Hit by the Red Ring of Death

After more than a year and a half of hosting epic table tennis battles and endless laps around the Nurburgring, my Xbox 360 finally succumbed to the notorious Red Ring of Death. I suppose it was only a matter of time; 360s have been dropping like flies since the console’s launch, with the latest report claiming a failure rate of 16%. At least one anonymous insider has pegged the 360’s mortality rate at a much higher 30%, blaming premature failures on Microsoft’s desire to rush its sophomore console to market ahead of Sony’s PlayStation 3.

Overheating hardware is apparently responsible for the bulk of Red Ring of Death errors—speculation that my own experience seems to confirm. In the hours leading up to its untimely demise, my 360 began displaying odd visual artifacts in games. These artifacts were rare at first and only evident with some titles, and they actually reminded me of the sort of visual weirdness one occasionally sees from a graphics card that’s been overclocked a little too far. Eventually, the artifacts were joined by instability. Games froze after a few hours and then after a few minutes, if they would load at all. The dashboard went next, freezing the system just seconds into loading the 360 logo. And there was light. Three lights, actually: the Red Ring of Death, which isn’t actually a ring at all.

No doubt thanks to outcry over the 360’s failure rate, Microsoft has bumped the console’s warranty up to three years. So I’m covered. Getting a dead 360 serviced looks to be a relatively easy, too. Five minutes after calling Microsoft’s support line (which is open until 1am EST, even on a Sunday night), I had the repair process started. An empty box and pre-paid shipping label are on their way, and I’ve been told to expect a turn-around time of two to three weeks.

While I’m not entirely happy to have to go without Forza for up to three weeks, the RMA process seems reasonable so far. Perhaps more importantly, it’s clear that Microsoft knows it has a real problem here. Obviously reading from a script, the support rep I spoke to made a point to apologize for the failure and ensuing inconvenience several times while gathering my shipping information and console’s serial number. I’ll be getting a free month of Xbox Live for my troubles, too, although that’s at best a token attempt at appeasement.


Whether the Red Ring of Death replacement process is ultimately painless remains to be seen. Given the 360’s failure rate and the odds that even more consoles will die as early revisions approach the end of their three-year warranty window, Microsoft can’t afford to alienate potential purchasers—and especially early adopters—of its next game console.

Comments closed
    • BenBasson
    • 12 years ago

    Have you tried the towel trick while you wait for Microsoft to do something about it?

    • RevoRunner
    • 12 years ago

    Well I waited six weeks to get my 360 back.They tell you two to three weeks.Good luck.

    Then MS sends you back a refirb. That’s great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Nice job MS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Waiting for that one to die too.!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • CampinCarl
    • 12 years ago

    I’d just like to throw out here that the only thing covered under the 3 year warranty are red rings, but /[

    • BelowTheRoot
    • 12 years ago

    Does anyone know if the Falcon consoles are more reliable than the earlier ones? My current one was purchased at launch. I’m thinking I might give my current one to my brother – when it comes back from repair – and buy a new one. That is, if the new one is 1) more reliable, 2) quieter, 3) HDMI capable, and 4) can be purchased with an extended warranty (didn’t at least one retailer stop offering them?), it might be worth it.

    • d0g_p00p
    • 12 years ago

    I am on my 3rd console that is red ringed. Keep in mind this is well over the period of 1 year. At some point I’ll get it replaced again but for right now I’ll just stick to my PC and my DS. it’s a shame really. I just picked up Mass Effect and one week later my 360 died again.

    • Forge
    • 12 years ago

    Also, on console longevity:

    I have an NES that works fine.
    I have an SNES that works great.
    I have an N64 that works well.
    I have an original Game Boy that works like brand new.
    I have a GBA that I pulled out of a drawer and powered on/ran fine after almost a year of charge-less drawer time.

    I have some PSPs that kill their batteries magically after a few weeks of being fully off.
    I have a PS1 that doesn’t work well and never has.
    I have an Xbox1 that works great after several years of heavy abuse.

    I have an X360 that gets plain old weird from time to time and locks up or reboots on rare occasions for no obvious reason.

    I don’t think it’s a trend, we just have the internet to trade problem reports plus a recent generation or so of sub-standard consoles.

    MS in particular deserves some blame, but it’s easy to understand. They came from the world of well-treated PCs to the world of industrial-reliability consoles, and they pushed it too hard, too fast. Nobody wants to hear that their plush carpet killed their 360 and the warranty doesn’t apply. Those suckers need to be tanks, and they aren’t.

      • A_Pickle
      • 12 years ago

      Looks to me like Sony is a pretty big culprit in your list there.

      And, Microsoft doesn’t come from the well-treated PC arena. I’d argue they’ve been “managing,” for better or for worse, the most prone-to-damage console for a LOT longer:

      The notebook. I just wish Microsoft had the drive and innovation to use PC’s to kill consoles, because I’m not going to lie: I hate consoles. Hate them.

        • Nutmeg
        • 12 years ago

        Lol, why? Hate is a bit strong no? And what consoles have you actually owned.

    • steelcity_ballin
    • 12 years ago

    Kirk Maltby?

      • FroBozz_Inc
      • 12 years ago

      LOL, WTF

    • FubbHead
    • 12 years ago

    Haven’t happened yet, but I guess it will eventually. Since my only goal with the 360 have been fulfilled, which was playing through Mass Effect, I’m contemplating modding the snot out of it… Put it in another case, increase the cooling on the processors (especially the GPU!), etc. Or whatever. Might increase it’s longevity…or not. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • sativa
    • 12 years ago

    what do they do to your console to fix it? or do they just stick your hard drive in a new console?

      • Forge
      • 12 years ago

      They send you a new one. You are specifically told not to send in the hard disk, though IIRC you do send in the power brick.

