Scott Hanselman

The Red Ring of Death makes itself known

October 04, 2007 Comment on this post [32] Posted in Gaming
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CIMG7489Crap. Now what?

I wish I know exactly what causes/caused this.

Last night Mo said the Xbox locked up hard while she was listening to her Zune. She thought she broke it. Reboot and we were fine.

Later, I wasn't able to connect to the Windows Home Server to stream pictures. Reboot and the Xbox locked up while in the "splash screen" presentation.

Smells like heat. I unplugged everything and plugged it back in again and it's working fine. Haven't had a problem since.

However, this was the FIRST and only time I ever had any trouble with the thing. It's a "launch day" Xbox360 with the add-on 120gig drive. I'm wondering if I should send it in for a replacement or just get an HDMI-enabled 1080p model.


About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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October 04, 2007 22:07
Hey Scott- willing to be that it overheated. From the pic it looks like you need a little more "headspace" for the thing.
October 04, 2007 22:07
I got the Red Ring of Death a couple of months ago. There was no obvious cause then either - it just did it. A likely cause may be overheating, there was an article in Xbox Magazine a while back on this. XBox support literally UPS-ed me an empty box with a return UPS label to send it back in. A couple of weeks later they sent me a replacement.
My hunch is that the newer HDMI Xboxes probably have improved heatsinks in them, based on what they learned since launch. That might be the way to go - with 1080p to boot.
Or better yet, assuming the replacement is free, get the replacement and then sell it on EBay and use the money to offset the new HDMI XBox.
October 04, 2007 22:14
Rob - There's like 2-3 inches of headspace. Plus, it's worked fine for-literally-ever. Since day one. This was spontaneous.

Man, I swear I could barely hear the repair call center. Sounded like I got someone who was walking into a hockey game.
October 04, 2007 22:15
I thought this was a known issue (three light issue) and its cover under a extended warranty thing... I would call support. Never hurts :)
October 04, 2007 22:18
This is what I am talking about
more specifically
October 04, 2007 22:19
There is definitely an extended warranty for "circle of death" hardware issues. I got it once before on mine as well, but it was during a lightning storm and during a particuarly bad lightning strike. Worked fine after a reboot for me though. I know, sensitive electronics + lightning storms = bad form.
October 04, 2007 22:26
I've got a launch day 360 also. It's worked great (save for one or two lockups) until I played Halo3 for 3 hours. Then it started acting real weird, froze on a couple screens, wouldn't connect to Live, then locked up. When I turned it back on, red ring of death. Wait 5 minutes, try again and it's worked fine since.

It may seem spontaneous, but the longer you have it the more likely you are to experience "spontaneous, it never had a problem before" hardware errors. It's likely heat that's doing it to you; pretty sure the fixed 360s come back with a second fan installed in them.
October 04, 2007 22:35
Good luck Scott:

If you choose to get your console repaired, you will get a refurbished and "improved" console back in 3-4 weeks. Just don't expect much in terms of good customer service or information about your repair while it is in process.

- Mike
October 04, 2007 22:36
I had the same problem with mine. I sent it in for repair in August and the unit I got back had a July build date on it. It has worked great since. Definitely get it fixed under warranty. Even if you do end up buying one with an HDMI port.
October 04, 2007 22:53
Wow, this is sounds familiar. Except I've had to send mine back three times now. Once for the DVD drive dying, once for Red Ring of Death (that wouldn't go away), and this latest time because the dashboard update bricked me.
October 04, 2007 22:56
Scott try the towel trick, its worked for alot of people
October 04, 2007 23:35
I had the same problem this last weekend. I've had my 360 for almost a year... never had any problems with it and always kept it well ventilated. I played 15-20 hours of Bioshock without a single lockup. It wasn't until Halo 3 that I started having problems. It started crashing every 5-10 minutes in campaign. I pulled the 360 onto the floor in front of the tv and that made the problems go away for awhile. We made it to the last level of the campaign and then got the red ring. Tried again the next day -- made it to almost the end of the campaign and got a "disc unreadable" error. Now it won't even boot. On top of that, I pulled the Halo 3 disc out and noticed it was badly scratched. I called for repairs last Saturday but still haven't received the box to send it back. Overall a very crummy and disappointing experience. One good thing is that Best Buy replaced my Halo 3 disc, amazingly. On a side note, my wife is very happy that the 360 fried.
October 04, 2007 23:50
Just hope you get a good one back. For my Red Ring of Death I did the whole 'receive box, ship, get replacement shipped back' thing. But the new box seems to have trouble reading any disc I put in it. Several new out of the box games, and some other games I previously owned. I am going to wait a little while to get some gaming in before I send it back.
October 04, 2007 23:57
I got the circle of death last weekend after 1 year of ownership. Microsoft is sending me a package to send it back to them for repairs, should take about a month. Good news is the warranty covers you.
October 05, 2007 0:15
I had a launch-day 360 go on me last month. I had an extended warranty with Best Buy and went through them instead. They shipped it off, but it ended up going to THEIR tech support people and not Microsoft. But they came to the same conclusion that Microsoft probably would have: your machine is dead.

