The Red Ring Of Death Affects A Very Occasional Xbox Player

Here’s the thing with warranties: they’re limited not by how many hours you’ve used an item, but by how long you’ve owned it. Usually, this works in our favor as consumers, but not in Nathan’s case. He writes that his little-used Xbox 360 has failed after three years, presenting the dreaded Red Ring of Death. He wonders: since this is the same problem that more frequent Xbox users see after less time has elapsed, why can’t Microsoft offer him a repair even though his warranty has expired?

Several years ago I purchased an Xbox 360 on something on a whim. There were only 1 or 2 games I really wanted for it, so it went though periods of non use for much of the time I have owned it. All total, over just more than 3 years, I have had the console turned on for just a couple of hundred hours. I figure the average Xbox 360 gamer racks that up in a few months. As such, my console had been going strong until this week. I turned it on to settle down for a movie on Netflix (I actually used my Xbox 360 for Netflix more than playing games.), but 5 minutes into the movie my console freezes up and and a green checker pattern covers my screen. After power cycling my Xbox, I am presented with the Red Ring of Death. I called Microsoft support right away to see what could be done. They told me my warranty had expired just in August and as such, would not offer a no-charge repair. I was told to try contacting Microsoft directly (implying I was not even calling Microsoft support), and they might be able to help me. Taking this advice I sent an email the very next day, trying to get a hold of someone who would help me. This morning I received standard boiler plate response that was almost word-for-word what the phone support person told me, with no offer to have someone evaluate my situation.

I feel like I have been shut down at every turn. I made a point of telling them the console was rather underused, but to no avail. My argument is this; this is a known issue that has a large percentage of older Xbox 360s. If I had used the console more regularly and used it to play games, the console would clearly have failed well within the warranty. I have taken meticulous care of my Xbox 360, even blowing the fans out with a can of air every few months. I had hoped these steps would be enough, but clearly it was not. I feel like I am being penalized for taking care of my things. I turn to you as a last resort. No one seems to want to help me at Microsoft.

Unfortunately, no one at Microsoft is really obligated to help you. Unless the item was purchased at Costco or with certain credit cards, extending the warranty, the only real choices are to pay for the repair or give up the Xbox dream.

If he has a reference number for his device, Nathan can try calling Tier 3 escalations at Microsoft. However, you need a repair to have a repair reference number, so that probably won’t help, either.

Comments

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  1. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    Toasty Boasty Double-Posty :3

    Isn’t (Im)Movable Type a great engine?

    • Laura Northrup says:

      Accidentally hit a bookmark while the post is publishing, hit back button: BAM! Instant post clones.

  2. thompson says:

    Did you purchase the Xbox with a major credit card? If so, most will offer a one year extended warranty on all purchases. I know for a fact that American Express does this, and I think Visa/Discover do as well. Not sure about Mastercard.

    • Portlandia says:

      Uhm, from the Article…FIRST LINE OF THE OP’s LETTER:

      “Several years ago I purchased an Xbox 360 on something on a whim”

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        But Microsoft said his warranty expired in August. If he had another year of warranty through his credit card, that should cover this repair.

      • thompson says:

        Umm yes. His warranty expired in August, which is less than one year ago. Amex and other credit cards extend your warranty by one year. Ergo, possibly covered under the extended warranty.

      • coren says:

        Um from the article…NINTH SENTENCE OF THE OP’S LETTER (OR 8TH LINE IF YOU PREFER)

        “They told me my warranty had expired just in August and as such, would not offer a no-charge repair”

  3. Ouze says:

    why can’t Microsoft offer him a repair even though his warranty has expired?

    Because warranties do not work that way

    • GMFish says:

      Exactly.

    • cloudedknife says:

      true, but a suit in small claims court asserting strict liability in design defect known to the corporation to eventually affect virtually all xbox360s over a long enough time line would be a pretty effective way to get it fixed.

      or, you could hunt down a number for microsoft’s equivalent of presidential escalations, a.k.a. “the office in charge of making you a happy consumer.”

      • Smiley Massacre says:

        It doesn’t matter. There was already an extended warranty for those who may suffer the RRoD, which was a 3 year extended warranty. After it breaks down under warranty and sent in for repair, once you get it back they give you an extension of 1 to 2 years, and then the warranty expires.

        My old one crapped the bed on Christmas Eve, and my warranty expired on March of 2010, seeing how it was sent in once before a couple of years ago for an RRoD, and was supposedly fixed. That was where I got the 2 year extension on mine.

        • cloudedknife says:

          so you’re saying that because he didn’t turn it in when they did what looks a whole lot like a recall he should not be able to avail himself of the benefits of the quasi-recall?

