The Xbox 360 Repair Saga: Shoot the Surge Protection?

As I reported recently, my Xbox 360 died. And so, I called 1-800-4-MY-XBOX today to order my coffin in the wake of the new warranty extension. While I was on the phone, the rep (a friendly Canadian fellow) informed me that my surge protector had probably caused both of my 360 deaths.

My immediate reaction was a disbelieving “What?”

The explanation (which he said comes from somewhere up the Microsoft chain) is as follows:

The Xbox 360 is highly sensitive to reductions in power, and even the slightest cut in power can cause things like the fans and even the DVD laser to malfunction. Surge protectors can cause this, and probably 90% of the consoles they see have all failed in 6-12 months of being plugged into a surge protector.

Well, my two systems did die in that window, and they were both plugged into a surge protector. But does this explanation even make sense? I’m not an electrical engineer, nor a physics expert, so it’s not really my place to say. However, perhaps someone out there in the vast expanses of the world wide web can weigh in on this topic.

Is it the power? Or is this just another misdirection?

UPDATE: Upon further research, similar reports are appearing in a number of forums, and a Knowledge Base article seems to say the same thing. From that article, “Plug the power supply directly into a known good wall outlet. Do not use extension cords or power strips.”

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About Mark Methenitis

Mark Methenitis is an attorney in Dallas Texas. Mark received his Juris Doctorate and his Master of Business Administration from Texas Tech University and his Bachelor of Arts from The University of Texas.

21 Responses to The Xbox 360 Repair Saga: Shoot the Surge Protection?

  1. Mike Vail says:

    That’s the same thing that the women at 1-800-MY-XBOX told me on Thursday.

  2. GamePolitics is saying the same. I’ve only taken up through first-year physics, but this doesn’t sound right to me. The reasoning is certainly fallacious. 80-90% of dead consoles having been plugged into surge protectors is meaningless unless you also know how many that didn’t die were plugged into surge protectors. I’m guessing almost everyone uses them because they don’t want their $400 toy detroyed by a squirrel on the lines or a lightning strike. If your electronics break permanently, not just shut down because of momentary drops in power levels, they’re pieces of crap that weren’t designed to deal with the realities of the market.

  3. milieu.zero says:

    I don’t buy it.

    First of all, like ace said, how many people don’t use surge protectors or extension cords? Most are going to be right by the tv, vcr, tivo, dvd player, etc., and outlets are at a premium.

    Second, the explanation makes no sense to me. So, if the unit is running, and the power drops, it continues to run damaging itself? That’s just bad design. It should either cope with non-perfect conditions, or it should shutdown.

    Finally, I really have a hard time believing that good surge protectors cause any change in the amount of power.

    This is just anecdotal, and far from conclusive, but I plugged a Kill-a-Watt meter into:
    – an outlet.
    – a power strip plugged into that outlet.
    – a power strip plugged into a UPS plugged into an outlet.

    The difference in measured voltage was negligible, from 122.9 to 122.5 on the last power strip. That strip also had two printers on it, while the UPS has everything for this computer. So even a heavily loaded surge protector showed almost no drop in voltage.

  4. The only reason I’d make such a facetious statement would be to distract from some other issue regarding my product.

  5. Ibn says:

    Well, I’ve only been a technician for 23 years, but that is without a doubt complete and utter BS. Microsoft lawyers are not good sources of electrical knowledge, that’s about the nicest way I can say it….

    Unless they are talking about those $2 “surge” protectors Walmart sells for $9, those are complete junk. 😉

  6. mark says:

    Correlation is not causation.

    Sure, 90% of xbox’s are probably plugged into surge protectors or extension boxes, just because that’s what people use around their stereos and media centers.

    So the statement that 90% of xbox’s failed within 6-12 months of being plugged into a surge protector or extension box could be technically accurate – but that correlation doesn’t imply causation.

    A surge protector typically consists of nothing but a voltage suppression device across the line – so what trivial drop (less than a volt) there may be is only due to wiring and an additional level of plugs and sockets.

    Further, the notion that internal DC-powered electronics like the DVD drive could be susceptible to minor variations in the power supply’s AC input is also technically rubbish. This all comes out in the wash with the power supply’s regulation – unless of course the power supply doesn’t meet its specification.

    This is a technical sham by Microsoft, an attempt to avoid warranty exposure by blaming the user and third-party equipment.

  7. mark says:

    Incidentally, the Xbox 360 user manual, available on the Microsoft site, confirms that it is normal and expected usage to use an extension cord or power strip:

    assets.xbox.com/en-us/support/na-console-full.pdf

    Do not overload your wall outlet,
    extension cord, power strip, or other
    electrical receptacle. Confirm that they
    are rated to handle the total current (in
    amps [A]) drawn by the Xbox 360
    console (indicated on the power supply
    unit) and any other devices that are on
    the same circuit.

    There are other references in the user manual to “wall outlet”, but it is clear from this language that their intent for the AC source is broader.

    If you are an Xbox 360 customer and Microsoft tries to deny you warranty replacement because you have been using a surge protector, take them straight to this section of the user manual and remind them that this usage restriction was not originally communicated.

  8. Tathar says:

    An online UPS provides more consistent power than an ordinary wall outlet because all power comes from a battery supplying power at a constant rate and the battery simply gets recharged by the outlet. A standby power system, or SPS, has a battery that begins generating power as soon as the unit detects a sag in the supply of electricity. It takes a split second for the SPS to come online, which would make an SPS completely useless for an Xbox 360.

    A surge supressor won’t do anything about power sags, either, so you would want an online UPS.

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  13. Freebies4You says:

    Sounds like excuses to me. Perhaps a lot of the Xboxes were doomed because of surge protectors but come on, you don’t see this happening with anything else electronic that requires a large amperage to power. Microsoft just needs to make better hardware.

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  17. Chopsuey260 says:

    Sounds like excuses to me. Perhaps a lot of the Xboxes were doomed because of surge protectors but come on, you don’t see this happening with anything else electronic that requires a large amperage to power. Microsoft just needs to make better hardware. Free Xbox 360 Games GamePolitics is saying the same. I’ve only taken up through first-year physics, but this doesn’t sound right to me. The reasoning is certainly fallacious. 80-90% of dead consoles having been plugged into surge protectors is meaningless unless you also know how many that didn’t die were plugged into surge protectors. I’m guessing almost everyone uses them because they don’t want their $400 toy detroyed by a squirrel on the lines or a lightning strike. If your electronics break permanently, not just shut down because of momentary drops in power levels, they’re pieces of crap that weren’t designed to deal with the realities of the market.

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