Yellow Light of Death: PS3 Repair

By Brett Hartt
iFixIt

Assmebly Time: 1 hour
Skill Level: Advanced

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Like a canary in a coal mine, a flashing yellow on the PS3 gaming console signals impending doom. The Yellow Light of Death (YLOD) is not the latest role playing combat game; it refers to the brief warning before a complete shutdown of your PS3 – aka Star Trek Warp Core overload. Sony officially states that the yellow light may be an issue with an internal part caused by a variety of reasons and should be diagnosed at one of their service centers.

There is hope for this tragic sounding condition. Whether it's the power supply or the motherboard, your PS3 can often be rescued. In the case of a power supply failure, simply replace with a new power supply. Overheating is usually the culprit of motherboard failure, especially if has not been kept in a properly ventilated environment. The result? Cracked or melted solder joints between the motherboard and processors. Follow these steps to revive your PS3.

Required Tools:

Heat Gun
Thermal paste
Thermal pads
Multi-bit driver kit
Spudger


Step 1: Accessing the Smart Plate


Accessing the Smart Plate   Smart Plate

To access the smart plate, use the tip of the spudger to remove the black rubber screw cover from the side of the PS3. Then remove the single 8.5mm T10 security torx screw from the smart plate.

Smart Plate
Smart Plate
  Top Cover metal bracket
Top Cover Metal Bracket

Pull the smart plate toward the hard drive bay, then lift it off the body of the PS3. Be sure to keep track of the small metal bracket loosely held in the top cover.


Step 2: Removing Top Cover


Screw locations
Screw Locations

Remove the following seven screws: six 52mm Phillips screws and one 30 mm Phillips screw. Lift the top cover from its rear edge and rotate it toward the front of the PS3.


Step 3: Removing the Blu-ray Disc Drive


Blue-ray power cable
Blue-ray Power Cable

Disconnect the Blu-ray power cable from the motherboard. Pull the connector straight up and out of its socket.

Blu-ray drive
Blu-ray Drive
  Retaining flap
Retaining Flap

Lift the Blu-ray drive from the edge nearest the power supply and rotate it away from the chassis enough to access its ribbon cable. Flip up the retaining flap on the Blu-ray ribbon cable socket. Be sure you are prying up on the retaining flap, not the socket itself. Pull the ribbon cable out of its socket and remove the Blu-ray drive from the PS3.


Step 4: Motherboard Assembly


Control board ribbon cable
Control Board Ribbon Cable
  Control board screws
Control Board Screws

Pull the control board ribbon cable straight up and out of its socket on the motherboard. Then remove the two 12mm Phillips screws securing the control board to the lower case and remove the board.

Motherboard assembly
Motherboard Assembly
  Control board bracket
Control Board Bracket

Remove the following eight screws securing the motherboard assembly to the lower case: seven 12mm Phillips screws and one 30mm Phillips screw, and remove the control board bracket.

Bay cover
Bay Cover
  Remove the motherboard assembly
Remove the Motherboard Assembly

Use the flat end of a spudger to pry the hard drive bay cover away from the lower case and remove the hard drive bay cover. Lift the motherboard assembly out of the lower case.


Step 5: AC Inlet


Ground strap
Ground Strap
  Ac-In cables
AC-In Cables

Remove the 7.7mm Phillips screw securing the ground strap to the chassis. Pull the AC-In cables slightly away from the rear cover for clearance to access the AC-In connector. While depressing its locking mechanism, pull the AC-In connector out of its socket on the power supply.

AC inlet
AC Inlet

Pull the AC inlet out from the bottom of the rear cover, minding any of its cables that may get caught.


Step 6: Rear Cover


Bottom clips
Bottom Clips
  Top Clips
Top Clips

While lightly pulling the rear cover away from the logic board assembly, use the flat end of a spudger to release the clips along the top and bottom edges of the rear cover and remove the rear cover from the logic board assembly.


Step 7: Heat Sink


Motherboard fan
Motherboard Fan
  Memory card reader
Memory Card Reader

Disconnect the fan from the motherboard. Pull the connector straight up and out of its socket. Remove the two 9mm Phillips screws securing the memory card reader to the chassis.

Memory card ribbon cable
Memory Card Ribbon Cable
  Heat sink DC-In cable
Heat Sink DC-In Cable

Lift the memory card reader out of the PS3 enough to access its ribbon cable. Flip up the retaining flap on the memory card reader ribbon cable socket. Be sure you are prying up on the retaining flap, not the socket itself. Pull the ribbon cable out of its socket and remove the memory card reader. Disconnect the DC-In cables from the front of the heat sink. Pull the connector toward the front of the PS3.

Power Supply
Power Supply
  Brackets
Brackets

Remove the five 9mm Phillips screws securing the power supply to the chassis. Lift the power supply by its front edge to clear the two posts attached to the motherboard. Remove the power supply. Remove the four 16.5mm shouldered Phillips screws securing the heat sink to the motherboard. Remove the two brackets held under the screws you just removed.

