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The Sunday Seven: Coming to Terms with PS3’s YLOD

Brendan Griffiths
Hardware, Personal Story, PS3, Sony, The Sunday Seven, Yellow Light of Death, YLOD

The Sunday Seven: Coming to Terms with PS3’s YLOD

The YLOD. The Yellow Light of Death. This is the dreaded sickness that PlayStation 3 owners fear. With my PS3 nearing its sixth birthday, it finally happened to me. While hardly as prevalent as the Red Ring of Death in the Xbox 360’s early days, the flashing yellow light is still cautiously feared amongst the PS3 community.

In order to cope with this grim occurrence I’ve incorporated the experience into my regular feature, The Sunday Seven. This isn’t a guide on how to fix the problem yourself, no, no, that’s a different fire hazard for a different day and for someone else to tell. This is what was running through my mind as I tried to come to terms with it and ultimately how to bring it back to life.

Hopefully, this won’t happen to you. So use this as a cautionary tale, an amusing anecdote by someone clearly a bit too much attached to a console or as a comparable accompaniment to your own past woes. Let’s face it; this is probably some form of karmic retribution any smugness of having a PS3 when everyone’s 360s were melting.

The Calm Reaction (Denial)

As per usual, I was still messing around with my phone after turning on the PS3, but after five minutes, I was alerted by a sharp beeping noise followed by the power going out from the PS3 as the fans fell silent. Over the years, we’d had moments like this before, more often than not from a brief power surge. This time it was different.

The front LED was still flashing red, so I tapped the PS button on the controller but to no avail. Not to worry, sometimes it sulks a little from a sudden shutdown, looks like I’ll have to get up and turn it on I thought. I walked over, noticing the grim stillness in the air that imbued the scene every time an aging piece of tech failed on me. I reached for the power switch. Flashing red lights, beeps, and silence. No yellow lights, but a sinking feeling.

The Sunday Seven: Coming to Terms with PS3’s YLOD

Preparing For the Worst

My general PlayStation knowledge has taught me that flashing red lights can mean overheating, so I didn’t worry too much at this stage. Unless you count worrying as rechecking every forum I could find before inspecting every vent for wads of dust. The vents were reasonably clear from the previous vacuuming (probably years ago), but I removed the hard-drive and allowed everything to cool down in another room before vacuuming every vent I could find, probably infuriating any spiders that lived inside. Then I set about clearing space on my external hard-drive, just in case I could power-up the PS3 long enough to make a backup.

A few hours later, I knew it was time for some answers. If there were still problems to find, they were going to be bigger issues than my PS3 overheating. After bringing the cooled down console back into the room and carefully attaching the HDMI, ethernet, and power cables, I gave the power button a gentle tap. Two red lights, the briefest of yellow flashes, and a series of red ones. It was brief but so very yellow.

The Guilt

The Sunday Seven: Coming to Terms with PS3’s YLODWhy oh why did I keep sneaking onto Google image search to look at those pictures of all the younger slimmer PS3s? My PS3 was sat just behind the laptop’s screen, but it knew what I was doing. How else should a console react other than to steam with rage until it melts half of its internal components? Or maybe it lost sight of all that was good in the world after I forced it through Aliens: Colonial Marines. We barely survived Duke Nukem’ Forever and Amy. What a fool.

Considering Buying a New PS3

Fuck knows why I was looking for a way out of the most-reliable console I’ve ever owned, but one of the most invading emotions in-between all the anger and despair was a guilty mix of hope and greed. Maybe it was time to lay the old girl to rest and pick up something new and maybe blue? So, this is what bastards feel like when eyeing up the nurses while their missus lies in her hospital bed.

It could have been worse; I could have got the Xbox 360 out of the wardrobe. But hey, I’m not a monster. With PS4 more than likely not supporting PS3 discs, holding on until November was hardly an option either.

