Retro Pickup: SNES + Zelda (Non Working)

Something I’ve had langushing at the bottom of a box for a while is this old SNES.  It was given to be (free) byt a friend a while back with a copy of Zelda – A Link To The Past (win).  However, I had no power, video cable or controller for it so I’d never been able to check it out.  Aditionally, my friend had no idea if it worked or not.  As you can see it’s not exactly in collectors condition.


Yello, dirt and sticker residue… Yuck….

Recently though I’ve managed to buy a NES (which uses the same power brick) and a Gamecube which came with a SCART cable (which SHOULD work with this PAL SNES, although not in RGB mode).  I even found a controller in CEX for £10 (the first money I’ve spent on this).  This means I was able to connect it all up and  give it a test to see what I had.


Will it work?


Naturally, it didnt work…  The power light came on but that was it.  No picture (running throught a composite video output on the SCART to be safe [some ‘universal’ Nintendo SCART cables arent actually compatible with the PAL SNES systems due to capacitors placed in line with the cable killing the signal].  So, was it the game, the cable or the console?  Well everything is chuffing filthy anyhow so I would not be at all surprised if problem number one is hust dirty contacts.  So, it’s time to take it apart and give every contact I can find a good clean, if only to remove that hideous sticker residue.


The Opened SNES

I Love old consoles, they are so  easy to take apart!  Six screws and I’m in the the console  this reveals a lot of dust and dirt especially on the Cartridge contacts.  Everything else actually looks ok with no major rust or dampproblems that I could see.  It’s not perfect on the shielding but nothing on the main PCB seems to be in bad condition.  Time to clean.


Very Dirty CART Slot

I split the cleaning in to two parts.  I used cotton buds (q-tips) and glasses cleaner to remove the dirt from the cart slot and any of the exposed contacts.  I did the video output jack (RCA) as well as the AV out port where the SCART plugs in.  Some times I had to use a thin Jay Cloth to get in to the tiny areas.  I’m pretty sure the only cleaning that would matter were the AV out and CART slot contacts but I got rid of the dust whilst I was there.

Secondly I wanted to clean up the exterior of the SNES to try and get it looking less aweful.  For this I simply used cotton cloths and lemon creme cleaner (the regular stuff you clean surfaces with).  This stuff is slightly acidic and usually cuts through grime.  I worked this stuff on to the surface of the console and left it for a minute or so before buffing it out with a damp cloth which takes off the grit etc.

Asthetically, as you can see below it scrubbed up pretty well for a first pass (the idea here was really to get it working, I was goingt o fully clean it later).  There’s still a lot of yellowing but it’s in MUCH better condition than before.  The question is… will it work now?  Time to turn it on and see…


The answer?  Kind of…  I now have sound and picture (in glorious composite as the cable did, indeed, have the issue with RGB output I thought it would).  However, my controller either doesnt work or the controller port assembly is faulty as I can’t start a game or do anything input wise unless i take the controller out of the port (then it seems to send a START command but that’s it).

So, progress…. but not quite there yet.

UPDATE: After looking at the options I took a punt on some cheap replica controllers from eBay.  These worked and proved my offical controller was duff.  However, they felt horrible to use.  Luckily they really were copys of the official once inside so i took them apart and transplanted the innards of the new controllers in to the case of the official controllers.  Net result is a controller using new innards but with the look and, crucially, feel of the official ones.  Result!

So, the Free SNES is now fully working with Zelda and two controllers.  Total cost, £10 for a funky controller and £8 for 2 x working replicas.  Not bad at all!.





About Alec Dunn (LegoYoda)

Alec is an IT Architect focused around large private / hybrid cloud design and automation. He's also a big fan of the 'arcade' culture and games of yesteryear and loves taking things apart to see how they all work.
This entry was posted in Hardware, Restoration, retro, SNES, Teardowns and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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