So the upside is that I didn't have to wait for a new one to get shipped...they just gave me one of the shelf...which happened to come with Forza 2, so I can't really complain.

Still though...I'm wondering if i should be looking at some of those extra cooling add-ons.

October 05, 2007 0:17
Here is the deal:

1. All original 360's have the same defect which can cause overheating and break/loosen solder points on the board.
2. Your Xbox is currently under warranty, and when you call them and say "3 red lights" they immediately start the process of sending out a box.
3. You are without an Xbox for 2 weeks, approximately.

If you want to get a new HDMI one later, then you can sell this one. Either way, you need to get it sent back and get your refurbished one with the upgraded heatsink.
October 05, 2007 0:22
The new 360s also come with a newer DVD drive that is supposedly much quieter than drives found in the launch systems and also a new heat stink. I was informed today that the new CPU, called Falcon, has been found in 360s around August 24th, 2007 lot number 734. The new CPU/motherboard is supposed to fix the overheating issue once and for all.

I have a launch 360 that has not had any problems, but I would like a quieter DVD drive and the HDMI. I am not sure if I want to give up the nice heating feature of my current 360, which helps reduces my heating costs during the winter! ;)
October 05, 2007 0:52
Not all of the HDMI models have the new heat sinks, unfortunately. The only way to be sure you get both is currently to buy a Halo 3 edition 360, which (IMHO) is butt-ugly. The Halo 3 editions also are believed to have the newer, cooler (uhh, temp-wise, not socially) CPU.

My Jan 2007 built 360 is still sink-less, and I await its untimely demise... :-/
October 05, 2007 0:54
Mine died about three months ago (bought on release day), so I tried a third party repair (didn't work) and then realized I bought it from Costco. Took it back, full refund, including a game I can completed.

This gave me more than enough money to then go and by the Elite, nine days later on it's release day.

Can't be without while trying to "Finish the Fight"!!!
October 05, 2007 1:09
Maybe it's your XBox's way of telling you,

October 05, 2007 1:27
To everyone suggesting the towel trick/etc: it's known to work for short-term, but in the long term, the real problem should get fixed. Boards are getting warped inside the XBox 360 (due to heat buildup) and that's what's causing solder joints to fail, and chips to "slide" from their grid arrays. You should just send it in to Microsoft for a refurb/replacement unit.

Scott, I tried calling them, but after two disconnects, and a third time where their computers were down, I gave up and figured out that you can submit a repair request online via

After filling out that form, they UPS'd me a box, and then I packed it up and sent it off. About three weeks later, I received a "replacement" XBox 360 (it's a refurb from 2 years ago) along with a card for a month of XBox Live Gold. I have read on other blogs that all replacement XBox 360's now have improvements to fix the heat problem for good. I haven't had time (or the energy) to peer into my new XBox 360 to see if the heatsinks are changed or what. I'm assuming they are.

A word of caution, their service website sucks for showing "status" of your order. If they swap out your unit (and don't repair it), suddenly your repair status will change to "no repair requested", because of the different serial number now tied to your account. It was at this status for a week and a half before I got the replacement unit. Scared me a bit.

The replacement XBox seems to run quieter than my old one, but the DVD drive is way freakin' louder. Like a jet engine when Halo 3 loads. Here's hoping this unit doesn't fail...
October 05, 2007 6:18
You work for microsoft now just bring it into the shop!!! :)

I am on xbox number 3 - good luck! (knock on wood)

Get the 1080p model and get it fixed - that's what I'm going to do the next time it fails.

Btw, for #1 and #2 I had the xbox in a setup similar to yours and frankly I just don't think that is enough cool air around it. For #3 I finally just gave up and got a larger (wider) TV stand and just stood the xbox up next to the TV so air around it wouldn't be a problem. It's not as ugly as I thought it would have been. Although black would blend in better - just another reason to get the 1080p.
October 05, 2007 10:57
I don't have an xbox but 'the red ring of death' sounds painfull..
October 05, 2007 12:45
I moved to Prague in April and my XBox 360 red ringed on me about a month ago. MS does not seem to to be able to handle fixing the machine for me from over here. I tried online and they rejected because of address. I called and spent over 2 hours with the service center trying to figure out how to have them fix it. The best they could suggest was "Do you have a relative or friend in the US you could send it to first?". Yeah I can see my 65 year old father trying to deal with the MS customer service group to ship back my Xbox. The reason they finally gave me they could not have me ship it back was that the CS system they are using does not allow for European addresses....... are you kidding me.... So now I am waiting for a co -worker to come visit from US and send the xbox back with him and try to get another one to bring it back with them when fixed...
October 05, 2007 13:48
If you can't wait for Microsoft to send you a replacement (I know that I could't) and your xbox still boots, then just trade it in!

