Oh cool! You found your old NES in the garage! Why don't you plug that sucker in for some nostalgic gaming? Hook it up, pop in a game, turn it on, aaaaaaaaand
screen of death...great. Ok, no biggie, just take out the game, blow on
the contacts, pop it back in, aaaaaaaaand
Red screen of death. Well that's different. Wait, I know! Try a different game and switch the NES and TV from ch3 to ch4; that should do it!
Now before you throw your system out the window, why don't we try to fix it? The NES system can be pretty finicky, but most of the time it's the game that's causing problems.
So let's get to it! Here's how to clean your NES cartridges.
Things You Will Need
As it is with most things, there is an easy way and a hard way to do this. The hard way works better, but the easy way is...easier.Easy Way:
- A Cup
- Scrubber Sponge
3.8mm Gamebit Driver
- Cotton Balls or Soft Cloth
The Easy Way
Pour a little windex into a bowl or cup and dip one end of the q-tip in it. Don't use alcohol, water, thinner, or anything like that, as these substances may damage the game.
Clean both sides of the contacts with the q-tip, and use the other end of it to dry the contacts. I usually do this twice on each side.
OK! Now that that's done, let's pop it in and see if it works!
The Hard Way
The hard way isn't actually all that hard, but since we'll be opening up the cartridge, it's time consuming and requires special tools.
You're probably going to need a special tool to open the game cartridge. Early games (those made in or before 1987) use regular slotted screws, but the bulk of NES carts (as well as all SNES and N64 carts) use special 3.8mm security screws designed to keep people like me from tampering with the games. They look like this:
Ok! Now that we've got our tools, let's open up that cart! Take out the three screws on the back of the cart (five screws on older carts) by turning the driver counter-clockwise. Be sure to put them in a container so you don't lose them. I put mine in a pill organizer.
After you've taken out all of the screws, carefully open the cartridge by lifting the lip at the bottom of the cart.
There! We've finally got this little guy open! Now we just have to take out the game chip and clean it. You can just pull it out; there are no screws or adhesives holding it in. You may be surprised to find that the actual game only takes up a little less than half of the cartridge space, and you may be wondering why. Well, not too many people know this, but the extra space is for hiding cash and blow.
Before we clean the chip, we need to clean the inside of the cartridge itself. Even though the cartridges are closed up tight, plenty of gunk still finds its way inside. This one actually got dog hair in it somehow. Anyway, take a cotton ball or soft cloth, dip it in windex, and wipe down the inside. Invariably, the cotton will come back pretty nasty.
Now that the inside is clean, get yourself something to scrub the contacts with. I use a scouring sponge dipped in windex. Scrub the pins from side to side, and don't worry about getting liquid on them. As long as you make sure it's COMPLETELY dry before you put it back together or plug it in, it will be fine.
There! Look how shiny and clean those contacts are! Just a couple moments of elbow grease and it's good to go! Now just put it back together. Don't worry about putting the chip in wrong--the chip and cartridge are molded so that it can only go in one way. Put the top clips into their slots and close the cartridge, then put the screws back in, turning them clockwise until they're snug.
Here we are, all back together. Ugh,
looks like we'll need to clean the outside too, but let's just pop it in and
see if it works for now.
HUZZAH! Success! Now I can enjoy Super Spike V'Ball! This came in a box of about 100 NES games I came across, so I haven't played it before. Let's see if it's any good.
We're gonna punish you turkeys with our spikes. They just don't make games with that kind of deep, powerful dialog anymore.
Well that's how to get your old game carts working. The process is basically
the same for any game cartridge; Genesis, SNES, Atari, whatever. Hope it
helped! Good luck and happy gaming!