Instructables
Picture of Xbox 360 Cold Cathode Lighting
Cold Cathode Fluorescent Tubes emit a beautiful glow at night, and this instructable serves to document the process of installing two 4 inch CCFL tubes to the side vents of an Xbox 360.

I believe the results of custom lighting are worth voiding a Xbox 360s warranty, which dismantling the casing will do. Though working on the innards of a $300 piece of electrical equipment, this mod doesn't require much soldering skill, however patience to do the job correctly is a must.

I hope you complete this instructable and can light up night after night of gaming!

**** Disclaimer ****
I am not liable for any damages or injuries that occur from following the instructions of this tutorial. Opening a Xbox 360 will void the Microsoft provided warranty, and there are capacitors and other electrical components that can cause electrical shock. Though it is highly unlikely you will be harmed by the innards of your Xbox 360, be aware that the use of a soldering iron and hot glue gun can be harmful to human skin. Use caution, use common sense, and have a fun time completing this mod
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Parts Listing

Soldering Iron
Any cheap heat based soldering iron can complete this mod, I used a 15 watt Radioshack iron.

Solder
I suggest .022" Silver Rosin Core Solder for easy flow and solid connections. Can be purchased at a local Radioshack.

Dual 4" Cold Cathode Kit
The main colors to choose from are red, green, or blue. CCFLs require an inverter to step up the voltage to light up the tube, going from a 12 volt source to 680 volts into the tubes. Any kit will come with an inverter, tubes, and switch.

Here are some sites for purchasing the tubes. I have used all of these sites whenever I need CCFLs to shop around for prices, my favorite is MountainMods.com linked below. You can purchase R,G,B from most of them, while more unusual colors (UV, Yellow, Pink) may cost more due to lower demand.

MountainMods has been around for awhile, and has excellent prices on CCFLs in every color. I recommend you seek them out first for their price, selection, and service. Here is their CCFL page.
MountainMods.com Cold Cathodes

Other Sites to Browse:
Dual Blue Kit - Xoxide.com $5.00 + $3.00 shipping
Dual Near-Ultraviolet (UV) Kit - Xoxide.com $8 + $3.00 shipping
Dual Green Kit - Frozencpu.com $10 + $6-8 shipping (Ripoff price)
Dual Red Kit - MountainMods.com - $6 + $4-6 shipping

***Note, I'm not sure what has happened in the past year or so, but it's becoming really hard to find Dual CCFL kits that aren't a complete ripoff (i.e. Above $7 for both Dual 4" and 12" kits). If the links on this page die, since retailers update their urls and deactivate items, find your own kits through google. I've bought over 50 CCFL kits, no matter where I buy them from, they are all the exact same tubes and inverters (Some places, like Oznium.com which I do not reccommend, put new boxes on the inverters, which doesn't make a difference), a higher price does not mean higher quality.***

Electrical Tape
Vinyl electrical tape, the thicker the better. Used to hold wires together and shrink the inverter.

Diagonal Cutters
Used to crack the outer acrylic tube on the CCFLs, we will need the fragile glass tubes by themselves to fit inside of the Xbox 360.

Hacksaw / Flathead Screwdriver
The cubes at the end of each CCFL hold the acrylic tube onto the glass tube. Sometimes they can be twisted off with some force, but usually the cube will need to be cut and cracked open with a flathead screwdriver.

Knife or Wire Strippers
We will use the wire that comes with the CCFL kit, it is 20 AWG (gauge) wire, large enough to be easily handled, able to withstand the stresses of being put inside a Xbox 360. Stripping will be for the very tips that will be soldered to the 360 motherboard.

Hot Glue Gun & Glue Sticks
Holds the CCFLs in place, along with any stray wires.
1-40 of 162Next »
msimons16 months ago
What is the impact of using a 30 watt iron versus 15? Are there any places on the board (that you know of) where a 15 watt needs to be used? Finally, why .022 solder and not a simpler one like .02. Thanks
QuackMasterDan (author)  msimons16 months ago

Using a 30 watt iron will heat the terminal very quickly, so quickly it can detach from the PCB. 15W for traces and terminals, 30W for wires and pins. The 15 can do both, but the power pins where the PSU connects can take a long longer. For the wire diameter, 0.2 is fine, 0.22 is just a more common wire diameter sold in hobby stores.

Hey, this question is a little off, but maybe you would still know about it. I was using my soldering iron to solder the circuit board of an xbox 360 drive onto a different drive. And I didn't realize that it was set to 895 degrees. So when I desoldered one point, all of the solder came off, leaving only a brown spot on the motherboard. When I try to solder a new wire onto that particular point, it won't stay put. Have I permanently damaged the board, or is there a possible solution to this?
QuackMasterDan (author)  rashidannahas1 year ago
You have permanently removed the terminal, it is never coming back. With that said, you can very carefully solder directly to a trace on the board, by scraping off the outer PCB (green) coating and tinning the trace.

