in the UK and the retailer has gone bust, the credit card company is liable under the Sale of Goods Act.

    As you can tell, we take consumer protection very seriously over here.

  • by sa1lnr ( 669048 ) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @01:00AM (#29474339)

    Actually, I watched the tv programme that was originally broadcast and if you watch a clip from the show []

    Take special note on the "Ian Lee may be a self confessed xbox man with a regular column on the microsoft network".

    Also take particular notice that he says nothing about red rings of death.

  • by marcansoft ( 727665 ) <{moc.tfosnacram} {ta} {rotceh}> on Saturday September 19, 2009 @02:06AM (#29474549) Homepage

    The GPU can't doing anything. In fact, it can only be accessed by the Broadway CPU, and the same GPIO pin turns the PPC off and makes the LED go yellow, so it's physically impossible for the GPU to be in use while the LED is yellow as far as we know.

    Thing is, there's no "GPU" chip on the Wii, the two main chips are the CPU chip and the "everything else" chip. "Everything else" includes I/O, an ARM926EJ-S processor, 24MB of RAM, the audio DSP, and all sorts of other stuff, much of which is definitely on during WC24 mode. I doubt the GPU is clocked in WC24 mode (though I wouldn't put it past them), but there's a good chance that it's powered at least and leaking current.

    Also, the fan is controlled by the ARM (it's just connected to a GPIO pin), which means that Nintendo could push out an update for all IOSes that leaves the fan at, say, 50% speed when in WC24 mode (via PWM, which they already do for the front slot LED stuff - that LED is just another GPIO). If they have a temperature sensor, they could use that too (we don't know if there is one). And they could fix the retarded no-CPU-sleep issue. But given their track record of actual useful retroactive updates to IOS (0), I'd say it's not going to happen (unless Wiis start massively dying due to this at some point in the future).

  • Re:12 Months? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 19, 2009 @03:34AM (#29474865)

    Yes. The underlying principle is that goods should last their expected economic lifetime.

    A TV should last for about five years, a dishwasher about eight. For consoles that should be around three years. If the device fails, within that period, the burden is on the retailer to prove it is the customers fault. That's not easy.

    All in all, this is a consumer right that protects against shady manufacturers. Like Sony, for instance.

  • Re:12 Months? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 19, 2009 @03:54AM (#29474939)

    12 Months doesnt apply in New Zealand either...

    The minimum warranty period in Belgium is 24 Months for all electronic devices sold in the country. At least that buys you some extra time and saves you a headach :)

  • Re:Affected Models (Score:3, Informative)

    by MojoStan ( 776183 ) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @04:19AM (#29475007)

    No, you can confirm that your own personal PS3 broke. That's it. You cannot confirm that there's some systemic problem with launch US PS3's.

    Maybe not a confirmation, but after Ars Technica's Ben Kuchera mentioned that his 60GB PS3 died playing Batman: Arkham Asylum, he got responses from at least five others who also saw their PS3s die in similar fashion (Ben and Ars are based in the USA). He wrote a small article [] about it.

    As Ben says, it's unscientific. They also had not heard of the term "Yellow Light of Death."

  • by citizenr ( 871508 ) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @09:43AM (#29476083) Homepage
  • by ctmurray ( 1475885 ) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @12:10PM (#29476769) Journal
    In addition, the replacement no-let solder formulations ran into issues that some of the best were patented and thus rejected because the OEMs did not want to be tied to a single vendor. They liked the old solder model of being able to get solder from multiple suppliers. So the solder formulations that were not patented were selected, but they don't have the best properties. Also, each OEM may be selecting a different formulation, but the contract manufacturer may not be set up or experienced in using that formulation to obtain the best soldering. This pdf file [] shows some of the many formulations available, if they are patented and some quick comments about each.

    From the same pdf file:
    Solder manufacturers have found that no lead-free alloy is a simple "drop-in" replacement as far as solder paste fluxes are concerned. All are currently developing new products that will perform well with the new alloy chemistries and process conditions. Each element, and resultant alloy, has unique characteristics with regard to oxidation, surface tension, reflow, and wetting. Solder paste fluxes must be formulated to address the specific alloy(s) of choice. Some solder paste manufacturers have made great advances and are presently offering viable lead-free solder paste products.
  • by hattig ( 47930 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @03:54PM (#29495595) Journal

    " if a PS3 fails after 12 months, it is not their problem. In the UK at least, the Sale of Goods Act would disagree with that statement."

    Probably mentioned already, but the sales of goods act means that it is the retailer that deals with the problem, not Sony. So it indeed isn't their problem - until the retailers start complaining. []

Think of it! With VLSI we can pack 100 ENIACs in 1 sq. cm.!