Xbox 360 S teardown and heatsink replacement

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, so I thought it was time for something a little different. Recently, I bought an Xbox 360 S to play some old games I remember from my childhood, only to find that the audio would stutter in some of them, most noticeably the great game PGR4. After some time passed, I realised it only did this once it had started to heat up.

So, I decided to replace the thermal compound to see if that helped with the issue, but unfortunately it didn’t, so I had to go for a new fan, which usually comes with a heatsink too, it turns out. Complete instructions on how to disassemble an Xbox 360 S can be found on iFixit, whereas I’m just going to show a little of the insides of the now-aging console.

Under the plastic exterior

Immediately the disk drive is visible, along with the fan and its shroud:

I was surprised to see what looks like a desktop-size optical drive in here, considering how much of the space inside the Xbox is takes up.

With the optical drive removed, you can see the HDD cage a bit better. It’s a weird thing mounted on rubber grips to stop the HDD from vibrating too much in the metal case. The HDD also slides in and out on this model, as you’re supposed to be able to remove it without taking the case apart – it just pulls out.

There’s not all that much hiding under the HDD cage, just a few capacitors.

Removing the fan gives a better view of the heatsink.

Finally, after removing the heatsink, we get a good look at the CPU in the Xbox 360 S.

Problem solved?

Unfortunately, not entirely. While replacing the thermal paste definitely helped, audio lag and stutter can still be heard in some games after the Xbox warms up. The conclusion I’ve come to is that it must be due to the fan not kicking in much until it gets really really hot. This kind of makes sense, because I had a launch-time Xbox 360 back in the day and it was super noisy in comparison to this one, but I guess they went too far in trying to keep the noise levels down, choosing to slow the Xbox down before getting the fan spinning up. I imagine the Xbox 360 E might not have this issue, but I don’t know for sure.

That’s all from me for now, but I hope to post again soon with some software development news.

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About Hamish McIntyre-Bhatty

I'm a self-employed software developer working on Free Software projects, as well as studying for my degree with the Open University. Being pedantic when it comes to detail is fortunately useful for both of these things! A strong believer in free software, I have a few pay-for programs available under the GPLv3 and enjoy reporting bugs and helping to improve various open source projects, including volunteering at Wimborne Model Town to work on their river control system.

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