‘Til the Blinking Red Light of Death Do Us Part

PS3

I can still remember the launch of the Sony PlayStation 3. While the supply shortage was nowhere near that of the launch of the Wii or Xbox 360, it was still quite difficult to get your hands on one. All I knew is that I wanted a PS3. I wanted one badly enough to pay $600 for one, even though I already had an Xbox 360. I found my PS3 on the second weekend after the launch, and I never looked back over the next 37 months.

Then, suddenly, tragedy struck. I was playing Fallout: New Vegas when the game came chugging to a halt, I heard a loud beep-beep-beep noise, and the game shut off. Fallout has a reputation for being very buggy and having frequent freezes and crashes, so I didn’t think too much of it. I restarted my PS3 and began to play Fallout again. After killing a couple Powder Gangers, it happened again. So I tried restarting the PS3 one more time, and within 10 seconds, before I could even get the game booted up, it crashed yet again. It was the dreaded “Blinking Red Light of Death.”

I spent the next few hours trying all troubleshooting ideas I could find on the internet. Some people have made claims that entering the debug menu and restoring the file system will fix the problem. No luck. Others claimed that removing the hard drive and re-seating it in the HDD slot will fix it. Nothing. I’d also read that it could be from the fans being clogged with dust on the inside of the machine, and that I should run a “fan test”. Not even close.

All of the other suggestions, tutorials, and walkthroughs suggested taking the PS3 apart and re-soldering the GPU and Cell Processor to the motherboard. Keeping in mind that I didn’t have the tools necessary to take on this job, and the fact that I thought Electric Engineering 201 & 202 were hard in college, I decided not to go this route. I didn’t feel like spending 2 hours attempting a fix that I would likely screw up and make things worse.

This left me with two options: send my console to Sony and have them repair it for $150, or buy a new PS3 Slim for $300. On the one hand, I could save a little money going the repair route. On the other hand, I could get a smaller, brand new console for only twice the money. My dead 60GB console has PlayStation 2 backwards-compatibility, but I realized that I never use it. The PS2 games that I still have are sitting exactly where they were when I first moved to Chicago, so it was unlikely I’d play them anytime soon. Also, I didn’t want to take the risk of the repair lasting only a short time before the console broke again. In the end, I decided to buy a new console.

PS3 Slim
The PS3 Slim is a lot sexier than the original model...

Going the route of buying a new console was not without its hurdles, however. The first challenge was retaining my game saves and purchased PSN games on the new console. Sony provides a “Data Transfer Utility” for transferring all content, even protected content, from one console to a replacement console. The challenge was getting the data off of the old console that doesn’t work for longer than 10 seconds. I thought I’d give it a try since I had nothing to lose.

In order to perform the procedure, both consoles need to be connected to different inputs on the TV, so I hooked the new one up to HDMI, and the old one up to Composite Video. This is when I discovered that my broken PS3 still worked fine running at 480i through the AV Multi Out port. I can’t imagine anyone would be satisfied gaming on a PS3 in 480i with a 55” Samsung 1080p LCD television, so I did the logical thing and just took advantage of the old console running long enough to transfer my data to the new console.

After the entire ordeal was complete, an astonishing 24 hours later, my new PS3 Slim is functioning as if it was the same console. If the Blinking Red Light of Death ever happens to you, I have two pieces of advice: dig out your composite video cable, and be patient with the data transfer utility. The result will be worth it, and will lessen the sting of dropping $300 on the replacement console.

Detailed information about all of the troubleshooting steps I attempted, as well as the ones I chose not to attempt, can be found aplenty on Google and YouTube, so I won’t go into further details here.