Gentlemen, We can rebuild him [the PS3]: Pt.1

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2012-03-01 08.24.11

 

 

 

Cue the *whoawhoawhoawhoa* jumping sound of the Six-Million Dollar Man!.

In case you can’t tell what that is over there to the left.  That is the Motherboard of my 1st generation CECHA model 60GB Playstation 3.  It’s a beautiful and gut wrenching sight, isn’t it?  You may be asking yourself: “Why, for all that is holy or unholy, would you rip apart such a beast, such a monument to modern gaming, you monster.”  And I will respond with: “That’s hurtful… *sad face*”  But I digress; the reason I took apart my PS3 was to bring it back from the brink of death.

I’m going to go through some of the things I did and how I took it apart to hopefully help others with the older model PS3’s in keeping their systems from uncertain death.  While the PS3 didn’t have the same failure rate as the launch day Xbox360 models, it was still a hot running system that had it’s share of deaths.  While Microsoft kind of manned up and handed out a 3-year warranty, The PS3 kept it’s 1yr warranty.  What muddies the situation for PS3 owners is the fact that Sony will not repair these older consoles.  If you are outside of the warranty, and frankly, if it’s a “fat” model, you are.  You will be forced to pay a $150 fee to get a replacement or full price at a store.  That replacement will be a slim model, no if’s and’s or but’s.

Saving these majestic creatures is our only hope for a rich and fulfilling future for our children and our children’s children.

 

What’s the big deal?
If you have an older model PS3, you’re likely already use to it’s sound.  It’s never been a quiet system, in fact, it’s a bit louder than the older older Xbox360’s.  The system has 5 fan levels that are set by the operating system to automatically increase the fan speed when the system reaches a specific temperature, and then it drops the speed when it drops below a specific temperature as well.  The 1st two fan speeds aren’t noticeable at all, the 3rd is audible though, but only slightly so.  You’ve have to have the sound of the TV or stereo system turned off in order to notice it.  the 4th setting doesn’t require that kind of silence though as it’s pretty easy to tell that it’s a fan and it’s in the PS3.  the 5th is quite loud and can easily overpower even moderate stereo sound levels. When a quieter part of a game or movie fades in, that fan is right there hammering into your head.  Once the media of your choice fades back into a louder scene you will STILL notice a level 5 PS3 fan.

Here is the thing, a Brand new Fat PS3 didn’t hit Level 5 all that often.  it mostly settled into a spot bouncing in between 3-4 (mostly 4.)  Which is fine, it’s not exactly quiet, but it doesn’t sound like it’s being taxied to a runway for a take off for a trip to LAX.  After 5+ years though, many of these older PS3’s sound like that all the time.  Ramping up to level 5 within 10-15 minutes of use.  If you are sitting back thinking that is normal you are wrong.  You may not even consciously know that this is a cry for help from your system.  After so many years it happens so gradually that you don’t realize it’s constantly at it’s highest speed all the time.  Think of it this way.  If it slowly started getting faster and faster and it’s been sitting at the highest speed for a year now, imagine the kind of heat that isn’t effectively being removed.  It’s going up to remove heat and now it’s stuck at it’s highest speed…but the heat is increasing. That’s BAD! What happens, as it did with the 360, the incredible heat that is no longer being removed efficiently from the system is lingering and doing internal damage.  The most common damage is the softening and melting of the solder holding the RSX chip to the Motherboard.  Once you turn the system off, it cools and solidifies again, but over time it cracks the solder, and the chip uses connection to the board.  When that happens you get a Yellow Light of Death (YLOD for short.)  This lets you know there is something wrong with the PS3.  Also, the fact that it won’t turn on should be a big indicator as well.  Once that happens you will need to buy a new one or get it fixed from by a local repair guy.  Get ready to cough up about $100+ to do so.

