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My 60GB launch PS3 has finally given me a yellow light of death. Luckily I married into a second PS3 over a year ago (phew!), but my wife's Slim has neither most of my saved games nor can it play our PS2 games.

The Internet seems conflicted on whether or not reballing is a good long-term solution. People offering it say it can work great for years. Other people say it only works for less than a year, or that 60GB models specifically are a moneypit for repairs once they start having problems. I've found some places that offer reballing services, but these are relatively expensive (€80+ and with only a couple months guarantee) compared to just buying a new PS2. On the other hand, 150 hours of Skyrim and I don't even remember how much Disgaea 3 are on that hard drive.

Are there any statistics available on how long I can expect it to last? Or information about the reliability of the reballing process from someone who knows about electronics but doesn't have a financial stake in telling me it'll work great? Does success depend greatly on the skill of the repairer or will any professional get about the same results?

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I have no idea what reballing is, but couldn't you just pull both hard drives and use a computer to transfer saves from one to the other? –  Fambida Mar 1 '12 at 17:00
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@fambida as far as i know no he cant, not only does ps3 format its harddrives into a custom formatting status, it actually formats each individual harddrive to that specific ps3 console. sadly sony is way behind microsoft on hard data compatibility between its console systems. –  Ender Mar 1 '12 at 17:28
    
My quick search seems to indicate that you're hosed if didn't already back up the saves. –  MBraedley Mar 1 '12 at 17:45
    
Accpets my condolence. I had the same story some time ago : gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/12276/… –  Luc M Mar 2 '12 at 1:52
    
See also How do I get a dead bulky PS3 to work again (momentarily at least). As for reliability - reflowing (reballing) should only be considered a temporary solution. Using a professional reflow oven will give you much better results than a home oven, but as you said, if you don't have a friend who works at an electronics manufacturer and has access to one of these giant expensive machines, sending them to professionals can be quite expensive. –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Sep 11 '12 at 9:53

4 Answers 4

The ideal solution for you would be, of course to have a fully functioning 60GB PS3 last forever. This would give you both things you want: your saves and your backwards compatibility.

Reballing your PS3( re-soldering the chip joints )

This service: http://ps3repairman.com/ps3-repair-services/ps3-reballing-service

Offers to reball for 90$USD + 35$ Diagnostics Fee. He uses a leaded solder instead of Sony's lead-free solder and will have it back to you 48hrs after receiving it. He includes a 1-year guarantee on his solder. It's likely to last many years.

So you're looking at 125$USD + likely future repairs. This would meet both your goals.

Buying a PS2 and Transferring your Saves

Another option is to spend 100$USD or less on a new PS2 to play your old games.

Then sync your trophy data with the PSN server, and use a external HD or Thumbdrive to transfer all game saves and small data to your wife's PS3. Most saves are not copy-protected. You will be able to see this my inserting a formatted thumb drive into the PS3 and looking for a copy operation. I believe Skyrim saves can be copied, I am not sure about Disgaea 3.

Additionally, if you have PS+, your can sync your saves to the cloud, then pull them to your wifes PS3. Please take note that Sony holds your saves in the cloud for 24 hours before you can pull them to a new machine.

This solution would achieve both your goals and cost less, but you'll have another piece of hardware. Personally I believe this is a better long term solution.

Edit: Here is a topic attempting to list all save-protected games: http://www.ps3trophies.org/forum/general-ps3-discussion/62819-ps3ts-official-locked-saved-games-thread.html

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I realize Option 2 isn't available to you yet as your PS3 is disabled. But even after repair I'd consider backing up your saves for the future and consider migrating eventually to your wife's PS3 –  tiddy Mar 1 '12 at 17:55
    
IIRC, only copy-protected saves are held in the cloud for 24 hours before you can download them. The rest can be downloaded immediately. –  YellowMegaMan Mar 1 '12 at 23:27

The quality of a PS3 repair can vary greatly. Don't rely on it as a long term solution.

When my 60Gb died, I paid a 3rd party technician to fix it (though I believe he reflowed, not reballed). It only lasted 3 months, but that was enough time to sign up to PSN+ and copy my PS3 saved games to the cloud service (and my PS2 saves to a PS2 memory card). When it died a second time, I just bought a new PS3.

If you don't want to sign up to PSN+, you could, after your current PS3 is fixed, buy a new one and transfer the data over using the Data Transfer Utility. This method copies all data, including copy-protected material.

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For me, this only bought me three weeks, but at least it was enough to copy the drive as you say. (This was before PS+ existed.) –  Steven Burnap Mar 6 '13 at 3:54

Reflow will buy you some time, but reballing with the lead solder using a BGA repair station will fix the problem. Sony used cheap solder material and cheap thermal paste a good tech should correct these problems, and when you consider the price of a new console $ 150.00 is a deal on such repair .

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Yes, but getting back to the question... How reliable is it? –  Coronus Mar 5 '13 at 23:13

I've been fixing PS3's and XBox 360's since 2007 and run a business dedicated to just fixing game systems. Here's my 2 cents on reballing:

The original article is here: http://www.xcubicle.com/blog/rework-analysis-reflow-vs-reballing-repair-techniques-ps3-and-xbox-360-consoles


Today I'm going to give you a layman's education on how these systems are repaired via reflow vs reball. Lately, we've been getting a good number of customers coming to us telling us they received a reball repair, but in fact really just got a reflow. First let me explain these two seperate methods of repair:

The Problem: As we all know by now, the Playstation 3 (PS3) can suffer from the dreaded Yellow Light of Death (YLOD) and the Xbox 360 can be inflicted with the issue called the Red Ring of Death (RROD). This occurs due to a manufacturer's defect when creating the board and not accounting for the vast amounts of heat generated while playing with the system for long periods of time. Due to heat stressing the GPU (Graphics chip that controls all the fancy visuals in your game), the solder that forms a connection between the chip and the board eventually break. With this break, your system will throw that dreaded Blinking Light of Death error.

