Xbox 360 heatsink options, cooling upgrades

After making my fat PS3 nearly silent, I wanted to make my Xenon Xbox 360 as quiet as possible. Right now I’m in the process of attaching a computer heatsink to my console, but before I write about that, I should probably write about all of the Xbox 360 heatsink options.

Xbox 360 revisions, and their heatsinks

Microsoft’s first Xbox 360 revision was called Xenon. It featured a very short, but long and deep aluminum fin heatsink on top of the graphics chip. On the processor there was a beefier heatsink with a copper baseplate, heat pipes, and many aluminum fins.

Zephyr GPU heatsink

Those original heatsinks weren’t enough to cool the Xbox 360, leading to the red ring of death (RRoD) problem. Microsoft quickly released a new revision of the console called Zephyr. Along with an HDMI port, Zephyr improved the design of the graphics heatsink. They added a copper heatpipe leading to second array of aluminum fins. Many Xenon systems that were repaired by Microsoft were shipped back with this upgraded heatsink. The processor heatsink remained unchanged.

Later in 2007, Microsoft released the third revision of the Xbox 360, called Falcon. Falcon kept the same graphics heatsink from the Zephyr revision, but upgraded the processor heatsink. This new heatsink featured a larger all aluminum design with many thicker fins. Opus, from 2008, was another revision that had the same heatsinks as Falcon , but didn’t have HDMI. Jasper was another revision that used the same Falcon heatsinks.

Interestingly the final revision of the fat Xbox 360, Kronos, kept the processor heatsink from Falcon, but reverted back to the original Xenon graphics chip heatsink. The newer Slim, and E consoles combined the CPU and the GPU into a single chip, and cooled it using a larger single heatsink.

Microsoft slowly improved on the design of their heatsink, while also using more efficient parts within their consoles. Xenon systems used a 203W power supply, while the Jasper systems used a 150W power supply.

List of official heatsinks

Xenon CPU heatsink

Here’s a list of official heatsinks that Microsoft used in the Xbox 360 fat systems.

  • Xenon CPU heatsink
    • First used: Xenon
    • Used in:
      • Xenon
      • Zephyr
    • Mass: 232g
  • Xenon GPU heatsink
    • First used: Xenon
    • Used in:
      • Xenon
      • Kronos
    • Mass: ?
  • Zephyr GPU heatsink
    • First used: Zephyr
    • Used in:
      • Zephyr
      • Falcon
      • Opus
      • Jasper
    • Mass: 139g
  • Falcon CPU heatsink
    • First used: Falcon
    • Used in:
      • Falcon
      • Opus
      • Jasper
      • Kronos
    • Mass: 272g

Falcon CPU heatsink

As you can see the Falcon CPU heatsink is very massive compared to all of the other heatsinks, and the Xenon CPU heatsink is also much more massive than any of the GPU heatsinks.

Mass isn’t the only factor that goes into the effectiveness of a heatsink, but it is a good way to compare the heatsinks. There was much more material to help cool the processors when using the upgraded heatsinks.

Processor heatsink replacement

Xbox 360 heatsink options

The only official heatsink available to replace the Xenon CPU heatsink is the Falcon CPU heatsink. They can be hard to find, but there are some on websites like eBay for under $10, which isn’t a bad deal.

I replaced my heatsink with the Falcon heatsink and did find it improved cooling performance, but wasn’t perfect. Before I had to run my fans at 12V to prevent overheating, now I am able to run my fans at around 9V without overheating. It’s still loud, but is an improvement.

Graphics processor heatsink replacement

Xbox 360 heatsink upgrades

My console had the improved Zephyr GPU heatsink, so I didn’t have any official upgrade paths. I ended up deciding to attempt to replace the Zephyr GPU heatsink with the extra Xenon CPU heatsink that I had after replacing it with the Falcon CPU heatsink.

Surprisingly the bigger heatsink fit right into place without interfering with any other components on the board. One thing to note is that with the bigger heatsink there is no longer any room to fit the DVD drive into the case. You can either extend the wires and have it positioned outside of the console, or use an optical drive emulator (ODE) internally. I went with the ODE option.

Shroud cut

Another important thing to know is that the airflow within the Xbox 360 isn’t very great, so there needs to be a shroud to route the airflow where it needs to go. The stock shroud routes air through the stock CPU and GPU heatsinks. Because the replacement GPU heatsink is much taller, the shroud needs to be modified.

I cut out the part of the shroud that routed air through the original GPU heatsink. I was then able to use some aluminum foil tape to extend the shroud to route air through the new GPU heatsink. You want to make sure that the foil doesn’t come into any contact with components on the board, since when connected to the heatsinks and case, it acts as a ground.

Custom shroud

By doing this mod I found that the CPU puts out more heat than the GPU does. Any overheating was a result of the CPU overheating, and no longer had anything to do with the GPU. In other words replacing the GPU heatsink with the Xenon CPU heatsink is a pretty good way to keep the GPU cool.

Conclusions, and future plans

Xbox 360 top fan

If you don’t mind opening up your Xbox 360, it’s possible to get better cooling performance fairly easily, by upgrading the heatsinks. Using either two Xenon CPU heatsinks, or two Falcon CPU heatsinks will help keep your Xbox 360 running cooler and quieter.

To stop the processor from overheating I’m in the process of installing a tower computer heatsink into the Xbox 360. I may also do the same thing for the GPU heatsink depending on the results. Using a computer heatsink should allow me to get much better temperatures with much lower fan speeds. They are much more massive, and use much larger fans.

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Exellent job!