How I repaired two Nintendo Entertainment Systems.

I can't remember the exact date, but sometime in 1999-2000, I remember going to my dad's house, and seeing the Nintendo Entertainment System that my grandpa got for me when I was five. I still have no idea why Dad got MY NES, when he hadn't played with one in years, and I loved video games ten times more than he did, even if I never beat 8-3 in Super Mario Bros. with my eyes closed like he did (that part is absolutely true).

Let's skip ahead one week. That NES of mine that I saw at his house? Gone.

"Dad where'd the Nintendo go?" I asked.

"It broke, so I threw it out."

Well, case closed on that one I suppose, although recently I picked up on a little secret that I wish I had known back then. Apparently, you can REPAIR OLD NES SYSTEMS!!! Make them run like new.

I'm no handyman, but recently I repaired two of them, and the ease of the project makes me kick myself for not going dumpster diving 10 years ago. There's no doubt that NES system could have been fixed easy. Yet you know what kind of society we live in: We don't want to waste our time repairing things. Good thing God doesn't have that mindset. Otherwise we'd all be thrown in the trash for a blinking grey screen.

Anyways, after the ease of the first project, which ended up being a gift for my sister JoBeth and her husband Shane (they got the NES, controllers, zapper, power pad, and about 10 games, including the very awesome Mega Man 2), I decided to document the second NES project for this web site. Most of the cost ended up being time: the NES systems that my future bride Allicia and I bought were $5 each because they didn't work at the time. Most of the time, if you see a broken NES at a flea market, and it gets power, the problem is almost always the 72-pin connector inside the NES, which gets worn out over time.

So far I've succeeded, but if the thing explodes then I'll consider it a failure. Also, for this project, you'll need a clean working space, a #1 Phillips, some compressed air, a 72-pin connector (I bought two at the Video Game Traders store in Fort Smith, but you can order one here) and an hour to dedicate to it. Good music would be nice too: I'd recommend Jars of Clay or Led Zeppelin for this one.

Full disclosure: I used this tutorial when I repaired the first NES. The second time, I didn't need a tutorial, which shows you how insanely easy it is to do. And trust me, I'm no mechanic!

My Video Game collection. Yes, that's a Sega CD. And up top is a Saturn. There's just this indescribable joy I get from buying a video game system for $25 when it would have cost me $400 back in 1994. Perhaps I'll start doing that with every video game system: wait 15 years and buy it on the cheap. 2014: The year of the PS2! Among those Genesis games: Flashback, Virtua Racing (which cost $100 when it came out), Wiz and Liz and all of the Sonic the Hedgehog games. Oh, and you can't see the box for it, but I do have Robo Aleste for the Sega CD: that might be the best vertical shooter of all time.

Can't leave out the PSOne (actually I could do without it), and the Gamecube.

By the way, video games aren't the only retro soft spot I have. Vinyl records own CDs in every sense.

Yes. That's an Air Supply record. Please don't judge me. Anyways, back to the NES repair.

Time for some Bionic Commando! Five Dollars at a Yard Sale! Yay for bargains! Let's power this thing up!

That ain't right! Probably needs a good cleaning!

Please don't use rubbing alcohol, despite any thoughts you may have read online. The alcohol can do long-term damage to the carts. Unfortunately, when you purchase games used, a lot of stores will use the alcohol to do the cleaning. Instead, use Windex or some brand of window cleaner (I swear that's all that is in the shot glass). Dip a q-tip into the liquid, clean one side of the contacts (don't worry about being gentle), then use the other end to wipe it dry. Do the same with the other side of the contacts. Make sure it's dry before popping it back into the NES. The games might not look like they need cleaning, but it's amazing how black the q-tip turns when you make just one swipe. Also, it's a good idea to have your games clean before using them in a newly fixed system. Dirt is a bad thing.

OK, so you've cleaned it up, but still no game?

No, please don't throw your nintendo out the window! Here's where it gets fun if you're the fixer-upper type. We get to do what our parents would never let us do when we were kids: Open the thing up! But before you do, unplug it first, and then press power, so that you the static electricity is discharged from the system.

There are six screws that you'll remove with a Phillips #1. Set these screws in a safe place, and don't worry about the screws on the black plate under the controller ports.

OK, you're gonna come to this plate. Apparently the FCC mandated it to be placed inside the NES to keep electrical stuff from interfering and all that stuff. Anyways, this thing has seven screws that you can see plainly here, which keeps me from having to circle things you already know. Set this one aside too.

Here's the part where the cartridge fits into. There are six screws on this one, four in the back and two up front. Take them off, lift up the green part and slowly pull it toward you. One you do this, it wouldn't be a bad idea to spray some condensed air onto the thing, as this old NES you've bought might have spent it's entire life without being opened. The thing can get really dirty!

The 72-pin connector has probably never been pried off before, so you are going to have to put a little muscle into it. Keep pushing until one side pops off, then the other side will slide off much easier.

The old pin connector. Chances are, the new one you put into the NES will have a nice brass color. However, these bend VERY easily, so be super careful when you are installing it. Just slide it back on easy, and take your time with it. Also, make sure everything is screwed down before trying to put a game into it, as my copy of RBI baseball caused it to bend due to me being impatient. That was $15 down the drain.

Line up the bottom pins (the bottom ones in the photo are indeed the bottom pins that you'll slide onto the board) with the grey part of the circuit board. Make sure it's lined up with the screw holes as well. If the pins are a little off, you'll end up with scrambled graphics.

Keep in mind also that since it's a new connecter, the games won't slide in as easy as they did on the old connector. I also read from another tutorial not to use first generation nes games at first, due to them being slightly thicker, this could cause bending on the tighter pins.

Anyways, pop it back on, and follow all the steps in reverse order, screwing in everything. And make sure the cartridge holder locks into place before putting the shield and cover over it.

Once you've done that, you should have a working game. I didn't take a picture of it because I forgot to. But trust me, I was plowing through Blaster Master until 1 a.m. last night.

Total cost? For me, $22 per system, a far cry from the $50 I normally see it run for at Game X-Change. If you have kids who are interested in building and taking things apart, this would be a perfect activity to share in, as there's little risk of injury and there are no complicated tools and easily breakable parts, other than the new 72-pin connector.


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    About This Blog

    A blog for the masses, if by masses you mean myself and family members who probably read this out of pity.

    I'm dustin Faber, the 16-bit Catholic. This blog is an amusing, sometimes thought-provoking look at my life and the world around me. Poetry, cooking recipes, gaming, faith, things that make me go awww, things that make me go grrr, and my obsession with a good glass of root beer can be found here.

    If you're looking for gaming-centered posts, check out catholicvideogamers.blogspot.com. If you seek the blog I keep with my fiance, check out thecatholiclovebirds.blogspot.com

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