Repair / Fix Retro Video Game Cartridges That No Longer Work




About: Video game console modder.

Retro video gaming cartridges as they get older can start to fail, either you can get garbled graphics on your screen or the game doesn't boot at all. The most common reason for this is that the contact traces on a game cartridge are no longer clean enough to connect to the pins in the cartridge slot in the console unit.

The "gunk" is basically dust and oxidisation built up over the years, natural "rusting" really, that forms a dirt barrier to prevent the game cartridge working as it used to do.

This is a very basic tutorial that costs nothing to fix the problem.

For the purpose of this demonstration, I have used a Nintendo SNES game cartridge however of course this tutorial will work for any other game cartridge as the principles are exactly the same.

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Step 1: Open Up Game Cartridge

First step of course is to open up the game cartridge, these are always held by screws, sometimes normal screws sometimes with special screws. That is why I chose a Nintendo cartridge for this demonstration as it uses non-standard screws.

Easy and cheap method is to get an old screwdriver and file the end into a groove so that it just fits over the recesses in the screw and will therefore turn it.

Then remove the screws.

Step 2: Clean the Board

There are other methods like using alcohol to rub away the "gunk" however I have used a pencil eraser for this purpose for years now and it works effectively, and after all, we all have pencil erasers, which means this technique is free as costs nothing to do.

You can clearly see that half of the traces have been cleaned and the other half are uncleaned to see the comparison. It just takes a few strokes of the pencil eraser, quick and easy!

When done one side of the board, turn it over and do the other side of the board too.

Step 3: Re-assemble

Simply put the board back in the cartridge holder as before, and screw down as it was originally.

The traces on the game cartridge will now work properly and your game should now work!

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    8 Discussions


    4 years ago

    Works great i fixed one of my favorite sega genesis games thanks


    6 years ago on Step 2

    Good time to possibly change the battery as well


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I love that game it and Crono Trigger were my faves. So I'm glad its been revitalized.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I'm guessing this should work for the old original NES games too...great idea. As a kid we always pulled it out, hit it on our leg and blew on it. This seems more practical and a better idea! :) Our fixes were always temporary!

    1 reply

    Yes, NES, SNES, N64, MegaDrive, GameGear, GBA, GB, GBC, Jaguar, SMS, GX4000 and any other game carts all work with this method; some you need to use a normal screwdriver, some use the hex screws like the one in this guide, hence why I showed this as it also shows how to make a screwdriver to remove hex screws - a dremel or file to cut away on a spare flat-head screwdriver does the trick.

    Blowing on cartridges can work but the moisture in breath makes the traces get worse, quicker; so for what it takes, easier to just erase the gunk off and it should make the game last for years more.


    6 years ago

    I can confirm this works as this is the second thing I do when my daughter wants to play my old games the first thing I do is of course blow on it good old cartridges how I miss thee