The Sunday Seven: Coming to Terms with PS3’s YLOD

Fighting Back

Keen to not cave and buy a new model, with a cheap plastic finish and a distinct lack of ability to play PS2 games in buffed-up HD (Okami is the mutt’s nuts on my PS3), I decided it was time to fight back and save what over my gaming years had become my favourite console.

Checking online, I saw plenty of mentions of Sony’s own repair service costing over £100 and them possibly sending back a different, refurbished PS3. Having recently being sodomised for shoddy repairs to laptops, my netbook dying, former c**ting flatmates not paying bills and having to buy a new motorbike battery, I decided I was going to have to shop around for a more reasonable deal.

With the arrival of the new Tomb Raider game merely days away, I was keen to get the PS3 fixed fast. Despite putting ‘Preston PS3 repairs’ into Google, I was met with dozens of links to sites based all over the country. Courier jobs, with long waits and prices varying from £60 to £100.

The Sunday Seven: Coming to Terms with PS3’s YLODFilling in a never-ending stream of online forms, that immediately crashed upon submission became a frustrating nightmare as I tried to send off the details in order to obtain quotes. It being 1am, I wasn’t expecting replies anytime soon. Amongst all the London-based repair shops helpfully sent by the search engine, I managed to find a few actually based closer to home. Phone numbers jotted down. It was time to sleep.

It was about 10 seconds after waking up that I remembered that my PS3 had succumbed to yellow fever. In my usual morning grogginess that tricks me into thinking a previous night’s horror was just a dream I ambled over to my PS3 to check on the reality. An angry beep with the same set of flashes robbed any appetite for breakfast.

A quick 9am phone call, clearly met by someone that hadn’t even had time to take his coat off, resulted in a confirmation of the dreaded Yellow Light of Death. But for the first time since those first angry beeps, I began to believe that maybe there was hope for the aging console, such was the confidence at being able to fix the problem in the voice on the other end of the line. £50 was a considerably better price than anything I’d been able to find elsewhere too.

Further problems arose when I couldn’t even find a bag big enough to carry the hefty PS3 safely on the motorbike, so had to rouse my better half from bed on her only day off for a lift in the car. I guess she gathered that putting up with my Tomb Raider-less face on Tuesday wasn’t going to be fun for anyone. So, with a face like someone taking a sick pet to the vets, I slumped into the passenger seat, resting the sick PS3 on my lap and headed out to the repair shop.

The Waiting

As I sit and write this, I’m still waiting for an update on how the PS3 is doing. The repair shouldn’t require a hard-drive wipe, which would obviously be devastating. The Vita has tried to step back into my life in the meantime, but even the latest Sly Cooper game struggles to hold my attention as I find myself wondering if my old PS3 will breathe again. I even picked up a book, but seeing as the book was part five of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series and I’ve struggled to get into it from the start, that wasn’t much help either. Mainly because I’m getting the feeling it’s building up to a Lost-style disappointment for the finale in a few books’ time.

The Sunday Seven: Coming to Terms with PS3’s YLOD

Is Yours Next?

Whatever the result when the PS3 comes home, I’ve decided to try to protect myself from such issues on a more regular basis. This means performing regular backups, which won’t take so long if I stop hoarding demos for ages before playing them and I delete some of the massive install files for games I haven’t played in years. Well, except GT5, I’m not losing that hour again next time I give it a go. And MGS4. And Fallout. Shit, you can see why I’m not good at this.

Various sites will tell you which way is better to position your PS3, vertically or horizontally, but they all emphasise keeping the vents dust-free with regular vacuuming. Naturally, you should have a decent amount of space around the console to allow it to breathe. Looking back though, everyone seemed surprised when I said my original PS3 was still running and I can’t think of any other bits of tech at home that has run so well for so long. It’s been a great six years, fingers crossed for a few more yet.

So, I better go and buy some fruit and a Get Well Soon card before calling into the repair shop tomorrow, but keep your fingers crossed for me Dealspwn readers. We’d love to hear any thoughts you have on how crumpling technology has affected your gaming over the years, be it on PlayStation, PCs or the, ahem, invincible Xbox 360.

