Sigh. I bought my second XBox 360 after my first died of the horrible 'Red Ring of Death.' I had successfully modified that 360 a few months earlier, installing padding (under the lid of the DVD drive) that prevented the drive from scratching my game discs. Unfortunately, opening the 360 had also eliminated the possibility of returning it for repair/replace as part of the extended 3 year coverage specific to RRoD issues. Oh well. That 360 is now a pile of parts in a box. I tried one of the X-clamp fixes on it with no success and plan to keep trying at some point, but meanwhile I bit the bullet and bought another 360. The second 360 has - up to now - performed flawlessly. It is much quieter than the first one and seems to run cooler. It doesn't scratch discs, either: I've tested it with game demo discs, rotating the console and moving it around with the game playing, and no scratches have resulted. Apparently this was pure luck, since people are reporting that even the latest 360s are sometimes still made with DVD drives that can scratch discs.

Yesterday on trying to start the 360, the lower right segment of the ring of lights around the power button started flashing red, and text appeared on the screen: E74. I'd never heard of this error. Research on the support site reveals that E74 is somehow related to the RRoD issue and that any console so afflicted can be returned to Microsoft for repair/exchange. My second 360 is out of its main warranty period, but well within the three year period for RRoD issues. So I spent a frustrating hour going in circles on the support site trying to get to the place where it would tell me how to do this. Eventually I got there and will send it back.

There's just one problem: I very much doubt that Microsoft will send back the same 360, repaired. Apparently it is much more common for them to simply confirm the problem and send back a refurbished unit. Normally this would make sense, since it's much faster to simply pop a refurbished 360 in a box than to fix one and send it back. But if they send back a console that scratches discs, I will not be amused. What to do?

Here's my plan:

* Record everything on video.
* Attach a message to the lid of the 360, expressing my concerns and letting Microsoft know that I expect to receive either the same console back, repaired, or a different console which is no worse than the one I sent (doesn't run dangerously hot, isn't ridiculously loud and - most importantly - doesn't scratch discs). I will suggest that if they insist on returning a different unit, they simply make sure to choose one that is of recent vintage that includes a DVD drive of the same make and model as the one I returned.
* I will also point to my XBox 360 scratching disc notes on this site if they want to understand my point of view.

Unfortunately, I can't make a video of my now-nonfunctional second 360 not scratching my test disc since it doesn't even boot up. I should have done that before. Oh well.

Anyway, I'll post more here as things develop.

Update 2009Sep16: Here's the message I'll tape to the top of the 360 I send back:
Microsoft: please read! This 360 was working perfectly prior to the E74. It ran cool and quiet, and it never once scratched a disc, very much unlike my previous 360, which is now a pile of parts in a box somewhere in my shed. Despite your official statements on the subject, I know that the likelihood of a 360 scratching discs is entirely dependent on the make and model of the DVD drive it contains. Good drives prevent the disc from coming into contact with hard internal surfaces; bad drives do not. The drive in this 360 does not scratch discs and I would like the 360 you return to me to have the same characteristic. Please either return the same physical console (repaired), or return a console of the same vintage (with the same improvements in cooling and reliability) and the same make/model of DVD drive or a similar one that also prevents disc scratching. For further information, please refer to my XBox 360 disc scratching resource on the web at http://jdrgaming.com/.

Update 2009Oct04: Boxed it up and sent it back. Microsoft acknowledged receipt of the 360 on September 30. October 1 they sent more email telling me the "repair is complete" and that they had shipped it back. Given the extremely short duration between receiving and "repairing" the unit, I think it's safe to assume I will be receiving a replacement, NOT my original unit. If it's a disc-scratcher, I am going to be annoyed.

Update 2009Oct09: Yep, they sent me a replacement. Along with a bunch of documentation about how they had to de-register the serial number for the replaced 360 and instructions on how to register the new one. You can be sure that before I put any of my games into the new one, I'll test it with a demo disc to see if it scratches. Also of course I'm curious to see how loud the replacement is and whether it runs as cool as the one it's replacing. More to follow...

Update 2009Oct10: Fired up the replacement unit. I noticed that the power connector is slightly different between the old 360 and the new one, such that they are not interchangeable. That is weird. Anyway, the replacement unit, to my intense relief and mild surprise, runs quiet and cool, and does not scratch discs. I fired up a demo disc, and with the disc madly spinning away in the drive, picked up the 360 and lurched it around from side to side. It made some buzzing noises, and as I gradually increased the violence of its movements, eventually it made a grinding sound. My first thought was "oh no, here we go again" but my inspection of the disc showed no scratches whatsoever. Clearly the disc was lifting out of the tray but whatever it hit did not cause any scratches. Yay!

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