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Thread: Dreamcast console problems/issues/head scratchers and potential solutions

  1. #1
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    Dreamcast console problems/issues/head scratchers and potential solutions

    I would like to draw upon and focus the vast knowledge of people here in relation to repairing/modding the Dreamcast.

    On a personal note I have (what I think are) glitchy controller ports - VMU's make the initial beep upon controller insertion into console OR upon console startup and then they go dead and sometimes the controller as well.

    I generally have to place something under the controller plug to tilt it upwards slightly whilst plugged in before the console will recognise the VMU and controller consistently.

    Researching this problem, the consensus is that the common problem is the resistors and battery inside, though it also gives me the impression that the symptoms should be work/fail, not glitchy like I am experiencing.

    I have hit the ports and controllers connectors with heaps of contact cleaner (Deoxit) and no dice.

    Ideas/help welcome. @MangledLeg
    Wanted - Neo Geo AES games (PM me Please)
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  2. #2
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    Deoxit was going to be my suggestion as it's worked wonders on everything I've thrown at it. Did you remember to insert and remove the controller from the port multiple times while the deoxit gold's on both? The friction will help remove any oxidation that spraying/leaving it to settle won't budge (for reference that's my usual approach - deoxit gold, get plenty in the socket and connector, insert/remove multiple times, then clean again with deoxit and leave it to settle on the connectors and clean any other surface that's come into contact with it using iso).

    So, a couple of ideas.

    First up, do a visual inspection of the ports - if the contacts are damaged or corroded you could very gently scrape away the corrosion, clean with iso and compressed air, then deoxit gold them. If you're super paranoid, there's a deoxit sealing product that may be worth layering on top of this, but in cases where I've had corroded controller ports the above's worked well. If the ports are damaged and not holding the controller in this won't help either.

    Beyond all this, there's also some brute force continuity checks - decase the controller and use a multimeter to trace the wires from the controller PCB's cable through to the controller PCB and run continuity checks on everything. I don't reckon you should need to do this, but might be an idea to try this even prior to resurfacing the ports or controller plug.

    Failing any visual corrosion you have a few things to look at depending on the deep dive you want to take.

    First up, the DC mainboard PCB connects to the controller board via a ribbon cable. Check it's seated, the contacts are clean and isn't loose.

    Next, inspect the fuse on the controller PCB - it's prone to failure and has cause all sorts of bullshit over the years. TBH they should be cheap and easy to source (don't know the value off the top of my head, just google Dreamcast controller fuse replacement) and should be an easy job to replace.

    Also worthwhile to keep in mind is inspecting the general state of the controller PCB. I've been working on some VA0 Japanese PCBs lately and all these years later they are still beautiful and solid, but my PAL controller board (VA1 model DC, launch console) was a bit stuffed. I originally popped it open to replace the LED as it had stopped working only to find the LED's pad and nearby trace had lifted and this had caused the problem (possibly a victim of modding inexperience when I would have swapped the orange LED for a blue one back in 2001 or 2002). However, my DC kept randomly resetting and the culprit ended up being some corrosion on the traces leading to the fan, so I had to repair those too. While I had it open I ended up taking out the battery and replaced it with a vertical stand and fresh rechargeable coin cell battery and I noticed the traces and pads around the battery were a little flakey as well, so I strengthened the traces nearby IIRC. The simple job turned out to be a little more complicated than I thought!

    ....... mind, after jabbering on about all of this - have you tried other controllers and alternative ports? Might be a dodgy controller...

    ... and lastly, if you're finding the DC's randomly resetting check the pins that connect to the internal power supply and make sure they're getting good contact in the socket. In the past some people have bent them in slightly to improve contact or run a little solder on them so they're slightly bigger and thus improve contact. I don't think I've ever had to do this so it might not be best practice anymore - this is going back to 2002 or 2003 I think, so a while ago (at a time when I had a head full of hair!!!).

    Keep us informed of how you go!
    Retro Otaku - my nerdy gaming blog...

  3. #3
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    It can't hurt to replace the resistors and reflow adjacent solder while you're there. The controller cabling may also have a micro break in the copper but I'd start console side for troubleshooting with the solutions you've referenced.

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