Add a comment25 comments
Anarchist  Mar. 3, 2013 at 21:46

Article = over the top fanboyish. I expected better.

bggriffiths  Mar. 3, 2013 at 22:14

Yeah, I hate it when people like one console in particular. How dare they. Sheesh dude.

Cage  Mar. 3, 2013 at 22:27

It's the worst. Be warned though. If it's a reflow it's not going to solve your problems and you'll only be more scared the next time it dies. My reflow made my 60GB work for another 6 months and died again playing Uncharted 3 keeping the disc trapped inside like an ancient, forbidden treasure. I had the choice of getting another 'quick-fix' for £60 again or contributing that money to getting a new one. I've now ordered a secondhand, newer 320GB model, not one of those stupid 12GB ones.

I also got about 6 years out of my 60gb too.

uhhummm  Mar. 3, 2013 at 22:35

For anyone that thinks that the YLOD isn't as common as the RROD as Nelson from Simpsons would say...HAWHAW

safety tips, always save to USB stick instead of the hard drive
*fitting your hardd rive into a new ps3 wipes it

trade in old fatter ps3 for a slimmer/newer one (I did, but think my slim is now getting one of the other common faults other than YLOD, Laser may be going :( )

if you had a 60gb and ps2 compatability its one of the oldest and most likely to get it so switch to a new ps3 and dust of your ps2 or buy a ps2

probably cheaper to buy a repair rather than use their repair services (unlike microsoft that semi owned up to RROD and gave extended warranty on the fault, sony Denied all knowledge of its faults even after BBC watchdog got involved and fixed X amount of machines near sonys offices in protests -of which X amount of the machines failed again)

Also if sent in for repair with Sony you do not get your machine back, it will be a substitute/replacement machine (& if you had a 60gb/ps2 one you sure aint gonna get one of those back from them).

If you love you ps3 games (and theirs a lot of good ones out there) then you have to have a replacement, but dont forget how little love Sony has showed you when you even think of Buying a ps4. Get a replacement slim machine if you can forsake whats on your harddrive, if you cant get it fixed save the data and transfer to another machine, because once its had the cooties, it will get them again.

bggriffiths  Mar. 3, 2013 at 23:46

Thanks for the advice @cage and @uhhummm. I think there are a very small number of titles that won't save to USB for some reason. It's a shame putting old hard-drive in new PS3 would wipe it, may have got a cheap 12gig one otherwise.

Could use one of my PS plus trial codes to backup saves and transfer them via the cloud.

Shame I'd have to redownload PSN titles. Unless they hop onto an external drive?

KoopaT  Mar. 4, 2013 at 02:29

My 60gb only lasted somewhere between 3-4 years, and I'm not the most hardcore of gamers either so it probably had as much time playing blu rays and DVDs as it did games - it was hardly used and abused!

I took it apart and baked the board in an oven before putting it back together. Thankfully it worked and I transferred everything to a newly purchased slim, before selling the 60gb for £25 for parts. To be honest just getting my saves back was the most valuable thing!

I'd never had a console go faulty on me before (or since, touch wood!) and I've had most since the SNES. It's a shame to think if you fancy playing a PS3 or 360 game in 15 years time there might be no consoles left that work, yet my Dad still has his old Atari working in the back room...

mike5000  Mar. 4, 2013 at 02:39

i dont know about the frequency of the mentioned problems, but YlOD is far more treatable...i got one a month ago, now my old reliable ps3 that has been all over the world with me is back where she belongs, behind my TV. The guy at the store who fixed it for 50 bucks told me ps3 is like a 70 percent fix, Xbox is very low...he had a ton of bricked ones that ppl never bothered to come back for....

DaGeeZ  Mar. 4, 2013 at 02:50

Article = over the top fanboyish. I expected better.

