Fixing a thrifted Playstation 4

Tagged: diy

I like to frequent one or two thrift stores. Most of the time there’s very little there for you, and you leave empty handed. But as with everything in life, if you’re patient and consistent, you’ll be met with opportunities.

Last week I found one such opportunity. My local goodwill had a playstation 4 on sale for $35 Canadian. A steal! I’ve picked up numerous consoles from that place before (Three Nintendo Wiis, which are fantastic retro game consoles once you have the homebrew channel installed) and had very good success. I figured $35 was enough to take a gamble on for a current gen console.

I took it home, plugged it in, and presto. It works!

Thank you Gillian Calkins. Your taste in games is questionable.

I was pretty excited - I’m not much of a current gen gamer but there are a couple good games for the PS4. Maybe even some homebrew. Plus, it’s a free bluray player if nothing else.

Elated, I checked to see if it would play any of my games. This is when I noticed there was something wrong. The disc drive gave three loud chirps when I tried to eject the disc, and made a horrible grinding noise. (Occasionally game consoles you find at thrift shops will still have a game in the drive. I’m always a little sad when it’s empty.) It also wouldn’t seem to accept any disc that I inserted into the front.

It was then that I noticed that when I picked the console up and turned it over, I could hear something loose rattling inside.

The unit, still with its price tag on.

I debated going back to the thrift shop and returning it - they do have a refund policy if you buy electronics and they don’t function. But I knew they’d refund me and toss the console in the trash, and I’m not about that. Especially when the console still technically works fine. It can still download and play digital copies.

So I did the sensible thing and found a disassembly video on youtube..

The hard drive bay open. $35 also isn't terrible for a 2.5" 500GB hard drive.

All the main bolts on the PS4 have a Security Torx head, but the security pin doesn’t seem to be very tall. I was able to loosen and tighten the bolts with a regular torx bit and a steady hand.

And I've voided the warranty. Not that it matters.
Blurry picture of the console with the power supply taken out

In the past I’ve soldered a modchip in a Playstation 2, so I wasn’t daunted by opening up the case to see if I could find anything wrong. I read online that it was possible to replace the disc drive as long as the pcb for your own disc drive was still working. So maybe that would be a last resort. I suspected that it was a hardware issue.

I followed the disassembly guide until I was able to remove the optical drive. Immediately, a small plastic dowel fell out of the drive.

I'm sure that's not important.

Additionally, one of the blue rollers at the front of the drive seemed lopsided.

The roller on the left doesn't seem right.

I undid the screws on the front plate. This turned out to be easy - I guess to make cleaning the laser lens simpler.

It's completely askew.

I realized that the dowel was meant to go between those two rollers. Likely this was the mechanism that accepted discs and also ejected them.

Putting the dowel back in was a simple matter. Nothing actually looked damaged.

It turns out, it was as simple as that. I carefully put everything back together (it helps to take pictures at every step and store the screws in an altoids tin) and plugged the console back in. Sure enough, it accepted discs no problem.

Some anime fighting games to test it out.

And there I had it, a functional pristine PS4 console for $35 from goodwill, and a fun little project to make me feel accomplished along with it. Thrifted stuff is nice like that. It’s a pretty cheap and low stakes way to tinker and play with stuff.

Ironically, after all this, I haven’t used the PS4 at all. I don’t watch many movies, and most ps4 games are also available for PC. Unlike the Wii, which has a cool hardware gimmick, the PS4 is definitely in the category of “Worse PC”.

I also don’t own any Blurays.

I also already owned a PS4 slim that got used exclusively as a Bloodborne machine, and a console to take to weekly fighting game meetups.

So not the most rewarding project. But still a lot of fun.