OMG!  What’s causing all of this!?
The PS3 is a well constructed piece of tech, While most things in the system are interchangeable, which is great for people who like to customize things, there are a few things that are killing your PS3:

  • Power Supply: The PSU built into the 1st generation PS3 models are extremely inefficient, require a LOT of amperage and wattage that the actual PS3 doesn’t require to run, and outputs a lot of heat.  These original models are ZSSR539IA and require 6A (6 amps from the wall.)  in contrast, the newer models only pull 4A.  Think about that; 2 amps being pulled from the older model power supplies aren’t need but still being pulled from the wall.  That extra is just being dumped into the case as heat.  Where else is it going to go?

  • Fan: The fan provided in the US release of the system is an oddity.  The Japanese release of the system had a 19-bladed fan.  When it was released to the US, that fan was replaced with a 15-bladed fan of the same size.  Why does that matter?  Many believe that the omission of those 4-blades has a huge effect on the airflow inside the system.  It’s strongly believed that the 15-blade fan creates a small pocket of hot air that doesn’t fully escape with the rest of the exhausted air.  While the 19-bladed fan, while not spinning faster or moving any more air, keeps this hot air pocket from forming all together.

  • Thermal Paste: This is not a defect per say.  Possibly a lack of thinking ahead though and I believe this is why the 360 fails as well. Ok, maybe not a lack of thinking ahead, but definitely something that needed a better solution. Those who build their own systems know all about Thermal Paste.  It’s a goopy, sticky material used on hot running computer parts and placed in between the component and a heat sink or heat spreader.  without it, heat won’t effectively be transferred to the heat sink and the component, while living longer than not having a heat sink at all, will still die very quickly.  Most “Home entertainment devices” that have components that need a heat sink use a heat pad, doesn’t work as well, but lasts far longer.  That is the problem with paste, while it transfers heat way better, it will liquefy, dry up, or “age” and lose it’s effectiveness overtime.

Sounds like I’m going to have to “Do stuff”…
Exactly, Sorry to tell you, but a can of air stuck in the vents isn’t going to help at all.  If your PS3 is ramping up to it’s highest fan level within 10-30mins and sitting there for the reminder of it’s time on if it’s just idling, then you have 2 options; Wait for it to die and buy a new one, or man up and take the thing apart to fix it yourself!.  The 3 things I did to fix mine range in difficulty/effectiveness/price.

Apply New Thermal Paste:
Effectiveness=
Highest
Price=Lowest
Difficulty=Hardest
 

2012-03-01 09.20.58  The single most effective thing you can do is replace the old thermal paste on the RSX and The Cell chips.  If you click on the picture to the right, you can get a closer look at the amount (too much) and the consistency (too watery). The amount is baffling, honestly.  too much isn’t good, and that is too much.  The watery aspect is simply age, after a while it just liquefies or gets dry and hard.  thoroughly cleaning the chips and the heat sink itself, and applying new TP made the biggest difference in my PS3.  Going from Level 5 fan within 15mins to taking over well over an hour, and even then it didn’t stay at it’s highest level, it bounced back and forth between 4 and 5. a small tube of thermal paste will set you back about $10 bucks for decent stuff.  Do NOT use silicone based thermal paste.  use a white thermal compound or an Artic Silver type.  The issue here is that it’s not easy.  It requires the removal of all components; the blueray drive, PSU, Wifi card, Memory card reader, *breathes in*, the motherboard itself, the metal shield that encases the motherboard, the heat sink!… it’s a chore.

