Last Updated on November 23, 2018 by Dave Farquhar
The late, great Consumerist blog recommended testing a Playstation 4 before gifting it. That’s always a good idea anyway, given that most failures happen very early in the life of an electronics gadget. If they survive the first 24 hours, they are much more likely to have a long life. It’s a good idea with any game console, such as a Nintendo Switch.
This is called burning in.
How to burn in a game console
Burn-in is an especially good idea in the case of newly released electronics, because the new releases tend to be more glitchy than venerable products near the end of their retail life. The manufacturers have had six or seven years to work out the issues with previous generation consoles. They’re still learning how to make the current ones.
So, unwrap it, open it up, set it up, power it on, play a game, disable the power-saving feature if you can, leave the game playing in demo mode, and leave the system powered on for 24 hours. If it’s still working after 24 hours, re-enable any power saving features you disabled previously, box it back up and wrap it. If it doesn’t make it, box it back up, take it to the store, exchange it, and make sure the replacement works.
Then wrap the gift.
It’s much less frustrating to the giver and the recipient to get the failure out of the way before the big unwrapping. It can also save you hassles. Return and exchange policies can vary, but one thing is always true: The sooner you figure out if something is defective, the less hassle you’ll have exchanging it.
I do similar burn-ins with computers and with tablets and phones. When I was a kid, my uncles made a show of testing our gifts ahead of time. Especially ones that used electricity and could make noise. So you can say it’s tradition. Whether you decide to make a show of these things and make that part of your holiday season tradition is completely up to you.
Benefits of burn-in
Sometimes electronic devices get burned in at the factory, but sometimes not. Regardless, it’s a good idea to do it yourself. At the very least, you find problems early, which outweighs the hassle of setting it up twice and having to box it back up in between.
Some people even believe that a 24-hour burn-in can fix minor issues.
I don’t know about that, but I can say I’ve been doing these kinds of burn ins since 1991, and I can count the number of electronics failures I’ve had on one hand in all those years–even with a house full of computers and a habit of keeping them well past their prime.
One more thing
Electronics often don’t come with the cables they need for hooking them up. Keeping a cable emergency kit is another thing you can do to make gift giving go much easier.
David Farquhar is a computer security professional, entrepreneur, and author. He started his career as a part-time computer technician in 1994, worked his way up to system administrator by 1997, and has specialized in vulnerability management since 2013. He invests in real estate on the side and his hobbies include O gauge trains, baseball cards, and retro computers and video games. A University of Missouri graduate, he holds CISSP and Security+ certifications. He lives in St. Louis with his family.