With the console still retailing for $200 or more, some gamers may be tempted to buy it used, or may receive an older model as a hand-me-down. Anyone considering a 360 should be aware of some of the possible problems with these units, and what to do about them.
Different Models of Xbox 360, and Their Vulnerabilities
The original 360 was called the Xbox 360 Core, and is easily distinguished by the fact that it has a wired controller. These were among the most problematic Xboxes, as they were rushed to market with inadequate cooling systems and problems with their interior construction. The Core has been discontinued, but may still be available used.
The Core was replaced by the Xbox 360 Arcade. Other current models include the Xbox 360 Pro (sometimes just referred to as Xbox 360, but with the slogan "Go Pro" written on its packaging) and the Xbox 360 Elite. The Pro is white, like the Arcade, but has a chrome disc drive cover; the Elite model is black. The Arcade, Pro, and Elite models all have wireless controllers.
These newer 360 models had some improvements inside, such as an extra heat sink (a metal structure to conduct excess heat away from the processors). However, even units with such improvements have been known to fail over time, so prospective owners should know how to mitigate the danger.
Thanks to its high processing power, the Xbox 360 consumes much more electricity and generates much more heat than other game current game systems, such as the Nintendo Wii. It is therefore important to keep the unit as cool as possible to avoid long-term damage or failure of the system.
The 360 must have adequate free space around it, with nothing stacked on top of it. It should be on a hard surface (not carpeting, for instance), and some find it helpful to prop their 360 up on blocks for more airflow underneath. The 360's AC adapter (or "power brick") should also be kept well away from the console, as it too can get very warm over time.
Users can also take active precautions, such as pointing fans at their 360 while they play, or buying third-party cooling accessories. The Nyko Intercooler, for instance, attaches to the back of the 360 and uses fans to suck out excess hot air. An early version was reported to damage the system, though this complaint apparently hasn't carried over into new Intercoolers. As with the 360 itself, be careful when dealing in used or discontinued models.
What to Do If an Xbox 360 Shows the "Red Ring of Death"
If an Xbox 360 does overheat, a common result is what is known as the "Red Ring of Death" – three blinking red lights around the power button. Microsoft calls this "General Hardware Failure," and provides a three-year warranty for this specific failure (as opposed to one year for everything else). But the warranty is void if the Xbox has been opened up or tampered with.
Older 360s may still be under warranty for this problem, and while Microsoft requires proof of purchase, it has been common enough that some users report having had their 360s fixed or replaced with no questions asked. For those getting a second-hand Xbox 360, having the original receipt with it would be ideal. Anyone whose 360 fails while still under warranty should call 1-800-4MY-XBOX.
There are numerous guides available online for opening up and repairing Xboxes that flash the Red Ring of Death, but their effectiveness is anecdotal. Other fixes, such as the "Towel method" are even more dubious. They should only be considered as a last resort if the Xbox 360 is no longer under warranty.