I've written about this in one of my other Instructables:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Xbox-360-Wireless-Controller-Ring-of-Light/step5/How-to-Fix-Broken-Terminals/
HAVE TO MAKE THIS PORTAL THEMED XBOX IS SO COOL!!!
Thunder63222 years ago
Would the xbox need another cooling method because of the cathode lights?
Taranis2 years ago
I have a question regarding soldering to the motherboard.

I have purchased these: http://www.ebay.com/itm/PVC-2-x-24cm-Blue-Car-LED-Light-Flexible-strip-12V-/270755022303?pt=Motors_Car_Truck_Parts_Accessories&vxp=mtr&hash=item3f0a41c5df#ht_4407wt_1093

and I was wondering, can I solder the strips to different terminals?

e.g Strip 1 goes on (4,9) and strip 2 goes on (5,10).

Oh and I was thinking of running both strips to a master switch, but my searches on Google have been fruitless.

So do you where I could get a master switch which I could wire 2 strips to?

Thank you so much for all your help, and BTW your Instructable on the controller ring of light was excellent for me (I made two nub mistakes, I soldered one LED the wrong way around (Derp), and accidentally ruined a terminal on P3, hence your solder bridge method was well- received) It works great now.


QuackMasterDan (author)  Taranis2 years ago
Yes, you absolutely can run your wiring using the two sets of terminals. If you're going to use a switch, I think it's easier to just use one terminal (picture attached). All of the pins are actually connected to pins of the same color.

As far as switches, I recommend not using a switch, since the lights will power on or off with your 360 anyways. If you are committed to using a switch, just drive to your local electronics store or Radioshack. They're overpriced, but they have a good selection. You would probably want a small but long cylinder button-switch for compactness sake, maybe just having the button pop out through a side vent-hole near the HDD or something.

I've made a picture for you on how to wire this up if you want a switch. It would work just fine without the button too.

Good luck!
Untitled-1.jpg
maxpower492 years ago
Would 6 inch Cold Cathode lights work? ther eare a few dual ccl kits on ebay but they are all 6" kits.
QuackMasterDan (author)  maxpower492 years ago
4" barely fits, if you use 6", you'll have to place them somewhere else in the box, and there isn't much room.

I have links on the parts page that lists multiple sellers that sell 4" kits. 6" is normally much more rare than 4" or 12".

Link to Step One
Taranis2 years ago
Just out of interest, which model of xbox 360 do you have??

It has been such a long time since I saw a white one......

BTW, both look very cool (plus points for using portal). They must garner a few approvals when you switch them on at night.

When you buy those CCFLs, do all those parts come with it? By which I mean, the Dual CCFLs, the inverter, and the wires (or all the parts in the first picture of step one:parts list)

Thankyou in advance for any reply, you are just too awesome.
QuackMasterDan (author)  Taranis2 years ago
Awhile back, maybe a year, I tried installng four CCFLs, well they shorted out and started pouring smoke out the back of the 360 to my horror (note, don't allow two different CCFL inverter lines to touch the same metal plate =P).

After that I swapped out all of the CCFLs for about 4 meters of insulated 5mm LED ribbons. Basically, I crammed about 150 LEDs into the box, the LEDs are always on, and it is extremely bright, perhaps too bright.

A CCFL kit contains everything (tubes, wiring, inverter, velcro stickies), just CCFLs will be tubes. Here is a picture of the 360 as it is today. Sorry, horrible iPhone camera picture, but it will do.
IMG_0089.JPG
Ah, well, sorry to hear about the short circuit. The new LEDs still look great, although you are right, their true form is not really shown in the photo, due to the deficiencies in the iPhone camera.

But I must ask you some questions, and once again I thank you from the bottom of my heart for any reply.

Who is your preferred merchant of the LED strips?

Do you know why on the PCB, where you presumably connected the LEDs, there are 3 extra positive 12V connectors, and 2 extra negatives? Oh, and is the 12V supplied through these terminals AC or DC?

