Broken Consoles Means “free” Hard Drives :D

December 13, 2011 - Games, General Computing

I don’t know how helpful this will be, but it sort of surprised me.

Basically, my brother has managed to go through three PS3 consoles. Each time, being the hardware expert he is – the type that would, when my 486 wasn’t booting up, open it up and make sure every connection was plugged into something – decided he could fix it himself. I think the issue was it wasn’t reading discs or something. Of course my advice was to send the bloody thing to Sony, but hey it was his warranty to void. What ended up happening of course was he ripped the entire thing apart, had absolutely no idea what he was doing and he ended up having to buy a new one since that one was no longer applicable for service. Anyway, I stumbled on the picked apart carcass of his old PS3- and I remembered that they have hard drives. So I opened up the HD access panel, took out the HD, and to my surprise I found it was just a 2.5″ SATA drive. To confirm this I plopped it into my laptop and installed Mint 12 on it. It’s mine now, heh. I’m not sure where his other picked part carcasses are, though. It’s a shame this laptop only allows for the installation of one Hard Drive, too.

Anyway, I didn’t know that they were so interchangable with PC parts in this manner, so maybe others might not be aware of it either. And I know quite a few people with dead consoles (PS3/XBox 360, etc) that they have basically shelved and forgotten about so if somebody needs an emergency Hard Drive this could be a useful nugget of info.

On a related Note, Mint 12 is extremely impressive… Although it primarily Reminded me just how heavily I customized the Mint 10 installation I was used to using on my laptop. The changes were mostly UI and I couldn’t figure out how to get my beloved Emerald working with a few quick googles so I swapped the drives back over. Now I could have messed about with Mint 12 by simply using the Live CD, but the Live CD is always somewhat slow and hardly really shows the OS at it’s true potential. And of course you can’t really add anything or make many changes to it, since it’s booting from a Read-Only medium.

Regarding Console Systems, though; is it just me, or are they basically just re-purposed PCs? The Xbox and Xbox360 are quite literally PC hardware specially built for handling gaming tasks, with specific software and also firmware “locks” to try to keep nosey people from finding out it’s really just a PC. This isn’t so bad, but it’s sort of stupid- I mean, really, the original XBox is essentially a Pentium 3 PC; The controller ports are just freakazoid USB connectors that they purposely changed just so they won’t be USB connections,and possibly to make them stay in better, USB ZIF slots aren’t what I would call the greatest for controllers. On the other hand, why change the entire pinout configuration- why couldn’t they have simply added some sort of additional mechanical connection that made them stay in better? And all the fancy crap about locking the Hard Drives from being changed by the user, and so forth is sort of silly. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to artificially limit what the device is capable of simply because you charge less for it than an equivalently configured PC.

And with all the add-ons for Console machines, such as keyboards, support for USB controllers, Hard Drives, Ethernet; the only real difference between consoles and PCs is that consoles always have the exact same hardware (things like GPU and CPU) that software developers can expect, whereas PCs have widely varying hardware; also, the Consoles are purposely locked down for reasons I can only guess.

This is all well and good, but as I noted, my Brother has gone through at least 3 Playstation 3 consoles. He wasn’t throwing them around the room or anything, I doubt he was abusive to them at all. And yet- they stopped working in one way or another. The failures of Xbox machines is no less of a problem. Meanwhile, my Super Nintendo is 20 years old and still works perfectly fine. A commonly cited “excuse” is that the machines are more complicated. Well, these people need to take a good hard look at the schematics for the various SNES ASIC chips and perhaps re-evaluate their definition of complicated. The only change is that newer consoles have more mechanical parts and they generate more heat and are squashed into as small a form-factor as possible. It has nothing to do with them being “more complicated” and everything to do with them being built out cheaper components than a PC (to justify the lower price point) and makes all hardware issues “non-user servicable”, unlike, say, a PC. This was a acceptable policy for things like the SNES or the Sega Genesis or earlier consoles of that nature; most of the issues that those consoles have are the result of loose connections that typically require Soldering knowledge to fix properly. But now, that sort of policy is sort of silly, since a lot of the problems with modern consoles are relatively simply in comparison, and many enthusiasts who know what the issue is could fix it themselves, if the machines themselves weren’t put together in a way that dissuades attempts to dissassemble- things like special screws (Torx); again, warranted when the device innards were generally something that wasn’t user-servicable to the typical enthusiast, but now it’s just a artificial barrier to make the machines seem less user-servicable than they are. And, more to the point, the fact is that they simply fail more often now, and it seems like it would be in the company’s best interest to make them more user-servicable since that would mean fewer warranty repairs. (Obviously they can keep their old “take it apart and void the Warranty” thing.

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