************Help avoid the YLOD************ ***3 tips for a Cooler and Greener PS3***
Help prevent the YLOD before it has the chance to happen, and prolong the lifespan of your system.
There has been a lot of concern of late about the continued longevity of the original "fat" PS3 models, I thought it would be wise to take some preventative action to make sure my system can run as long as possible. I tested these 3 tips, with the expressed goal of getting the PS3 to run cooler and greener, which hopefully will result with giving better longevity.
You may be familiar with at least one of these tips, but perhaps not all three of them. If you do decide to implement all three of these tips that I present, you should be able to help maximize the lifespan of your PlayStation 3 game system.
If you already have the YLOD, these tips will not help.
For other options available to you, please skip down to the section: "What if I already have the YLOD?".
What is the YLOD?
The "Yellow Light of Death" (or YLOD for short) is a condition I found to be caused by a combination of the use of lead-free solder, poor quality thermal paste, and/or overheating.
If you get the YLOD, the PS3 becomes nonfunctional. If you happen to have a disc inside, it will probably be stuck there until you have the system fixed, or have it physically removed.
The YLOD is characterized when the PS3 beeping and flashing lights in this exact sequence: RED to GREEN (1.5 seconds) to YELLOW to BLINKING RED, when you try to turn it on.
This is illustrated in the video below:
What causes the YLOD?
So what causes the YLOD? There are several possible causes, including a faulty power supply and a corrupted hard drive. The most likely cause of this issue are the solder balls underneath the RSX (the GPU, or Graphics Processing Unit) and CELL (the CPU, or Central Processing Unit) chips. This style of fastening the chips to the board is know as BGA, or Ball Grid Array, which is composed of hundreds of tiny balls of solder, which pass information from the chip to the motherboard. These balls are constantly submitted to intense heat due to the chip above them, which is being cooled by a huge heatsink and fan.
The European Union banned the importation of electronics containing lead in 2006, called Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS), which has caused most electronics manufactures to switch to lead free solder in their products, even those sold in the United States. Unfortunately lead free solder has two (theorized) weaknesses. The first is that with repeated, high temperature (higher than what Sony engineers intended) followed by cooling of the console once turned off, the balls begin to lose their elasticity, and eventually crack. This causes an open circuit, and when you try to power the PS3 up again, you get the YLOD. The other theory is that over time, due to the aforementioned high temperatures, the balls begin to grow "tin whiskers" which cause a short with another ball nearby, once again causing the YLOD.
Lead based solders have been in use for over 50 years, and manufacturers are highly familiar with their characteristics. Unfortunately this isn't true for lead-free solders. The PS3 has over a thousand solder connection points beneath its CPU & GPU, and if only one solder point were to crack or fracture, it would result in your PlayStation 3 getting the YLOD.
The PS3 is the first PlayStation system to require an elaborate cooling system, where it needs a heatsink, fan, and thermal paste to cool itself effectively. Unfortunately the thermal paste Sony choose to use when manufacturing the PS3 tends to dry out after a few years of regular use, which can cause the PS3 to overheat. When this happens, it can also cause the aforementioned lead-free solder to fracture, break, or melt; resulting in a YLOD issue.
Although it is rare, a YLOD issue could be caused by a faulty power supply. From what I understand, if you don't hear the system fan spin up when you first turn the PS3 on, then you may have a bad power supply. Also if you find that the green light stays on for less than half a second, that could also indicate a defective power supply. You can easily buy a replacement one from eBay or Amazon.
Most of the time it is the GPU (RSX) chip that gets fractured solder points that leads to the YLOD. The best reason I have heard this happens is that the CPU (CELL) chip has a hole cut underneath it on the motherboard allowing for heat to escape. It is also true that the CPU doesn't have any solder points located directly beneath the actual processor, that could fracture from heat generated by the processor. Both of these conditions isn't true for the GPU. You can see this in the picture below, where both chips have been removed from the board.
You can help protect yourself from the YLOD by enhancing the PS3's ability to cool itself, covered by applying these 3 tips. You can further protect yourself by having your PS3 repaired through "reballing" (where the lead-free solder is replaced by lead solder) under the PS3's GPU, where most YLOD issues typically occur. Since reballing can be an invasive and somewhat expensive repair, you should only have it performed if it is absolutely necessary.
These tips are primarily intended only for the following PS3 system models:
80GB (CECHE MG)
If you have a different PS3 model, please see the section "Tips for other PS3 models", toward the bottom of this page.
You shouldn't attempt any of these tips if you are uncomfortable with opening up and servicing your own PS3, or if it is still under warranty.