Wait, did you also replace the blue CCFLs in your other xbox 360?
QuackMasterDan (author)  Taranis2 years ago
So, for the first question. why are there multiple 12v and ground lines? Most of the circuitry is connected via traces, which as you can tell, are less than 1mm in thickness. The thickness of a "wire" has a large effect on how much electricity can pass through it. Too much electricity through a wire, especially one as thin as some of these traces, and you can get a) interference, basically electrons hopping off the sides of the wire, which causes the ICs to go haywire b) damage to a trace, the wire can actually burn through, but that requires a ton of juice, and c) extra stress on all the circuitry, which wears everything down faster, especially the PSU. So more lines means more ways  to distribute the load. It's also done for the simplicity of wiring everything on the PCB. Yeah... simple....

For the second question, they run on DC. Almost all small electronics run on DC. AC is great because of its ability to transmit electricity long distances. Once it gets to your home, power adapters are used to convert to DC, and voltage massively drops, such as from 120v AC to 12v DC. If it's low, as in below 20v, it's probably DC.

Third question, yes, the Companion Cube box has had its blue CCFLs also replaced with LEDs. It's currently on loan to a friend so I can't snag a picture.

Finally, my preferred merchant. I only buy LEDs from eBay, Honk Kong manufacturers are so insanely cheap and they sell direct to the consumer through eBay. It's the difference between paying $0.80 for a Luxeon 3W, and $7 from an American distributor. The only thing you're selecting between is price really, shipping is always run through the same channels (three week shipping though...) since every LED seller I've seen has been from Hong Kong.

For the LED waterproof strips, I usually buy through winterlamlam, Good golly, a 120cm 5mm strip for $9? Great prices.

Hope that helps, enjoy!
Wow, thank you.

Ok so if I wanted an orange glow from my LEDs (I am going to attempt a Gears of War Case), would you recommend either the red LED strip, or the yellow LED strip?

Honestly you are so much more informative than anyone else I have talked to on this subject, it really is astounding to me how knowledgeable you are on the subject.

And yeah, 3 weeks is a fair time for postage, but at it is free of charge!
QuackMasterDan (author)  Taranis2 years ago
Don't get yellow, it won't look yellow, more similar to the color you see on a blinking router or ethernet status light. No good chemical combo has been found for orange LEDs yet that is cheap to manufacture. I recommend just getting a red insulated 5mm LED strip, you should be able to cram a 120cm in there, will take a bit of squishing though. To put it simply, orange isn't an option, because cameras lie and I have yet to see an orange LED that is accurate.

The colors you get to choose from, are: Red, Blue, Green, Ultra-Violet, and White. For being able to tell how much a camera lies, look at the color of the light, then look at the color of light it is casting around it. In the attached picture, the blue CCFLs look kind of indigoish, but they are more accurately the deep aquamarine you see cast. Same for the reds, they aren't orange, they're vivid red. It's not that people run photoshop tricks, it's just that the CCDs of cameras have a very different range of sensitivities to color than human eyes.

So... red.
IMG_0059.jpg
Ah, so would I be able to use these?

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Blue-2-x-30cm-Flexible-Under-Car-LED-Strip-Neon-Light-/280684993247?pt=Motors_Car_Truck_Parts_Accessories&vxp=mtr&hash=item415a211adf#ht_4209wt_1078

I was also wondering where abouts inside the metal casing you installed the leds.

Did you install any between the dvd drive and the metal casing?

I am really going to try this for myself, and your expertise would be appreciated once again.
QuackMasterDan (author)  Taranis2 years ago
Those would work, I personally don't like them. I've tried working with them, and trying to bend them at all results in a tear, and then it's useless. I bought two 30cm strips, and I broke both within minutes. They are only meant to be placed on flat surfaces in straight strips, or side-walls with a gentle curve, which is hard to pull off in the 360.

I personally use the 5mm waterproof strands. Because it has a rubberized coating, it's just crammed in there, along the sides of the DVD drive and over the capacitors near the right side. Really, just shove it in anywhere. They aren't sticking to any material, they are just freely sitting in the box, I got lazy I suppose...
cstory13 years ago
for the red rings on aperture science case i think i might mistake it for rrod
dumdog9273 years ago
dude your the best, i finished the project over a weekend. It was quite fun!
DSC_0389.JPG
elizle3 years ago
I was able to use a normal sized CCFL by heating it up on a gas stove(pen torch or a candle would probably be the best) and bending it into a right angle.
IMAG0398.jpg
Wally_Z3 years ago
Why not just desolder the wires from the switch so you get the most wire possible and you get a switch usable for another project.
QuackMasterDan (author)  Wally_Z3 years ago
Switches cost $0.05 when bought in a package of 100 off eBay. I don't need a ton of wire for soldering the CCFLs to the 12v power pin underneath the motherboard, I cut off nearly half the wire anyways. Besides, when doing an install, I use far higher quality switches than the junk ones provided by CCFLs.
I just bought a 4 colour fan for like $5 from Newegg I'm going to install on the exterior of my Xbox because I can't find one that lights up and fits in the Xbox. Although I could put a fan in and then the CCFL's. I am going with a green theme, what sucks is that green fans aren't as popular as blue and red so they are a bit harder to find more of a variety of.
ker-boom1013 years ago
Finally got around to finishing this, did what awz123 said with the bic tubes had
no problems with it. I dont like the placement of the center cathode and will most likely get around to changing it. But all in all this 'ible and the window one really helped alot as well as the disassembly one. Thanks !

