What to do when an Xbox DVD drive sticks

So I got this Xbox really cheap. When I got it home, I found out why–the DVD drive wouldn’t open. Here’s what to do when an Xbox DVD drive sticks.

It’s a good thing I didn’t pay much for it.As it turns out, there’s an emergency eject hole below the drive, about an inch and a half to the left of the console’s eject button. Turn the power off (this is important) and then straighten a paper clip and poke that into the hole to release the tray. Provided there isn’t anything obstructing the tray, it will come out.

Hopefully it’s a temporary problem, but as a drive ages, apparently the teeth on the tray or the gears that mesh with them can wear down, making it hard for the drive to eject its tray. Supposedly you can also cause this problem by leaving discs in the system while it’s powered off.

Whatever the cause, the problem with my Xbox seems to be permanent. After I manually eject it, it will usually work a couple of times after that, then it starts sticking again. I can live with it, since I bought it mostly to experiment with. I probably won’t play Xbox games with it very often.

If you dropped your Xbox and now it won’t open, there’s a good chance something broke off and is obstructing the tray. In that case your best bet is to replace the drive. The best source for replacement drives anymore is eBay, at a cost of $35 and up depending on the vintage. Thomson drives tend to be the cheapest. Samsung drives, which are the most desirable, cost more. If you’re adventurous, read this Xbox repair page, but be careful. Once you open an Xbox, there is an exposed power supply inside, and if you touch the wrong thing, it will ruin your day at the very least. At worst, it really can kill you. I don’t think that page stresses that enough. The power supply sits under the hard drive. Don’t touch anything over there.

If any of this makes you nervous, you’re probably better off calling around and seeing if you can trade in a broken Xbox for one that works. Call your local game shops, or look on your local Craigslist for someone advertising Xbox repair or modifications.

As far as Xbox reliability goes, I don’t have any solid statistics. Whether the Xbox or the PS2 is more reliable depends on who you ask, but I see (and hear about) more broken Xboxes than PS2s. If you buy a used first-generation Xbox, make sure you buy it somewhere that gives you some kind of a guarantee.

Usually the manufacturer sells its consoles at a loss, hoping to make up for it by selling games, which are extremely profitable. Microsoft seems to cut more corners on its consoles than Sony or Nintendo, and the result is that the Xbox and Xbox 360 aren’t as reliable as they could be. I don’t usually recommend extended warranties, but if I were buying an Xbox 360, I would get one. (The original Xbox is discontinued now, so buying a new one of those isn’t an option, unfortunately.)

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