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Nintendo 3DS takes a dive

Okay, I lied. This next post isn't going to be about the feeder I built.

It's going to be about the 3DS my wife recently decided to drop in the toilet. Don't ask, I have no idea why she though that was a good idea.

Saturday  I was over at a friend's parent's house working on setting up a triple boot system for them on their laptop (Vista, Win7 and Mint 11). I may go into more details in a future post, most likely when I convert my primary desktop to a similar configuration. 

I was finishing up the last bit of configuration in BURG when I received a text from my wife. [Do you think the rice thing works for waterlogged electronics?] My initial thought was that she had spilled a drink on her phone. After the initial What-The-Hell thought had passed I realized how silly that was considering she had just sent me a message from her phone. Knowing the only other electronic device she had with her was her 3DS I got as much details regarding the situation as possible. Liquid type, was it submerged, how long was it in the liquid, etc. Once I had confirmed the specifics I told her to leave it off and to remove the battery if she had the tools and felt comfortable doing it, to wrap it in some paper towels, keep it level, and to get it home as soon as possible, to which she replied [I was able to turn it on and off twice]. *facepalm*

Once she brought it home I promptly removed the battery cover and the battery (four simple screws along the top on the back side of the system) and gave it a quick visual once over to assess the damage. It didn't seem to be in too bad a shape and there was no water pouring out anywhere, which was a good sign. The left, when viewed from the front, camera lense had condensation in it and the top right corner of the upper screen looked to have some as well. 

I then proceeded to get my precision screw driver set, I used a 2.0mm and a 1.4mm Philips, some cotton balls, a very small pair of needle nose pliers, and my plastic pry tools. Once the battery cover was removed there were several (9?) more Philips screws to be removed before the back cover could be remove. Once they were removed and safely stored I was able to lift off the back cover and get a better idea of the damage. There were a few small water droplets on the inside but the water damage sticker did not show any signs of water so apparently it hadn't gotten too far in. 

The shoulder buttons are attached to the motherboard by small box connectors (I don't know their names). Be sure to remove these before pulling the back cover off completely. From here that are many ZIF connectors and their wires to remove before you are able take the motherboard out. I disengaged all of the visible ZIFs and the ribbon cables, removed the wifi card, the IR card, and the connector for the SD card slot, they all use connectors similar to the shoulder buttons, just different in size.

Once those cards are removed and all visible box and ZIF connectors are disengaged, you have to remove the SD card slot before you can continue on. There are two small screws that hold the front of it down and a piece of sticky glue that holds the connector down to the metal shield below the SD slot. One of the plastic pry tools works well to disengage it, just work slow and be gentle. Once the SD slot is removed there are two more screw beneath it that hold the motherboard down. Remove those as well. There are a few screws holding in the analog stick directly above the SD slot. Remove those and the ones on the left side opposite the ABXY buttons and slowly pull the motherboard up. Don't pull it too far because on the bottom (the side towards the screen) is another ZIF connector with another ribbon cable coming from the top half. Carefully remove this and you will be able to completely remove the motherboard at this point.

Once the motherboard was out I looked it over and dried up the couple of small droplets with the cotton balls. I took out the bottom touch screen and inspected it as well. Once I had reviewed the circuits and the add on chips for any missed water droplets I shifted my focus to the top screen.

Having repaired and dismantled numerous devices including DS Lite, PSP Phat and Slim, home game consoles, and iPod Touches I have a pretty decent understanding of the way most of these devices are constructed and taken apart. Using that prior knowledge, I grabbed my pry tool and began taking the top cover off. I started working my way around the edge prying slowly to release it from the glue. There was a lot of glue. I ended up cracking the top shell in two places before deciding I was doing something wrong.

I stopped and took another look at the upper section and realized that it was 3 pieces, not 2. I then proceeded to pry off the front black screen protector that goes over the LCD. This removed much easier, and would have been easier still had I used a heat gun. I worked my way across the top edge starting by the 3D slider switch. Once I had the front removed there were only 6 screws remaining between me and a fully torn down 3DS.

I looked over the upper pieces I had removed and dried up the visible water with the cotton balls. Afterwards I placed all of the pieces flat on one of the wooden "breakfast in bed" type trays and set them in the guest bedroom so they wouldn't be disturbed while it was drying. Just under 72 hours after the 3DS took it's first swim, judging by the amount of water I found in the device when I opened it, I decided that it should be okay to put it back together.

Reassembly was fairly uneventful, although I did almost forget to reconnect one of the ZIF connectors that plugs in under the SD slot. After everything was back in one piece I prepared myself for a bricked system and placed the battery back in. I held it in with my hand while I turned it over to see if it worked.

I pressed the power button and to my surprise the system booted right up without issue. Even the cyan light that indicates water damage was gone. I quickly navigated to the settings so I could test out the microphone, 3D cameras, analog stick and all of the buttons. Everything seemed to be functioning perfectly, that is, until I tried to return to the home menu.

The home button didn't work. Everything else did, but the home button refused to function. I did a quick search online to see if there was anything I could to to attempt revival of it but there are very few listings for home button repair that have anything to do with a non-iOS device. I opened the system back to see if perhaps I had missed a ribbon cable somewhere or maybe one was loose, but once I was back inside I found that the Home, Select, and Start buttons are soldered on to the motherboard. End Game.

All in all, I consider this a success. The system was brought back from a non-functioning state up to 97% of it's functionality. It is still able to play games, launch apps, take 3D pictures and do most everything a non-Olympic swimmer 3DS can do. The only thing it can's do is multitask, which means no more returning home to launch the web browser to look up the Konami code that you still can't remember for some very odd reason.

I suspect the wife will get irritated with having to shut the system off to close an app, find someone to buy it from her, and use the funds towards purchasing another system that has not been intimate with Mr. H2O. Her birthday is still quite a ways away, so I think next year I'll be sure to get a tiny life vest for any more small electronics I buy her.

Although I'm not sure she'd find it as funny as I would.

Somehow, the how button started working again. I guess it just needed a few more days to rest. Now the 3DS is back to 100% working condition.

Unrelated Side Note: I lost half of this post twice to a power outage and an internet outage respectively. I have corrected the power issue with a battery back up, the other one I can't fix so readily. Regardless, it shouldn't have happened. I'm looking for an app I can use to write these instead so that it's saved locally and online in the event of another failure (of any kind, except my own of course. It's my fault if I'm the one who broke it). If I can't find one that suits my needs, you may see another article, or series depending on the scope of it, regarding my use of the Blogger API.


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