The YLOD. The Yellow Light of Death. This is the dreaded sickness that PlayStation 3 owners fear. With my PS3 nearing its sixth birthday, it finally happened to me. While hardly as prevalent as the Red Ring of Death in the Xbox 360’s early days, the flashing yellow light is still cautiously feared amongst the PS3 community.
In order to cope with this grim occurrence I’ve incorporated the experience into my regular feature, The Sunday Seven. This isn’t a guide on how to fix the problem yourself, no, no, that’s a different fire hazard for a different day and for someone else to tell. This is what was running through my mind as I tried to come to terms with it and ultimately how to bring it back to life.
Hopefully, this won’t happen to you. So use this as a cautionary tale, an amusing anecdote by someone clearly a bit too much attached to a console or as a comparable accompaniment to your own past woes. Let’s face it; this is probably some form of karmic retribution any smugness of having a PS3 when everyone’s 360s were melting.
The Calm Reaction (Denial)
As per usual, I was still messing around with my phone after turning on the PS3, but after five minutes, I was alerted by a sharp beeping noise followed by the power going out from the PS3 as the fans fell silent. Over the years, we’d had moments like this before, more often than not from a brief power surge. This time it was different.
The front LED was still flashing red, so I tapped the PS button on the controller but to no avail. Not to worry, sometimes it sulks a little from a sudden shutdown, looks like I’ll have to get up and turn it on I thought. I walked over, noticing the grim stillness in the air that imbued the scene every time an aging piece of tech failed on me. I reached for the power switch. Flashing red lights, beeps, and silence. No yellow lights, but a sinking feeling.
Preparing For the Worst
My general PlayStation knowledge has taught me that flashing red lights can mean overheating, so I didn’t worry too much at this stage. Unless you count worrying as rechecking every forum I could find before inspecting every vent for wads of dust. The vents were reasonably clear from the previous vacuuming (probably years ago), but I removed the hard-drive and allowed everything to cool down in another room before vacuuming every vent I could find, probably infuriating any spiders that lived inside. Then I set about clearing space on my external hard-drive, just in case I could power-up the PS3 long enough to make a backup.
A few hours later, I knew it was time for some answers. If there were still problems to find, they were going to be bigger issues than my PS3 overheating. After bringing the cooled down console back into the room and carefully attaching the HDMI, ethernet, and power cables, I gave the power button a gentle tap. Two red lights, the briefest of yellow flashes, and a series of red ones. It was brief but so very yellow.
Why oh why did I keep sneaking onto Google image search to look at those pictures of all the younger slimmer PS3s? My PS3 was sat just behind the laptop’s screen, but it knew what I was doing. How else should a console react other than to steam with rage until it melts half of its internal components? Or maybe it lost sight of all that was good in the world after I forced it through Aliens: Colonial Marines. We barely survived Duke Nukem’ Forever and Amy. What a fool.
Considering Buying a New PS3
Fuck knows why I was looking for a way out of the most-reliable console I’ve ever owned, but one of the most invading emotions in-between all the anger and despair was a guilty mix of hope and greed. Maybe it was time to lay the old girl to rest and pick up something new and maybe blue? So, this is what bastards feel like when eyeing up the nurses while their missus lies in her hospital bed.
It could have been worse; I could have got the Xbox 360 out of the wardrobe. But hey, I’m not a monster. With PS4 more than likely not supporting PS3 discs, holding on until November was hardly an option either.
Keen to not cave and buy a new model, with a cheap plastic finish and a distinct lack of ability to play PS2 games in buffed-up HD (Okami is the mutt’s nuts on my PS3), I decided it was time to fight back and save what over my gaming years had become my favourite console.
Checking online, I saw plenty of mentions of Sony’s own repair service costing over £100 and them possibly sending back a different, refurbished PS3. Having recently being sodomised for shoddy repairs to laptops, my netbook dying, former c**ting flatmates not paying bills and having to buy a new motorbike battery, I decided I was going to have to shop around for a more reasonable deal.
With the arrival of the new Tomb Raider game merely days away, I was keen to get the PS3 fixed fast. Despite putting ‘Preston PS3 repairs’ into Google, I was met with dozens of links to sites based all over the country. Courier jobs, with long waits and prices varying from £60 to £100.
Filling in a never-ending stream of online forms, that immediately crashed upon submission became a frustrating nightmare as I tried to send off the details in order to obtain quotes. It being 1am, I wasn’t expecting replies anytime soon. Amongst all the London-based repair shops helpfully sent by the search engine, I managed to find a few actually based closer to home. Phone numbers jotted down. It was time to sleep.
It was about 10 seconds after waking up that I remembered that my PS3 had succumbed to yellow fever. In my usual morning grogginess that tricks me into thinking a previous night’s horror was just a dream I ambled over to my PS3 to check on the reality. An angry beep with the same set of flashes robbed any appetite for breakfast.
A quick 9am phone call, clearly met by someone that hadn’t even had time to take his coat off, resulted in a confirmation of the dreaded Yellow Light of Death. But for the first time since those first angry beeps, I began to believe that maybe there was hope for the aging console, such was the confidence at being able to fix the problem in the voice on the other end of the line. £50 was a considerably better price than anything I’d been able to find elsewhere too.
Further problems arose when I couldn’t even find a bag big enough to carry the hefty PS3 safely on the motorbike, so had to rouse my better half from bed on her only day off for a lift in the car. I guess she gathered that putting up with my Tomb Raider-less face on Tuesday wasn’t going to be fun for anyone. So, with a face like someone taking a sick pet to the vets, I slumped into the passenger seat, resting the sick PS3 on my lap and headed out to the repair shop.
As I sit and write this, I’m still waiting for an update on how the PS3 is doing. The repair shouldn’t require a hard-drive wipe, which would obviously be devastating. The Vita has tried to step back into my life in the meantime, but even the latest Sly Cooper game struggles to hold my attention as I find myself wondering if my old PS3 will breathe again. I even picked up a book, but seeing as the book was part five of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series and I’ve struggled to get into it from the start, that wasn’t much help either. Mainly because I’m getting the feeling it’s building up to a Lost-style disappointment for the finale in a few books’ time.
Is Yours Next?
Whatever the result when the PS3 comes home, I’ve decided to try to protect myself from such issues on a more regular basis. This means performing regular backups, which won’t take so long if I stop hoarding demos for ages before playing them and I delete some of the massive install files for games I haven’t played in years. Well, except GT5, I’m not losing that hour again next time I give it a go. And MGS4. And Fallout. Shit, you can see why I’m not good at this.
Various sites will tell you which way is better to position your PS3, vertically or horizontally, but they all emphasise keeping the vents dust-free with regular vacuuming. Naturally, you should have a decent amount of space around the console to allow it to breathe. Looking back though, everyone seemed surprised when I said my original PS3 was still running and I can’t think of any other bits of tech at home that has run so well for so long. It’s been a great six years, fingers crossed for a few more yet.
So, I better go and buy some fruit and a Get Well Soon card before calling into the repair shop tomorrow, but keep your fingers crossed for me Dealspwn readers. We’d love to hear any thoughts you have on how crumpling technology has affected your gaming over the years, be it on PlayStation, PCs or the, ahem, invincible Xbox 360.