Nice Dreamcast, Sega boy!

I recently bought a Sega Dreamcast off eBay. It was advertised as “powers on but controller ports don’t work”. I have most of the Sega line of consoles (still missing a Saturn and Nomad) but sans a Dreamcast so I was excited to add one to my collection – and not at all thwarted by the dead controller ports.

A somewhat common problem with the Sega Dreamcast is that the fuse on the controller port board can get tripped causing the flow of current to cease. AKA, dead controller ports. From what I’ve read, the fuse can trip by plugging/unplugging your controllers while the console is powered on or maybe just a bad controller… I never would’ve considered that a risk but now I know!

Instead of paying $8 to ship a .20 cent fuse I opted for this full repair kit I found online: Arcade Supply Company – Dreamcast Controller Port Kit. It’s probably overkill, after all it’s just the fuse I need, but rock on – this kit comes with some bonus items.

This kit includes a “resettable fuse” which is one that when tripped will self-reset after the power is turned off/on – no need to replace it again, just reboot (or sometimes unplug the console for a few minutes). Also included:

  • New battery and battery holder
  • Spare capacitor
  • Spare resistor
  • Handy reference sheet that lists the components
  • A sticker with the company’s logo!

On with the show… but first a few safety tips for those of you following along at home with your own Dreamcast.

You’re going to be fumbling around inches from an exposed transformer and capacitors. Make sure to leave the Dreamcast unplugged for a little bit (maybe a few minutes) to let the caps dissipate their charge.

Soldering fumes and especially flux fumes are toxic. Only solder in a well ventilated area or even better, with an exhaust fan of some sort. For quick projects like this I use a small desk fan to suck the fumes away – works pretty well.

Open up the Dreamcast

On the underside of the console there’s 3 exposed screws on 3 of the corners. When you slide off the modem where you’ll find the forth screw. Flipping the console right-side up and the top slids right off.

Remove the Controller Port Board

There’s 2 wired connectors to carefully remove: One that powers the fan and a fragile ribbon cable connecting to the motherboard beneath. Be gentle removing the ribbon cable. It should slide out with just a gentle grip and you don’t want to damage it by bending, just pull it straight up.

There’s 4 phillips screws holding the controller port board down – they’re out of here. Removed them and the board lifted right out of place.

Remove and Replace

It’s kind of hard to solder and desolder and hold a camera so not going to do any live action shots here.

With the controller port board out of its comfort zone, I now get to poke and prod at it. First I removed the components you wanted to replace. In my case, the old coin cell battery to make way for the new removable one, the troublesome fuse (located at F1), and eh… I may as well replace that capacitor. The cap is about 20 years old now (assuming it’s original to the console) and even though it’s probably fine, may as well replace it while I have the board out. The kit that I bought also comes with a resistor, presumably for the LED, but I’m going to leave the original one in.

The cap and fuse came off no problemo for me but the battery was being a little bastard. I used soldering braid to soak up the solder but the battery leads refused to let go. Took some prodding with a pick and use of my solder sucker to finally get it out.

With the old components out of their vias, I replaced them with their new counterparts. It doesn’t matter which direction the fuse is placed but make sure to install the capacitor with the positive lead facing the center of the board. The battery only lines up one way so nothing to go wrong there.

Wrapping Up

I got it all soldered back up and trimmed the excess leads from the capacitor and fuse. Placed the board back in place, attach the wires, screwed in the screws, reattached the top case, screwed more screws, etc.

Powering on the Dreamcast confirmed my suspicion of the cause. I was prompted to set the Date/Time and was able to do so with all 4 controller ports. Viola. My Dreamcast is good as new, but actually better than new – the fuse and battery are both upgrades to the originals!

Taking out time for picture taking, the entire process took about 30 minutes.Basic soldering skills required but overall a novice-level tinkerer can do this.