Change the color of your Xbox 360 ring of light from dull green to any mix of colors you can imagine. Having a modified ring of light is a beautiful and fun mod to create, and will impress any guests who view your Xbox 360.
This guide requires being comfortable with soldering, and the disassembly of your Xbox 360. The LEDs used are very small (about the size of a few grains of salt) and though this instructable does not require absolutely steady hands, it does demand patience. You will be operating on a $300 piece of hardware, and though it is highly unlikely you will break your Xbox 360, is it possible to irreparably damage the LED solder points on your wireless board making that light inoperable.
*** I claim no liability for any damages or injuries that occur while following these instructions. Attempting this mod will void your Xbox 360s warranty, and you can sustain injury through the use of lead-based solder inhalation and an extremely hot soldering iron. ***
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.
Step 1: Parts Needed
This is a listing of the parts required to accomplish this case mod. This is a simple list of easily accessible parts.
Soldering Iron ($10) - These can be purchased at many hobby stores, I used a 15 watt model from Radioshack.
Solder ($4) - I recommend Silver Rosin Core Solder, the silver helps create a strong joint and the rosin eases the flow of solder between components. A smaller diameter works better for this project (.020 - .026).
Copper Soldering Braid ($3) - Used to remove excess solder. This is necessary for cleaning the terminals where the old LEDs were on the wireless board. You put it over the excess solder, apply your soldering iron to the braid, and the excess is absorbed into the braid.
Tweezers ($3) - These are absolutely necessary to do this project. They will hold the SMD LEDs, align them in the proper direction, and make it possible to solder the LED without it blowing away or tipping over. Purchase the flattest tweezer tips you can, if they are round the LED will just shoot off.
Xbox 360 Wireless Board (Cost of an Xbox 360) - Comes with any Xbox 360, contains the Player 1-4 LEDs, power LED, and wireless antenna.
Support/Holder - I used a thumbtack box, you can use whatever object suits your needs. A suitable holder should be about 1-2 inches off of the ground, and be able to keep your wireless board flat and immobile. Other objects can be small bowels, cups - whatever your can find.
0603 SMD LEDs (~$ 0.30 per LED) - Choose whatever colors you wish, I selected a different color for each LED to match my controllers. No matter how careful or skilled you are, you will waste/lose many LEDs so be sure to purchase extras. The brighter the LEDs the better, the difference between a 150mcd brightness $0.22 and a 500mcd $0.37 LED is worth the extra cost.
***Purchasing 0603 SMD LEDs***
It can be hard to purchase individual quantities of these LEDs at low prices. My favorite retailer is Unique LEDs. They have a very wide selection of difficult to find LEDs at excellent prices.
Having your Xbox 360 vertically or horizontally oriented makes a difference. When turned vertical the four player LEDs are rotated one to the left, keep this in mind if you want to modify your controller LEDs as well, as they use the same SMD 0603 LEDs and the orientation can become mismatched.
For the specific LEDs I purchased, each color is:
800mcd White - Power Button
500mcd Red - Player 1
380mcd Blue - Player 2
130mcd Amber (Yellow) - Player 3
200mcd Pure Green - Player 4
Step 2: Disassembly
I have created a separate instructable for you to follow in taking apart your Xbox 360.
How to Disassemble a Xbox 360
After having removed your wireless board, move onto the next step.
Step 3: Overview
Having the necessary knowledge can make this install go much more smoothly without as many mistakes.
The Xbox 360 LEDs are different from the ones that we are using. They are capable of producing two colors - red and green, which are used to display error messages along with player numbers. Each LED shares the same positive located on the counter-clockwise end. This instructable is tasked with soldering to only the positive and green negative terminals.
In the picture below, green negatives are more counter-clockwise and red negatives are more clockwise. There have been many different revisions to the wireless board, constantly changing the direction of the red and green negative terminals. Newer Xbox 360s have the layout shown in the picture below, while older 360s may have different orientations for each terminal (such as only player 2 has green and red switched).
As the pieces we are working with are so small, shaky fingers can make this a frustrating task, which by itself makes the job impossible. I suggest laying down on your chest to to handle and solder the pieces. Getting too excited, running around, or becoming angry at the process will increase your heart rate and adrenaline, and make it much harder to complete this project. If you need to, feel free to take a 5 minute break to calm down and do the job correctly.
Either way, the SMD LEDs we will install will be facing towards the center on their side (for players 1-4 the LED is sideways, the power LED however points straight up). Installing the 0603 SMD LEDs sideways makes them brighter since the light is being emitted directly into the diffusion clip's (white clip) lenses.
Step 4: Removing Existing LEDs
This is the most dangerous part of the install. Impatience in removing the already present LEDs can result in the LED being torn off the board along with its terminals.
Microsoft used a small amount of solder to connect the LEDs to the wireless board. In order for us to remove the LEDs, we must add extra solder to each of the three LED terminals. Simply touch your soldering iron to each terminal and add your soldering coil to bathe the terminals in solder.
Tapping the Terminals
Once the LEDs have been floated, you must have all three terminals molten at the same time, after which the LED should just float off of the board. Tap the soldering iron back and forth between the three terminals, and the LED should be pushed off the board without requiring any extra effort from you. If you push with too much horizontal force on the LED instead of letting the LED fall off on its own, the LED can tear off its solder terminals from the wireless board, making it extremely difficult to make that LED location functional again.
Cleanup with the Soldering Braid
After you have removed the preexisting Microsoft two-color LED, remove the solder present on the three terminals. Take your soldering braid and rest it on top of the terminals. Push your soldering iron downward towards the wireless board and the solder will absorb into the braid. You should end up with three relatively clean and flat terminals.
Step 5: Attaching SMD 0603 LED
These LEDs are very small, and it can be hard to tell which end is the positive or negative. on the bottom of each LED there is usually a green or gold symbol pointing to the negative leg. See the pictures below for some examples.
Tin the Iron
Since you only have two hands, it would be hard to use a soldering iron, solder, and tweezers at the same time. So first we will tin the soldering iron. Apply a decent amount of solder to the iron, enough so that if you touch the iron to the LED itself (no external solder added) solder would stick to the LED.
Grabbing the LED
Use your tweezers to flip your SMD around until you have the negative side pointing in the proper direction. You will then flip it on its side, grab it with your tweezers (you should be pinching the top and bottom parts respective to the LED) and place it over your wireless board.
Soldering the Terminal
While holding the LED sideways over its terminal points, (The direction marker pointing to the green negative terminal), touch your tinned soldering iron to the LED and terminal on the wireless board, and it should hold in place. Now solder the positive end of the LED to the other terminal. Make sure there are no short-circuits where solder has connected multiple terminals together.
Step 6: Test and Repeat
After you have soldered in your LED, plug the wireless board back into the Xbox 360 to test if the light works. You must have the video cable plugged into your Xbox 360 in order to get the four player LEDs to light up (Otherwise it is only showing the red/error LEDs that the video cable is not plugged in, which would not be lit for us).
If it worked, excellent, you may continue on to doing the other four. If not, make sure that solder is not connecting any terminals together (such as green negative to red negative). Also make sure that your orientation is correct, and the positive is in fact connected to the positive terminal.
Repeat this process for all the LEDs, and you should have a brand new ring of light. Put the Xbox 360 back together and enjoy!