Owners of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 game console have access to one of the best software libraries in gaming history – modern masterpieces like the Halo series sit side-by-side with downloadable classics from Xbox Live Arcade.

Unfortunately, many gamers also report a laundry list of Xbox problems, from cheaters online to the dreaded red ring of death.  Up to 30% of Xbox systems experience some kind of technical error within the first three years of their lifespan, so read this and be prepared.

One of the most common and feared Xbox problems is the “Red Ring Of Death” On the front power button, three of the four lights will illuminate red, in the top left corner as well as the bottom half. The console will be completely unresponsive to any input, and can only be powered down. This error is so widespread that Microsoft has extended the warranty on the console to 3 years to cover it. If it happens to you, the only thing you can do is pack the machine up and send it in for repair. If for some reason your console is out of warranty, it will cost you $140 to have it fixed.

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What’s the cause of the Red Ring Of Death? It’s sad that the leader on the list of Xbox problems has a very preventable cause. The RROD comes up when the system’s GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) comes loose from its connections. And it comes loose because the solder that Microsoft used to assemble the Xbox is not heat-rated for the temperatures that the unit generates. Too much heat melts the solder, the GPU gets dislodged, and bye-bye funtime.

Another common Xbox problem is overheating. Because the heat sink for the Xbox 360 is not large enough, the system can often get way too warm if played for too long a time. To circumvent this crisis, make sure to not run your Xbox 360 for too long a time – shut the machine off for a break every hour or two. Also, make sure the console is placed in a well-ventilated area where the fans are exposed, to allow the cooling mechanism to do its work.

Now that the console is farther along in its lifespan, the manufacturing errors that caused the tidal wave of Xbox problems that led to a public relations disaster for Microsoft has primarily abated. But don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security – these errors could strike at any time, leaving you clutching your controller and weeping softly.

Just get that warranty card in, make sure your machine is clean and well-ventilated, and treat it with care, and you can ensure yourself a long life of happy gaming for years to come. Or until the Xbox 720 comes out, whichever comes first.