To start, I'll first just admit that I have always been an XBOX 360 fan boy. I have done my fair share of ridiculing the PS3, and even deterred people from buying one. But that was all before Gran Turismo 5, which literally had me convinced at first sight that a PS3 was something that I had to own. So, I bought one. A broken one. A YLOD one. Now, some might think that was a stupid choice, with good reason.
However, because I was an XBOX fan, I was very familiar with the Red Rings of Death, or RROD for short. And because I am an aspiring engineer and experienced tinkerer, I had gotten very familiar (and very good) at fixing consoles with this problem, thanks to the many helpful tutorials posted on sites like xbox-experts.com. Once I discovered that the YLOD is basically the same problem as the RROD, I made the choice to buy a broken PS3 and fix it. This tutorial explains how I did it, using tips, tricks, and methods I have used to fix XBOX's in the past.
BE AWARE THAT PERFORMING THE METHOD WILL VOID VOID VOID YOUR WARRANTY (which is probably expired anyway if you are fixing a launch console). I will also say right now that I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE for any damage you may do to your PS3 or your oven (I'm talking about a conventional kitchen oven BTW, not a microwave!) by following this guide, and I do not guarantee a fixed console. But I will say that if you follow this guide, your chances are good.
Step 1: Background & Theory
So what causes the YLOD? There are several prevailing theories, including a faulty power supply, corrupted hard drive, or virus circulating through the PSN (which is probably 100% false). But, while I'm not saying that these AREN'T the cause of your particular case of YLOD, I will say that most likely, the cause of your issue are the solder balls underneath the RSX (basically the GPU, or Graphics Processing Unit) and Cell BE (basically the CPU, or Central Processing Unit) chips. These can be seen in the picture on this page. This style of fastening the chips to the board is know as BGA, or Ball Grid Array. What you really need to know though, is that under the chips their are hundreds of tiny balls of solder, which pass information from the chip to the motherboard. These balls are constantly submitted to intense heat due to the chip above them, which is being cooled by a huge heat-sink and fan.
This would all be hunky dory, except for the lead free solder which composes the chips. The European Union, a political and economic union of 27 countries, banned the importation of electronics containing lead in 2006, which has caused most electronics manufactures to switch to lead free solder in their products, even those sold in the U.S. (thanks to Entropy512 for the information). Unfortunately lead free solder has two (theorized) weaknesses. The first is that with repeated, high temperature (higher than what Sony engineers intended) exposure caused by 8 hour Call of Duty marathons or similar, followed by rapid cooling of the console once turned off, the balls begin to lose their elasticity, and eventually crack. This causes an open circuit, and when you try and power the PS3 up again, you are greeted with the YLOD. The other theory is that over time, due to the aforementioned high temperatures, the balls begin to grow "tin whiskers" which cause a short with another ball nearby, once again causing the YLOD. Which actual cause it really is doesn't matter, because the method I outline here will fix both.
This magical method is known as an oven re-flow. In a nutshell, the oven is used to heat the PS3 motherboard up to a temperature high enough to melt the solder balls underneath the RSX and Cell BE chips. When the board cools, the balls are reformed with the help of flux, which gives them back their elasticity. Don't worry, the oven will not get hot enough to "liquefy" the solder and cause it to pool into one giant glob, but only enough to cause it to "goo up" and reform each individual ball.
After the re flow, high quality thermal paste can be used to increase the PS3's cooling efficiency and lessen the chance of the YLOD reoccurring. More info on and clarification will be given on this later.
Now, the last thing is to "critique" other methods of fixing the YLOD. The main one that you may have heard of is the heat-gun method, which works, but has several downfalls, the first of which in my mind is the price. A heat-gun costs like 50 bucks at your local hardware store. The oven method is almost free - all you need are some basic supplies, which are less than 20 bucks. The other big downfall is that the heat-gun warps the motherboard because it heats one area while other areas stay cool. This means that when you put the warped board back in the case and bolt it all in, it puts stress on the new solder balls, which is never good and will help to cause failure in the future. The oven method avoids this by EVENLY heating all areas of the board, keeping flex very minimal. The other "trick" I have heard of is using a blow dryer to heat up the innards of the console. While this also works, it does not re-flow, but instead will un-flex the motherboard over its whole area (similar to the low temp. oven bake detailed later in the instructable), which causes a temporary re-alignment of the cracked solder balls. However, after a few cycles of hard gaming, the board will warp back to the way it was, and the console will fail once again. The best way to fix BGA related failure is to use a professional re-flow station and griddle, but these cost big bucks, and would be pointless to buy for a one time fix.
Alright, lets do it.