  4. KillerBee says:

    “why can’t Microsoft offer him a repair even though his warranty has expired?”

    Because that’s not how warranties work. Sure it’d be nice of MS to do that, but they are under no obligation to do so. They already extended that warranty once for RRoD problems. If he didn’t use the Xbox much, that’s his tough luck.
    There is no provision in the warranty for “3 years or X hours of gameplay.” It’s 3 years, period.

  5. smartmuffin says:

    Because there’s no foolproof way to prove his claim of underuse, and then everyone would claim it? Because a warranty is a type of legal contract with explicit terms based on time owned and NOT hours used? Regardless of whether or not that makes sense, that’s what the agreement is. Is it really that unreasonable of Microsoft to actually enforce it to the letter?

    Why don’t we ask what would happen in the opposite situation. If you owned an Xbox that was within warranty TIME and sent it in for repairs and they sent it back saying “sorry, you just played your xbox too much, we aren’t replacing or repairing it” would that not be a “consumer outrage” and get 200 comments on this website about how evil Microsoft was?

    • kujospam says:

      On that type of device, you could easily program into the bios how on long the device has been on. Wouldn’t be difficult to do.

  6. Mpowered says:

    That sucks that your 360 died, but if its also more than 3 years old. A lifetime guarantee (or even a 3 year warranty) on electronics seems kind of absurd to me.

    I can’t wait for my 360 to die so I can get a slim one. It too is about 3 years old.

    • Hooray4Zoidberg says:

      Why not just sell yours now before it dies and while it’s still worth something then buy a slim new one? Doesn’t make sense to wait till it’s worthless and pay full price for a new system.

    • OSAM says:

      My Elite RROD’d on me on Christmas bloody Morning. I dont use it all that often, but what the hell. I got a slim for $70 off on boxing day. The Elite was just out of warranty and, frankly, I couldnt be bothered for the price of a new Slim

    • Sure I could agree with you, but then we'd BOTH be wrong. says:

      Thats easy to do — Just go and buy a Kinect!

      It destroyed my older xbox (out of warranty)

      “Spend $149 with us (kinect) so we can force you to spend anotehr $299 with us (to replace the xbox your new kinect has killed)

      • RogerX says:

        The Kinect is a USB device. I’m not sure how it could “destroy your xbox” unless you already had a defective unit, or you had a massive power surge.

  7. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    On a more serious note, here’s what ‘Teh Red Ring ov Death’ means:

    Most, if not all, three-light errors in Xbox 360 consoles are related to overheating. The most common issue is a cracked or cold solder joint underneath the GPU on the motherboard. A flaw in the design of the heat sink allows the motherboard to warp in the area around the chip, which causes the chip to lose contact with the board. There are various fixes for the RROD, which include replacing the high-stress x-clamp, reflowing the GPU’s solder connection, and also replacing the heat sink in older models with Microsoft’s updated Zephyr heat sink.

    If you’re feeling bold, don’t want to deal with MS Tech Support, and wanna take a crack at fixing the brick yourself, here’s how:

    To get the exact nature of the error, press and hold your XBox Sync Button (the button you press to get the console to talk to the Wireless Controllers) while simultaneously pressing and releasing the Eject Button. The lights on your console should flash from 1 to 3, and 0 (with all four lights representing 0)

    Press the eject button a second, third and fourth time to get all four ‘digits’ of your error code. Pressing the eject button a fifth time will return to Red Ring of Death mode. You can then compare the code against this table to find the nature of your problem.

    • c!tizen says:

      Just fixed an old OOW Xbox with a blow torch. Worked like a charm.

    • Janice says:

      Wish I’d known about this site about 6 months ago, when my son’s 4-year old xbox died on the first day of summer vacation :(

      He’d just gotten a job, and didn’t care to wait until Christmas to get a new one, so he chose to buy it himself.

      He likes the new one, forunately. He also SWEARS it’s great for virtual study groups in high school :)

  8. obits3 says:

    Hmm… I wonder what would happen if I drove my car only 5K miles a year and came to Ford in year four asking for a warranty repair? (Ford is 3yrs/36K mi)

    • Red Cat Linux says:

      I know I’m talking about a now defunct car company, but that’s exactly what Saturn would do.

      I have a 10 mile round trip daily commute – My car is old, but the maintenance is up to date and the mileage low. My car had a serious problem somewhere in the year after the factory warranty had expired, some 7 -8 months later. They totally comped the repair. They did this twice. I didn’t even have to ask, they just did, and earned a customer for life.

