This month marks the fifth anniversary for Xbox 360, and the fourth for PlayStation 3 and Wii. In the past, five years was the typical lifespan for a video game console, but I think it’s safe to say none of the current generation consoles are going anywhere just yet. Things have been different this time around. Instead of out-right replacements, consoles have seen numerous upgrades on both the hardware and software ends that have changed them drastically. Just over the past couple months, Xbox 360 and PS3 have added their own motion sensing control schemes (Kinect and Move, respectively), which is the of course the Wii’s main feature.

Speaking of Nintendo’s Wii, it’s the only current gen console that hasn’t seen any major upgrades. With the exception of the protective gel for the Wii remote, the Wii Motion Plus attachment, and some additional colours, Wii’s hardware has remained in its original state.

It’s interesting to look back at the original hardware for the other two, and even screenshots of previous versions of the software. Microsoft just rolled out the third major redesign of the Xbox 360 dashboard this month to coincide with the launch of Kinect. PS3’s XMB hasn’t changed much aesthetically, but they have been adding new features and even tacked on their own achievement system – trophies.

When it comes to Xbox 360 and PS3, there are plenty of reasons for upgrading to the latest model. At the beginning, storage space was pretty much the only viable reason, which wasn’t enough for most. But since both consoles have now been completely redesigned to be smaller, quieter, and better looking, they’re much more difficult to resist. I can attest to that, as I’ve recently upgraded both consoles, and wanted to share my experiences. With large amounts of data, precious save games, and DRM riddled content, migrating isn’t as easy as you might hope.

My first Xbox 360 was a Core unit, which came with a wired controller and no hard drive. I purchased it in March of 2006 and only went with that bundle as the Premium was sold out everywhere, and had been for months. It ended up costing me nearly $1000 after purchasing the hard drive and wireless controller separately, which is bloody insane! Since March 2006, I’ve owned a Core, Premium (later re-branded Pro), two Elites, a 250 GB S, and a 4 GB S. Those are the consoles I bought new. Of course, several of them were replaced due to hardware failures, RRoD, and such.

The biggest problem with migrating to a new Xbox 360 is the DRM. Every game, add-on, theme, avatar accessory, etc. you purchase from the Xbox Live Marketplace has DRM which attaches itself to your console – not the hard drive it’s attached to, the console itself. If you move the hard drive to another console, you can use the DRM content, as long as you’re connected to Xbox Live so Microsoft can verify your account is the one that purchased it. In order to transfer your content licenses, you need to go through a bit of a process.

Now that USB storage devices are supported, there are at least some free options to move content. Unfortunately, the Xbox 360 has a very poor file management system, and it would literally take hours to pick and choose the content you need to move. For $30, you can purchase a first party transfer cable that automates this entire process for you.

Once the files have been moved, the license transfer process can begin. From the Xbox website, you can initiate the transfer, which will allow you to pick the console to transfer from, and of course to.

The last step is absolutely excruciating, where you have to go through your download history manually and re-download each item to attach the licenses to the new console. You can do this relatively quickly via the Xbox website, but it is still a long and tedious process. I believe it took me nearly two hours last time, and I should note that you can only do this once every twelve months.

My initial PS3 purchase was in the summer of 2007, about 8 months after its release. Similar to the Xbox 360, the PS3 came in two flavours at launch – 60 GB and 20 GB. I went with the 60 GB, and stuck with that system until just a couple months ago. It was sturdy, never had any hardware or software issues, and acted as the primary media player in my home. My only complaint, was that it ran hot and in turn, was fairly noisy due to the fans. Despite being in a fairly open area, the fans would kick in whenever a Blu-ray movie was playing, and would be even louder while running a PS3 game. After checking eBay and seeing the 60GB models going for upwards of $300 (the price of a new 160GB Slim model), I decided it was time to upgrade.

Sony has a migration tool built available in the System settings in XMB which automate the process of moving your files and transferring licenses. Similar to Xbox 360, PS3 also has DRM on content you download from the PlayStation Store. In this case, migrating was a much simpler job.