Change 15-Bladed Fan
Effectiveness=Low/Moderate
Price=Moderate
Difficulty=Moderate

2012-03-12 16.36.38The fan on the left is the 15-bladed model, while the one on the right is the 19-bladed one.  The differences reach a little deeper than just the number of blades, though.  If you look, it appears the centers are different, too.  They aren’t just smaller by appearance, the 15-bladed has a much smaller magnet inside, the blades are much easier to spin by hand and they continue spinning for a while.  While the 19-bladed fan has a large, more powerful magnet.  Spinning that one by hand and you can feel the magnet pulling on the fan, it has a less smooth movement.  But it isn’t friction, it’s just the powerful magnet!  While in the system, the 19-blade fan has a slightly different sound at each speed.  At it’s highest, it sounds airier and has a less high pitch whirling sound.  Not a huge difference and barely noticeable.  The difference is all internal and was explained previously. Replacing this is a little bit easier than the thermal paste.  Still requires removing the motherboard though as everything inside the chassis is upside down.  The chips and heat sink are on the bottom, So, you gotta take everything out.  Good thing is, is that you don’t need to take off the metal shielding or the actual heat sink, the fan unscrews from it easily. Price of the 19-blade is about $15-$20 on ebay.
Change Power Supply
Effectiveness=Moderate/High
Price=Moderate/Low
Difficulty=Low
2012-03-01 10.11.12The PSU.  The easiest thing you can do to help your PS3.  Honestly though, if it’s hitting its highest fan setting, the fan and PSU isn’t going to cut it anymore.  But I digress;  The newer model APS-227 is on the left, it’s actually not shiny and has less, square, ventilation holes, while the older model is shiny, and has more, rounded, vent holes.  Looking on the bottom of both reveals that the newer model pulls anywhere from 1.5A to 4A less than the older model.  While the wattages aren’t listed on either PSU.  I did some digging and found that the older one used a maximum of 380watts.  I believe the newer ones use a maximum of 280watts.  Wattage doesn’t matter much, the important part is the lower Amperage it’s pulling. 

If you happen to find a fat model PS3 with Serial starting with CECHA.  I highly recommend opening that thing up IMMEDIATELY and seeing what PSU you have.  Changing this immediately may save you from having to do a full rebuild of it.  IF you have a ZSSR539IA Power Supply.  Change it ASAP!

 

 

*Sigh*  Where do I start?

3 thoughts on “Gentlemen, We can rebuild him [the PS3]: Pt.1”

  1. This is the best information I have found regarding fan noise coming from the PS3. I have been through forums, youtube videos, and everything in between. I’ve even seen people swearing by mounting your PS3 on tin cans will solve the issue. And sadly I tried the latter.

    I’ve done a TP job and heat gun reflow on my 40GB Fat. It’s been running for about a year since the job. The fan is just way to loud.

    My question is – are the FAT fans interchangeable? I have the option to buy a RLOD PS3 60 GB with the PS2 backwards compatibility. It should have a 19″ fan. The seller says the fan does work. I want to put the fan in my 40 GB Slightly newer version of the FAT. I’ve replaced the HD and am now running a 500GB, but for reference purposes, its a 40 GB model.

    I might just do a reflow/TP job on the 60GB, but since the 40GB model has been running so long after the fix, I figure I may have a better shot at it staying running.

    Thanks in advance and I know this article is a little old now so you may not be monitoring replies.

    1. Hey Jody, Thanks for commenting and I apologize for the obscene delay in getting back to you. Had some site problems, work, life, the usual on top of not being notified that a comment was left.

      In terms of fans being interchangeable between old school FAT models I’m pretty sure they are. If you are going from a FAT to a SLIM though it’s likely not “possible”.. sure, you can hack apart your case and make that sucker fit, but easily, aesthetically and practically?.. No, not worth the effort. When you redid the thermal paste, what was your process? through cleaning? quality TP? just curious because after my rebuild it was much quieter.

      1. Hey no worries about the time frame for the response. Your reply is greatly appreciated. The consoles are getting so inexpensive to find now, I ended up picking up a slim model. I sold my fat models.

        My process was removing the old paste, reflow, and reapplying with a cheap white paste. The cheap paste was all I could get at the time without having to order online. I did read that the paste should be done under the chips as well which I didn’t do. I did the reflow with a heatgun, it was 30 seconds on the chips each on both sides, thats the CPUs and GPUs. Mostly just a quick and dirty job really.

        Thanks again.

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