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Dreamcast GD-ROM issues

Posted: Sun Feb 10, 2019 3:55 am
by ArugulaZ
I got a cheap Dreamcast from Mercari, which is best described as a halfway point between eBay and Craigslist. Anyway, I got the machine yesterday, and it had a few issues; things like random shutdowns and disc read errors. I heard these could be fixed with fairly simple repairs. Problem is, one of the "simple repairs" turned out to be a bigger problem than expected.

For DREs, it was suggested to turn the potentiometer to strengthen the disc laser. I had done that before with other game systems, particularly the Playstation 2 and GameCube, but Sega thought it would be cute to make their pot extremely tiny and add some red epoxy to keep the user from adjusting it. The pot wouldn't turn with a screwdriver, and I couldn't cut through the epoxy with the tip of an X-Acto knife. So I got the brilliant idea to force it to turn with a pair of needle nose pliers. It turned, all right... straight off the laser assembly! Ugh.

So now instead of a Dreamcast that plays discs sometimes, I have one that plays discs NONE of the time. I'm not sure what I could do to repair it... the solder points on the pot are stupidly small, and every solution available (a GD-EMU, a new laser assembly, et al) are more expensive than just buying a different Dreamcast. If you have any ideas I haven't considered, please let me know. Also, the next time I find myself in a situation like this, what is the best way to remove the glue on a component without damaging it?

Re: Dreamcast GD-ROM issues

Posted: Sun Feb 10, 2019 10:32 am
by Arenegeth
You answered your own question, buy a new Dreamcast.

I don't know how much you bought this one for (I assume $10-15) but an average loose Dreamcast on eBay goes for like $30 most of time.

You probably broke the diode beyond repair, and I'd personally suggest in the future to not mess around with systems like this, unless you are technically proficient enough to know exactly what you are doing (no offense but if you did you'd either already have it fixed or have the answer to your questions), or don't mind breaking the system because you got it in a lot, or found it for $5 in a thrift store or something.

But generally speaking, with systems that are readily available and cheap like the Dreamcast, if you plan on doing a lot of gaming on them, buy a few loose spares in advance and just hold on to them in case something breaks in the future. And replace parts accordingly. That's what I do for my PS1's.

As for glue removal, heating the glue with a soldering iron does the job most of the time, but again, not advised unless you don't mind breaking the system (or setting the house on fire depending on how experienced/careless you can be) since that glue was never officially meant to be removed and different types of glue react to heat differently.

Re: Dreamcast GD-ROM issues

Posted: Sun Feb 10, 2019 2:26 pm
by Ziggy587
Sounds fixable to me, but you will most likely need a second Dreamcast as reference.

If you decide to replace the console, sell the broken Dreamcast on eBay or a forum (like this one). In fact, what shape is the case in?

Re: Dreamcast GD-ROM issues

Posted: Sun Feb 10, 2019 3:39 pm
by nightrnr
GDEMU is well worth the investment
IMHO. The money you'd use to replace the dreamcast would be better spent towards that upgrade.
Not cheap, but worth it. Even if you have to get a cheaper clone (not endorsing it, but not condemning it either).

I haven't trusted the gd-rom drives in years (especially when games would work in one system and not in another). They are noisy, unreliable, only temporarily repaired, and are better replaced by digital options.

Oh, and is this a va1 dreamcast? Most are, but if not a gdemu wouldn't help.

Re: Dreamcast GD-ROM issues

Posted: Sun Feb 10, 2019 4:26 pm
by ArugulaZ
Yeah, it's a Rev 1 model (as opposed to 0 or 2). And it looks fine... I just don't do a lot of online selling. Might have to think about it, though. I'm pretty sure someone could do the GDEMU mod on it... I'm just not sure I'm the one for the job.

I've got two or three Dreamcasts back in MI, but only one works, and they're all buried in a shed on the other side of the country. I had to buy a Saturn to replace the one I couldn't get back from Michigan, and that worked out pretty well... but it doesn't look like I'll have as much luck with the Dreamcast. C'est la vie, I guess. I wonder if emulation on the Raspberry Pi has improved at all?

Re: Dreamcast GD-ROM issues

Posted: Sun Feb 10, 2019 4:49 pm
by nightrnr
Hmm, pi emulation is pretty slim for Dreamcast games, I think. From what I've read, you can get some games running, if you can handle choppy audio and cut scenes.

As for GDEMU, it's not even a mod job really, it's a plug and play solution (replaces the whole GDrom drive).
The system is definitely worth using for that.

I've been wanting to do my own system saving for a couple Dreamcasts with bad drives (as a side project). Wanted to get them running with that serial USB adapter (lower game compatibility and slow read, but interests me). Replacing the bios with dreamshell is proving to be a challenge for me though.

Re: Dreamcast GD-ROM issues

Posted: Sun Feb 10, 2019 9:04 pm
by ArugulaZ
I just watched a tutorial on YouTube, and yeah, it doesn't look hard at all. You just have to remove the drive, then put a screw and spacer into the GDEMU. Some people also add a shroud to keep loose SD cards from jangling around in the case (which is probably a wise investment), and shove a resistor between two of the power pins to keep the now more energy efficient system from burning out. The only sticking points are price (eighty dollars, and that's for a knock-off!) and having to wait a million billion years for shipping from China.

I dunno. I might break down and do this anyway. I mean, the Dreamcast is already ruined... I can't possibly make it any worse. And I do have fond memories of the system... maybe it would be worth the investment. Food for thought. Thanks, nightrnr.

Re: Dreamcast GD-ROM issues

Posted: Mon Feb 11, 2019 3:29 am
by nightrnr
No problem, it's just what I would do in your predicament.
Sometimes you can find them for closer to $60 (aliexpress), but yeah,shipping times would probably be a while.

If you are willing to mess around with your drive a bit more, I do have a drive assembly that I sacrificed for a USB-GDROM install (just remembered/found it). It was a bit more involved than a GDEMU, requiring parts of the board, but the laser portion of it is a spare for me. It did load up a game fine as I tested it briefly after I got that system, but spent no further time with it before my upgrade. I assume that you could just pair it with your drive board and possibly have a working unit again. Feel free to PM me if interested.

Re: Dreamcast GD-ROM issues

Posted: Tue Feb 12, 2019 1:27 am
by ArugulaZ
Tempting. You know, though, you may have talked me into getting a GDEMU. I don't like the price, but it sounds like optical drives (and even the discs themselves) are doomed to fail eventually.

Re: Dreamcast GD-ROM issues

Posted: Tue Feb 12, 2019 2:43 am
by nightrnr
Yeah, it's weird to hear my own perspective on the matter echoed back to me (seems almost nihilistic), but that's what this whole decade has been on my end. Most of my focus has gone to repurposing doomed consoles. Some were easy (Wii), some were a bit complicated, but rewarding (Xbox), and some just have a high price tag (but are oh so cool).
At this point, I've got digital solutions for almost all my disc based systems (Xbox will have to pull Sega CD duty until that has an ODE).

Anyways, I totally encourage you to take the plunge if you can. You get a lot of bang for the price of admission. Plus, emulation gets kinda iffy and disatisfying once you get to more advanced systems (or maybe I've just always had crap PC's that can't handle it).

The drive part offer was just to hold you over if it was worth the effort to you. Otherwise, I could probably still make use of it next time I'm ready to tinker.