I traded my xbox 360 premium in to Game (EB in the US) for £140 then added a few of games that I don't play anymore taking it up to £235. Then I got a XBOX 360 Elite with MOH:Airbourn and Stranglehold for £110.

Not bad!
October 05, 2007 14:47
There are 3 known causes for the "3 Red Light Error".

This is mainly due to Overheating, The GPU or the Warping of the Motherboard.
I was lucky to be able to fix my own unit.

Details are provided here:

I hope this helps.

October 05, 2007 17:04
I just went through this process with my 360 - it wasn't so painful (although I'm still waiting 3 weeks later for the refunded points for all the arcade games I bought which cannot be transferred to a new console).
Free replacement vs. $450 for a new connection dongle shouldn't be that hard of a decision (although I can appreciate the temptation).
October 05, 2007 18:08
Yeah, one other thing to keep in mind is any Xbox Live content that you have purchased. Content is locked to the Xbox it was purchased on and the account it was purchased with. If you don't get the license transfered then you will be able to play when you are signed into live on the account that purchased the content but not on any secondary accounts or when you are offline.

If you send your Xbox in to Microsoft for repair they will attempt to transfer all your licenses over to the new one they send you. This seems to fail a lot and it takes a few hours on the phone and then a 30 day wait to get it resolved. If you purchase a new console they will not transfer any licenses and you will have to re-purchase everything if another account wants to play or you want to play without being online or when Live is down.

If you want to learn more about the problem there are 94 pages of discussion over in the Xbox forums.
October 06, 2007 0:12
I am currently starting the repair cycle for XBox #3 due to red ring issues. I just got the console back from the repair center a week ago and it died watching a movie last night. They actually replaced the console during the last repair with a new one, but obviously the new one was worse than the old. Last time they sent me a 1 month XBox live card. This time their including another month card and a game.

I've got my XBox completely separated now from all other components in the area and this is really getting frustrating. Luckily, I landed a Wii and that is filling the time nicely.
October 09, 2007 3:07
Hi Scott, former Xbox employee here. We've chatted before, dunno if you remember.

Ironically, the last feature I implemented before leaving Microsoft was live reporting of console hardware failures in the field (a feature that almost certainly led to the $1B charge Microsoft took a few months later, once they gathered some real-world data).

Go join the Microsoft-internal Xbox Discussions list. You'll find plenty of help there, but I expect it will come down to returning your console through Xbox Support. Fortunately, Microsoft extended the warranty to cover these failures, so you shouldn't have to pay anything. Unfortunately, Xbox Support is terrible.

The towel thing is stupid. There are actually hundreds of reasons consoles fail. Power on the console, and after it generates the three red lights of death, hold down the binding button while you press the eject button four times. You can read out an LED pattern, like 4-4-2-4. This is a more specific error code that employees in the know (which includes the Xbox repair facility but not Xbox Support) can use to narrow down the root cause of the failure. IIRC, 4^4 = 256 error codes.

One common problem in these early units is caused by the heatsink foil breaking down and making physical contact with the GPU, shorting it out. Not exactly the sort of thing a towel can fix, unless moving the console around happens to temporarily interrupt the electrical contact.

The console I got as a ship gift failed, and I know at least ten other current and former Xbox employees whose launch gift consoles also failed. Yet another "made in China" success story. At least Microsoft's paying for the mistake, and the return process (for me at least) was painless. (Except for re-downloading content, which as Dustin points out is a serious PITA.)

October 09, 2007 21:53
I'm going to wait until the XBOX Christmas bundle is released. It includes 2 games: Forza Motorsport 2 and Marvel Ultimate Alliance.

Microsoft Adds Free Games To Xbox 360 Consoles

Is there any reason to prefer the Elite over the standard option? Can you replace the 20 gb hard drive with a 2.5" SATA or IDE (which one?) drive that you have lying around?
October 21, 2007 3:13
No wonder Xbox 360 sales are so much higher than PS3 sales... xbots keeping buying new machines to replace their broken ones. HA ha

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.