Is Cooking Your Motherboard a Surefire Fix for Faulty Electronics? Hold the Oven, Says iFixit

While the classic "towel trick" to fix a Microsoft Xbox 360 is of questionable value, an oven can work — with caveats, the company warns.

Gareth Halfacree
25 days agoSustainability

Repair-centric firm iFixit has offered expert insight into whether or not it's possible to fix faulty electronics by sticking them in your kitchen oven — and the conclusion, while promising, comes with a healthy caveat attached.

"Sometimes, DIY repairs lead you down some questionable paths in the hope of even a temporary fix. That’s how we got the myth of the phone-saving rice treatment. Sure, it feels right, but if your device works afterwards (and keeps on working), it’s luck, not the rice being effective," iFixit's Manuel Haeussermann writes. "One of these repair 'hacks' was invented when the Xbox 360 was released to widely reported hardware failures, indicated by the 'Red Ring of Death.'"

That hack was designed to work around what was believed to be a manufacturing defect in selected models of Microsoft Xbox 360 console: wrap the console in a towel and run it for at least half an hour, which was believed to overheat it to the point that it would — depending on who you asked and their understanding of the melting point of various materials — melt and reflow either thermal pads and paste, epoxy, or the solder connecting components to the motherboard.

"Although there are a myriad of reports from people claiming that this process did fix the issue temporarily, it’s fair to say that intentionally forcing your console to overheat has the potential to do more harm," Haeussermann suggests. "But what about using a more controlled source of heat? That’s the idea behind putting your Xbox 360 motherboard in an oven."

Putting expensive electronics in a home oven isn't a great idea for the electronics or for the oven, but Haeussermann points out it that the process is at least based in science — and, as many makers know first-hand, it's entirely possible to convert an off-the-shelf toaster oven into a reflow oven for soldering work. Unlike wrapping your device in a towel, this generates enough heat to actually melt the solder — and Haeussermann even recounts the tale of a colleague restoring a faulty Apple laptop in a home oven, albeit with the repair lasting only a few months.

"Does this mean you should actually chuck your electronics in your oven and hope for the best," Haeussermann asks. "Probably not. While the 'hack' might get some additional use out of hardware believed to be dead for good, it’s important to point out that even when it works, it’s highly temporary and has the potential for more damage down the road.

"Unfortunately, the option with the highest chance for a lasting fix in most of these cases is a reball or rework of the ball grid array of the non-functioning chip. This involves desoldering and removing the chip, like the CPU or GPU, reapplying the ball grid array (BGA) and refitting the chip on the fresh BGA."

Haeussermann's full write-up is available on the iFixit blog .

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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