Cleaning Game Cartridges

2010-05-26

It's always great to go back and play the games you've treasured as a child. As great as virtual console it generally doesn't compare to the real thing. However when you take those old games out from the attic, end up finding them at a garage sale, or get your hands on them another way, you maybe surprised that when you put them in your console and press power, you get a blank screen. See how to clean your game cartridges to enjoy them once more.

 

For the q-tips, I recommend the name brand. I've found that the generics are much more flexible and a pain to use. For the other two it doesn't matter which brand, but I've always used the original blue Windex.

It's important to use the cleaner first because the alcohol has a chance of pushing the dirt deeper into the pins of the cart.

First dip the q-tip into the window cleaner. The insert the q-tip into the cartridge and quickly move it up and down along the pins. No need to be too gentle here, the carts can actually take quite a beating so if you can hear it scraping the pins that's not bad, just don't go overboard. Do the same thing on the other side of the pins, if the q-tip is getting too dirty use the other end.

You can see from this picture, the q-tip with Windex lifted quite a bit of dirt and grime off of the game's pins.

The next step is to follow the same procedure, only using the rubbing alcohol instead of the window cleaner. This will help get rid of any excess dirt and shine up the pins.

One done wipe up the pins slowly using a dry q-tip.

This works great for nearly every cartridge based system, however remember that with the NES's lock out chip problems, you may still experience the blinking red light problem even with clean games. In this case there's a bunch of tricks you can use to bypass that issue. Try removing and re-inserting the game several times, or pulling the cartridge back out a couple mms so that it still fits in when pressed down but is not completely pressed in. Also try pushing it to the hard left or right before pushing it down, a different connection position can always help.

Lastly if you're still having big issues with any console, it could be that 1/10 time when your consoles pin connector is the issue. In this case you'll have to dismantle the console and pull out the pin connector to clean it yourself (or find a retro game store that will do it for you). It's not as difficult as it seems, so I recommend looking it up for your console to see how. If the pin connector is corroded to the point where cleaning doesn't help you can always get a completely new one for online stores or eBay to replace it.