Non-Booting Troubleshooting

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Whether you pulled your console out of the depths of your closet or made an impulse purchase at a thrift store, sometimes an N64 console wont startup and play like it should. Below are a few testing options depending on the tools you have available.

Black Screen

Unfortunately this is the most common symptom and happens when almost anything goes wrong.

  1. Is the Red Light On. No = Bad Power Supply, Yes? Is it dim? Could still be a bad power supply
  2. Try another cartridge, and another. Usually the problem is with the cartridge or a dirty cartridge connector.
    1. Remember to power off the console before changing the cartridge
    2. Removing and re-inserting the cartridge will scuff some corrosion off the contacts which may help.
  3. Depending on the game cartridge it could take up to 5 seconds for the console to power on, generate a video signal and for your TV to sync to the signal. Please be patient when restarting the console.
  4. Try another TV if available.
  5. Avoid using multiple video format/cable converters/adapters. In most cases they will degrade the image, in some cases they simply wont pass the signal to the next section.

If you have electronic test equipment you can try some of the following steps.

NOTE: With the cover off (improved ventilation) the console should be OK running without the heat shrouds and heat sinks for some period of time. This is NOT a Guarantee!!

NOTE: Find the NUS-PIF IC behind controller ports 3 & 4, there is usually a circle molded into 1 corner, that corner is Pin 1. Pins are counted down across and back up, in a counter clockwise direction.

  1. Volt Meter
    1. The Power Supply has 2 voltages 3.3V and 12V
      1. Buy a new Power Supply or Re-Cap the current one.
    2. The console has 3 voltages internally, there is a voltage regulator that converts 12V down to 5V
      1. 5V and 12V is used mostly in the Audio and Video output area of the board.
      2. 3.3V is used by most of the logic chips the RCP, CPU, RAM and PIF.
    3. PIF Power Pins
      1. NUS-PIF - Pin 14 (bottom left) = GND
      2. NUS-PIF - Pin 28 (Top Right) = 3.3V
        1. Failure here could be bad caps on the motherboard
    4. At this point it's not a common failure but pretty easy to check the Power and Reset switches
      1. Continuity and move/press the buttons
    5. Retest the console with the TV, Console & Game(s) again
      1. Sometimes just knocking the dust around can get it to work again.
    6. SLOW DIGITAL Tests (i.e. < 1 Hz)
      1. NUS-PIF - Pin 6 Cold Reset
        1. 3.3V when running, 0V when in Reset
          1. 0V = Probably Cartridge CIC negotiation failed
          2. Clean and Re-Insert cartridge or try another cartridge
      2. NUS-PIF - Pin 7 NMI CPU
        1. 3.3V when running, 0V when in Reset
          1. 0V = Probably Cartridge CIC negotiation failed
          2. Clean and Re-Insert cartridge or try another cartridge
      3. NUS-PIF - Pin 27 Console Reset
        1. 3.3V when running, 0V when in Reset - Check Reset Switch
  2. Frequency Counter or Oscilloscope
    1. Find the 2 qty MX8330 IC's (8 pin IC's)
      1. Test Equipment capable of 5 MHz
        1. Both IC's Pin 8 @ 3.xxxx MHz for NTSC (PAL = ???)
          1. Crystal Frequency / 4
      2. Test Equipment capable of 20 MHz
        1. Both IC's Pin 5 and Pin 6 @ 14.xxxx for NTSC (PAL = ???)
          1. Actual Crystal Frequency
      3. Test Equipment capable of 100 MHz
        1. CPU Pin 19 or RCP pin 99 @ 93.750 MHz for NTSC (PAL = ???)
  3. Oscilloscope or Logic Analyzer with Analog input (signals are < 8 MHz)
    1. Connect probe to the Composite connector (10+ seconds after initial power on)
      1. No squiggles (technical term) = No video, try some of the other tests
      2. Squiggles are still used to create a black screen, so this is not a definite test
    2. Connect probe to the Audio connector (10+ seconds after initial power on)
      1. Audio may not start until 10 seconds after the game is running.
      2. A wavy signal is good, but the lack of a signal doesn't mean it failed.
  4. Logic Analyzer < 10 MHz
    1. NUS-PIF - Pin 3 CIC Data Out
      1. This is the PIF asking the cartridge if it's really an Official Nintendo Cartridge
      2. Data on this line is good and means that the PIF is running
      3. If there is no data on this line, go through the Volt Meter tests
    2. NUS-PIF - Pin 5 CIC Data In
      1. This is the Cartridge responding to the PIF's question
      2. Data on this line is good and means that the Cartridge is responding.
      3. The data can still be BAD, for example if a PAL/European Cartridge is placed in an NTSC/North American console
      4. If there is no data on this line, remove and re-insert the cartridge a few times then try again.
    3. NUS-PIF - Pin 9, Pin 11, Pin 13
      1. Any combination of square waves on these pins is a good sign, this would be when the CPU has requested it's Initial Program Load stage 1 and 2.
      2. No data on these pins within 10 seconds of initial power on, suggests there is a problem earlier in the boot cycle, retry the above Volt Meter and Logic Analyzer tests.