If you're a proud owner of a Playstation 3 that is already showing its age, there is a big chance that you're afraid that it's going to start showing the Yellow Light of Death soon, as it's bound to happen to all PS3s. Or maybe you have it worse - your console may have already YLoDed and have already had it repaired by Sony themselves, and now you're afraid that it's going to crap out again.
There is a permanent fix for the PS3 YLoD, but first, you need to know what causes it first. And while it's surprising to know that Sony intentionally caused the problem, it's even more surprising that it's not really their fault.
The Culprit: Lead Free Solder
Industry standards have mandated that all manufacturers of toys - which sadly includes game consoles - should use lead-free solder on their products, under the reasoning that normal solder can put children at risk of lead poisoning. While we're not going to fault any institution for only wanting to keep our kids safe (even though technically, a game console won't really put their kids at risk since the lead is stuck in places that kids won't reach), the mandate is a little bit unfair for the game console manufacturers and the users.
The thing about lead-free solder is that it has a lower temperature melting point. This is bad news especially considering how powerful the PS3 is. The PS3 produces a LOT of heat, with the end result being that the solders used eventually melt, resulting in the dreaded yellow light of death. It's inevitable for all PS3's and minor differences in manufacturing batches and the operating conditions only means that the YLOD could happen sooner or much later, but it WILL happen.
Of course, Sony knows about the problem, but their hands are pretty much tied when it comes to the materials used. They can't change into another manufacturing process this late in the game even if the mandate is pulled out. However, they do offer replacements if your console is still under warranty. The only problem is that Sony only reballs the solder joints using the same kind of lead free solder that caused the YLoD in the first place. At best, it's only going to extend the life of your PS3 long enough for the warranty to expire. At its worst, you can actually end up with a bum deal and get your hard drive wiped out or replaced with a different drive, which gets rid of all your saves if you forgot to back up.
The real solution for Playstation 3 YLoDs is to reball the joints using leaded solder. This is not illegal since you're not a toy manufacturer, and employing leaded solder for personal use is not a criminal offense. There's also no risk involved unless you plan on putting the disassembled pieces of PS3 inside your mouth.
Procuring the materials isn't difficult either. Leaded solder is not an illegal material and can be bought in any decent hardware shop. The only thing worth considering is the warranty. If you do this yourself, you need to be sure that you're handy with a soldering iron, because you're going to be voiding your warranty.
If you have no soldering skills, and you no longer have any warranty, you may want to check out any of the third party repair services offering to reball your PS3. There are a lot of them floating around on the net, but it is best to pick one that's near your place so you can go there personally and even check out how it's done, instead of doing the shipping-tracking-waiting dance. Going there personally will also let you save on shipping costs.
Back Up Your Saves
Last but not the least, while repair services tend to assure that they'll be retaining the saves, it is in your best interests to make a backup first. However, if you have a credit card info saved on your console, you may want to send it for repairs with the hard disk removed, since it's not really needed during the resoldering process.