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In March 2007 I got an Xbox 360. From the beginning it seemed that the optical drive wasn't as good of quality as it should have been. It would occasionally kick me back to the dashboard saying that the disc couldn't be read. The disc could be close to perfect and it would still occasionally do this. I called tech support on this and after being told to clean the connectors on the cables that connect the console to my TV, I hung up on the idiot.

Anyway, in February 2008, I was playing a Lego Star Wars game online and the system just locked up. This was the first time I played this game online so I just figured it was a glitch. The next night I was playing Uno with a friend of mine. It locked up. We tried Bomberman Live and it locked up again. I turned on the small fan I have nearby and we were able to play a few rounds. When we were done I popped in The Orange Box and was able to play for about 10-15 minutes before it locked up.

I called tech support and in the end, we arranged for this console to go back in for repairs.

I read that an estimated 1 in 3 Xbox 360 consoles will fail. There is a known problem with the hardware and Microsoft has actually ackowledged it and extended the warranty on all systems. Basically MS released the console before it was thoroughly tested and over time, the inadequate cooling causes some internal connections to fail. Most of the time, you get the "red ring of death". I got the "lock up and garble the display".

When I was talking to the tech support guy, I asked him if I was going to get an improved console or if I was just going to get a system that would last another 11 months and need to be repaired. I was told that I would receive a new 65nm system.

When the call was done, I did some research.

The Microsoft Xbox 360 has been through a few hardware revisions. There is no obvious indication of this and unless you know what to look for, you won't know what you have. I found out how to tell what kind of system you have on this page. At the time of this writing, there are three versions of Xbox 360 hardware. The first version is what the console launched with. About the time the black Elite consoles were launched, the second revision (called Zephyr) was introduced. This had a few changes but the systems still ran very hot. About the time the special edition Halo consoles were releases, the third revision (called Falcon) was introduced. These boards featured CPU's made with a 65nm process instead of the 90nm used in the previous boards. This means the chips were smaller and needed less power, so there would be a lot less heat generated.

Based on what I learned, I went to Best Buy and started looking at the numbers on the consoles they had. On February 29, I purchased a new Xbox 360 that was manufactured on January 15. When I took it home and game it the thorough inspection, I confirmed that it was a Falcon. After playing with it for a while, I can tell you that this revision runs significantly cooler than the previous. A pre-Falcon will put out more heat after 15 minutes of sitting idle at the dashboard than a Falcon will after hours of DVD playing! So the problem has been fixed. Once I get my new Falcon-based console, I can sell it to a friend of mine and all will be well.

The replacement finally came and after inspecting it, I saw that this was NOT a Falcon. After another call to tech support and more fishing through the obnoxious phone menu system, I was talking to a real person who almost spoke English. In the end, I was told that I had a working system and if I thought there was a problem (like the fact that it ran way too hot and would inevitably fail in a few months) I could send it back and have it inspected. If they found something wrong, they would send another - maybe a Falcon, maybe not.

A this point, I figured that I have a working system and sending this back would cost me nothing. Also, I get a free month of Xbox Live when the console is returned. I decided "game on"! I will play hot potato with this console until I get what I was promised, and this page will document the adventure!

When I sent this one back, I printed out the following message and included it in the box:

"When my first Xbox 360 died (sn: xxxxxxxxxxxx) I was told by the tech support rep that the replacement would be a 65nm based system. This replacement console (sn:xxxxxxxxxxxx) is clearly not a 65nm system. Please send me a new console like I was originally promised."

April 10, 2008

I got the following email from Microsoft today:

This e-mail is to let you know that we have received your request for service. However as of today, we have not received your Xbox console and would like to verify that you wish to continue with the service.

My reply:

I dropped it off at a UPS store on April 2nd. According to tracking (1Z 687 4R0 90 0152 490 2), you received it two days go. Now send me the Falcon like I was promised a couple months ago!

After sending the email I realized I had the date wrong. They actually got it 3 days ago, not 2. My bad.

April 14, 2008

I got a replacement console. By "replacement" I mean the same one I sent in. I called support and after being told by the nice support guy that this one would work fine (though the warranty would cover just the next 3 months), I asked to speak to his supervisor. After waiting on hold for a while I got through. I explained the whole story again and was once again told that he would set up a return and it would be up to the service team as to what would happen.

April 16, 2008

Got the return box today. A couple things were different than the last times. First, this came and went back through FedEx instead of UPS. Second, the instructions requested that I ship back the power supply as well. This is an interesting development. The Falcon systems have a different power supply so maybe they will finally honor their promise this time! We'll find out in a couple weeks!

April 22, 2008

Got the replacement console. By "replacement" I once again mean the same old overheating one I sent back. For what it's worth, it does look like I got a new power supply this time. That or they wrapped the one I sent in in green plastic. Anyway, assuming a new power supply, it looks like a new identical power supply does not fix a bad processor design. Weird. I ran it for a while to make sure (yup - still too hot) and called tech support. After a long wait, I talked to a very friendly lady who set up the next repair order without any trouble. She did mention making a note and hoping to get this resolved. This was probably something they all said and this was the first time I understood it.

April 28, 2008

Got the return box (Fedex again, power supply goes back again) and sent it off (again).