The new and old consoles are connected via an Ethernet cable. On-screen instructions guide you through the process of preparing each console before the migration begins. My only complaint here, is that I wish they would give you a list of things you need to do on the original console before moving ahead with the migration. For instance, the first step was to de-authorize my main account, which removes the link between the content licenses and the console. You’re instructed to do this, then return to the migration tool. Upon doing so, you’re told the next step, which requires you to leave migration tool once again to perform said action. The process seems tedious due to the back-and-forth, but it’s really not in comparison to Xbox 360’s.

Transferring the content itself can take some time, depending on how much you have. But once it’s complete, you simply authorize your account on the new console, and you’re done.

EasyPeasy? Not Quite, But Manageable

Neither solution is perfect, but it’s good to see that both manufacturers at least have tools available to assist and somewhat streamline the process of migrating to a new console.

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Finally, someone else who gets irritated by the fans on the PS3. It only seems to be an issue with the older models, but it drives me nuts when I’m trying to watch a blu-ray. At least the 360 consistently drones on.

Any plans to get a Kinect or Move?

The fan noise always drove me crazy, and we use the PS3 quite a bit since it’s our main media player. At night when the kids are in bed, the extra noise from the fans really is a big deal, as the max volume level is much lower.

I have both Kinect and Move, actually. Likely won’t review them, as I don’t play either much myself.

My xbox 360 of three years was literally raising the temperature of the room by 10 degrees F. Late this Summer, I started getting the ventilation fault, one of the many "red light" sequences that involunatrily shuts down the console. The fault initially started appearing only after long sessions of gameplay, 4 hours or more. By late August, the console was faulting within 45 minutes of startup.

I upgraded, in a manner of speaking. I tore down the console to it’s basic components; motherboard, hard drive, heatsink, fan, etc. I meticulously vacuumed out three years worth of dust, replaced the thermal paste, and swapped the stock fan for a third party unit purchased from Amazon.

The end result was a relatively cooler gaming experience. Two months and counting, there have been no further ventialtion faults. Unfortunately, the new Whisper fan has an even higher max RPM than the stock fan. If anything, the new fan is louder than the old one, something akin to an aircraft at takeoff.

Planned obsolesence. It’s a beautiful thing. A 360-S is definitely in my future.

One thing I learned from having so many Xbox 360 consoles, is that they require a lot of room to breathe. They need plenty of space around them, and lots of room to vent the hot air out the back. If you don’t have enough space, the console basically suffocates itself.

Some consoles are just prone to failure, though. I had an Elite which had its fans replaces, the X-Clamps removed and the motherboard bolted directly to the frame, and the thermal paste replaced. It was even opened up and vacuumed out once a year, and yet it still RRoD’d 3 times on me. It’s sitting in my closet in that state at the moment.

Fingers crossed that the Xbox 360 S marks the end of our troubled journey.

"After checking eBay and seeing the 60GB models going for upwards of $300 (the price of a new 160GB Slim model), I decided it was time to upgrade." To me that’s not really an upgrade, it might be in HDD (which you could’ve easily swapped with a higher capacity laptop one) and in fan noise but you lost Backwards compatibility, SACD playback (probably no one cares about this though), lost 2 USB ports, media card slots and piano black/chrome finish. Also I can’t believe you’ve bought that many 360’s 😛

Indeed, technically, the PS3 Slim is more of a downgrade. But honestly, I only ever played two PS2 games on my PS3 – the first two God of War games, which are now available for PS3. Never once used any of the other features you mentioned, and HDD space was never an issue. All I really cared about was having a quieter console, and the Slim is definitely quieter. So much so, that we’re constantly leaving it on, as we don’t hear it running.

One thing I learned from having so many Xbox 360 consoles, is that they require a lot of room to breathe. They need plenty of space around them, and lots of room to vent the hot air out the back. If you don’t have enough space, the console basically suffocates itself. Some consoles are just prone to failure, though. I had an Elite which had its fans replaces, the X-Clamps removed and the motherboard bolted directly to the frame, and the thermal paste replaced. It was even opened up and vacuumed out once a year, and yet it still RRoD’d 3 times on me. It’s sitting in my closet in that state at the moment. Fingers crossed that the Xbox 360 S marks the end of our troubled journey.

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