If you are not comfortable doing this, see the section "Have these tips performed for you professionally", toward the bottom of this page.
For those that wish to familiarize themselves with opening up and disassembling their own PS3, you should carefully study the 8-part video series from Fixmyplaystation.com, posted directly below. You can also refer to an excellent illustrated guide by ifixit.com to assist you.
I strongly recommend you first view all these videos in their entirety, so you can familiarize yourself with exactly what you need to do, and what is involved before you start to proceed.
Before you open up your PS3, you need to make sure you are in an environment that doesn't generate static electricity. If you are not properly grounded, you could damage your PS3. You shouldn't work on your PS3 on a carpeted floor, but if you do be sure to wear shoes with thick rubber soles. Wearing an anti-static band when servicing your own PS3 is also a good idea.
The following videos depict just the 80GB CECHE model, which is virtually the same inside as in the 60GB CECHA, 20GB CECHB, and the 60GB CECHC PS3.
The 40GB CECHG has a smaller motherboard inside, but is simular enough for you to follow along.
The following video is optional to watch, because I don't recommend either the thermal paste used or the application method depicted here. I am leaving this video basically for completeness of this video series. Please see Bonus Video #1 (directly below) for the recommended application method, and Tip #3 for the recommended thermal paste and pads.
Bonus Video #1
This bonus video is an updated method of the application of thermal paste, which I believe is more efficient and effective than the method shown in the video above. After viewing this video, please read Tip #3 below for additional information regarding the recommended thermal paste.
Bonus Video #2
This bonus video shows the clamp bending technique. This helps ensure a firm contact between the heatsinks and the CELL and RSX processors. Skip the video to the 7 minute (7:00) mark to see this demonstrated, as the fluxing portion isn't relevant to what we are doing.
Before you reassemble the PS3, make sure all of your thermal pads are in place. (See Tip #3)
Replace the PS3 Power Supply with a more Power Efficient version
The standard power supply that comes with the PS3 can run very hot and is a huge source of heat inside the PS3. In my opinion they run so hot it probably would have been wise that Sony made the power supply external, so that the PS3 could cool itself in a more efficient manner.
Inside the 60GB CECHA, 20GB CECHB, and the 80GB CECHE PS3 systems; it is possible you could have the ZSSR5391A power supply installed. (Picture shown on the right) You can easily identify this power supply from the others because of the large amount of ventallation holes it has all over it.
Of the possible power supplies available to these systems, the ZSSR5319A is the least power efficient during the AC to DC conversion process, and as a result generates a lot of heat. I found it to be extremely hot to the touch, as hot as an iron!
If you happen to find you have the ZSSR5391A power supply model in your PlayStation 3, I highly suggest you exchange it with a more power efficient version as soon as possible.
If you have one of these affected PS3s, you can substitute the ZSSR5391A power supply with the APS-226 model instead (picture shown on the right). You can identify the APS-226 power supply, because it can have square ventilation holes, although some variants of this power supply have round ventilation holes, but slightly less of them than the ZSSR5391A.
Owners of the 60GB CECHC PS3 model should already have the APS-227 power supply installed. There is no need to change this power supply since it is already fairly efficient. You may want to switch to the APS-226 if you plan to leave the country because it is universally rated, so it can be used anywhere around the world.
Do not use the APS-227 power supply if you live outside a PAL territory (Australia, New Zealand, UK, Ireland, Europe, Middle East, Africa ,Russia, India) as that power supply can only function in those specific regions.
The theory of using a more energy efficient power supply comes from the idea that less heat will result in less "flexing" of the PlayStation 3 motherboard. Flexing could potentially cause damage, and result in having a YLOD issue.
Check out the table below for more technical information regarding the PS3 power supplies:
All these power supplies provide far more power than the PS3 ever needs to function, so you shouldn't be any concern on your part that your console is being under supplied with power.
NOTE: I used to recommend the APS-231 power supply (found in the CECHG model) for the CECHA-CECHE models. While this power supply will work, and generates less heat, I recently found out that this power supply may eventually fail due to the added stress placed on it by the increased power demands of the older PS3 models. Because of this, and for better long-term reliability, I recommend just sticking with the APS-226 power supply. Because this power supply provides the exact same power output as the ZSSR5391A model, it really is the better match for a replacement power supply.
This is the easiest tip to implement, since you don't fully disassemble the PS3, like you need to with the other tips. APS-226 power supplies are available for sale on both eBay and Amazon.
