This instructable requires overcoming the fear of playing with the innards of a $350 piece of equipment. The system is built with a sturdy steel chassis and requires Torx T8 and T10 screwdrivers to open.
Knowing how to open your Xbox 360 will enable you to add whatever mods you like. I will be writing instructables on changing the LEDs in your ring of light, and adding cold cathode lighting to heating vents. You will also be able to access your DVD Drive and flash it to play backups, fix the Red Ring of Death, or upgrade various equipment in the console.
Get ready to delve into Microsoft's successor to the Xbox, and have some fun in your future projects.
*** I am not liable for any damage or injury that occurs from following this instructable. The Xbox 360 is a piece of advanced equipment and can be irreparably damaged. Though the risk of breaking your system is highly unlikely if you follow the steps correctly, please do not complain to me if you brick your console. ***
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Step 1: Parts Needed
Torx T8 & T10 Screwdrivers - The console is held together with Torx screws, these screwdrivers are easy to find and quite cheap. If you are hoping to open a Xbox 360 controller, you will need a Security Torx T8H. The best ones I've found are from Llamma's Tool Section.
Small Flathead Screwdrivers/Paper Clips - Used to hold open the friction locks of the 360 front cover. You can also use paper clips if you desire.
360 Opening Tool ($7 - Optional) - This is a specialty part used to pop the rear locks and remove the heating grills. This is worth the $7 pricetag found at Llamma's tools if you open systems repeatedly. Another option for an opening tool is a small flat-head screwdriver, you will have to pop each friction lock one at a time, but almost everybody has a satisfactory screwdriver. Removing the shell gets frustrating and tiresome if you open lots of boxes, but if you don't feel like spending $7+s/h and waiting a week for a tool you will only use twice, don't bother with the Llamma tool.
Step 2: Heating Grills/Faceplate
First remove the hard drive on the console, flip it over and with your thumb in the faceplate notch, remove the faceplate.
On the right side of the 360 there is a notch at the end of the faceplate. Put your thumb on this notch and pull away from the console with a good deal of force. The plate should pop off of the casing.
On each end of the console there are two gray heating grills which must be removed to take apart the console. For each grill there are six friction tabs that must be pressed inwards toward the console and lifted up. The locations are noted in photos below.
For the hard drive grill, there is an elevated level that must have two tabs pushed sideways. Stick the tool through the opening and push in the direction shown in the photos. Then insert your tool into each of the remaining tabs and lift out the grill from front to back. There is a single tab that is underneath a rubber foot on the base of the console. You must puncture the plastic underneath this to remove the grill, it is a sign to Microsoft of a voided warranty.
Step 3: Lower Shell
There are two halves of the 360 outer casing. The bottom shell is held on by front and rear plastic locks. We will use a 360 opening tool to pop the locks and small flathead screwdrivers to release the front locks. Everything gets lifted apart at the same time.
If you do not have a 360 opening tool, you can measure the distance of the locks and create your own with a CD spindle cover and scissors. If you are using a flat-head screwdriver use one hand to continually pull the two halves apart, otherwise some locks will re-engage.
There are seven rear locks, and with the Llamma opening tool line up the pins into their respective locks and press down. When you've used enough pressure you should hear a pop, now you can separate the rear section of the bottom and top shells.
You can use either flathead screwdrivers or paper clips to hold open the locks. All four are popped at the same time, and the lower shell can be removed. You must either cut or peel off the Microsoft warranty sticker on the front of the console, doing so will void your warranty. The stickers have a residue that keeps them from being put back on cleanly. If you have a metal sticker are care about the warranty, read below. If you have one of the new paper stickers, there is no effective way to remove it without Microsoft knowing.
Metal Film Trick
For a metal-film sticker a hair-dryer can be used on high for about 10-15 seconds to make this adhesive melt, and peel off the sticker carefully and slowly with a razor blade to remove the sticker without leaving behind the metal residue. This trick can be useful for having a system that has been opened repaired by Microsofts repair service. I've heard of many users who have attempted to fix a RRoD themselves and failed, if a DVD drive is modified with iXtreme a user can reflash it to stock, and as long as the sticker is intact the very rushed employees at Microsoft's repair centers aren't likely to check for other minor signs of tampering.
Step 4: Screws/DVD Drive
There are a large number of screws to be removed. I suggest cutting a long strand of duct tape to stick your pieces to, so during reassembly the console can go back together smoothly.
View the pictures below to determine screw locations.
Firstly, remove the DVD eject button by inserting a small flat-head screwdriver in between the DVD drive and the eject buttons base.
The top shell is attached to the chassis though the use of six T10 Torx screws. They are highlighted in red in the picture below. These screws are identifiable as flat headed rounded screws, and are about 3 1/2" long.
Once the six casing screws are removed, flip the console right side up and lift off the upper shell. Disconnect the SATA cable and power cable from the DVD drive. You should be careful with the DVD drive power cable as the connector is fragile and wires can be torn out, so grab all the black wires as close to the connector as possible, and forcefully wiggle the connector out. At the front of the DVD drive there are two friction clips, which prevent movement and rattling. Also lift up the metal tape that holds the drive to the chassis. Lift out the drive and place the friction clips on the duct tape roll.
These screws are highlighted in green in the picture below. These connect different pieces of the motherboard to the chassis. They are about 1" long, bronze colored, and have a round top. Unscrew them all with your T10 Torx screwdriver and place them on the tape roll.
For these final eight screws, highlighted in blue, tilt the console to a vertical position. We do not want to remove the screws while the system is upside down, as the weight of the heatsinks on the final screws could have enough stress to crack some traces. With the console vertical, remove the final eight screws with your T8 and set the console right-side up.
Step 5: Fans/Wireless Board/Motherboard
There is a white heating shroud that helps air flow more efficiently from the CPU and GPU heatsinks. It is held in place by the fan housing itself. Insert a flat-head screwdriver into its lock point and pull off the shroud, it will take some wiggling to remove. Remove the fan power cable from the motherboard. Finally, lift up on the metal tap above the fans, and pull the fan casing towards the front of the console. Lift it out and set it to the side.
The ring of light and wireless antenna is attached to this board on the front of the console. There are three T8 screws, with one underneath the white diffusion clip. This clip disperses the light for players 1-4. Pop off the bottom of the clip with a flat-head screwdriver, and the third screw will be revealed. Place these screws on the duct tape roll. You can now pull the wireless board off of the console. If anything ever happens to your wireless board, a replacement or spare wireless board is exchangeable between Xbox 360s (Unlike DVD drives which are ID'd to the motherboard).
It is time to remove the final piece. Grab the motherboard by the GPU heatsink (short and wide) and lift out the front first. Remove out the entire board and you have access to the entire system. Kudos!, You've just disassembled your Xbox 360.