Modchip soldering tips

I have installed modchips into lots of different video game consoles. I have also done a lot of other console mods. The list of consoles that I have modded (by soldering) to run homebrew includes:

  • 1x PlayStation 1
  • 1x PSone (PlayStation 1 slim)
  • 1x PlayStation 2 fat
  • 2x PlayStation 2 slim
  • 1x PlayStation 3 fat
  • 1x PlayStation 3 slim

I’ve learned a lot along the way, so I’d like to share some tips that may help your modchip installation experience a smoother one. These tips are listed in the order I thought of them, not in any order of importance.

These modchip soldering tips are linked to from other posts, and will be continually updated as I gain more experience.

Modchip soldering tips

  1. Tin all of the points you will be soldering to.
    1. Tinning involves applying a small amount of solder to each point you will be attaching a wire.
    2. The flux in the solder will help clean the point, and the added solder gives the wire something to attach to.
  2. Use flux to tin copper pads that don’t have any solder on them already.
    1. I didn’t figure this one out until I installed my second PS2 modchip.
    2. Apply some flux on top of the pads. Then put some solder onto your soldering iron. With the solder on the iron, brush your soldering iron across the pads.
    3. You should see that the solder sticks to the pads very easily, leaving you with nicely tinned points.
    4. Just be careful not to bump any of the components on the board.
  3. Isopropyl alcohol is useful for cleaning circuit boards.
    1. Isopropyl alcohol can be used for all sorts of things.
    2. Before you tin a point on the board you can clean it with isopropyl alcohol.
    3. If you need to get rid of flux on the board you can clean it off with isopropyl alcohol.
  4. Keep your soldering iron clean, and use as little solder as possible.
    1. When working with such small points it is important to minimize the amount of solder being used.
    2. By using too much solder you risk bridging connections, or making a messy or bad solder joint.
    3. A clean iron is also important for making good contact with the solder on the point and the wire.
  5. Solder the wire to the bigger point first.
    1. In the context of the PS2 modchip this means solder to the modchip first, then the PS2’s board.
    2. This tip comes down to the fact that a connection with a bigger object is a much more solid connection.
    3. If you solder to the board first it’s much easier to accidentally detach the wire when routing it to the modchip, or stripping the insulation off the other end.
  6. Plan where you are going to place the modchip before you begin soldering.
    1. Sony tends to make their consoles fit together really tightly with very little extra free space inside.
    2. This becomes an issue when trying to fit a modchip into the shell of the console.
    3. Examine where all of the wires need to go, and where there is room for the modchip.
    4. Try to put the console back together with the modchip in that position to see if it will fit.
  7. Be careful when routing your wires.
    1. There are many rules that involve routing your wires, and they may conflict.
    2. One rule is to make your wires as short as possible.
    3. Another rule is to route your wires so that they don’t cross over each other.
    4. You also need to avoid routing your wires across, or really close to, screw holes.
    5. Power wires typically need to be thicker than signal wires. You can either use a single lower gauge wire, or run multiple higher gauge wires in parallel.
  8. Use fine point tweezers.
    1. 30 AWG wire is really thin, and it can be hard to route wires right up against the board with fingers.
    2. Using fine point tweezers makes it a lot easier to work with the wire.
    3. Tweezers are also useful for holding a wire or component into place while you solder.
  9. Be careful when soldering the wires to the board.
    1. When I installed my first PS1 modchip I pushed a surface mount component I was soldering a wire to out of position.
    2. Holding the component into place with tweezers does work, but soldering to the top of the component is even easier.
    3. Take your time, and keep your hands steady, to reduce the risk of bumping something out of place on the board.
  10. Have the right tools.
    1. Good tools make soldering modchips a lot easier.
    2. Lighting is important, very bright white LED lamps are a good thing to have shining on the board.
    3. Some sort of magnifying device is also useful.
    4. Additional tools include a good temperature controlled soldering iron, wire strippers, and flush side cutters.