Tear Down

Before we can diagnose and (hopefully) repair the NES, we need to take it apart. We won’t need any special tools aside from a screwdriver and the process itself is pretty simple. So if you’re a little on the fence about taking your beloved NES apart, don’t worry – you’ve got this!

What you’ll need:

  • Phillips Head Screwdriver
  • Paper Towel or Clean Dust Rag

Let’s get started! We’ll need to remove the 6 screws beneath the case – there’s one on each corner and 1 on the front center edge as well as the back. Remove the screws and set them aside. If you have a cat, put the screws somewhere out of reach. Otherwise they’ll become a prime target and you’ll be on your hands and knees looking for them.

Bottom of NES console showing location of screw holes.

With the screws removed, flip the console over and the top half of the case should come right off. Exposed will be a large metal shield. This is the RF shielding, which has a sole purpose to block radio frequency interference with any other devices around it. Odds are there’s going to be a layer of dust, forgotten childhood dreams, spider webs, and the like. Use your paper towel or rag to give it a good wipe down.

Remove the 7 screws around the shielding. Don’t worry about mixing up the screws, they’re the same size as the ones we removed from the bottom of the case.

NES RF shielding screw locations

Now that the shielding is removed we can get a look at the 72-pin connector and cartridge tray. 

But let’s not stop here, there’s 6 screws to remove on the cartridge tray. These screws are all the same size as the ones removed previously except for the two on the cartridge tray (marked in Yellow), they’re a little bit longer. Finally, remove the 2 screws by the power module.

NES mainboard screw locations.

With those out of the way, the board should be able to lift up a little bit. If it feels stuck, double-check for screws to make sure you didn’t miss one. The cartridge tray will slide forward just a bit and should then come right off. 

The board itself is connected to 3 sets of wires (for the controller ports and power/reset buttons) but will have enough slack to be able to lift it up to disconnect them. Just pull the wire harnesses straight out of the connectors, it may take a little bit of force. 

You can set the bottom half of the case aside along with the bottom portion of the RF shielding as we’re going to focus on the mainboard and 72-pin connector for the remainder of this. 

For the last step, slide the 72-pin connector off the mainboard. It’s going to be on there pretty stiff so don’t be afraid of using some muscle to remove it. It will slide off easier if you start from one of the ends instead of pulling it straight off.

Removal of 72-pin connector from NES mainboard.

Now we’re ready to clean and diagnose! In this next section, we’re going to look at a few different methods of restoring the 72-pin connector to it’s former glory and what you can do if all else fails.