I got hold of a broken PS3 that wouldn’t power on. When you hit the power button, the yellow light flashes briefly, the system beeps three times and then it shuts down. This symptom is defined as the yellow light of death (ylod). The Xbox also has a failure producing a red ring of death (rrod). Having researched a similar problem with a HP laptop, see post here, I knew the issue was probably flaky lead-free solder ball connections under BGA (ball grid array) chips.
I found a good guide on taking apart the PS3 here. The rest of the guide attempts the repair with a heat gun. The problem with this approach is that applying heat to one area could warp and stress the board. I then read a few guides whose repair method was to bake the board in the oven. Though this guide here had lots of detail, I didn’t like the technique of turning on the oven with the board inside. This could potentially burn the board. If you’ve ever tried to bake cookies as a kid without pre-heating the oven, you will know the result.
I disassembled the PS3 following the first guide. You need a security Torx T10 screwdriver to remove the cover but my regular Torx T10 worked. You may be able to remove a security torx with a small flat screwdriver if you don’t have the right screwdriver. The guide was pretty helpful though I took the power supply off earlier in the process since it was restricting access to a ground wire.
It appeared my PS3 had been taken apart and repasted before since the thermal paste was not dried up and a few screws were missing. Repasting will not fix this problem but should be done if your PS3 still works but is running hot as a preventative measure.
Following some tips, I prepped the board by insulating the electrolytic caps with Instant TAC (dollar store) but I didn’t use small pieces of tinfoil on them since I figured it would just draw heat to the area.
Once you have the thermal paste off, the two big chips actually have heat spreaders on top of the actual ICs. These can be removed to replace the small bit of paste underneath but I didn’t bother.
I also didn’t prebake the board at low temperature in the oven and only used a bit of flux I had leftover in a pen. It was difficult to get flux underneath the chip but it’s probably not too crucial of a step.
I used bolts I had lying around to make standoffs to raise the board up. I was short nuts but these can be bulk purchased at Home Depot for 20 cents each.
For thermal paste, I used ceramic based compound instead of the recommended AS5. AS5 is conductive and spillover might cause a short. Since my board had been repasted, it wasn’t too difficult to remove the existing thermal paste.
Following this guide, I preheated the oven to 375 deg F. Melting point for lead-free solder should be around 360 deg F.
I put the board on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil and baked for 6 minutes. I then shut off the oven and opened the door. I didn’t bother using fans to cool the oven.
After the board had cooled, I reinstalling the board and the PS3 powered up. With this success, I wanted to bake my friend’s G56 HP laptop which will be covered in a future post.
I updated the firmware to the latest but shouldn’t have done that step. Firmware versions 3.55 or earlier can be jailbroken.
Since the PS3 didn’t come with any controllers, I had a difficult time finding used ones since they are heavily in demand. I did find a solution by using wired PS2 controllers than can be plugged into a PS3 with a USB adapter that can be found on ebay. I ordered one a bit too soon since there are dual versions that accept two controllers on one USB plug. PS3 controllers are also heavily counterfeited and new ones on ebay might not be genuine.
Edit: The problem with using PS2 controllers with the PS3 is that the PS2 controllers do not have a PS button. This button is used to connect to the console, check battery level, exit from a game to the main menu and holding it down will give an option to shut off the console. Also some games don’t seem to work like Gran Turismo 5.
Edit: After a couple of months of little used, the YLOD has come back. Not really worth rebaking since I got hold of a slim with a bad DVD drive but the DVD drive and hard drive could be salvaged from the fat PS3.