Disclaimer: I cannot be responsible for damages, monetary or
otherwise, incurred by the use of these procedures. Anyone who attempts
them does so solely at their own risk.
If you have an old NES, you are painfully familiar with the
problems dirty contacts on a cartridge or the system can cause. Dirt
and corrosion prevent a solid connection between the game and the
system, resulting in blank/flashing screens or garbled graphics.
In fact owners of any cart-based system can have this problem if the
system isn't kept in a dust-free area. And although the nature of the
problem is slightly different, CD-based systems have their share of
troubles with dirty games as well. Fortunately all these problems are
generally easy to fix.
Also included here are directions to clean the NES's contacts by
hand if you can't find a cleaning kit or if a kit doesn't work.
When to attempt this fix
It's a good idea to clean all your games and systems regularly
as preventive maintenance, even if you're not experiencing problems.
But if you are having trouble, cleaning will clear up the following
- Blank screens
- Scrambled game graphics
- Games that crash in the middle of play
- On the NES, flashing screens and power lights
- On CD-based systems, games that won't boot up
What you'll need
- Windex or a solution of 50% isopropyl alcohol, 50% water
- For cartridge systems, a cleaning cartridge (can be purchased at
most toy stores)
What to do
To clean a cartridge:
- Dip a Q-Tip in the cleaning solution and rub firmly across the metal
contacts on the dirty cartridge. Repeat until the Q-Tip comes out clean.
- Use a dry Q-Tip to wipe off the excess solution.
- Once the game is dry, plug it in to test it. You may want to remove
and reinsert the game a couple times more to make sure the contacts are
- If the cartridge is completely clean and it still won't work, your
system may need cleaning. See below.
To clean a cartridge system:
- Apply solution to the appropriate cleaning device for your system.
- Insert the cleaner into cartridge port, remove, and reinsert repeatedly.
- Wipe dirt from the cleaner and repeat above steps until the device
comes out clean.
- Allow the system a few minutes to dry, then test with a clean
- If the system still won't work the contacts may need a more
thorough cleaning or may need replacement. See below.
To clean a cartridge system by hand:
These instructions are intended for the older model NES but can be
adapted to other systems. Genesis and SNES systems can be cleaned right
through the cartridge port.
- Remove the screws on the underside of the system.
- Turn the system over and lift off the plastic top.
- Remove the screws holding down the metal RF shield and remove the
- Remove the screws holding down the black plastic cartridge holder.
Note how the small plastic tab on the front of the holder slides
underneath the motherboard. Slide the holder forward and remove (it's
all right if the motherboard bends slightly).
- Lift the back of the motherboard up and pull off the set of contacts
in the black plastic housing. (They will resist a bit but just rock them
back and forth to slide them off.)
- Dip a toothbrush (preferably not yours; use a loved one's) in the
cleaning solution and scrub contacts off.
- Rinse contacts off with water and allow to dry.
- Lift up the back of the motherboard and slide the contacts back into
- Lift up the front of the motherboard and slide the cartridge
holder onto the contacts. Be sure the tab on the front of the holder
clips underneath the motherboard.
- Reattach the cartridge holder's screws. (The long ones go in the
second set of holes from the back.)
- Plug in the system and test with clean cartridges. (It's perfectly
safe to do so with the top off.)
- If the games still won't work the contacts may be bad.
Replacements can be taken from another defective system or purchased
from some electronics dealers, however. Try
MCM Electronics for
- If the system is working properly, replace the cover (you can leave
the RF shield off if you like, I won't tell the FCC) and reattach the
screws on the bottom.
To clean a CD:
- Apply cleaning solution to soft cloth.
- Wipe the CD with strokes starting at the center and going straight
to the outer edge. Do not use circular strokes.
- Insert the CD in the system to test.
If you have problems or questions regarding any of the above info feel
free to E-mail me. I'd also
love to hear about your own game repair exploits. Thanks go to Barry Laws
for the MCM Electronics info.