Comment = butthurt ps3 fanboy

BrianC6234  Mar. 4, 2013 at 03:17

If you got six years out of a fat PS3 you did great. I got two years out of mine. I've had a slim model for a few years now and no problem. I think the first model just ran too hot. I installed a new hard drive in my fat model which was 7200 RPM and I think that just made it too hot. I made sure to install a 5400 RPM drive in my slim model just in case. Everything dies eventually. The YLOD isn't that big of a deal though.

Breadster  Mar. 4, 2013 at 03:36

@Anarchist - what's fanboyish about the article exactly?

Gerty05  Mar. 4, 2013 at 04:14

I had a YLOD on my 40gb PS3 last year that I bought in 08. Just one thing to consider if you do a repair is the shipping cost which can range from $15-$30 with materials.

I had mine repaired by a repair ship and it only broke 6 months after which I had to ship back to them for another repair as it's still covered under their warranty. I would have done Sony's repair but they were only going to give me a refurb with a 3 month warranty so that pretty much told me they didn't stand by their work.

Long story short, don't go the repair route. It cost me $150 to repair it with shipping and another $30 to send it back to them to be repaired again. The Black Friday ps3s were $199 this year so just wait for a deal and just get a new one. Don't make the same mistake I did by trying to revive your dead system.

booyakasha888  Mar. 4, 2013 at 05:13

well my graphics card has recently packed up after 5 years, problem is that i am unable to replace it as have been made redundant. looks like i'm stuck with angry birds for the foreseeable future...

monikbht  Mar. 4, 2013 at 05:15

Dude... SpotOn.. I feel the same exact way.. share your sentiments bro.. The Ps3 definitely is the greatest piece of hardware money can buy ever. I always tell people. The Ps3 is an experience.. same goes for ps2.

Quietus  Mar. 4, 2013 at 09:57

This will become an increasing problem, especially when these things become retro. All systems that are essentially mini PCs will eventually fail, and it'll become harder and harder to source working machines. If anybody wants to play these games in twenty years' time, I wish them luck. Luckily, I can still dig out my SNES, which works perfectly.:)

cliff24  Mar. 4, 2013 at 11:21

I bought my first PS3 when it was released in Europe. After two and a half years I got the YLOD. I just fixed it with a hair dryer. I kept heating the whole **** up by blowing hot air from the back into the console for about 15minutes. Afterwards 10minutes with cold air to cool the whole thing down. The PS3 worked for another 2hours so I had enough time to backup my saved games, deactivate the system and delete all the creditcard information etc... This works as long as the YLOD appears due fragile soldered points. (sorry for my bad english)

X10  Mar. 4, 2013 at 11:39

LoL Quietus, I was just thinking that!
Although the saves on my Super Mario World and Zelda carts might not be there anymore.

bggriffiths  Mar. 4, 2013 at 11:54

I fired up my old Saturn a few years ago to find it had wiped all my saves. There's a small replaceable cell battery in it that tracks the time when unplugged. Wipes memory once depleted though. Bought a memory cartridge for it after that, but some games refuse to talk to it.

Rbourne  Mar. 4, 2013 at 12:07

I know that feeling. That dread. Thankfully I managed to get a new PS3 in the sales, so cost wise it wasn't that bad.

But the worst part was the save games. Because I couldn't get the old PS3 online, I couldn't get the data transfer/backup working. And I only had the one HDD.

I lost all of my save games. 6 years worth, thousands of hours - gone. Lost with a single click of the controller.

I stared at this screen for a long time - too long one might say. I still feel the crushing devastation of pressing OK, knowing that I will never get my old save games back: https://twitter.com/rbourne/status/286566450511101953

Hind sight, I should have imaged the HDD contents so I could work out how to keep them. But at the same time, this gives me an opportunity to go back and play games from scratch again.

Do I miss my save games? Yes. Do I regret the decision: Not really - I look forward to starting games from scratch again =)

JonLester  Mar. 4, 2013 at 16:25

"We’d love to hear any thoughts you have on how crumpling technology has affected your gaming over the years, be it on PlayStation, PCs or the, ahem, invincible Xbox 360."

