January 17, 2012

Cleaning a Sega Genesis Controller and Deck

Restoring a Sega Genesis *coughcleaningonecough* can be a very easy process that won't take you more than 20 minutes maximum. My Genesis was purchased a while back, and I never got around to restoring it. It needed very little: a stuck C button on the pad, a cleaning, and a cord replacement. I will walk you through opening both of them (the pad and the console)

The innards of a Sega Genesis. For safety purposes, make sure to ground yourself before touching the PCB (printed circuit board). You can see the cartridge output, the power output, and the AV output. To get here, you will need to remove the top half of the console. Unscrew four screws in the bottom of the console, remove them, and gently lift up. Next, remove the 6+ screws holding down the RF shield. This piece of sheet metal was designed to not let radio frequencies go in or out around the circuitry, to make it FCC compliant. Be careful, edges can be sharp. Remove that, and you will end up where the photo is. From here, clean out any dust that got inside. I use an old toothbrush and a paintbrush that was never used for painting (a $1.00 one from Home Depot would suffice). Circuitry does not like dust! If a Genesis has never been opened in 15+ years, you should expect some dust.

Here are the halves to a Sega Genesis controller. The PCB has been removed and stored in a safe place, and cannot be washed with any type of liquid. You will see my shaver guide, which you should ignore, a camera tripod, which you should ignore, the top half of the controller, the bottom half, buttons A,B,C, the start button, and the directional piece.

I immediately suspect that someone was either very careful with their system, or packed it away for years. The quality of this controller face is still excellent, with minor wear.

Going into this, I knew the C button was sticking. This is likely because someone spilt a liquid near the button, and that liquid had a residue that remained. This residue is likely soda- when it dries it will stick to any surfaces it contacts, making the button very hard to press. In this photo, you can see the remains of a 10+ year old soda stain.

I use an old toothbrush that is no longer used for brushing teeth. It is gentle, yet abrasive enough to get at anything that needs to be cleaned. Put a little of your favorite soap onto the head and begin scrubbing. I scrubbed the entire ensemble a few pictures above, making sure to get into the crevices of the two controller halves. Historically, this is where all of the dead skin cells accumulate, and they can remain there, crusted, for a decade. I found some, and promptly cleaned it. Soap and water removed the offending residue. If it is really bad, you will need a) ventilation and b) a product called "Goo Gone". If GG doesn't work, it is GG for you, and you will be crap out of luck. I have never had a residue that fully resisted GG. Clean with soap and water, scrubbing into every surface that you can. Douse the plastic parts in water, and hand dry them. To get any remaining pools of liquid, I let the parts dry overnight, though it shouldn't take that long.

Once everything is dry, you can begin reassembling the controller. Make sure that the rubber pads are in good shape (they are essential) and clean, and then align them into the front half with the buttons. Reinstall the PCB, keeping in mind that the wire has to go in so far. Make sure the screw holes line up, place the back on top, and re-screw everything back together. Enjoy your gaming session!

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