Blinking red light. Grey screen. Mid-level resets. If you have a Nintendo Entertainment System, you’ve dealt with all of these. Blowing on the cartridge can only help so much, and before long, you want to throw that black and grey gaming console out the window. But there is hope; your NES probably just needs some TLC. So before you do a Letterman drop from a tall rooftop, follow these steps to avoid those blinking red lights of death.
- Clean the cartridges themselves. What you’ll need is a handful of Q-tips and a good cleaning agent. I found a great industrial sized cleaner called “Greased Lightning” at the Home Depot. Take a cup and pour some of the cleaner in it, then take a Q-tip and dip it in the solution. Now hold the game cartridge up so you can see the 72-pin connector on the bottom. Gently swipe the doused Q-tip across the connector and you will immediately notice the amount of dirt it picks up. Go through all your games and clean them in this manner and you should notice a difference in quality in how they play. This may not be enough however, and your NES will probably need a cleaning.
- Take apart your NES. Start by getting a long and thin Phillips head screwdriver. Turn the NES upside down and take out the 6 screws holding the two halves of the console together. I recommend taking the screws and labeling them so you know where they go during reassembly. When you get the bottom half off, you will see the insides of your beloved NES. There is a black metal shield around the 72-pin connector held in with screws. Take that off with the screwdriver to expose the part that you’ll be focusing on. Essentially, you’ll be doing the same thing as you did to clean the games. Use the Q-tips and cleaning agent to get rid of that 20 years' worth of dirt and grime that’s accumulated. This should be enough to get your NES to work. If for some reason this is unsuccessful, move on to step 3.
- Buy a new 72-pin connector. These are easy to find online. Go to eBay and search for “72-pin connector;” dozens of auctions will show up. For about 5 bucks, you can buy a new one. Just unplug the old connector and plug in the new one. Reassemble it just the same as you would after cleaning the NES.
I hope these steps help you get back to playing Megaman and Mario. Good luck, and have fun with your rejuvenated NES.