Install the 19-blade PS3 Fan
There are two different fans that are compatible with these PS3 systems. First, there is the 15-blade fan.
And there is the 19-blade fan. Apparently PS3 made in Japan during the first few months of its initial release, had 19-blade fan installed standard. When Sony switched PS3 manufacturing over to China, they largely switched over the 15-blade one, although it is still possible to have a 19-blade fan.
It is generally believed that the 19-blade fan moves a larger volume of air per minute (150% more), and tends to be a bit quieter than the 15-blade version.
It has also been speculated that (unlike the 19-blade fan) the 15-blade fan tends to recirculate hot air inside the PlayStation 3, due to its inherent faulty design, shown in the illustration below.
While you probably need to replace your fan, you should verify that you need it first. Usually you need to nearly disassemble your entire PS3 to get a look at a the fan, but there is a trick to do it without opening up your PS3. What you need to do is to shine a very bright flashlight into the exhaust port on the back of the PS3, just above the serial number, in a dark room. Since the PS3 case is made of translucent plastic, you should be able to make out the silhouette of at least 1/4 of the blades on the PS3's fan (as shown in the picture on the right).
If you multiply the number by 4, you should be able to estimate how many blades you have. Keep in mind the 19-blade fan has straight fins, where the 15-blade's fins are slightly curved.
Alternatively you can shine a flashlight directly on the surface of the PS3, where that fan is located. Because the PS3 shell is made of translucent plastic, you should be able to see a small area directly inside the PS3, and be able to count the fan blades. I find this method works best with a small and bright LED flashlight, pressed directly on the surface of the PlayStation 3.
While the 19-bladed fan is quieter, it is only by a few decibels. Don't expect your PS3 to be whisper quiet, but you can be sure your PS3 is getting a better airflow than it was before.
Be advised, the following will always cause the PlayStation 3's fan to run at the higher speeds:
* Playing a Blu-Ray movie in high definition.
* Playing a PlayStation 3 game in high definition.
* Playing an upscaled DVD movie in high definition.
* Playing an upscaled PlayStation 2 game in high definition.
* Playing your PS3 in a warm (>70Â°F/21Â°C) and humid environment.
Replacing your fan with the 19-blade version will enhance the benefits of the next tip (#3) and should be done together, for a better overall result. Replacement original used PS3 fans can be easily purchased from places like eBay and Amazon. Or if you prefer to buy a brand new PS3 19-blade fan instead, a company called Talismoon may still have some available for sale.
Amazon: 19-Blade fan
Amazon: Tailsmoon Wisper fan
Replace the Original Thermal Paste and the Thermal Pads
Many people know about this one. With all the early talk of how reliable the PS3 is with estimated defect rates of less than 1%, and the PS3's ability to survive a grueling stress test. Apparently it turns out the PS3's Achilles heal is the thermal paste that Sony uses on the PS3. It is believed that the thermal grease tends to dry out after 2-3 years, and when it does the PS3 may have issues keeping itself cool during normal use. I have also noticed a pattern, where the latest victims of YLOD have nearly all had their systems for about 3 or more years.
One big sign that you need to replace your thermal paste ASAP, is if your PS3's system fan goes to the highest speed within 5 minutes after first turning the console on.
Another big sign is if cool air being exhausted from the back of the PS3.
If either of these signs applies to you, this indicates that the thermal paste is no longer properly transferring heat away from the PS3's main processors as it should. As a result your PS3 may overheat, damaging it and potentially causing the YLOD.
Many people have been advocating replacing the original thermal grease with Arctic Silver 5 (AS5), while there is nothing wrong with that, there are many other thermal compounds you should consider. With any silver-based thermal compound there is the potential issue of problems occurring if excess paste were ever to spill onto the motherboard, because of its conductive nature. While AS5 is made not to be conductive, it is still slightly capacitive.
AS5 takes up to 200 hours to fully cure.What this means is that for the first 200 hours of use, you should only play the PS3 for 1-2 hours at a time, giving the unit 10-15 minute breaks between intervals. If you don't have the patience to do this, you could damage your system.
Most other available thermal compounds have little to no curing time.
I recommend Arctic Cooling MX-4 thermal compound. This is one of the newest carbon-based compounds, the best thermal conductor available in nature, having several times better thermal conductivity as silver.
MX-4 has no cure time, and it costs about the same price as AS5. MX-4 also has 2.4 times the thermal conductivity as Arctic Silver 5 (8.5 W/mk vs. 3.5 W/mk). What I like best about this paste is that it has a durability rating of 8 years, meaning that the performance of this product should not decrease over that period of time.