May 2, 2008

Got the same old unit back again. Called back to send it in again. I talked to a very friendly support rep who put me on hold for about 10 minutes to talk to his supervisor. Apparently, the repair team doesn't have the ability to replace old defective consoles with new ones. Strange, because I could go down the street to Gamestop or Walmart or Best Buy and have a new system in about 10 minutes. You would think that the company that makes them would have that sort of access. Anyway, we set up another return (Fed Ex again, replace power supply again), and he said he made a note to replace it with a Falcon but he made it clear that it didn't necessarily mean it would happen. He also said something about calling back tomorrow to make sure the order went through. That part was kind of weird.

May 6, 2008

Got the box. Sent it back. Same old drill. Oh, I did call in on Saturday like I was told and everything seemed in order. I'm still not sure what that was about.

May 12, 2008

Got the same old console again. Called tech support. Talked to a total dick who almost spoke English. He had me power up the old console without the harddrive, and when it ran cool (because I JUST POWERED IT UP), he told me to delete some files off the hard drive. I could not believe what I heard so I asked again to confirm - he told me that a full hard drive makes the system run warmer. This is almost as stupid as the support rep who said cleaning the video cables would make the optical drive read better. By the time he had the reference number for me, this console (which was just running idle - I didn't even connect a controller) was putting out more heat than my Falcon does after gaming for several hours. I was assured that I would just get another repaired console at best.

When I finally got the reference number, I told him that if I got a couple years worth of XBox Live for free, I would quit sending in the console. He told me that this was not the XBox Live department, so they couldn't get them. "So you don't have any communication between departments there?", I asked. "No" was the response.

May 21, 2008

First, an apology. When I referred to the last tech support guy I talked to as a "dick", I was being far too nice.

So I had been waiting for longer than normal for the return box and the website for tracking repair order statuses has been down for several days (typical Microsoft quality) so I called in to see what was up. It turns out that Dick never actually initiated the repair order. The reference ID I was given (1067070857) was just for the call or something (I couldn't quite understand).

Anyway, this time, I talked to a nice and helpful lady who listened to my story (which I am starting to get tired of telling) and tried to talk me out of sending it back (no red ring means no problem). When she put me on hold to set up the repair order, it took a lot longer than normal. When she came back, she said she had her advisor on the line and wanted me to talk to him. Good deal! I wanted to talk to him anyway.

He tried to discourage me from sending it back, as I would almost certainly get the same thing back. I told him I was just going to keep sending it back until I got the Falcon I was promised. I offered to call it even if they settled some other way, such as a year or two of XBox Live service. He put me on hold for a bit and when he came back, we set up an escalated repair order. This would be followed more thoroughly and I would get a call to make sure things were happening. We'll see...

May 22, 2008

On the way home from work today I got a call. It was a guy (who spoke perfect english) calling to let me know that he was going to put in a request to have this console replaced instead of repaired. Still no guarantee on a Falcon but at least I have someone looking into it.

May 23, 2008

Got the box today, filled it (power supply and all), and sent it back (Fedex). Honestly, I am expecting a different old console, but we'll see...

June 2, 2008

I have gotten about 3 calls since I sent it back. Every few days I get a verbal update whether there is actually an update or not! And they all speak perfect English! Anyway, today I got the replacement console and it does appear to be a Falcon! A few things of interest:

While this sounds like a happy ending to this whole kerfuffle, there is one catch - the power supply is dead. I'm not even kidding. They finally send me the right console and they send me a bum power supply. I actually got a call from MS as I was plugging this console in to test and when I told them about the bad power supply, they said they'd get a new one here right away. Once that comes, this whole ordeal will finally be over - and just a few months before the Jasper hits the shelves!

June 16, 2008

After several calls from the support rep and no power supply (he verified that it must have gotten overlooked), another power supply was sent to me. On Saturday (June 14) I got a note in my mailbox saying that there was a package for me in the office. The office was closed already, so I would have to wait until Monday. On Monday I saw there was another note. I was expecting a few other items, so I thought nothing of it. When I went to get my packages, I saw two identical boxes from Microsoft. Apparently the first one had gone through after all! When I told the tech support guy about it, he said I could keep both of them. Nice! For whatever reason, he is going to call back Wednesday to make sure everything is all right. THEN we can call this a done deal!

June 18, 2008

Got the call. Done deal!

DateEventCountSerial #Reference #
February 28Xbox 360 fails. Service request initiated.Return #1011997163807???
February 29Purchase new Falcon console at Best Buy.
March 24Got replacement console (not Falcon). Initiate a new Service Request.Receive #1006816763807???
April 1Got box
April 2Returned replacement systemReturn #20068167638071062636946
April 10Got email saying they have not received the system. UPS tracking indicates it arrived 3 days ago.
April 14Got the same console returned to me. Arranged for another replacement.Receive #20068167638071062636946
April 16Got the return box and returned the old console again (FedEx).Return #30068167638071064450046
April 22Got the same console again (with new power supply?) and arranged for the next swapReceive #30068167638071064450046
April 28Got return box and send the console and power supply backReturn #40068167638071065224439
May 2Got same old console again. Arranged another return.Receive #40068167638071065224439
May 6Got box and returned console (Fedex, with power supply)Return #50068167638071066183366
May 12Got old console again. Got the next return set up.Receive #50068167638071066183366
May 21Got the return set up for real... Grr...
May 23Got the box and sent it back.Return #610679333321066183366
June 2Got a replacement... and it appears to be a Falcon!Receive #6
June 16Got the replacement power supplies