Last week, I resurrected a friend’s PlayStation 3. The unit was prone to overheating and would only play a game for about 20 minutes before shutting itself off, so his family stopped playing with it at all. I told my friend I’d give it a look, and it was obvious right away that the console itself wasn’t faulty per se, but that the family simply hadn’t taken good care of it.
The PS3’s many, many vents and heat sinks were completely covered in dust bunnies and grime. So I went about opening up the unit and thoroughly blasting it with canned air. I used alcohol wipes to carefully clear away the grime that was caked onto the system’s chassis – thankfully, the circuit board, disc drive and other electronic components were perfectly serviceable.
The system powered on and worked like a dream afterwards. The fan was simply working overtime to try and compensate for all of the dust and couldn’t manage to keep things cool. I’ve owned systems much older than this PS3 that have never gathered half as much dirt – so what happened?
Any video game console with vents will eventually build up dust, but this was an extreme case. In many instances, blowing canned air or even simply wiping away whatever dust has built up around a system’s vents will suffice. But if the unit sees a lot of use in a suboptimal space in your living area, it may suffer the same fate as the family’s PS3.
The system belonged to a rural household, where it was nestled right by the house’s back door. Additionally, one of the family members occasionally smokes nearby. So the PS3 was surely grabbing grime from cigarette smoke and then caking outside dust on top of it – a bad combo.
Continual exposure to cigarette smoke absolutely will impact the life of electronics. There’s a reason almost everyone on eBay or Craigslist selling second-hand electronics will mention whether it’s from a smoking or non-smoking household. It’s not just the lingering smell – smoke will cause grime to build up in a computer’s many nooks and crannies. Even the circuit board can be affected with heavy enough use, which is disastrous.
As we all know, there’s plenty of shoddy electronics out there – but all major video game consoles are built durably. The Xbox One is a solid enough system, but I wouldn’t exactly call it the peak of human achievement – yet mine still runs flawlessly despite clocking thousands of hours on it over the course of nine years. The only maintenance I’ve done is wipe a dust rag across its vents every few months.
I’ve still got a working Sega Genesis, which was manufactured in 1989. The earliest systems ran cool enough they didn’t require vents, but it wasn’t uncommon for dust and grime to build up on cartridge ports and make the contacts weak. “Blow the cartridge” was the prescribed solution to most issues in those days, and it usually turned the trick. It’s better to use canned air than your own lungs however, as a little accidental spit can obviously harm circuit boards.
My point is that most video game systems, peripherals and games don’t need much in the way of maintenance – a little bit of care and common sense goes a long way. Don’t smear your fingers on the underside of discs, don’t store controllers facedown, don’t crinkle up wires at sharp angles, etc. I’ve also found that TV stands with closing cabinets are a huge boon, causing systems to collect dust much slower. Be sure they have ample ventilation, though – a console in a compact space can overheat in a hurry.
Some of these issues can be alleviated via digital game purchases, but there’s obviously no digital replacement for a PC/console or peripherals. Stick to the simple guidelines listed above and you’ll find your video games – and electronics in general – last as long as you need them to.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Spokane7 email newsletter
Get the day’s top entertainment headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.