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Fixing SNES cartridges

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ScottyMcGee
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Fixing SNES cartridges

Post by ScottyMcGee » Sat Aug 19, 2017 3:07 pm

Oh hey - I have to repost this thread because it was nixed from the other site when Shane moved us.

I'm definitely going to be doing more of this in the near future. So I'll be posting whatever else I do.


I have two copies of Super Mario World - one that I bought years ago with memory issues and a second one I bought online complete in box. I didn't know what to do with the former for the longest time. I would play the game and then the next time I played my data was erased.

I much later learned about the internal battery - a CR 2032 - that allows games to be saved on SNES and NES cartridges.

I recently bought a copy of Star Fox for the SNES complete in box off ebay. It works great with the exception that it doesn't save the hi-score.

I didn't want to screw up Star Fox in case I messed up the first time, so I decided to test changing the battery on that old Super Mario World cartridge.
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I used a 3.8 mm screwdriver security bit to open up the cartridge. They say you can use needle-nose pliers to take it out too but I didn't have those.

It was pretty messy as I went along because I had never soldered anything before and then I learned about what solder actually was AS I WAS SOLDERING. Lol.

The beaker in the upper left has isopropyl alcohol - I cleaned up the pins and the inside of the cartridge with cotton swabs. There was quite some gunk in there.

The soldering iron there actually wasn't the one that I ended up using. The one above for whatever reason wasn't heating up. I waited almost an hour before I decided to look for another one. Unfortunately, I couldn't find one with as fine of a tip as the first one, but the second one I found still worked. I still highly suggest using a really fine tip because it's much easier to work with.
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I watched about a dozen tutorials on YouTube to figure out the best way. There seems to be some disagreement on methods (I mean, people on YouTube argue about literally anything and everything). One method is using electrical tape to tie the battery in place. This is the non-soldering method, where you pry open the battery and tape in the new one. The other method is to desolder the old battery and solder it with a new one, but the new one needs to have a battery holder since you desoldered the old one. (Note: I'm not sure if desolder is the correct term in how I'm using it here. I'm not exactly removing the solder - I'm heating it up so I can loosen the battery and remove it.)

I ended up doing a marriage of both actually. I didn't want to buy a battery holder and wait for it because I was eager to do this as soon as possible. I didn't want to forcibly pry open the battery because I feared that I could damage the circuits.
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I desoldered the old battery. It can be somewhat complicated to try to wring it out. You need to tug at the battery while desoldering at the same time. There are two prongs that hold the battery in place. I pulled out the battery by the prongs and ended up twisting them. However, I straightened them out again by flattening them with linesman's pliers. The prongs easily fit back into the holes. I inserted the new battery and taped it over the prongs.

I actually added more tape after the above picture was taken to be doubly-sure that the battery is held tightly in place.

I really wasn't expecting this to work but I did it anyway because I wanted to solder something for the first time. I inserted the cartridge in my SNES and voila!
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I didn't mess up! It works!

So far so good - the save game seems to be fine. I did all this yesterday. I'm going to play through the entire game throughout the course of the week to make sure that it actually keeps the save.

There is only one tidbit and I'm stupid because I should have tried playing the game before I did this as a positive/negative control, to make sure that if it didn't work it was because of something else and not my Frankensteining. It takes several tries for the game to start. At first I thought it wasn't working but then I jostled it in the slot a several times and got it to play. It's nothing major - maybe like 5 tries tops. Upon closer inspection of the pins on the cartridge, it looks like one or two of them look . . .corroded? I'm not sure. I'll have to take another picture of them and show it. I cleaned the pins with isopropyl alcohol but one of them looks messed up. It could be the one causing some hiccups when I try starting up the game.


SO NOW - I went back and opened my Star Fox SNES cartridge. . . and. . .well, to my surprise, there is no battery. I don't mean it's missing - I mean that it's not apparent at all where the battery is, if there even is one. I found that very strange and now I'm at a loss - I guess I'm **** out of luck with trying to make it save my hi-scores. Womp. If anyone knows something about that, by all means share. I figured that maybe since the game only saves hi-scores it doesn't need that much space at all or something and that's why there's no battery?

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Re: Fixing SNES cartridges

Post by Heroine of the Dragon » Sat Aug 19, 2017 7:25 pm

Déjà vu :p
That's awesome... well done, Scotty!! *gives you marshmallows* I need to get the correct tools and give this a go. I also need to set up my TV and start playing some of my retro games again!! :D

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Re: Fixing SNES cartridges

Post by Valigarmander » Sat Aug 19, 2017 10:41 pm

Neat. I probably would've just blown on it.

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Re: Fixing SNES cartridges

Post by Apollo the Just » Sun Aug 20, 2017 12:07 am

I was so proud of myself when I replaced the internal battery of my copy of Pokémon Ruby. Didn't have materials to solder or de-solder so I just pried/yanked the battery holder off (took. so. long. to do without breaking anything), replaced, and wrapped electrical tape around the parts that needed to stick together. My berries grow once more in my new save file.

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Re: Fixing SNES cartridges

Post by е и ժ е я » Sun Aug 20, 2017 3:03 am

@ScottyMcGee Does SNES StarFox even save the high score normally? I don't recall. What do the internals look like?

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Re: Fixing SNES cartridges

Post by Apollo the Just » Tue Aug 22, 2017 4:22 pm

Posting because relevant. I remember the rush of pride I felt when I successfully replaced my Ruby battery, ****'s so exciting. My copy of Ruby had been without a functioning clock mechanism for years, which meant no berry trees, which meant limited poke blocks. Fixing it was such an accomplishment.

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Re: Fixing SNES cartridges

Post by ScottyMcGee » Wed Aug 30, 2017 9:56 am

Apollo the Just wrote:
Tue Aug 22, 2017 4:22 pm
Posting because relevant. I remember the rush of pride I felt when I successfully replaced my Ruby battery, ****'s so exciting. My copy of Ruby had been without a functioning clock mechanism for years, which meant no berry trees, which meant limited poke blocks. Fixing it was such an accomplishment.



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DUDE. Awesome! :D
е и ժ е я wrote:
Sun Aug 20, 2017 3:03 am
@ScottyMcGee Does SNES StarFox even save the high score normally? I don't recall. What do the internals look like?


When I googled it, I read that it's supposed to save the high scores.

This is what both sides of the cartridge looks like:

Image

Image

Doesn't look like they even put a battery anywhere. Unless it was just plain wrong that it saves the high scores after turning off the game. But I feel like that wouldn't make. . . sense.

Also lol - "Mario Chip" (if you look at it upside down). I remember that's what they named the Super FX chip.

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Re: Fixing SNES cartridges

Post by Random User » Wed Aug 30, 2017 1:26 pm

I would ask around. I poked around the internet for an answer to your problem and couldn't find much of anything that would help.

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Re: Fixing SNES cartridges

Post by Cravdraa » Wed Aug 30, 2017 5:47 pm

yeah.. the original Starfox never saved high scores. You got some bad info there. The added cost of the battery and memory cells back then was enough that they didn't like using them for just any old thing. In fact I can't think of a single game that did it just for highscores. Even in the N64 era they experimented with the crappy memory packs whenever they could instead of just relying on the built in battery backup.

btw, that thing labled "Mario chip 1" is the famed Super FX chip.

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Re: Fixing SNES cartridges

Post by ScottyMcGee » Fri Sep 01, 2017 9:23 am

That's lame. But I guess that makes sense now. Technology - womp. Well now I feel stupid because I wrote on the ebay review that although it worked great and the actual condition of the box and everything was perfect, it didn't save hi-scores. I hope I can edit that review.

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