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NES Maintenance FAQ
By VGF.com Reader:
CodieKitty

FIXING YOUR SYSTEM

The most common reason for NESes coming up with a blue screen and a flashing light is usually not in the games or the connectors being dirty. It's usually because of a design flaw in the connector. This flaw causes the connector pins to bend out of shape after so many presses, in which case usually has players frustrated and unable to play their beloved NES games.

What You Will Need
Your NES
A spare connector
A set of electronic screwdrivers
A pen that can write on metal

Optional
A paper towel

Spare connectors can be found on eBay for $8-10 apiece. Don't pay more than $10 for one. If you want to, buy more than one.

What To Do

Start by turning over the NES, so the bottom is up. You should see six holes, one in each corner and on in between them horizontally. Get out one of your Phillips screwdrivers (although a flat will also work) and put it down into one of the holes. Take all six of those screws and put them somewhere where they won't fall on the floor, but won't get mixed up with the slew of screws that are going to come later (Try a pit of a wrinkled paper towel). Turn the NES back on its bottom with the buttons facing you and remove the top.

You should see a shiny metal thing. My resources say this is to filter RF noise. This is going to be nasty. Remove a screw, which is easier said than done. Nintendo put those suckers in tight. When you take it out, get your pen and write a "1" on it (preferably the top), then a "1" by the hole you just pulled it from. The different screws in the motherboard etc. are not interchangeable with all the other screws, maybe other one on the same level. This is to help you remember which screw goes where. Place the screw somewhere safe (like a different pit from the other screws). Repeat for the other screws, but instead of writing "1" on the screw and corresponding hole, write "2", then "3" and so forth.

Next you should see a big black thing. This is the cartridge loading bay, where the cartridge slides into when you insert a game. Remove the screws from the black thing, numbering them and their corresponding holes as you go. After that, pull it toward you. You now have the connector, probably worn out.

Flip the NES around so the buttons face away from you, and pull on the connector to remove it, which, as with the screws, is easier said than done because of how tight it's on the motherboard. You'll have to pull for a while until it finally comes off. If you want to, compare the pins of the old connector to that of the new one. Try not to mix them up but if you do you should be able to tell the new one from the old one (if you can't tell by the damaged pins), the new one shouldn't have holes on the side. There's a thin layer of plastic which breaks when you put a screw from the loading bay through it.

Push the new one on as far as it can go. Replace the loading bay and put the screws into their corresponding holes. Don't tighten them too tight. There's a pin near the end of the NES with the buttons that goes through a hole in the part of the cartridge bay. If the screws are too tight, the pin doesn't go through that hole. Try pushing it before you put the metal thing back on. If it doesn't go, loosen the screws until it does. It'll save you a lot of time and pain later if it happens to be too tight.

If that's all right, replace the metal thing with the screws in the right holes, then the lid. You should only have six, un-numbered screws left. Those go into the bottom, and can go in any hole.

Give it a try with a game you know works. If it works, good job. You now have your NES ready to play your games.

Notes:

The connector may be a little stubborn at first. Right after I replaced my connector, it would occasionally reset itself, but stopped after a week. After it gets used a bit (not on a long, all-in-one-sitting game like Bionic Commando or Blaster Master, PLEASE), it should work fine.

If you have more than one NES that needs its connector replaced, please, for your own sake, only do one at a time. Replace that, wait a week or two, then fix another. Once I fixed two in one sitting, and had blisters on my right hand for weeks.

If you want to, I found a Game Genie to help as well. I found it to work on all my busted systems. Not sure why it helps, but it does for me. If you want an easy way out, try that. Although for $10, fifteen minutes or so, and some strain on your hand you can replace the connector and have it last a few years, or you can spend little intervals of half a minute or so removing and attaching the Game Genie to your games (or have your friends think your cheating if they come over while you're in the middle of something). Your call.

If you want to be REALLY lazy, get a top loader, but good luck.

CLEANING YOUR GAMES

If your NES still doesn't work (although changing the connector wouldn't be a bad idea anyway), you may have some dirty games. Take a look at the connector. What does it look like? Shiny and golden? Or dull and green? If the latter, a cleaning would be a good idea. Although if it's totally matted in green and looks like the Statue of Liberty, I'd say the game's shot. But for minor to medium filth, try this.

What You Will Need
Any or all of your games
Lots and lots of Q-Tips (or the store brand)
Some water

Fill up a small glass with water. A shot glass is good. Take the water, your Q-Tips, and whatever games you're cleaning to your work area. Take a Q-Tip and dip one end into the water. Squeeze it with your pointer and thumb to get rid of excess water. Put the wet end of the Q-Tip into the connector slot aligned with the connector teeth. Press the Q-Tip into the connector (it will probably bend, which is one reason the Q-Tips require constant changing). Now move it up and down in line with the connector. If you want to, move over slightly as you do this, but only do a few teeth a a time. Four is a good number.

Now take out the Q-Tip, flip it over, and start rubbing the dry end of the Q-Tip up and down along the teeth like you did the wet side. Not only will this take off some more dirt, this takes off the water before it dries on the metal, which is a bad thing. If you try to clean all the connectors on one side, then go back and dry it, the water on the earlier connectors will have already dried.

Repeat the above for all the connectors, as well as all the games you wish to clean.

The Q-Tips will require constant changing because they pick up too much filth and just start smearing it around, and they also bend during the rubbing. Don't wet the dry end after you dry with it, because the fibers come out of place as you rub with them and they pick up dirt.

After you've cleaned it up, try the game out. If it works, good job. You now have your NES games ready for playing on your fixed NES.

Notes

You're probably not going to get them looking like new. If they're a little dull, that's okay. They should work. If they don't, try cleaning it again.

There are times when the game is totally shot, either the connectors are badly damaged, or something inside the game is. If that is the case, you may need a new copy of that game. I had a copy of Mega Man 2 that rattled and finally gave out on me. I cleaned it and I cleaned it, but I had to get a new one.

This works on most other cartridges. The slots of Game Boy carts are too small to put the Q-Tip into.

TIPS ON MAINTAINING YOUR SYSTEM/GAMES

Store your games in a safe place. A good one would be a Rubbermaid box. When selecting one, take a game you wouldn't worry too much about losing (I used my shot Mega Man 2 when I chose my box) and check the size of it. If it's NES games, most shoeboxes are too short to have the games upright.

Even if they're not green yet, clean your games every now and then. This will help keep the crud from building up.

Rapidly turning off and on or resetting games with batteries is a no-no. Hell, it's a no-no for any game, just big one for ones with batteries. Why you'd even want to do that is beyond me...

Don't blow on the connectors. You could blow spit or food or something in there. If you have to blow into it for some reason, use a can of air and not your breath.

Try not to beat your controller. I understand beating the controller is really hard to resist sometimes, especially during a game of Ninja Gaiden, but try as hard as you can not to do it. Try to take it out on a pillow or something.

RANDOM STUFF

Sorry for the absence of pictures. My digital camera software is crap, and darkens the picture considerably.

If you have any questions, please E-Mail me.

Neither the author nor VGF is responsible for any damage to any NES systems, games, or persons resulting from usage of this FAQ.  If you don't feel comfortable taking the steps outlined above, then get a parent/guardian/friend to assist you or take your equipment to an authorized repair shop.

Posted: 9-9-03



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