When the thermal paste is properly applied, the air exhausted from the PS3 will be very warm. This indicates to you that the thermal paste working as it should, and conducting heat away from the system.
Unless you have to, I suggest only replacing the thermal paste once. Because of its 8 year durability rating, a high quality paste like MX-4 should last you until well after the PlayStation 4 is released. If you attempt to reapply thermal paste on a device that already has a good quality paste applied, it can be very difficult to remove the heatsink easily because the paste forms a tight bond between the processors and the heatsink, like glue. You could potentially damage the motherboard from the force required to remove the heatsink. If you want to replace the paste anyway, you may want to first try running the PS3 for at least 30 minutes beforehand. When the PS3 heats up it may soften the paste up, making it easier to pull the heatsink apart.
As far as application of the thermal compound goes, I would suggest that a pea sized amount ~8mm in diameter (I used an engineering stincil to measure this amount) be placed in the center of the PS3's CELL & RSX processors. In this manner the compound will spread out smoothly and evenly, when you reattatch the heatsink back on the motherboard, preventing air pockets from forming in the paste (that can counteract the proper thermal transfer process).
It is not necessary to cover the whole surface when the thermal paste spreads, because most of the heat is concentrated around the core area which is at the center. Therefore the center of the chips are the most important part to target. In the picture below are the CELL (left) and RSX (right) processors with the heatspreaders removed. As you can see in the picture, the actual processors are located in the center, and that is where most of the heat is concentrated.
You can always apply larger amount of MX-4 if you are concerned and want to ensure complete coverage of the processors. If any excess paste happens to spill onto the motherboard, it will be fine since MX-4 is made of totally non-conductive ingredients.
See this video below, for a demonstration on how thermal paste spreads when applied:
You should also consider replace the thermal pads on the PS3 motherboard. Thermal pads help facilitate the transfer of heat away from other key chips on the PS3 motherboard to the heatsink. Apparently your PS3 can also get a YLOD condition if one of these pads fails to work as it is supposed to.
The thermal pads Sony has installed in the PS3 doesn't do a great job in removing heat from the motherboard. There are better quality thermal pads available that are several times more effective. The recommended thermal pads for example (linked below), are rated to be up to five times more effective in transferring heat, and when used in combination with a high quality thermal paste, can help lower the overall temperature of the PS33's motherboard by up to 10-15 degrees.
This thermal pad is sold in a sheet, where you can cut it to the proper size. As shown in the picture above, there is more than enough to cover the chips on a CECHA motherboard.
Even if you decide not to replace your pads right now, make sure you at least have themal pads attached to these areas, before you put your PS3 back together, or it may overheat.
Pictured below are the highlighted areas on the 60GB CECHA PlayStaion 3 motherboard, where the thermal pads need to be placed. If you are working with a different PS3 model, please pay careful attention to where the pads are located when you first open up your system.
Amazon: MX-4 Thermal Compound
The following video demonstrates how to measure out the components of your thermal pad (for the CECHA model), prior to installation:
Just to emphasize, changing both the thermal paste and thermal pads are the most important and effective thing you can do to keep your PS3 from overheating (which may lead to YLOD), much more important than the other tips. Although you have to completely disassemble your PS3 before you can even change your thermal paste and thermal pads, the good news is that the material costs for this tip is usually less expensive than replacing the fan or power supply.
You will get a good indication that your thermal paste/thermal pad installation is working properly when the fan speed goes up and down while you are playing a game, and drops soon after you quit a game. This indicates that heat is being conducted away from the PlayStation 3 in a very efficient and effective manner.
Amazon: High Performance Thermal Pad
Amazon: 4pc Tool Kit for PlayStation 3
How These Tips Stack Up
In order of importance:
1.Thermal paste and thermal pads
3. Power supply
In ease of accomplishment:
1. Power supply
3. Thermal paste and thermal pads
Air Flow Modification
This tip modifies the air flow of the PS3, by allowing air to flow directly to the system fan, rather than indirectly through the front vents of the console. This is accomplished through drilling a series of ventilation holes in the system case directly under the system fan. By doing this the PS3 is able to cool itself with a larger volume of air than it normally would. Apparently, the PS3 will overall run 20+ degrees cooler by doing this modification.
In my personal testing of this mod, I have found that my PS3 is able to stay at the lower fan speeds longer, and is able to cool itself down much faster than it normally would. This bonus tip really helps amplify the effects of Tips 2 & 3.