The Solutions: Reflow Method Repair - A reflow repair is when the system is taken apart, down to the bare motherboard. The GPU chip is then subjected to heating temperatures of about 300-450 degrees. The high heat is necessary for the solder points underneath the chip to become liquid so that it remolds back into place. After that, the system is put back together and tested to see if the repair was successful or not.

Reflow Time Break down: 10 min - Taking apart the system to its bare motherboard 5 min - Cleaning out the dust. Trust me - all old PS3's have a lot of dust. 5 min - Cleaning the old thermal paste goo off your old chip. 5 min - Preparing the motherboard for reflow (mounting it to a special frame) 5 min - Reflow Process to 300-450 degrees 5 min - Needs to cool down. You can't touch something that hot. 5 min - Unmounting the board & applying new thermal paste on the chips. 10 min - Putting it all back together

30 min - Stress Test (All systems must be stress tested.)

80 Minutes - Total Time for a REFLOW. This is assuming that you have no distractions! Even if you are able to do it in half the time, you'd be doing it carelessly.

Reball Method Repair - A reball repair is the same procedure as the reflow, but with a few more steps involved. Instead of just heating the chip and letting the solder underneath melt, the chip is heated to the point where it can be taken off the board. Now when the chip is removed, there is about 200+ tiny solder points that have to be cleaned off with a soldering iron. Oh, and not to mention that you must clean the board as it also contains 200+ solder points left over from the residue. After all that is cleaned, you have to now align 200+ tiny solder balls onto the chip with a special stencil and mount. Saying it is easy, but doing it is not. This alone is the most annoying and time consuming part of a reball as you pour mass amounts of balls onto a stencil in hopes that each of those 200+ balls are seated properly on the chip. After doing that, you have to remove the stencil and there will always be a few balls being knocked out of place that you have to look for. Once that is done, the chip alone has to be heated to the point where the 200+ balls melt onto the chip and stay there. After that you wait for it to cool. Then, you place it back onto the board and reheat that to melt the chip onto the motherboard. And now you have a reballed system! Sometimes it could be very frustrating if even one ball was misaligned.

Reball Time Break down: 10 min - Taking apart the system to its bare motherboard 5 min - Cleaning out the dust. Trust me - all old PS3's have a lot of dust. 5 min - Cleaning the old thermal paste gook off your old chip 5 min - Preparing the motherboard for chip extraction 5 min - Reflow the board to a very high temp & removing the chip 10 min - Cleaning off the old solder balls on the chip & board 15 min - Reballing the chip with new solder + aligning all the balls perfectly! (Very rare to get it perfect.) 10 min - Heating up the chip to melt the newly placed balls onto the chip only + cooling it down. 5 min - Placing the newly reballed chip onto the board & reflowing it to connect the chip + board together. 5 min - Needs to cool down. You can't touch something that hot. 5 min - Unmounting the board & applying new thermal paste on the chips. 10 min - Putting it all back together

30 min - Stress Test (All systems must be stress tested.)

120 Minutes - Total Time for a REBALL. This is assuming you have no distractions and you do it perfectly! Add extra 50 minutes if you missed a ball and have to do it all over again. And again. And again... Get the idea?

As you can see one repair process takes longer than the other. These times are more or less accurate as we have timed ourselves doing it over the years. In theory, yes reballing should last significantly longer after a repair due to the solder being changed, but from our experience and others in the industry this is not the case as even reballed systems can come back with the dreaded blinking lights issue. So be wary of those that claim a "permenant" fix. We know of some promenent players in the game console repair industry that has totally given up on reballing as it is not a cost effective solution to repair with the amount of time it takes vs the potential profit and success rate. In addition to not just us coming to this conclusion, please read another technician's same conclusion: http://prntscr.com/rximp

By all means if you do find a reliable person to do a reball, make sure you get one. Here are some points to take if you go for a Reball service:

Ask them how long it takes them to reball. (As documented in the timeline above. There's no way to do a reball in under an hour.) Ask them do they replace the GPU with a new one or do they just reball your original chip. If they replace it and if you know how to open up the PS3 and get to the GPU, use a permanent marker and mark the gpu! If they just reball your existing one, use the marker and draw an outline around the chip. If they did infact reball it, the markers would be erased because during the solder removal from the board, the tech has to wipe the board to remove residue. Ask them to make a video of themselves todo a reball repair. And last but not least, ask if you can watch them work! Most will say no if all they do is just reflow. I hope this helps anyone looking to repair their system and wanted to know the in's and outs of this repair business. Most of the time the consumer have no idea what they are getting or know the reason behind a reball or a reflow and why each one is used. Many console tech's throw this reball lingo around. So make sure you get a reball, if they say that's what your getting.

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Also important for the life of the repair is that leaded solder is used in place of the lead-free solder that was there originally. Leaded solder has environmental issues (hence why it's going out of favour) but is much more tolerant of the heat/cool cycle that gaming consoles go through. –  YellowMegaMan Jul 4 '13 at 7:07
    
regardless of which type of solder you use. the system is still subject to mass amounts of thermal stress. over time it will just croak out. sure you can change the gpu solder balls, but keep in mind every other compenent on the board has old solder too. i've seen memory chips that need reballing before due to the heat. its just not worthwhile to do a reball on every chip. –  duckx Jul 9 '13 at 22:00

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