Sorry, Your XBOX 360 Isn't The Right Kind Of Broken

By now, most people know about the dreaded Red Ring of Death issue on the XBOX 360 — and the accompanying 3 year warranty. What many do not know is that that 3 year warranty only covers the “3 red lights” issue. If you get any other error code, you’re out of luck.

Reader Matthew just found out about this the hard way:

I bought my Xbox 360 Pro at the end of January 2008 and I’ve had a flawless experience with it until Saturday afternoon. I turn the system on and see an error screen that says “System Error. Contact Xbox Customer Support” Also, an error code of “E74″ appears in a larger font at the bottom of the screen. I quickly glance over to the Xbox itself and see flashing red coming from it. Now, at this point I’m thinking my time has come for the Red Ring of Death (or 3 flashing red lights error). I wasn’t even angry, thinking that this is just a rite of passage for anyone that owns this system and I just have to deal with it. Though my normal one year warranty ran out on 1/23/09, I figured I’d still be in the clear with the extended warranty for flashing red light errors.

Guess again.

My next step was to get on Xbox.com to set up a repair on there. When I get to the drop down box where you specify the problem, I’m surprised to see 1 flashing red light, 2 flashing red lights, and 4 flashing red lights in addition to the 3. Just to be sure, I turned my Xbox back on to make sure it was 3 red lights — only 1 red light flashed in the lower right. I did a few more tests and the result was always the same. So, I returned to Xbox.com to select “1 flashing red light” but I see that costs $99 to fix! I looked the other flashing light selections and only “3 red flashing lights” came up at $0. At this point, I’m stunned and fairly angry. My system has failed, but because I have one light instead of three I have to pay half the cost of a new system to get it repaired. What gives?

As much as the RROD gets reported, I never once heard of other flashing red light errors besides the RROD. I Googled “xbox 360 E74″ and quite a few hits come back. Turns out it’s a well documented issue among users — one that Microsoft does not want to include in the extended warranty since it’s not 3 red lights. From what I gathered, this problem seems to be on the increase with newer consoles like mine. Since attempting to set up a repair online to my satisfaction failed, I decided to call Xbox Customer Support. I knew this would get me nowhere, but I wanted to exhaust all the “standard” ways to get my problem resolved.

I spoke to a younger male who I think was named “Ed” (The thick Indian accent made him difficult to understand.) and I explained to him my problem. We first went through the game of making sure the connections were good, etc. I asked Ed what is causing the 1 flashing red light and and the E74 error code and the response was “hardware failure or some other problem.” I then ask what causes the 3 flashing lights and the response there was “general hardware failure.” I then inquire what the exact differences are and why isn’t the 1 flashing light covered by the extended warranty. Ed, unfortunately, could not give me a straight answer and just trailed off. I immediately ask for a supervisor, but Ed claimed there was no one else for me to speak to, but that technical support might have the answers. For some reason, Ed could not put me through to them either. Ed then brings up getting the console repaired. If I chose to set up the repair over the phone it would be $120 (plus shipping). He also points out that if I did it online, I would get the discounted price of $99. I declined both of these offers said “Thank you” and ended the call.

I have spent a good deal of money on games, peripherals, and an Xbox Live subscription. I took good care of my system, but in the end, it did not matter. As far as I’m concerned (and I suppose its a matter of opinion) both 3 flashing lights and 1 flashing light are the same thing — Hardware failures. In both cases the console does not function properly and must be sent off for repair. Of course, Microsoft is only going to see it their way. That’s how they’ve always operated and it isn’t going to change anytime soon. The last thing I want to do is argue semantics over the phone with a CSR in India. I’m aware of do-it-yourself guides to fix the problem myself, but I don’t want to go down that road quite yet. It will be interesting to see if a new wave of failures emerge.

So, the moral of the story: 3 red lights means life after death. 1 red light means eternal darkness and damnation.

We haven’t heard of anyone convincing Microsoft that the “1 red light” error should be covered under the extended warranty — but we suppose if it starts happening with the frequency that the “3 red light” errors occur, they’ll have to start covering it.

In the meantime, if you bought the XBOX with a credit card, check to see if your card offers extended warranty protection. Some cars automatically double the warranty — so you may be covered without even knowing it.

(Photo:julian-‘s )