Posted In Games

Xbox 360: Some Fixes For Freezing and 3 Red Lights

I’ve made quite a few posts about the problems I’ve had with my Xbox 360. You can take a look at the Xbox 360 tag archive for the entire list of posts. I’d like to highlight a few comments in those posts from readers. There’s been some great comments by readers, some go into pretty good detail.

All of the comments on all those posts in the Xbox 360 tag archive add up to a very valuable resource for gamers experiencing problems with their Xbox 360. You may have to do a little reading, but there’s some great comments there. Now, here’s some of my favorites.

Comment from reader Laserman:

Basically it looks like the 3 lights of death are a design flaw.

Inside the 360 the CPU and GPU are both BGA chips. The clamping mechanism used to keep the heatsink on the chip causes all the pressure to be in a tuny point at the centre of the chip with the pressure pushing upwards from the bottom of the board.
This causes the motherboard to flex (MS in their wisdom didn’t secure the board to the base except at the very edges – unlike a PC where the board is screwed down in multiple areas.).

The board flexes and the tiny solder connections on the CPU and GPU break and you get an intermittant problem that slowly gets worse.

The ‘towel trick’ works for a little while as your 360 gets hot enough to soften up the solder points and for the mobo to warp ever so slightly back to make contact again, but it will fail.

Basically you need to do the towel trick or similar and then replace the heastink clamps with bolts and nuts to secure the heatsink in a way that keeps the chip in full contact with the board and stops the board warping again.

If under warranty, just demand a replacement. If outside warranty then get some talismoon replacement fans (quieter and move 50% more air than the existing rear fans) and replace the heatsink clamps to stop the problem re-occurring.

There is a great post on xbox-scene titled RED LIGHTS = DESIGN FLAW or something similar that goes into detail

And a comment from reader Drew

I kind of have the same problem discussed here. My 360 started out with one freeze during Oblivion when I first got it around Christmas time. Nothing really happened after that for a while, so I dismissed it as a glitch in the game, or one random system freeze. Hey, they all have them. However, as time went on it started doing it more and more frequently, and it was getting really annoying.

Now, I can play a game/movie for about 5 minutes before everything freezes up, and I actually have to go over to the console to turn it off (controller does nothing). FYI, it even freezes with that game on the HDD, Hexic, i think it’s called. What’s funny about the last post is my 360 seems to work if I leave it on forever. It doesn’t freeze up if I leave it on for like 3 hours. So overheating is definitely not the problem. “more open air” won’t do ish for me, considering it’s in as open a space as it can be, and it hardly gets hot at all. Warm, but OMG overheating hot. Power supply same thing.

I am not about to wrap it up in towels, and leave it on for a half hour though. Scares me.

@ Neal, I have noticed that the games are jumpy when the time/date is not correct, it’s never frozen because of that. For instance, in Madden 07, when they show you the defense getting ready, it freezes for a second, but the whole system doesn’t freeze up. You can try going into the console settings in the dashboard, and change it, but I don’t think that’s your problem. However, you’ll be surprised at how smooth everything is running, if it’s always been wrong. I downloaded the update, didn’t do anything. If you don’t have a home network, you can plug the 360 directly into your modem to get the update, however, I doubt it will do anything.

I’ve also never gotten the E71 message, or the rings of light. I personally just think it’s a junk part that MS uses, and whatever it is, they need to stop using it. The troubleshooting tips on the website are a joke, and did nothing for me. I am sending it in for repair, kind of mad because I’ve had my original XBOX for 4 years without any issues. I guess if MS fixes it properly, and quickly, no harm, no foul.

Comment from reader Mike is an important one for those of you thinking of trying the Xbox 360 Towel Trick “fix”. This was an important comment because the Xbox 360 Towel Trick definitely has the potential to cause damage to your Xbox 360 console. The towel trick works because there’s some pretty shoddy soldering inside the Xbox 360 apparently. Mike has even gone to the trouble to explain how Xbox 360 owners can fix the bad soldering on their own, without having to send their console to Microsoft. Although, be warned that removing the case from your Xbox 360 will definitely void the warranty. He’s watching out for his fellow Xbox 360 owners, kudos Mike.


The three light error is caused by faulty soldering on the motherboard. The best way I have found to fix this is to go the local hardware store and get a heat gun; then take apart your system. Take just the motherboard, pull the head sink off of the GPU only and place tin foil over the plastic pieces (on board). Then take the heat gun and place it on low heat and for 2 minutes trace the board in circular motions (front and back of board) focusing mainly on the GPU and RAM chips (4 chips around the GPU in rows of 2). Then place the heat gun to high heat and do the same thing for 2 more minutes. Then let the unit cool for at least 30 minutes. The unit will boot right back up. I have had successes with about 10 consoles so far.


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