Two years ago, I bought an Xbox 360. I specifically looked for one with the Falcon motherboard, partially because it was the first to come with HDMI standard, but mostly because it was believed it would be immune to the famous Red Ring of Death. That turned out not to be true, but it did slightly reduce the occurrences.

About six months later, I had my first failure. It wasn’t an RRoD though. Instead, the wireless controller interface stopped working correctly. I could power on the Xbox with the controller, but it would then refuse to pair with the console. I even used the event as an excuse to buy a second controller, but that one would not work either. It was specific to wireless, since my wired Guitar Hero controller worked fine. It was particularly annoying since I had just arrived home with a copy of GTA4, and had to go right back to Best Buy to get the controller. Searching for help was useless (most “solutions” were “lol u just need 2 pair the controller”), so I called Microsoft support, they took it back and repaired it.

Some time after that (most likely after the warranty expired), the DVD-ROM drive would just stop recognizing games. This time, some searching revealed a “fix”. While the console is powered off, but with a game inserted, jam a thin piece of cardboard into the top of the slot and move it around. Supposedly this gets the drive’s laser assembly to realign itself. This will occur every few weeks, and I keep around, appropriately enough, the box that held a bottle of Zantec near the Xbox for just such an occasion.

Last week, the console would start freezing about 5-10 minutes into a game. No RRoD, just freezing. I followed all of the recommendations on this KB article, but nothing worked. One of the last suggestions I followed was to make sure it was well ventilated (in my case by moving it to the middle of the living room), but even that did not work. I started looking at my options, and resigned myself to buying a replacement. (It was either spend $100 to “repair” and get back another Falcon, or spend $200 on a replacement “Jasper”, which is actually supposed to be a lot less prone to failure.)

Before heading back to Best Buy, I decide to give it one last shot, still in the middle of my living room. This time it worked fine. I concluded that it did not like being on top of my Dish DVR (which puts out some heat, but not an excessive amount) and moved it to another shelf.

This weekend, I got the same issue. 5-10 minutes and it froze, even though it had room around it, and didn’t feel that hot. I moved it to the middle of the living room, it started working again, but eventually started freezing even standing up in the middle of the living room. Then it started occurring faster, sometimes only a few minutes into a game. Again, no RRoD in sight, but it otherwise had all the symptoms of an RRoD.

Once again, I resigned myself to buying a replacement, but it was after hours on a Saturday. As a last ditch effort, I tried the “towel trick” – wrapping it in a towel and essentially letting it bake. This is usually employed to “fix” an RRoD, but in my case, I had little else to try (and if it induced an RRoD, hey, even better; Microsoft has a 3 year warranty specifically on RRoDs). After starting that, the freezing was greatly accelerated. At one point I could get it to freeze before the splash screen was even done loading. No RRoDs, though I did notice audio and video static over the HDMI connection shortly before each freeze.

After some time, it stopped freezing while wrapped, but still had video static on various parts of the display. I left it at the home menu for about half an hour. At one point I looked up and the static was gone. The console was still red hot and desperately trying to blow heat out, but it was running and had no static. I removed the towel, put in a game, and have been able to play ever since. Though, perhaps mockingly, the first time I played on Sunday, I had to employ the cardboard to the tray.

By the way, if you pay for electronics on a credit card, keep the receipt. Many credit card companies such as American Express will offer an extended warranty for one year beyond the manufacturer’s warranty. It didn’t work out for me because, funny enough, I had bought the Xbox 360 exactly 2 years and 2 days ago. Also, I didn’t have the receipt, but I may have been able to work around that if I was still in warranty.