What Is the Red Ring of Death on the XBox 360?

The “red ring of death” on the XBOX 360 is one of several technical problems you’ll find with the Xbox 360 product. The red ring of death is the most notorious problem, because it forces the XBox 360 owner to either return their video game console for repairs or buy a new XBox 360 to play the games they have bought. Given that the XBOX 360 console costs over $500, the red ring of death became quite infamous in the video game community.

On the XBox 360 console, there are four flashing lights which ring the round on/off indicator. When the XBox 360 has “general hardware failure”, three of these four lights begin to flash, forming 3/4ths of a “red ring” on the front of the Xbox console. The failure rate of the Xbox hardware was so high that this general hardware failure signal began to receive media attention.

Causes for the XBox Red Ring of Death


There are a number of supposed causes for the Xbox red ring of death. One theory suggests that Microsoft used a cheaper manufacturer for application-specific integrated circuit provider for its graphics card. The new graphics card tried to dissipate too much energy into heat, and this rise in temperature damaged the hardware. Another theory is that air bubbles caused by cold solder joints may have led to tiny cracking in the console, though this theory has been argued against by others in the gaming community. Yet another explanation is the intercooler did not dissipate heat efficiently enough.

Most likely, some manufacturing defect (or a series of manufacturing defects) appears to have caused the XBox 360 video game console to overheat. When a console heats up, fragile components are going to break down much quicker than they should. All video game console designers develop methods to dissipate heat from the console, allowing for long life spans for the product. When Microsoft’s methods failed to work properly on the XBox360 console, the general hard ware failure became a major problem for both Microsoft and people who bought the new Microsoft XBox product.

Standard Warranty on the XBox 360

When the Xbox 360 first hit the shelves, the standard warranty on the XBox 360 was extended for general hardware failure to 3 years. Unfortunately, only about 16% of the consoles that failed appear to have been under the definition of the red ring of death. In October of 2008, a class-action lawsuit was filed in California against Microsoft for the general hardware failures.

If you have had an XBox 360 for less than 3 years time (a pretty good likelihood, given when the XBox 360 debuted), then if you encounter the red ring of death, you might be able to get the console repaired or replaced due to general hardware failure. If your Xbox console warranty doesn’t cover repairs for any reason, then you’ll have to either take the video game console to get repairs, trade it in for a new console or buy another one straight out.

This is a difficult decision, especially in the tough economic climate we now face, because you have a choice of either buying a new Xbox and hoping you don’t have another console failure, or switching to another brand of video game console and restarting your collection with video games. If you choose the latter, you’ll probably get 10% on trade-ins on the video games you sell at the used video game store. That makes it hard to switch video game systems, though I’m certainly not going to suggest you reward Microsoft for making an inferior product by shelling out more money for another XBox 360 video game console.