How to Test for a Blown Capacitor on an Xbox
By Jeff Grundy
Updated September 22, 2017
Items you will need
Long dowel or stick, about ¼-inch in diameter
Phillips #2 screwdriver
Awl or flathead screwdriver
Jeweler's screwdriver set
Anti-static wrist strap
Anti-static mat or large anti-static bag
Multimeter (analog model preferred over digital type)
With proper care, your Xbox console should provide you with years of enjoyment. However, some batches of original Xbox and Xbox 360 consoles have reported issues of faulty capacitors that leak or pop, causing the motherboard to fail. If you are having problems with your Xbox shutting down unexpectedly or not booting, a bad capacitor might be the culprit. Using a few simple hand tools, you can remove the Xbox motherboard and inspect its capacitors to determine if they are the problem.
Shut down the Xbox if you have not already done so. Disconnect the power cord and other cables from the Xbox, and then place the console on a clean, flat work surface. Using both of your hands, grip the faceplate on both sides and pry it off gently.
Insert the dowel or stick into one of the white-ringed holes on the right edge of the Xbox front face. Continue to press inward on the dowel until you disengage the right-side locking tabs for the cover plate of the Xbox. After disengaging the locking tabs with the dowel, use an awl or flathead screwdriver to pry off the side plate. Repeat the process to disengage the left-side locking tabs and remove the other side plate.
Remove the left and right inner side plates by using an awl or flathead screwdriver to pry them from the outer chassis walls.
Use the Phillips #2 screwdriver to remove all of the retaining screws on the sides and rear of the Xbox case. Pull out on the inner front cover to remove it from the Xbox chassis.
Remove the screws on either side of the DVD drive in the Xbox using a jeweler’s screwdriver. Disconnect the power and ribbon cables from the DVD drive, and then slide the unit out of its bay.
Clip the metal end of the anti-static wrist strap to the Xbox chassis, and then slide the other end over your wrist. Disconnect all of the power cable and ribbon cable connectors from the motherboard. Remove the eight or ten screws that secure the motherboard to the bottom of the Xbox chassis. (Some Xbox motherboards have eight screws, while others have ten.)
Remove the motherboard, and place it face up on an anti-static mat or bag.
Inspecting and Testing Capacitors
Inspect the capacitors on the Xbox motherboard for signs of bulging or leaking with the magnifying glass. While visual inspection does not reveal charging or continuity problems with the capacitors, it does show obvious problems. If the motherboard has bulging or leaking capacitors, they are definitely defective and require replacement.
Power on the multimeter, and connect the leads to the negative and positive holes or terminals. Set the dial on the multimeter to "Ohms" or "Resistance." If the multimeter has a scale switch or knob, set it to the highest Ohms settings (usually represented by an Omega symbol.)
Touch the positive and negative leads of the multimeter cables to the legs of the capacitor if exposed above the motherboard. If the capacitor is flush on the motherboard and the legs are not accessible, note the position of the capacitor. Turn the motherboard over so that you can see the trace leads where the legs go into the motherboard. After you touch the two leads to the two legs or solder trace leads, hold them there for about three to five seconds to charge the capacitor. While charging the capacitor, you should see the needle on the multimeter move slightly.
Reverse the leads on the legs or trace leads quickly. Note the resistance change on the multimeter needle graph. If the capacitor is not defective, the needle should drop to almost zero and then rise very quickly. In most cases, the needle should rise to at least the 20,000-Ohm or 20k-Ohm level.
Reverse the leads on the legs or trace leads again quickly. Once again, the resistance should drop almost to zero and rise again quickly while the capacitor discharges. If the capacitor passed both tests, it is most likely okay and not defective.
In the vast majority of cases, capacitors are okay if they pass the visual and resistance tests. However, the above method does not provide an exhaustive test of the capacitors. Thorough testing of the capacitors without first removing them from the motherboard is not possible in many cases.
It is possible to test the resistance of the capacitors with a digital multimeter. However, the numbers on the display of the digital multimeter may change so fast that it might be nearly impossible to tell if the capacitor discharges properly.
You can perform only limited tests on capacitors still soldered to the motherboard. Consequently, tests performed with the multimeter may not reveal all bad capacitors. Capacitors that test okay with the multimeter may not perform at full capacity when in use. To test the capacitors thoroughly, you must desolder and remove them from the motherboard, and then test them with an ESR, or equivalent series resistance, meter.
Jeff Grundy has been writing computer-related articles and tutorials since 1995. Since that time, Grundy has written many guides to using various applications that are published on numerous how-to and tutorial sites. Born and raised in South Georgia, Grundy holds a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the Georgia Institute of Technology.