In the spirit of sharing, I haven't had an YLOD, but I've had my fair share of borked hardware. Beyond numerous Dreamcasts losing their laser alignment/strength over the years, I've owned three totally not invincible Xbox 360s - the first RROD'd, and the second disc tray got stuck after several months of ballsing up. Then RROD'd even though it was a newer elite model. Good one, MS. If I wasn't a slave to achievements back in the day and didn't have a massive XBLA library, I've had jumped ship then and there (these days I'm generally a PC and handheld man).

I also accidentally knocked coffee into my M15X gaming laptop. It survived, but is now incredibly temperamental. Smells great though, mmm, rich Columbian roast.

Totally sympathise, Brendan, I hate that sinking feeling you get when deep down, you know everything is **** even though you keep telling yourself that it might be okay when you turn it back on. Or in the case of my first 360, wrapping it in a towel and superheating it in a vain effort to remelt the solder...

Last edited by JonLester, Mar. 4, 2013 at 16:28
stuartstow  Mar. 4, 2013 at 16:46

I got my original ps3 Fat on launch day and it lasted 18 months and I'd hardly used it.

MattGardner  Mar. 4, 2013 at 16:50

"wrapping it in a towel and superheating it in a vain effort to remelt the solder"

Ah yes, I remember that. Cradled in a towel, gently being rocked back and forth, it looked like a scene out of the Nativity.

Except with more swearing.

Shadowmancer88  Mar. 4, 2013 at 22:26

Funnily enough the YLOD is the only console failure that I have endured that has killed a console. I had to return it to my local store and I got a refund due to no replacements, went to another store and I got a the new PS3 slim (not super slim) when it came out with a few games with the refund money as well as a 12 month guarantee too.

I did at Uni have a RROD once on my 360, but a hard reset fixed it.

fixed2YLODSmyself  Mar. 5, 2013 at 00:06

Fix it yourself, retrieve data, and then trade it in. They're pretty easy to "fix:" just disassemble entirely, clean out all dust, run a heat gun over the main chips for a minute or two (some say hair dryer... don't know, might work... I used a real heat gun), add some fresh flux, add fresh thermal paste, and reassemble. Once it's back up and running, immediately back up the hdd, sync your trophies, deactivate the system, and then go trade it in. Using the backup utility will copy over all your save files and PSN games, but not your trophies, which is why you need to do the sync. I fixed my own 80GB soft-BC like this, but without the new flux, and it lasted about two weeks. I fixed it again with flux and traded it in. I fixed a friend's like this with the added flux, and it's been going about a year now.

john132  Mar. 5, 2013 at 01:22

I had exactly the same horrible experience over Xmas, had a PS3 80gb phat for about 5 years, played so many countless hours of COD, FIFA, Gran Turismo, Battlefield, Uncharted, Killzone, etc... over the years, then it had the dreaded YLOD. I was so gutted and desperate to get it fixed I actually drove down to London to get it fixed for £40 after seeing an advert on the internet, but the guy couldn't do it and said the chips were screwed. So desperate to get my daily COD and BF fix, the next day I just bought the new 12GB PS3 Superslim and put a new 320GB hdd in it (with the hdd mounting bracket), and it works like dream, really quiet compared to the old model. Took me about a week to reinstall all the games and re-download all the game patches and DLC, but had PS+, so luckily had my games saves on the cloud.

Can't wait for the new PS4 now - want one so bad!

ant1248  Mar. 5, 2013 at 05:45

Ok. Where to start. 1. Sony has an excuse. The extra ps2 hardware takes up room makes heat and bla bla bla. 2. You should have done the blow dryer in the box to get it working for a backup. 3. Your hard drive might be/need to be wiped mine did. 4. You can do a reflow and thermal paste replacement yourself for so much less than the "pro". 5. Some peoples reflowed ps3 have worked for years mine about a week. 6. Reballing the ps3 would take so much work and hours you could literally buy 3 new ps3s and it might not even work.

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