The Playstation 3, released in 2007, was released in two variants, just as the Playstation 2: a fat, and later, a slim variant. In this post, I will take a look at a common problem with the fat model: a noisy cooling fan. This include investigating causes, and potential fixes.
Playstation 3 disassembly
If you ever plan on disassembling the Playstation 3, you will notice two things: 1) the unit is easy to disassembly thanks to a rather “modular” build, which makes it very service friendly. 2) whoever planned the cooling solution for this chunky piece of console did a poor job.
So, let us start the disassembly. You will need a torx screwdriver, and a philips screwdriver for this purpose. The unit I am working on is a model no: CECHG04 (see sticker at the back of the PS3). First, remove the cover of the hard disk bay, unscrew the blue screw, and pull out the hard drive. Then, remove the torx screw marked in the image below.
Now, you may slide the top cover of. This step will reveal additional (Philips) screws under the cover. Remove them all and remember the length of each screw since they vary. Now you can slide the top part of the unit off, by gently pressing two plastic hinges (top of image).
This will reveal the power supply (to the left in the image below) and the Bluray-player (to the right in the image below). Gently lift off the Bluray-player, and disattach the flat cable without damaging it. Unscrew the screws surrounding the psu, and remove it. Also, remove the green controller board in front of the PSU.
Guess what, more screws! If you haven’t removed the green board shown in the above and below pictures, do it now. Also unscrew all the marked screws, wifi (?) connector, and remember their size and where they went. Lifting off the whole metallic plate will reveal the underside of the Playstation 3 motherboard.
Lift the motherboard out of its casing, and flip it to reveal the fan. This is the part that makes all the annoying noise! Unscrew the fan by removing the three marked screws below. Also, remove the fan connector.
Now you are able to separate the motherboard completely from the fan and the heat sinks. From here you have some options to try and fix the noise ( there are also additional options, which I will come to later):
- Remove all dust and junk from the inside of the Playstation 3.
- Replace the fan.
- Replace the thermal grease between the heat sinks.
Of the above steps, the first is of course the easiest. If the problem is that your unit is filled with dust, it will prevent the air from flowing effectively through the unit, and will cause poor cooling as a result. Some people actually make a hole in the cover of the PS3 above the fan, to get more air into the console.
If you want to replace the fan, just buy a spare one on eBay, or similar place, and fit it in your PS3. However, if the problem is that the thermal grease has become old and hardened, simply replacing the fan will not help. Instead, clean the thermal pads as shown below, and add thermal paste to them before you assemble your Playstation 3 again.
Now, my problem was: I performed the above step, but the Playstation 3 fan still started to sound like a jet engine after being switched on for a few minutes. Puzzling. Then, I ran into this post: https://flake.tweakblogs.net/blog/10754/mythbusting-the-truth-about-playstation-3-cooling
This guy argues that there is another problem with the Playstation 3 fat’s cooling: the thermal grease between the heat sinks, and the CPU and GPU units. And this makes sense of course: when you replace the thermal grease on your computer’s cpu, you do it between the core of the cpu, and the heat sink, right? Now, for the tricky part where I failed: you need to find a way to remove the heat sinks from the CPU and the GPU, using a very thin piece of metal tool, without damaging the processing units. I managed to get one of the heat sinks off, but sadly I used to much force on the other, which ended that the whole unit got ripped from the mother board, together with the heat sink: broken Playstation 3. I hope I get the chance to perform this fix on another PS3 fat, then I will be more careful.