Why Original Xbox 360 DVD Drives Fail

Xbox 360 Logo

By now, everyone knows that the original Xbox 360 fails due to over-heating issues. Those that have ventured inside (or seen pictures or videos of those that have) know that criminally small GPU heat sink also played a role. And the introduction of the Xbox 360 Slim revealed another piece of the puzzle — the original Xbox 360s won’t shut themselves down if they get too hot.

But have you ever wondered why the DVD drives fail? Yes, it’s close the the GPU heat sink, but isn’t it protected? Not only is it not protected, it’s directly exposed to the GPU heat sink. This shocked me a bit when I cracked open the case of a recently-out-of-warranty working Xbox 360.

Actually, two things shocked me:

The CPU heat sink makes contact with the RF shielding. The contact itself didn’t bother me as that would make the RF shied pull double-duty as a heat sink. But the scarring left from CPU heat sink did shock me. I’ve seen netbooks and laptops pull similar stunts, but the heat scarring is NOWHERE near the level that the Xbox 360 produces.

The GPU heat sink makes contact with the DVD drive casing. This disturbed me right off the bat because that stuff is NEVER designed to act as a heat sink. It’s purpose is to protect the delicate workings of optical disc operation on top and to protect the circuity underneath. By exposing the DVD drive casing to such extreme heat, Microsoft guarantees DVD drive failure.

Xbox 360 Pro Heat Scarring

Update: After taking apart the Elite system which had the RRoD, I came to find that not only was the drive manufacturer changed (no surprise, everyone should now know about the Hitachi/LG > Toshiba/Samsung > Phillips/BenQ lineage) but so was the metal for the drive casing. The Pro system had the Hitachi/LG drive — the first-in-line drive with a flat finish similar to that of most PC DVD drives. The Elite system’s Phillips/BenQ drive had a shiny finish and exhibited no heat scarring whatsoever. And after looking at some pictures, it looks like the Toshiba/Samsung drive has a similar finish to the Phillips/BenQ drive.

What’s the point? I’m no expert on metal so I’m making a guess here. Different metals can have different heat conducting properties in both how they take it and how they allow it to spread out. If that assumption is correct, then the next conclusion is that the failing DVD drives are mostly Hitachi/LG and the reason is that the metal case just doesn’t transfer heat well and allows it to pool up,.