More Xbox 360s nuked by overheating

One in six Xbox 360s are still blighted by heat-related hardware failures. That’s the word coming out of US warranty company SquareTrade today. It says that despite Microsoft’s efforts to improve the reliability of its console, 16.4 per cent still fall foul of the dreaded ‘red ring of death’ and other motherboard-related problems.

This number compares very unfavourably to the 3 per cent failure rates of the rival Sony PS3 and Nintendo Wii consoles.

We spoke to a console repair company this morning, and it said that the 16.4 per cent figure actually seemed a bit low.

“I’m surprised it wasn’t higher to be honest. The only reason why it’s not a higher number is because the Xbox 360 Elite and Arcade are being factored into the equation. And because they have new motherboards, they don’t fail nearly as often. The ones with the original motherboards still have very high failure rates,” Geoff Croft at Micromart told TechRadar.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...

Hardware failures blighted the first 18 months of the Xbox 360's lifespan. The ‘red ring of death’ pandemic was said to be killing off one in three of them in the early days. But with new components and improved cooling, everyone thought the problem had receded.

But not so says SquareTrade, who based the 16.4 per cent failure figure on a sample of more than 1,000 Xbox 360 units.

"It is reasonable to believe these failure rates will increase over time, since the Xbox 360 failure issues tend to increase with prolonged use where overheating appears the main culprit," said SquareTrade CEO Steve Abernethy.

Geoff Croft at Micromart told us that the fault he most often sees in the Xbox 360 is now "complete video failure", where gamers get sound but no video. Like the red ring of death, this problem is also motherboard related.

Croft’s company, Micromart, refuses to touch old Xbox 360s with motherboard related issues, and recommends gamers just send them back to Microsoft for repair.

“We get about 300 games consoles a week in for repair, and I’d say about 40 to 50 of them are Xbox 360s. The main fault is video failure, but as the video chip on the consoles’ motherboard is Microsoft-only, we can’t repair it so we have to send it back.

“In contrast, we only get about six to eight Wiis and PS3s in a week. And most of those problems are not hardware failures. Most of the problems with those consoles are physical damage caused by the end user. You get kids pushing things into the disc drives and damaging the laser – that’s the main problem. Hardware failures are actually very rare in the PS3 and Wii.”

Croft says he hasn't seen a single Elite or Arcade model of the Xbox 360 with motherboard-related failures. So gamers who’ve bought those SKUs seem to be fairly safe. However, he said that most of the broken 360s are about 18 months to two years old, and those older consoles still seem to have very high failure rates.

Back in July 2007, Microsoft decided it would extend the warranty on all Xbox 360 consoles and repair any motherboard-related problems. This decisions is said to have cost the company over a billion dollars.

James Rivington

James was part of the TechRadar editorial team for eight years up until 2015 and now works in a senior position for TR's parent company Future. An experienced Content Director with a demonstrated history of working in the media production industry. Skilled in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), E-commerce Optimization, Journalism, Digital Marketing, and Social Media. James can do it all.