      Unfortunately, Saturn is gone, and I’ll be in the market to replace my car in the next year or so.

      • FuzzyWillow says:

        I had a similar situation with my wife’s Chrysler minivan. The warranty ran out, but it only had 10,000 miles on it. The exhaust manifold rusted badly. Our mechanic (Not Chrysler) said to bring it to Chrysler to see if they would fix it under warranty – they did.

        But cars have odometers on them, I don’t think the XBox has any meter indicating usage.

        • RogerX says:

          In all likelihood, the reason the exhaust was replaced out of warranty was that there are certain federal guidelines for emissions systems coverage.

          “Federally required emission control warranties protect you, the
          vehicle owner, from the cost of repairs for certain emission related
          failures that result from manufacturer defects in materials and
          workmanship or that cause your vehicle to exceed federal emission
          standards. Manufacturers have been required by federal law to provide
          emission control coverage for vehicles since 1972.”

    • NaptownMVP says:

      Technically Ford would be under no obligation to fix your car (assuming the repair would fall under what is covered under the warranty in the first place). Those X Years/X Miles always come with the caveat, “…whichever comes first.” Now, WOULD they fix it, maybe, but they wouldn’t HAVE to.

  9. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    I don’t see this guy’s point. The warranty expired. Microsoft owes him nothing.

  10. humphrmi says:

    Man, years ago when the 360 came out, I started hearing about these RROD stories, so I figured, no problem – Microsoft just took it out of the oven too early, I’ll let the early adopters chew on the doughy parts and then when MS fixes all the problems, I’ll buy.

    I’m still waiting.

    • kmz says:

      A three year old XBox fails so that means Microsoft hasn’t fixed it in new consoles? That doesn’t make sense. From all reports, the last iteration (Jasper) of the old form factor was pretty damn solid, and so is the new Slim.

  11. lavalva says:

    I recently had the same problem and used this repair guide: http://xbox360fixit.com/Instructions.pdf – Fixed for about $10 in parts.

    It was surprisingly easy, just make sure you get the right size screws/washers. I am in no way affiliated with the site, but used their guide successfully.

    There are also videos on YouTube.

  12. danmac says:

    It’s unfortunate for the OP, but by his logic, Microsoft should be able to deny warranty coverage for units that have been played excessively and broke within a couple months of purchase. As others have already stated, warranties just don’t work that way.

  13. intense_jack says:

    Meh, go on Craigslist and find a local shop willing to do the repair. There are a ton of ‘em in Denver that’ll fix the RROD issue for $75. Not a free solution, I know, but MS isn’t obligated to fix his XBox so he may as well find a cheap solution to do it himself.

  14. jebarringer says:

    “why can’t Microsoft offer him a repair even though his warranty has expired?”
    Ummm… maybe because a for-profit business isn’t in the habit of just giving things away? He needs to grow up and accept that his warranty expired, so he’s out of luck. When he purchased his Xbox, he was presented with the warranty conditions right then and there. Now’s not the time to be complaining about them.

  15. Tamar Weinberg says:

    I actually have a much more underused XBOX 360 (less than 50 hours total use, maybe?) and I’m hoping it doesn’t red ring on me. I’m getting a Kinect, though, so I’m all the more worried…

    Either way, when the time comes, I’d never have expected Microsoft to bend over backward to hook me up. An expired warranty is an expired warranty.

  16. HogwartsProfessor says:

    It sounds like he’s hosed. I’ve never had any electronics warranty honored after the terms have expired. As cheaply as they’re made nowadays and as much of a pain in the ass it is to fix some of that stuff, I’m not surprised.

    Off-topic, that picture is hilarious.

  17. HazyCloud says:

    “why can’t Microsoft offer him a repair even though his warranty has expired?”

    They can, it just won’t be free. It seems the OP didn’t mention that MS will fix consoles for around a 100 bucks. Just because the OP didn’t use the console that much, doesn’t mean MS owes him anything. They extended it to 3 years like others have said. They’ve done their part.

  18. jasw says:

    My 360 got the RROD last month. Since Microsoft extended warranties by 3 years for Xboxs with the RROD I was able to get my repaired for free even though I bought it in 2008. My extended warranty expires on the 19th of this month so it happened just in the nick of time. I sympathize with the OP– my Xbox was really just a fancy DVD player up until I got hooked on the NBA 2k games. Getting an older model Xbox repaired is hit or miss regardless…you still stand the chance of getting the red rings again (I’ve had to send mine in twice). The newer models are quite solid. I’m just happy to have a working Xbox while I save up money to purchase a new model.

