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Removing leaking clock capacitor from original Xbox.


08/02/13: I've posted this on a couple of forums, but it bears repeating here. A friend warned me maybe a year ago that I should remove the clock capacitor from my xbox if it hadn't already been done. The capacitor is an aerogel capacitor and at least in the case of the xbox, pretty much has a 100% chance of leaking! (Yes, you could say all capacitors fail at some stage, but not as quickly or as messily as these!) When it leaks, it will corrode and damage the motherboard and/or any components in the vicinity, which may cause your xbox to fail. Why even use a capacitor for the clock instead of a battery like everyone else? This guy seems to have the answer. Not one to drag my feet, I finally did it today.If the capacitor is leaking, you don't even have to replace the capacitor, just remove it. Fix it now before it's too late! Note: apparently this isn't happening with V 1.6 xboxes, but it doesn't hurt to have a look anyway.

07/06/13: I was given a spare xbox, so I decided to open it up straight away. I determined it to be a V1.6. It has a newer type of clock capacitor. Look for a gold coloured capacitor near the DVD IDE cable. Mine looks fine, so I guess they are right and the V1.6 boxes aren't leaking.

18/03/15: Been a while since I'ver updated this. Just a few notes. First off, I had (I think) the same component come off on another xbox and it kept working. See below. Secondly, needless to say, if you are pulling apart old equipment there is always a chance it may stop working. Bear that in mind. Also of course, make sure the thing is working BEFORE you pull it apart!


I pulled my xboxes apart using this guide:


http://www.llamma.com/xbox/Repairs/crack_open_that_xbox.htm




 aerogel cap removed aerogel cap removed. surface mount component missing
 1AM surface mount component found
close up. location q7g2
xbox motherboard

CLOSE CALL

There were only ten screws in my xbox, so relax if like me, you kept recounting hoping it would add up to eleven! While my xbox was working when I pulled it apart, sure enough, that capacitor had been leaking. The acids (or alkalines, some nasty crap anyway!) was starting to cause damage. I removed the offending capacitor, and proceeded to clean up the mess with cotton tips and a little fresh water*. Then went over it again with cotton tips and methylated spirits. But wait a minute, surely there was a surface mount component just there! Crap, I had a look at the cotton tips, and found it stuck on the end! The crap had corroded the terminals and it was just hanging on by a few molecules of matter. Damn, is it going to work again? I gambled that it was something to do with the capacitor charging circuit and so it was now as superfluous as the capacitor itself. Put it back together. Works (",) . Just as well, my eyes aren't what they used to be (see pics)

 

Note, from what I can tell, the location of the surface mount component is called Q7G2. The component itself seems to have written on it 1AM and then a wishbone like symbol similar to the > symbol. It's at least 3 legs and if it's not a transistor I guess it's a simple IC, probably to do with charging the capacitor, which is why I hoped the xbox would still work regardless.

Update: 20/02/13: I have been told the component that came off is a transistor.  "Appears to be a 2N3904 variety of NPN transistor - which is a very common transistor.  The Q7G2 is just the part reference and the letter Q is commonly associated with transistors on schematics and PCB layout."


REMOVING THE CAPACITOR

When you crack open your xbox, the area you are looking for is in the bottom left of the motherboard in the last picture above. there is a group of three capacitors. I didn't think to take a close up 'before' picture so the close ups are after the capacitor had been removed. It is the second largest (or is that second smallest?) of the three. If it has leaked, you may find like I did that the acids have leached enough lead out of the solder that it is almost impossible to melt with an iron. All I did was to snap it off! So you probably won't even need a soldering iron for this job! So far, the xboxes I've pulled apart didn't even need to take out the motherboard because I just snapped off the capacitor. Be careful not to break anything else if you get a bit rugged with it though!

AFTERMATH

What happens when you remove the capacitor? Well, for most xbox owners nowadays, you won't see any difference. The capacitor was to keep the clock running when the xbox was unplugged from the wall. But it only ever kept the time for a number of hours (unlike say a Dreamcast, which had a battery and kept the time for years). Unless you are using it as a media centre, you probably have the xbox switched off at the wall more often than not, or even unplugged like I do. In either case, you just reset the time anytime you switch it on. That is, if you don't leave your xbox switched on 24/7 it really doesn't make a difference whether it has the cap in there or not, you'll still have to set the time. The actual time doesn't actually matter for most games, so just hit the A button when it prompts to set the time and you are good to go (",)

SOFTMOD

In the past there could be a problem with modding it (softmod only) if there was no capacitor (or indeed you have just left it unplugged and the capacitor has gone flat). You would get what was called a 'clockloop' where your xbox just keeps rebooting over and over again. My xbox is hard modded as I have it just for retro gaming (Steel Battalion FTW!) so I'm not an expert, but it seems the latest versions of the softmod correct this by hardsetting the time each time it boots. Further info here . At the very worst you can fix it and replace the old capacitor with a new capacitor (maybe mount it somewhere it's not going to leak all over the place!)

*Note:

There has been some talk about whether I know what I'm doing when I don't put lemon juice all over the place, which seems to be the mantra on teh innerwebz. Truth is, I'm not sure what is leaking out of the capacitor. My guess is it's alkaline in which case maybe a little vinegar might be fine. If it's acidic though, then a little bi carb of soda mixed in water would be better. In general, if you don't know if it's alkaline or acidic, then it's best just cleaning it with fresh water (distilled if you really want to or you have 'hard water'). Both acids and alkalines have one trait in common- they don't 'keep on keeping on'. Think not of Steve Mcqueens 'The Blob' where the monster just gets bigger the more it consumes. Think instead of Alien, where the acid blood burns its way through a number of floors of the Nostromo. It doesn't quite go all the way through the hull though because it 'runs out of steam'.

My vague memories of high school chemistry informs me that an acid is stripping off electrons (or molecules, or summink) off what ever it's attacking due to a lack of its own electrons (or molecules, or summink). Thus each molecule of the acid solution that collects an electron (or molecule, or summink) is rendered neutral. And I think an alkaline is the reverse, where it is forcing an electron (or molecule, or summink) onto whatever it is attacking. Investigate for yourselves the correct reason why, but the upshot is that once the alkaline or acid has 'messed up your shit' it can't keep doing it. It becomes neutral.

What I'm trying to say is that whatever crap has leaked out onto your motherboard has done some damage. When you mop it up with fresh water, you've removed the vast majority of it. Do a good job and I bet you've removed at least 99% of it. The trace amounts that are left are either already neutral, or will fast become neutral, causing no discernable damage. If you use some agent other than water, then you need to clean that up with- water! Otherwise you've just replaced one type of damaging compound with another. Think about it- would you really want lemon juice in your ipod? My two cents worth.





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