by Bobby Hughes, Hazelwood West High School

Technology is great, except when it doesn’t work.

The red ring of death on a Xbox 360. Has Microsoft fixed the problem? Photo: Wikipedia Commons.

This has been the plight of Xbox 360 owners since the gaming console was released at the end of 2005. Gamers experience console failure signified by the “red ring of death”— three red lights around the power button indicating that the console would no longer function. Is the newly christened “Xbox 360 slim” the one to finally vanquish the dreaded red ring of death or is it another example of Microsoft’s questionable design of gaming console? 

This was the experience of Jay Siegel from the online St. Louis newspaper, “A couple of weeks ago my Xbox 360 froze in the middle of a game of Guitar Hero. My first reaction was uh-oh shut it down and restart it. Much to my chagrin, upon restarting it, I got the “red ring of death”.”

The failure rate of the Xbox 360 is due to several different factors including chip overheating and poor soldering of joints, according to, a gaming journalistic website. The original Xbox 360 used a 90 nanometer (nm) processor, which refers to the size of the transistors on the computer chip, according to The 90 nm processors in the Xbox required a lot of energy and produced a large amount heat during operation, according to It has been proposed by Dean Takahashi, a reporter with GamesBeat who examined the hardware of gaming consoles, that the internal temperature fluctuations causes the solder joints around chips to break, leading to console death. 

Microsoft has revised the Xbox 360 several times to correct the problem. They replaced the 90 nm processor with a 65 nm processor at the end of 2007. Going from 90 to 65 nm will reduce the size of the processor in the Xbox without a reduction in performance. The smaller 65 nm processor requires less energy and produces less heat than the 90 nm processor. The replacement reduced the number of the red ring of death incidences from 7% to 4%, according to However, the introduction of the 65 nm processor did not eliminate the failures.

The newest Xbox is being shipped to stores this fall, according to, an entertainment and gaming website. The Slim includes a new 45 nm processor that requires less energy and produces less heat than the previous iterations. Also, the two smaller exhaust fans in the console have been replaced by a larger single fan, according to, a videogame journalism website.

However, all may not be rosy with the newest version of the console. The newer Xbox is slimmer than the older versions. “In a smaller case you’d expect it is more difficult to dissipate the heat…” according to Matthew Humphries of, a technology website. The benefit from the newer processor producing less heat may potentially be offset by the console, allowing heat to build up faster. 

Microsoft has dropped the prices of the earlier versions of the Xboxes by $50. Thus, purchasers of the older version of the Xbox 360 can save money, but they are taking chances with the red ring of death.

So, will Xbox slim never have the red ring of death problem? Well yes and no, say experts. As stated on the website, “The new, slim Xbox 360 will never, ever, give you a Red Ring of Death. Put down your wallets, gamers—just because it won’t Red Ring doesn’t mean they’ll never have their bizarre overheating issues again. In fact, the only difference is that the new Xbox 360’s power sign cannot display the color red.”


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