When a PlayStation 3 Dies

The Yellow light of death – a term that can send shivers down the spine of any PS3 owner. Though not as notorious as Xbox 360's Red Ring of Death, it is equally as debilitating and may appear without warning.  It is caused by the overheating of the device and/or loose connections and there are a couple of quick D.I.Y fixes including the time-tested switch off and on again, as well as some less technical voodoo. However, if none of those do the trick then the system is rendered useless - an expensive plastic brick.

A fortnight ago the yellow light paid me a most unwelcome visit, resulting in my PS3 - a Japanese model from 2008, out of warranty and a long way from home - being scrapped. This initially resulted in some long overdue attention for my Xbox 360, though I eventually and reluctantly shelled out for a new PS3 Slim model a few days later. This was not the first time that I have bought a replacement console this generation, but hopefully it will be the last.

That day I had been so looking forward to getting home and playing the final hour of Yakuza 3, a game that had gripped me from the outset. I was chomping at the bit to reach the conclusion of Kazuma Kiryu's struggles and discover the fate of the Sunshine Orphanage, but it was not to be, as the yellow light of death claimed my precious, hard earned saves.

I was trying to write a blog post earlier that evening but my laptop was being defiant, crashing over and over and jizzing out some technical drivel about system failure. Suitably pissed off, I thought to myself - "What would Kazuma Kiryu do?" Quickly deciding that it wasn’t a good idea to rip off my shirt and put someone's head through the computer screen, I settled on playing my PS3 instead. However, the God of electronics did not deem my suffering to have been sufficient that evening. I moved from my desk to the sofa, pressed the PS button and looked on in horror as my PS3 managed one final whimper before putting on a deathly display of yellow lights.

After ripping off my shirt and weighing my options, I decided to remain calm and further investigate the cause of my malfunctioning console. Some brisk googling revealed that my PS3 was indeed finished, but I was optimistic that I could simply transfer my old HDD along with all my game data to a new model and was relieved to discover that a local department store were doing a excellent price on a no frills, 160GB slim. The next day I bit the bullet and reserved a new PS3. Two days later I was placing it under my TV, setting myself up for more disappointment.

As with most things electronic, it was not the plain sailing that I had envisioned. It turns out that you cannot directly transfer your existing HDD to a new system, as the first time you insert a new drive it will automatically be formatted, deleting everything and providing an unwanted clean slate, insensitive to the hours you spent scouring the plains of Grand Pulse for treasure or fragging bloody Helgahst.

I have been cautious with my game saves since having some minor issues with my original HDD. Upgrading to a larger hard drive in the past, I had meticulously backed up all my saves to a 80GB flash drive ipod just in case the transfer didn’t quite go to plan. I have tended to do this back-up once or twice a year ever since, usually when there is something else more important that I’m supposed to be doing. In doing this I came to notice that some of my saves, around a third, were copyright protected, meaning that I was unable to back them up to an external drive using this method. The only way to transfer these files is to run a Transfer Utility which requires two PlayStations running simultaneously, two HDDs, an ethernet cable and a couple of hours to burn. This is all well and good for people with friends and working PS3s, but im an anti-social loner with a faulty console, so I was fucked.

Apparently, while you own your copy of the game, you don’t necessarily own your progress within it, so once my PS3 went tits-up I lost all saves made within the last 3 months, November being the last time I did a back-up, along with anything that was copyrighted. This brings to the fore a long running debate of ownership which I don’t intend to dwell upon here, as frankly I can’t be arsed.

After transferring my remaining saves to the new HDD, I decided that a spot of Singstar with the wife would help lift my increasingly dark mood. Drinks and Singstar have become somewhat of a Saturday evening staple in our house. We had long been searching for a replacement for our old Saturday night routine in Tokyo, which usually consisted of food, drink and long sessions of karaoke with friends. Singstar, though limited, has so far done the trick. Over the last few weeks we have started to accumulate a nice library of DLC songs that weren’t on the initial disc, which at £1.15 a pop are not too extortionate.

Heading into the Singstar Viewer to re-download our 20+ DLC songs, I discovered that our tracks could not be accessed by our new PS3, as in the eyes of Sony they belonged to my old system and not necessarily my user name. I leapt into action and phoned Sony, calmly informing the very helpful lady in customer services of our situation and how I would appreciate said songs being unlocked for use on our new PS3. She obliged, but informed me that it could take up to 7 days to come into effect. Taking a victory of sorts from our conversation, though perturbed that we would be taking a week sojourn from karaoke, I got on with something else. Two weeks, three separate phone calls and far too long spent in call waiting later and the songs are finally accessible.

Game saves, Singstar and my bitching aside, I had gotten a fair amount of mileage from my PS3, having played it pretty much every day for the last 3 years. It had even survived a plane trip half way across the world, carefully encased in bubble wrap and checked-in as my rather heavy carry-on luggage. Even still, I can’t help but think that the current generation of consoles are so much more susceptible to breaking than their predecessors. Of course they are more complex than previous generations and therefore there are so many more things that could theoretically go pear. However, I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect a relatively expensive piece of hardware to last more than 2 or 3 years, unless you are buying an Ipod. My launch era PlayStation 2 still works fine despite being my console of choice for six solid years, ditto for my PlayStation, Mega Drive, Master System and multiple Saturns. I have found that the current generation of consoles and handhelds have not fared nearly as well, as I'm already on my second Xbox 360, second PSP and now sadly, and most costly my second PS3.

So what lessons can be learnt from this cautionary tale?

1. Back-up your data
2. When it comes to electronics, always expect the worse
3. They don't make them like they used to
4. Fear the yellow light

Now if you will excuse me, I need to furnish my PS3 with airbags.

Odds & Ends

1. With my PS3 briefly out of commission I decided to finally play Gears of War 2, though with Dragon Age 2 arriving yesterday I doubt I will see it through to the end. It is certainly fun in short bursts, and I can see the potential for increased silliness in co-op, but it is all a bit too samey for me. If I see another cavern, tunnel or the inside of a giant creature I think I will scream.

2. I have long been a Twitter skeptic, so you may be surprised to learn that I have been considering opening an account for toomanywires-uk. Though it pains me to admit it, I like the idea of being able to share some video game musings that I cant flesh out into a blog. Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate my stance on Twatter and jump on in. God help us all.


  1. Very sorry to hear about your ps3. I saw your caption on your psn id and was wondering what happened but I noticed you were still playing so I didn't think it was anything major. I have a bad feeling about mine. I have a launch 60GB and certain games push it hard. I just started playing Red Dead again and the fan starts right away and is really loud. Some games aren't so bad though. I just finished Dead Space 2 and everything went smooth.

    Have you looked into psn plus? I'm sure you know but last night there was an update that gives plus users cloud saves. you have to save your games seperately but each one takes like 2 seconds. Plus is finally starting to be worth the money. Along with getting a bunch of cool games you can also set it up so whenever there is an update the ps3 will turn itself on and update. I have it setup so it does it while I'm at work. really convenient.

    anyways, I'm rambling. I just hope it doesn't happen to me because I gave away my ps2 when I got mine so if it does crap out I will need to buy both a ps3 and ps2.

  2. I had noticed that the fan was getting louder and louder in the months before the YLOD, so best keep an eye on it.

    Cloud saves? For the first time, im inrigued by PSN Plus. Sounds like a really good idea.

    Cheers for stopping by.


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