This is an advanced level modification of the PS3, and is only recommended for highly skilled individuals. Fortunately for everyone else, Endless Electronics offers this modification for sale. They call it the X-Flow Fan Modification. You can see a picture of this modification below.
The Following Regards PS3 Models:
PS3 Slim (All Models)
PS3 Super Slim (All Models)
Tips for other PS3 models
Although there can be an alternative power supply you can use (depending on the model), the power and heat savings are so small it isn't worthwhile to replace it, unless it is already faulty. You can refer to this chart to find out which power supply you may need to replace should it prove to be faulty.
If you want to change the fan or thermal paste on PS3 models CECHH-CECHQ, you need to be very careful. The reason is that performing either of these tips requires the heatsink to be removed, which can be quite difficult to reattach on these PS3 models. If it is not re-assembled properly, thermal conduction between the CPU/GPU; the heatsink could be compromised, and you would then be worse off than you were to begin with. I have read many accounts in the PlayStation.com forums, where people have reported that this issue happen to them.
Although it is still very important have the thermal paste and pads replaced on these models, I recommend that you should have a place like Endless Electronics do it for you. This company has the expertise to apply new thermal paste and reattach the heatsinks back on properly.
If you happen to own a PS3 Slim (or PS3 Super Slim), the only thing you may want to think about doing is to change the thermal paste. These PS3 models don't use thermal pads, and changing the fan and power supply is not necessary. To dissasemble this PS3 Slim, please follow this guide. For the PS3 Super Slim, please follow this guide.
Have these tips performed for you professionally
Along with changing the thermal pads and thermal paste, Endless Electronics now sells and installs the APS-226 power supply (Tip #1) and 19-blade fan (Tip #2), if you just want to have one or two parts replaced individually. If you wish to have all three of these tips done at once (plus the X-Flow Fan Modification), Endless Electronics offers all of this at a discount, with their Component Upgrade Package.
So if you want a professional installation of these tips (all backed up with a warranty), this is the recommended option.
The video below shows what is contained in the Component Upgrade Package in detail.
What if I already have the YLOD?
If you are currently a victim of a YLOD issue, you should consider having your PS3 reballed. Reballing will basically bring your PS3 back to the state it was before it got the YLOD condition.
Performing a reflow of the solder on your PS3 can work and will repair your system in many cases. The problem with reflowing is eventually the YLOD problem will return, because over time the process of the chip heating and cooling will cause the "Lead Free" solder to fail again.
With Reflowing, no new solder is applied and the chip is not removed. The chip is just reheated so that the solder will melt and hopefully reconnect the joints. Be advised that if you attempt a reflow yourself (using DYI guides), you could easily damage your PS3 if you perform it incorrectly. This would make it harder to fix your PS3 through reballing, if you choose that later.
With Reballing, all the old solder is removed. The chip and the motherboard is then cleaned and brand new "Leaded" solder is later applied. Using Leaded solder makes this repair stronger than the original lead free solder, and your system should last for a very long time.
Although sending your PS3 back to Sony will fix your YLOD problems, chances are they will come back again. Here's why, Sony still uses "Lead Free" solder. If you have a PS3 Fat model, you will get back a PS3 Fat model using the same solder that can crack once again. The only way to solve this problem is to have your PS3 chips re-balled using "Leaded" solder. Leaded solder is far superior in strength and will never crack or melt under the CPU's temp. I have read many accounts of people's refurbished systems breaking down soon after the 90 day warranty on these systems has expired. Sony typically charges $100-$150 for an out of warranty repair.
Endless Electronics also performs reball repairs on the PS3. They are registered with the BBB and have high customer satisfaction. Not only are their prices very reasonable, but they also offer a YLOD lifetime warranty option, so if your system ever gets the YLOD again they will fix it again for free. (Note: To take advantage of the YLOD Lifetime Warranty option, you have to have not ever opened up your PS3 before, and the original Sony warranty seal must still be intact). No other company that I know of offers this kind of guarantee on reball repair.
Endless Electronics is also the only repair company that I know of that will repair and offer a warranty (if they are able to repair it) on consoles that have been opened and/or have had a previous repair attempt made. Most repair companies will either not repair a system with the warranty seal broken, or not offer any kind of substantial warranty on their repairs.
Although Endless Electronics is a USA based company, they now accept international orders. For more information, please click on this link.
With these 3 tips, I believe you can make your PS3 run and cool better than it has before, and you can assure yourself that you have taken all the steps you could to keep your system operating properly for a long time. Of course these tips are going to be most effective to those whom never had their PS3 repaired due to experiencing a motherboard based YLOD issue.