Hope you can see the xbox, i turned the lights off to show off the cathodes but it doesnt show the window too well...
IMG_6923.JPG
QuackMasterDan (author)  ker-boom1013 years ago
Your case turned out pretty nice, rounded rectangular windows are the standard but allow for full view of the system. For your camera, try lengthening the shutter speed, increasing the ISO setting, and increasing the exposure to have a more clear photo. Did you remove your DVD drive casing? That's a pretty unusual thing to do, nice work!
Thanks, i actually started off with two smaller rectangles like yours but there was an uneven cut in the center strip of plastic so i decided to go with the bigger rectangle. And yeah i did i just liked the looked of seeing the entire drive.
Smasher5553 years ago
Hey, can you tell me if this will work in a...DRUM SET?! Wso whenever I play it pulses?!?!?!
QuackMasterDan (author)  Smasher5553 years ago
Yes, if you plug your cold cathodes to their inverter with a microphone adapter (They are ~$6), sound will cause your cold cathodes to turn on. There is a sensitivity knob, to adjust it from turning on from the volume of speech, all the way to requiring heavy bass. I have some CCFLs zip tied to the underside of my table, with the microphone near my home theater subwoofer. Whenever there is bass, my table glows.
Ok thanks! But Im not very good at electronics. I can barely afford it. No one can do anything about that, though. Where is it cheapest to buy these things?
I mean it it will set off the other lights than the right ones. You know what Im sayin right?
QuackMasterDan (author)  Smasher5553 years ago
CCFL Sound Reactive Microphone: http://www.xoxide.com/cocasoackit.html ($6 per microphone).
12" CCFLS: http://www.xoxide.com/coldcathodes.html ($8 per kit).

Cheapest place I've found to purchase CCFLS ($6 per kit): http://www.mountainmods.com/cold-cathodes-c-51.html

However, those are two different sites, with two different shipping charges. If you can't afford it, save your money for a month or two.
Are the microphones sensitivity adjustable? Because when I play the other drums it might set off the lights.
awz1233 years ago
Would there be any way that I could put in the cold cathodes without getting rid of the protective casing? for some reason i'm paranoid about one of these tubes breaking and $5 going down the drain. would a clear bic pen work as a protecting agent?
QuackMasterDan (author)  awz1233 years ago
Actually, that's a brilliant idea! Yes, I believe a BIC pen with the clear casing taking off, and placed over the CCFL would work just fine. Just glue the BIC casing to the white tape at one of the ends of the CCFL. I may edit your idea into the guide for others who have similar concerns. Thanks for the input.
The casing works great, and will look good in my 360. I uploaded some pics so others can see, if you want you can use them as well (if you put it in the 'ible).
Thanks for the great Project.
DSCN0362.JPGDSCN0363.JPGDSCN0364.JPG
ker-boom1013 years ago
Great 'ble did the window cutting one first, and cut a big window and cut the dvd drive
Now I'm just waiting for the cold cathode's to arrive, I'll definately post some pictures once im done !
hi just bought some UV cathodes for my xbox. i also bought a toggle switch with a Jet Fighter like Safety Cover. [Has three connections] What i wanna know is, can i somehow wire the cathodes to the switch so i can turn it on and off again? sorry if it's a noob question, tis just i don't know much about wiring switches :/ thanks for a great tut btw!
TOGGLE.jpg
QuackMasterDan (author)  AviatorFrosty4 years ago
I've never seen a blue one, looks awesome. As far as a switch, it is unbelievably simply. So there are always two wires, a positive and negative. Just pick a wire, cut, one end goes to one terminal, the second end to the other terminal. If you break the electricity on either the positive or negative wire, the circuit will be broken and power disconnected.

For the cold cathodes, you could take the red wire going to the 12v pin, cut it, one end to terminal 1, the other to terminal two.

With three connections, you can make it that both directions on the switch do something. This matters more for monitoring, so the third would be connected and say, "heya, the switch is disconnected/on", so don't worry about it.

Enjoy!
Thanks Man, it works like a charm! If you want i'll upload some pics or something when it's finished...
1-40 of 162Next »