The Yellow Light of Death (often abbreviate YLoD) is a common problem which affects non-slim models of the Playstation 3, although there have been some reports of it happening to slim PS3's as well. The YLoD is similar to the RRoD of the Xbox 360 in that both are usually caused by the cracking of the lead-free solder used on the CPU and GPU due to thermal fluctuations. The solution is to either reflow the solder (using a heat source such as a heat gun or conventional oven) or have the chips professionally reballed, which involves removing the chips and reattaching them with fresh, lead-based solder.
For a typical case of a YLoD caused by a motherboard failure, the following happens when you touch the power button:
- 1. The green and blue lights come on for around 1.5 seconds, and the fan turns on.
- 2. The fan and blue light turn off and the green light turns yellow for about a half-second.
- 3. The PS3 beeps 3 times and the yellow light turns blinking red.
- 4. The light will remain blinking red until you touch the power button again, returning the console to a steady red standby light (or you can hit the main power switch).
Pressing the disc eject button can have one of two effects. In my experience, if I haven't attempted to turn on the PS3 in a while, pressing the eject button will turn on the system and the same steps as outlined above will occur. If you attempt to turn on the system with the eject button again, the PS3 will beep three times and the light will remain unchanged in a state of solid red. In the case when the system does turn on after pressing the eject button, the drive will rattle some, but it will not eject the disc if there is one inserted. You will either have to wait for the console to be fixed, or you will need to remove the disc manually by taking apart the blu-ray drive.
If the problem is related to the power supply, the fan will not turn on and the green light will last only about a half a second.
YLoD's often occur suddenly. Usually what happens is that the console shuts itself off during gameplay, resulting in a blinking red light. Attempts to turn the system back on result in a YLoD, although sometimes the system will come back on. Even if the system does come back on, it could foreshadow a future YLoD, and I would recommend taking steps to prevent it from occurring, though at that point it may be inevitable.
The YLoD most commonly affects older fat model PS3's, especially launch models with hardware PS2 backwards compatibility. If you have a fat PS3, you should keep an eye out for these warning signs.
- Fan blowing cool air under heavy use: After playing a game for an hour or so, put your hand behind the PS3 and feel the air coming out; if the air is cool, then that means the fan and heatsink are not properly dissipating the heat. A healthy PS3 should blow out hot air when under heavy use, and the fan should shut off quickly once the system is shut off. If your PS3 blows cool air, then it is at risk of overheating. This problem can be remedied by cleaning the dust out of the console and fanblades and applying new thermal paste the the heatsinks covering the CPU and GPU.
- Self shut-downs: If your PS3 has ever turned itself off, a YLoD is likely to occur in the future. This is especially true if the PS3 has shut off under light use when normally you can play it for hours without issue. A shut down under heavy use indicates overheating, and while overheating is thought to be the main cause of the YLoD, it is not an immediate threat and only contributes to the weakening of the solder. If the PS3 shuts down after only a few minutes of gameplay, then likely the solder under the chips has already begun to crack, and the slight thermal expansion of the board as the processors heated up caused a connection to be lost. If you are able to turn your PS3 back on after such an event, consider yourself lucky as usually the YLoD starts with a sudden shut down. However, the YLoD may still be inevitable, and so you may want to gather materials to repair it now so you're ready when it finally happens. Backup your files if you can and be grateful that at least you were warned.
The YLoD indicates a general hardware failure and could be related to the motherboard, the power supply, or even the blu-ray drive (unconfirmed).