Over the holidays I was visiting the family and noticed that my little sister’s Xbox 360 was suffering from what’s known as the “open tray” error. Now this was a blast from the past for me, because in high school I made a decent income on the side (for a high schooler) repairing video game consoles and flipping them on eBay. I would buy up DS’s and PSP’s with cracked LCD’s, iPods with bad hard drives, 360’s with red rings or bad drives, and pretty much anything that looked fixable to me. For the most part all I needed was to be able to identify the broken part, source the replacement, and replace it. The margins were pretty high and these parts were pretty easy to replace. I loved it, and it definitely beat making sandwiches at minimum wage. Since then however the margins had fallen and my time has gotten more valuable so I had to stop doing it my freshman year of undergrad. That chapter of my life though has taught me a lot of useful skills in electronic repair that have saved me hundreds of dollars over the years. Never pay anyone to fix anything for you, it’s a complete ripoff.
Now when I saw that broken 360 I had flipped dozens of those with that exact issue. Basically, the drive isn’t reading discs anymore because the laser is dying. You have three options: replace the drive, mess with the potentiometer to get more power, or replace the actual laser unit. Replacing the drive requires that you to backup your drive key and reflash it onto the replacement. Overall it’s more time consuming and expensive. Messing with the potentiometer will get it working, but it’s a temporary hack and will eventually put the laser in even worse shape. Replacement lasers can be found for $7 shipped so it’s an obvious choice. I offered to fix the Xbox for her, because she had some pretty new games and I felt bad she couldn’t play them. without a new Xbox. It was a really quick job and I took a few pictures for the gallery. Now I just have to ship it back which is annoyingly the slowest most costly step of this operation.