      Funny that all the RROD stories involve graphical glitches and MS moved heavens and earth to get the GPU down to 65nm ASAP. Sounds like design flaw to me (and many others).

      The downloaded content problem is a growing one. MS really needs to figure out what they are going to do about it. Even though the RROD is hopefully on the way out, a great number of X360 users either have or are pondering a second console (one for the gaming room/living room and a second for bedroom HD-DVD/games), and this problem hits them too.

      It can also affect folks who go over to a friend’s house to play a single X360 and bring along their HDD or memory card. You can copy just about anything, and you can use it if you’re signed in to Live, but you can’t bring along your copy of Carcassone/Undertow/whatever and play it there unless they have internet/XBL. Taking along Forza2 saves was a PITA too, since mine were insisting I’d have to sign in to XBL and ‘recover’ my profile to load my saves and play, while there was no internet on the other X360. I really missed my extensive garage.

      Gamertag recovery is another minor oopsie. While you can ‘recover’ your tag on another X360 and bring along your score/achivements, it doesn’t tie to your saves, and you have to ‘recover’ it again at home to get back.

      Sucks. Needs ‘guest mode’ XBL features, so that I can tell XBL I’m on console #1128264512 for the day, but I’ll be back on my usual console #127461239 that night, so please don’t make me suffer through a 10 minute ‘recovery’ again.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 12 years ago

        no, you don’t send anything but the console…keep the power brick, HDD< controllers, cables, etc.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 12 years ago

    I just got it as well, Geoff. I feel yer pain. Oddly enough about 45 minutes after you made this post.

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 12 years ago

    I blame, among other things, that concave chassis. That can’t be good for airflow.

    • themattman
    • 12 years ago

    My friend gave me a broken xbox 360 because for some reason he broke the void sticker and didn’t feel like paying for repairs. I spend $50 on a new DVD drive (the problem) and fixed it all up. It worked well for about two weeks, then I began having overheating problems. I put on a new layer of thermal paste, and that worked for a few weeks, but finally I decided to fix the xclamp situation today. So far after two hours, it has worked well. I will have to wait and see if this will be a permanent solution.

      • ssidbroadcast
      • 12 years ago

      lol, yeah sounds really convienent.

    • lethal
    • 12 years ago

    While relatively painless, AFAIK MS still has the downloaded content issue. All purchases are tied to the original console, so if you get a new one you no longer have access to said content offline. There should be a “authorize/deauthorize” functionality in case you get a new console, but I’m guessing there are other things taking priority.

    • BelowTheRoot
    • 12 years ago

    I have a launch console and this just happened to me as well. Though my console is probably one of the most failure-prone (manufactured 12/05), I thought I’d somehow managed to avoid the curse because I use it mainly as a Media Center Extender and don’t really stress it much. I guess it doesn’t really matter. I put the request in from their web site, which was pretty painless, and am now waiting for the coffin to arrive. Though I’ve read about the issue for as long as people have been talking about it, it never really occurred to me that the “red ring of death” was what I was experiencing, because I was in fact only getting three lights instead of four. I quick search on the net cleared that up for me real fast.

    Just so you know what kind of month it’s been, my 40GB PS3 stopped reading all discs and had to be sent it for reapir. I guess that problem isn’t all that uncommon on that particular unit. I didn’t even know there was an issue until I did a search on the problem.

    Do I even dare buy Super Smash Bros. Brawl to find out if my Wii is one of the ones that has to get sent it to have the lens cleaned? I don’t think I even want to know at the moment.

    I think an interesting discussion could be had on the reliability of today’s consoles, but I’m sure it’s a topic that’s already been discussed to death in the forums.

    • Meadows
    • 12 years ago

    I always liked my PC anyway.

      • Flying Fox
      • 12 years ago

      Except when your GPU overheats, the drivers crap out, the PSU not supplying enough juice, RAM instability causing random errors, etc. etc.?

      There are potentially more modes of failures with your PC.

        • Pettytheft
        • 12 years ago

        Motherboard dies. Seems to be the most common failure point for me.

        • Vrock
        • 12 years ago

        I read about people who have those types of problems, and after building computers for nigh on 12 years I can only conclude that those people don’t know what they’re doing. This ancient BX6, Pentium 3 650E, and Voodoo 3 are doing just fine.

          • ludi
          • 12 years ago

          I’ve been building for ten years and I *have* seen all of those, and they have at least three common sources:

          1. Overclocking (duh). Unfortunately this sometimes leaves long-term effects that are hard to flesh out, such as the K6-2/400 that finally got to the point where it was unstable even at stock speed…but magically healed itself after sitting in the drawer for six months.

          2. Dust. This one is huge for those of us who live in arid or semi-arid climates. I have to blow giant dust bunnies out of my system twice a year. If I don’t, I’ll know about it soon enough when wierd errors and lockups start occurring.

          3. Flaky component. Yeah, it happens even to the best of us. I once had a pair of memory sticks that I didn’t positively identify for two years because the problems (random crashes and gradual disk corruption) were slow to accumulate, I didn’t have spare DDR available for back-testing, and errors never showed up when directly tested for — including 18+ hour runs of MemTest86. It was when I saw the problems start occurring on a third system configuration, and then vanish after a memory swap, that I finally claimed a warranty exchange.

            • paulWTAMU
            • 12 years ago

            Ugh that reminds me of the bad MSI mobo I had a few years ago. What a PITA to diagnose.

          • Krogoth
          • 12 years ago

          Heh, still have a K6-2 400 that will run fine if given power. ๐Ÿ˜‰

        • DASQ
        • 12 years ago

        Erm… the XBox 360 has all of those too.

        • shank15217
        • 12 years ago

        since when do drivers crap out?

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