    • PunditGuy says:

      Mine red-ringed 9 days before the warranty expired. They didn’t give me any guff, and I had a fixed unit back in about two weeks with no out-of-pocket expense. It’s been going solid for more than a year now.

  19. Hooray4Zoidberg says:

    I’ve got the same fear with my nearly 3 year old xbox. I’ve probably put less than 50 hours on it, but I know it’s an older chipset and the RROD is almost inevitable after warranty.

  20. dolemite says:

    I had the same problem. I played mine infrequently and had a gen 1 xbox. It finally died after 3 years, and it was TWO months after the 3 year warranty had expired. Just had to bite the bullet and buy a new one.

    I don’t regret it though, because the new one is WAY quieter, and runs almost cool to the touch.

  21. Spook Man says:

    If he’s tech savy, I’ve heard of people buying up these RROD Xboxes and fixing them by cleaning out the insides of dust and even taking the heat-sinks off, cleaning off and replacing the heat-sink paste. Most have cheap heatsink paste or even hardly any covering the CPU.

    The one guy I ran into (friend of a cousin) does this and turns around and sells them back on ebay then making a profit. He said most of them are just bad heat-sink paste and replacing with the good stuff works wonders.

    • dolemite says:

      I’m tech-savvy, but honestly…the video to take the xbox apart made me aware that it wouldn’t be worth my time. It looked like it would take about $50 in parts to fix, and about 3 hours of time, with a high opportunity to break something, and in some instances, it didn’t even fix your problem. I just bought an xbox arcade for $150 and said the heck with it.

  22. hoi-polloi says:

    While it sucks that his 360 died, some of the OP’s language really bothers me:

    “They told me my warranty had expired just in August and as such…”

    Just in August? His warranty expired months ago, not last week. There’s no way to confirm his claim of use time, which is extremely vague. Besides, there are some people who have claimed their 360s have died in a relatively short period of time.

    “I feel like I am being penalized for taking care of my things.”

    He’s not being penalized; he’s just not receiving special treatment after his product died out of warranty. Huge difference. He mentioned blowing out the vents once in a while, but nothing about where it was located. Was it sitting in a cabinet near other devices? No clue. Overall, it comes off as entitled.

    There are a few choices here – keep escalating and hope for some sympathy (without getting all demanding – they’re not obliged to help), pay for Microsoft to repair it, pay for a local fix, or give fixing it a go himself. I’d probably go for a local fix or try it myself.

  23. c!tizen says:

    “even blowing the fans out with a can of air every few months”

    I hope he realizes that he’s actually blowing dust INTO the system when he does this. I see people do this with their notebooks all the time and when I crack them open and show them the dust and other strange little pieces of random crap that’s in there, they get all surprised.

  24. teke367 says:

    This is exactly my fear about my 360. I had a PS3, and in the summer of 09, I went a bought a refurb 360. So far no problems, but when a game is out on both platforms, I still tend to buy it on PS3 (unless its a game like a Mass Effect, or Bioshock sequel, where I already bought the first on the 360, I prefer to have all the sequels on the same system) in case my 360 craps out and I’m stuck without one for awhile. Granted, I’ve had a Playstation Console of some sort for almost 15 years, so I’m more used it anyway, but reason comes in second to me not having complete faith in my XBox.

  25. Foot_Note says:

    Gamer kittie hates Ring Of Death

  26. nutbastard says:

    this is why people were towelling their xbox’s to get them to fail when their warranty was about to run out.

  27. ckspores says:

    The warranty expired. Just because he didn’t use it that often doesn’t mean he is entitled to have it fixed as if it were still under warranty.

    Tough toodles. Man up and deal.

  28. MaximusMMIV says:

    I had the same issue with my PS3.

    I paid $300 for the thing and I hadn’t played a single game on it (I still haven’t). It functioned simply as a Blu-Ray player and was the same price as all other Blu-Ray players at the time of purchase. One month past the one year warranty, it died on me due to a faulty HDMI port.

    Of course, my only option was to pony up the flat rate $150 repair fee to have it fixed, increasing my cost of ownership by 50% for something I had used for less than 100 hours.

    • RogerX says:

      Er, except that you can get Sony Blu-Ray players for $128 at WalMart, or LG models on Amazon for $68?

  29. dwtomek says:

    My 96 Oldsmobile only has 30,000 miles due to minimal use. I should probably still be covered by the warranty, right?

  30. RogerX says:

    My grandmother has a 1993 Chevy Cavalier.

    It has 5,900 miles on it.

    Now, recently, her alternator failed, and she needed her belts and hoses replaced.

