I cannot condone this behavior.Â However, I was desperate.
This past Black Friday (good timing) my ‘fat’ PS3 decided to shut off in the middle of marathon run of Borderlands.Â It happened while it was loading a new area, so I thought maybe it just crashed.Â Turned it back on, and after about 2 minutes it beeped and shut off again.Â I tried a few more times before giving up and asking the almighty Google what the problem might be.
The more I read, the more I started to suspect heat issues.Â That diagnosis made sense – if I left the unit off for some length of time, I could get maybe 10-15 minutes out of it before it’d die on me.Â Â I hoped that would be long enough for a transfer of all my save data.
It was not.
A common problem with these older models is the thermal compound they use between the CPU/GPU and heatsink.Â I figured I could at least try that.Â What’s the worst that could happen?Â I’m out $5 worth of Arctic Silver and some of my time.
There’s surprisingly little to the PS3 inside.Â Almost the entire bottom half of the unit is heatsink and fan.Â Once the case is cracked, the bluray drive, power-supply, hard drive, and a bit of wireless gear is removed, the mainboard and heatsink are pretty easy to get at.Â There are all sorts of ‘quick fixes’ floating around using hairdryers, standing it on end, putting the whole thing in the oven, etc.Â Forget those, take the thing apart.Â Give it a good cleaning while you’re at it.
Once I got the mainboard off the heatsink, I could see exactly what everyone was talking about.Â The thermal compound had turned into this chaulky gunk.Â Being the backyard do-it-yourselfer, I looked into my universal toolkit and pulled out some WD-40 to clean it off.Â After cleaning the excess and letting it dry awhile, I decided to throw the mainboard in the oven for a bit.Â Some people have reported success with ‘reflowing’ the board – heating the solder just enough to get it to flow back where it is supposed to be.Â Normally they use a heat gun for this (a hairdryer won’t get hot enough) but again, I used what I had handy.Â I don’t encourage you to follow me.
After letting it cool then applying new thermal compound, I put everything back together.Â I haven’t really stress-tested it since, but it stayed on overnight and completed the system transfer just fine.Â I’m not sure I’d trust it for much more than a bluray player at this point, or as a secondary one for gatherings… but at least my backwards compatible, 4 USB port having, memory card reading PS3 still lives.Â For now.