The most frustrating thing about the Xbox 360 is the sheer number of system errors that can occur. Microsoft has “handily” designed the system so that many or most of the problem can be identified through a sort of sign language. I’m not sure that designing a system that self-identifies the numerous errors is necessarily reflective of a quality design, but that’s the way it is. Isn’t that a bit how the Windows platform works also? Surely the Xbox 360 is a high-quality, extremely fun system when working, but clearly it would have been a lot better had Microsoft designed the system as durable as the original Xbox in the first place. Or perhaps if it had been made with the same fortitude as the the Gamecube.
Nevertheless,if or when there are problems with the Xbox 360, at least for most of them, the four LED lights surrounding the power button will flash in particular patterns. The pattern itself leads to some insight into the problem. Below I have outlined the situations related to various combinations of flashing red lights. It should be pointed out that certain red light patterns can be translated into numbered error codes which will provide further insight to the problem. Some of the numbered error codes are noted below. For several of the system errors there are some troubleshooting actions you can attempt; for others you will need help.
1. Four flashing red LEDs: the AV cable cannot be detected. You should make sure that the AV cable is correctly connected to the Xbox 360 console. If that appears to be the case, you can try to disconnect and then reconnect the AV cable from the console. If the four flashing red lights continue to flash, try wiping the metal area of the AV pack with a dry cloth. The metal area is the end that plugs into the console. Wipe the metal area thoroughly, and then try the AV pack again. Finally, if the AV cable is correctly connected but the four red lights are still flashing, change out the AV cable if you have one available.
2. Three flashing red LEDs: this is also known as the red ring of death, or RROD, and points to a general hardware failure. There are a number of secondary codes for Xbox 360 system errors related to the 3 red lights. I describe these secondary codes and detail how to obtain them in a separate article. Generally, you need to utilize the sync and eject buttons to determine, by how many lights flash, a four digit number (like 0021, etc.). In the meantime there are some things you can try to get the red out. Try restarting the console; if this does not resolve the problem, try these steps: turn the console off; unplug all the power and AV cables from the console; and unplug the power cord from the wall socket. Finally then reconnect all the cables and turn on the console.
If these steps do not get rid of the red lights, turn the Xbox 360 console off, remove the hard drive and then turn the unit back on. If the 3 red lights are no longer displayed, turn it back off, re-attach the hard drive, and then turn it on. Also take a look at the lights on the power supply. When you turn on the console, The power supply light should be green even if the console has the three flashing red lights. If these steps don’t work, you will need additional assistance.
3. Two flashing red LEDs: this signifies overheating. Note that overheating can be a result of the console locking or “freezing” up after a period of time OR can be related to problems in a particular game if the lockups are happening at a specific point within the game. Game freeze ups are not caused by overheating. The primary step you should take is to let the Xbox 360 console cool down for several hours. Then check to see that the console has enough ventilation and that the fan is operating. Usually the cool-down works for these types of Xbox 360 system errors.
4. One flashing red LED: this signified a hardware malfunction. There are numerous possibilities related to the DVD drive, the disk drive, the dashboard, the ethernet port or even the AV cable. These Xbox 360 system errors are expressed as commonly known “E” numbers. The most prominent is the E74 error, which if not the AV cable causing the error, indicates a problem with the scaler chip (this is connected directly to the AV cable) or in rare cases, it could be the GPU. Another one is the E71 error which s a dashboard update error for which you can try resetting the console codes. Assistance will be required to repair most of these Xbox 360 trouble situations.
Since the XBOX 360 was released gaming has never been smoother, the graphics are beautiful, game play is great, the online capabilities are phenomenal, and it has never been harder to keep your console up and running. The Xbox 360 system errors are now a fact of life whether we like it or not and we’ll just have to deal with it for now. This article is just an overview of the significance of the flashing red lights on your Xbox 360. Other resources give more detailed descriptions of the E errors and how to better diagnose which error you are facing.
The author has written several articles in his blog related to the Xbox 360, its problems and potential fixes. He holds an MS degree in a science and has authored a number of highly technical reports and and publications. He lives in New Jersey with his family. His helpful blog can be found at [http://xbox360redlightrepair.com]