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I took my DreamCast apart and…

4 April 2005 No Comment

The first and foremost thing you must do is in order to ensure the safety of your DreamCast – decide if you really want to take it apart. Note well that mass-manufactured equipment – such as the DreamCast – is put together as fast as possible, and then checked to make sure everything works alright. Every time you take it apart and put it back together again, even assuming you only lift the lid, you run a risk of it not working again. If you really love your DreamCast, let it go. If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever… err, or something.

All of our DreamCasts (yes, we have quite a few of them, therefore we’re slightly less worried about taking them apart) were bought for very little, and sometimes even donated. While we do occasionally get a little emotional when one dies, we have plenty more to replace the fallen and we haven’t invested a huge amount in them. On the other hand, if you or your parents paid full price for your DreamCast, and it’s the only one you have, you may wish to think twice about tearing it apart. You’ve been warned.

Step #1 – Initial Disassembly

Select your DreamCast. If you only have one, this is easy – but as for us, well we have to name ours. The DreamCast we’ll be using is called Daisy, after a moderately famous porn actress. She was bought for the grand sum of $4 and works just fine (at the time of writing), but prior to that she was a Sega factory-reconditioned re-sale model.

Update: We took newer, cleaner photographs recently and updated the article with them. It’s been a long time since this article was written, and according to the masking tape label that was stuck to the lid of this DreamCast it’s name was Miko. It’s not a functioning console, but that shouldn’t change the article too much.

Before you even unplug the cables, ensure there isn’t a disc in the GD-ROM drive. If so, remove it and put it back in it’s home. Now, remove the cables from the back of the DreamCast and check again that there is no disc in the drive – sometimes they magically appear in there. Flip the DreamCast over onto it’s face on your lap or a cloth-covered work bench so you don’t scratch your shiny lid.

Note: Now might be a good time to mention static electricity. There are components in most computers and recent video game systems that are easily damaged by static electricity. To ensure you don’t destroy these sensitive components, you should take precautions. Firstly, sit by a computer and periodically touch the side of the case (a metal area, exposed metal would be best). The ideal would be to have a grounding strap, which is a small metal/elastic band that wraps around your wrist and then has a wire connecting you to ground. Oh, and don’t wear silk pajamas while working on your DreamCast.

DreamCast Disassembly

You can see the locations of the four body screws in image to the left (clicking on the image will take you to the Flickr photo page, where we’ve noted the locations, in case you can’t see them), but to reach the fourth screw you’ll have to remove your modem/broadband adapter. If you don’t know how to do this, push your thumb down on the tab in the middle of the modem, press your other thumb down on your first thumb, and push the entire modem out. It should come out with relative ease, so you needn’t get a hammer – though we had thought about it with one or two consoles.

Remove the fourth screw, which will be hiding under the back of the modem/broadband adapter. Now, holding all parts of the DreamCast together, turn it over and remove the top cover carefully, exposing the tender goodness and marvelous engineering that is the insides of your DreamCast.

Step #2a – Removing the Maple Controller Bus board

DreamCast Disassembly

The board highlighted in this photo is called the Maple Controller Bus board, because it’s the Maple Bus’s interface to the controllers, but it also serves other purposes. It contains the power-on LED, the RTC (Real Time Clock) battery, and it also contains the power-feed for the cooling fan. Removing this board is rather simple, but take care. The first thing you should do is remove the ribbon cable connecting the Maple board to the mainboard. Grasp it and pull it firmly in one direction, exactly perpendicular to the board (this means straight up). While this particular cable is a good example of a thick, durable cable, thin ribbon cables have a tendency to tear when you pull on them at an angle.

Next, remove the four screws, one on either side of each block of two controllers. Taking extreme care not to tear the wires running to the cooling fan, lift the Maple board out by gently flexing the darker gray controller plastic outwards to allow the controller connectors to pass by. Carefully remove the connector from the cooling fan wires, and you have successfully liberated the Maple board!

Step #2b – Removing the power supply

DreamCast Disassembly

Removing the power supply is much easier than the maple board. Firstly, grasp the power switch connector (shown in the back with the gray wires in the photo), and squeeze the little lever poking out the front of it, and then give it a soft but firm tug. The lever releases a small catch, so if it won’t come don’t tug too hard, you mustn’t be releasing it properly. Also, remember to pull by the connector not by the wires.

With the switch cable out of the way, you should have an excellent view of the two screws (on the edge of the PCB towards the camera in the photo above) which you may now remove. Now, using your thumb to spread the small catch located approximately halfway between the two screws, you should be able to lift the screw-side of the board up slightly over the catch. I like to put my index finger under the front of the board, and push my thumb into the power connector on the back. You must lift the power supply board straight up, or else it will hold firmly on the pins which stretch down to the mainboard.

Step #3 – Removing the GD-ROM

If you are to proceed any further than this point, you must complete both steps #2a and #2b. The reason we included steps #2a and #2b is because for some modifications removal of either board isn’t necessary, but in order to remove the GD-ROM drive and subsequent parts of the Dreamcast, you really should remove both the Maple board and the Power Supply board.

There are three screws that hold the GD-ROM drive in place, two of which are under the power supply board (which should now be removed) and one of which is over next to the cooling fan. Remove all three screws and then gently grasp the GD-ROM on the metal part, towards the front (as this is where it’s bus connection is, and therefore the only part which will put up any resistance) and lift up.

Step #4 – Removing the Shield and mainboard

DreamCast Disassembly

There are 8 or 9 (model dependent) screws which you will need to remove to get to the mainboard of your Dreamcast. Removal is relatively straightforward, and you should be able to lift the shielding from the mainboard by simply tugging on one of the small plastic lugs that’s standing up to support the Power Supply board. Now you have exposed the mainboard of your Dreamcast you are ready to do whatever dastardly deeds you have in store for her.

Putting it back together

Re-assembly of the Dreamcast is reasonably easy to accomplish, just follow everything in the reverse order. One thing to remember though, which tripped me up a few times and almost certainly would have led to a burning death for the Dreamcast involved – double check that you reconnect the cooling fan and didn’t just lose it under the mainboard’s shield or the Maple board.

Have fun, and try not to kill your Dreamcast. However, if you do kill your Dreamcast by accident, email me as at the rate I’m going I may be starting a Dreamcast death tally on the website.

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