Heat sink and motherboard housing
Heat Sink and Motherboard Housing

Lift the motherboard assembly off the heat sink. The heat sink may still be held in place by the thermal paste. If this is the case, gently pry the heat sink away from the motherboard housing. Make sure to not bend the copper piping on the heat sink.
Be sure to apply a new layer of thermal paste when reattaching the heat sink.


Step 8: Accessing and Removing Motherboard


Retaining flap
Retaining Flap
  Memory card flap
Memory Card Flap

Flip up the retaining flap on the Blu-ray ribbon cable socket. Be sure you are prying up on the retaining flap, not the socket itself. Remove the Blu-ray ribbon cable. Flip up the flap on the memory card reader ribbon cable socket and remove the ribbon cable.

Wi-Fi/Bluetooth flap
Wi-Fi/Bluetooth Flap
  DC-In motherboard cable
DC-In Motherboard Cable

Flip up the retaining flap on the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth ribbon cable socket and pull the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth ribbon cable out of its socket. Disconnect the DC-In cable from the motherboard and set it aside. Pull the connector straight up and out of its socket on the motherboard.

PRAM battery cord
PRAM Battery Cord
  PRAM battery
PRAM Battery

Disconnect the PRAM battery from the motherboard. The PRAM socket is delicate and has the potential to break off the motherboard. If possible, hold down the socket as you disconnect the PRAM battery cable. Rotate the PRAM battery slightly counter-clockwise and remove it from the motherboard assembly.

Hard drive cage
Hard Drive Cage
  Remove the hard drive
Remove the Hard Drive

Remove the blue 8mm Phillips screw securing the hard drive cage to the chassis. First push the hard drive cage toward the front of the motherboard assembly then remove the hard drive.

Hard drive socket
Hard Drive Socket
  Two halves
Two Halves

Remove the two 3.7mm #0 Phillips screws securing the chassis to the hard drive socket. Remove the two 8.3mm #0 Phillips screws securing the two halves of the motherboard together.

Motherboard cover
Motherboard Cover
  Remove the motherboard
Remove the Motherboard

Carefully feed the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth ribbon cable through the hole in the top motherboard cover. Remove the top motherboard cover. Remove the motherboard from the bottom motherboard cover.

Wi-Fi/Bluetooth retaining flap
Wi-Fi/Bluetooth Retaining Flap

Flip up the retaining flap on the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth ribbon cable socket and remove the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth ribbon cable from the motherboard.


Step 9: Removing Old Thermal Pads

Thermal paste removal
Thermal Paste Removal

Using the flat end of the spudger, remove the old thermal paste off the CPU and GPU on the motherboard, then using a degreasing cleaner, clean the CPU and GPU. In the same manner as previously described, remove the thermal paste from the heat sink.

Small square thermal pads
Small Square Thermal Pads
  Rectangular thermal pads
Rectangular Thermal Pads

Using your fingers or the flat end of a spudger, remove the old thermal pads on the logic board as indicated: large square thermal pads (red boxes in picture), small square thermal pads (orange in picture) and small rectangular thermal pads (located on the underside of the board, as highlighted in the second picture). Some of the smaller thermal pads may be attached to the metal casing that surrounds the motherboard rather than the motherboard itself.

Low setting on heat gun
Low Setting on Heat Gun
  Reflow the solder under the marked chips
Reflow the Solder Under the Marked Chips

Set the heat gun to "low" and let it run for a few seconds to reach operating temperature. Holding the motherboard upright, warm up the entire board with the heat gun. The board should be warm, but not too hot. This will prevent damage to the board caused by localized thermal expansion. Set the motherboard on a support so that the CPU and GPU are completely supported and level. The support should be something that can resist temperatures upwards of 300°C. Suggestions: scrap lumber, old books or cardboard box. In the next few steps, you will be reflowing the solder under the chips marked in red. Once you begin reflowing the chips, do not touch or move the motherboard until it is completely cool. Doing so can render the motherboard irreparably damaged.


Step 10: Reflowing Chips


Heat in a circular motion
Heat in a Circular Motion
  Thermal paste application
Thermal Paste Application

With the heating gun and using a circular motion, evenly heat (using low heat) each of the four areas for roughly 25 seconds each. Begin heating the GPU, marked "RSX", and heat the chips in a zigzag order. Ensure that the motherboard has completely cooled before continuing this guide. Apply a thin bead of thermal paste on the CPU.

Spread paste
Spread Paste

Using a stiff card or flexible plastic spreader card, spread the paste out thinly and evenly on the chip. In the same way, apply a thin layer of thermal paste on the GPU. Clean up any excess thermal paste off the motherboard.

Peel off thermal pad covers
Peel Off Thermal Pad Covers
  Apply fresh thermal pads
Apply Fresh Thermal Pads

Peel the plastic covers off one side of the new thermal pads and apply the fresh thermal pads to the motherboard in the locations indicated: large square pads (pictured red), small square pads (pictured orange) and small rectangular pads (pictured yellow).

Plastic covers
Plastic Covers

Peel the remaining plastic cover off the other side of thermal pads.

To reassemble your device, follow the disassembly instructions in reverse order.