    Should Chevy cover the cost of these things? I mean sure, it’s been sitting in a garage for 17 years, but it’s only got 5,900 miles on it!

  31. crb042 says:

    but… but… but… I read Consumerist. Doesn’t that make me special?

    well, yes. :D However, there’s special and then there’s special.

  32. detox98 says:

    I swear it feels like Microsucks added something that makes the machine get the 3 red rings – I had an xbox that got the red rings after a few months but then when I got the refurbished one it got the red rings 3 days after the warranty ended.

  33. detox98 says:

    I think people who used to buy sega or nintendo when they came out are used to the devices working for a very long time – basically up to the point where something new comes out and they chuck the old stuff away and buy the new technology. Basically people say deal with it or who cares buy a new one. Those are the people who # 1 – have a money tree. # 2 – don’t have one or # 3 it hasn’t happened to them yet. Mine got the red rings and I’m tempted to take it to some dude down town for $30 bucks and have them fix it but it just sucks that it has to be done in the first place. I don’t hear issues with the PS3 or Wii. If there are it’s probably rare and far in between.

    • Laura Northrup says:

      Heck, my NES is 20 years old, and it still works.

      • RogerX says:

        This is because older cartridge-based systems don’t have 1000-point BGA surface-mount components, optical disk drives, hard drives, and fans. They’re more durable because they’re much simpler machines with fewer points of failure.

  34. JlGomez says:

    just fix it yourself.. it comes out much better and dont have to dell with xbox bs.. even after xbox repairs it most end up going back again.. you can find all sorts of videos on youtube and find all the parts on amazon… if fixed all 4 of my xboxs and never had any issues after that..

  35. FlashFlashCarCrash says:

    Unfortunately, it’s just a tough break. MS has no way to verify that the console is “underused”. I’m sure it sucks, but as it’s been stated, warranties don’t work that way. MS is not obligated to replace it. 3 years is REALLY generous on a game system as it is. Sorry.

  36. TasteyCat says:

    If this were the case, Nintendo would have to permanently honor a warranty on all Wiis.

    • Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

      *rimshot*

      /blowing dust off of Wii that’s not been turned on in weeks (was months, then figured out how to soft-mod it, put emulators on it and say screw you Nintendo for charging $5 for an old NES game)

  37. JonBoy470 says:

    Microsoft has already been quite generous in extending the warranty to 3 years. Given the outrageous failure rate of the first gen XBox 360, it was probably a necessary move, from a PR standpoint. The “I didn’t use it much” argument doesn’t hold water. If it was just a few days, I could see something being done for him, but the warranty ran out 6 months ago!

    Go out and buy one of the new slim XBox’es and be done with it.

  38. DoubleA000 says:

    I really do not understand the logic behind the “tough luck” comments. When did it become ok to produce a defective product? Microsoft keeps posting high sales figures for the 360, but how many are replacements? $90 for an out of warranty repair of a manufacturing defect? Why is this ok? Why has there not been a recall? It is a known defect. Most people I know are on 360 #3 or 4 since launch. I have an Atari 2600, about 30 years old, still works. NES and Sega Genesis, still work. PS1 and PS2, still work. Xbox ..still works. Xbox 360, RROD tonight and out of warranty by 3 months. Will I pay $90 for repair? Forget it. Will I buy a new one? Unlikely. I’ll just play my PS3. I will not be contributing any more money to this Microsoft money grab.

  39. brownh0rnet says:

    WTF?? First the fool who thinks Jet Blue is responsible for friend’s stolen Ipad, now this idiot who thinks he deserves free out of warranty repairs. Get a clue and a life people.

  40. Bang Uchiha says:

    I went through 3 Xbox’s and now I am on my 4th Xbox 360!…(I’ve also switched to PS3 and haven’t had any problems because of the ridiculous fees of Xbox Live charging for internet capabilities.)

    I had to call multiple times going through the gauntlet of Tech support, selling them on my idea of getting my RROD fixed. And when they did fix it, I didn’t have a console for over a month each time. Plus I suspect they just recycled the other broken/refurbished RROD’s cuz they just kept breaking!

    So finally on the 3rd that broke and I was out of warranty, I bought a new Xbox and replaced the innards with the broken one to be returned at the retail store. Unethical, yes. But it will eventually be returned home to Microsoft, and will be buried in peace along with all of its siblings.

  41. Astrid says:

    I think the point should be that MS made a defective product.

    Rather than fixing only the ones that brake within a arbitrary period of time they should have to fix them all so none of them have these oh so common problems. I know it’s not as simple as that but really, people who don’t use their systems enough to have them red ring before the warranty time is up do get shafted by time.