CT Scanning an Xbox | Red Ring of Death

April 7, 2022 |

Scan your passions

Justin Olsen


Written by:
Justin Olsen
Business Development – Inspection Services


I’ve been a fan of video games since the early 90s. My first console was the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). I’ve been an Xbox owner since the early 2000s, ever since I could buy one independently. Playing video games is a fun pastime; you become immersed in the world of the story. There are challenges and puzzles to solve, and it’s become a way for people across the world to spend time together.


The Red Ring of Death

In December of 2021, Xbox released a 6-part documentary titled Power On: The Story of Xbox to commemorate the 20th anniversary of their first video game console. In that documentary, an episode featured the famous issue faced after the release of the Xbox 360—the “Red Ring of Death.”

While watching this episode, I got the idea to try and see if we could identify the issue using Avonix’s X-ray/CT Systems. I hopped onto eBay and found an Xbox 360 that suffered from this issue and brought it in for scanning.

CT scanning Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) is a frequent occurrence here at Avonix. With so many things happening on a circuit board at any given time, finding an issue can be a challenge.

Common challenges include:

  • Navigating the high- and low-density materials present.
  • The size of the PCB versus the resolution needed to see potential defects.
  • Identifying the location of the issue.


The Root of the Issue

To make things a bit easier for this project, we disassembled the Xbox to get better views of the board. After looking thoroughly through the boards using 2D Digital Radiography (DR) imaging, we identified a couple of areas of interest for our 3D CT scans.

The issue causing the Red Ring of Death was this: The PCB would get hot when the console was being used and cool down once the console was no longer running. The solder balls on the board were not designed for repeated hot and cold cycling and would eventually result in cracking.


The Results of the Experiment

Unfortunately, nothing we found showed without a shadow of a doubt what the issue was. But this was a fun CT scanning experience for me, and we were able to collect some very good data we want to share with everyone!

The documentary on YouTube notes that Microsoft spent over $1.15 billion to correct the issue with already-sold consumer Xboxes. Microsoft displayed some of the same core values during this issue that Avonix Imaging is known for: Authenticity, Competency, and Empathy. They made a mistake and owned it. Their willingness to say it was their fault and fix the affected Xbox consoles for no charge to those who purchased shows empathy towards their customers.

Thank you for coming along on this journey with me. Stay tuned to our blog for more “Scan Your Passions” studies.


More imagery and technical details from the study:

Systems Used:

  • Nikon XTV 160kV | Transmission Head | Varex 2520DX Panel
    • 2D DR: Magnification .009m (9um effective pixel size), binned to 2x (true pixel size round 5um), 160kV, 31uA
    • 3D CT: Xtract (laminography), 25um voxel size, 160kV, 106uA
  • Nikon XTH 225kV | Rotating Target | Varex 1621 Panel
    • 3D CT: 140um voxel size, 220kV, 636uA
Share with a Friend