Fun projects for your NES

There’s a good chance that you’ve got an old Nintendo Entertainment System in your closet or basement. There’s also a good chance that it’s been collecting dust all these years. If you’re like us, that’s because any fond memories of 8-bit gaming on your NES are tainted by the flickering screens and garbled graphics that taunted you every time you tried to load a game. Well, we think that’s a shame. So we’ve put together this simple do-it-yourself guide with easy projects that’ll help you turn your broken box of memories into a near new NES.

Above: An old NES that’s seen better days and doesn’t load games at all. Let’s fix it up together! 

How to clean your NES cartridges

What you’ll need:
3.8mm security bit
Isopropyl alcohol
Pencil eraser
Cloth rag

Dust, dirt, grime, and what appears to be crusty hunks of dried phlegm. You never know what you’ll find stuck on your cartridge’s connector blade - and that gunk can prevent your games from loading properly. Removing the layer of filth that builds up on the connectors in your carts is the easiest and quickest way to improve your NES experience.

The best way to clean your carts is to open them up so you can really go to town on the connector blade. The tricky bit is getting your hands on a tool that’ll let you open your cartridge so you can give the connectors a serious scrubbing. The tool you’re looking for is a 3.8mm security bit that’ll work with the special screws on your NES games. It’s sometimes called a gamebit, and you can easily find one on sites like eBay and for about $6.00.

Above: You'll need a 3.8mm security bit to open up your NES cartridges

If you get your hands on a security bit, open your cartridge and take the game board out. Then, just give the connector blade a rub with a pencil eraser. It’s that simple. Wipe off the eraser bits when you’re done. You can also go over the connector with a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol. Wipe off any remaining residue with your cloth rag.


Above: Some online will try to sell you "special" cleaning solutions for your NES. Save your money and use a pencil eraser instead

Above: These household items also work just fine 

If you can’t get your hands on a security bit, it’s tough to clean the connector blade with a simple pencil eraser. However, you can still clean the blades with some Q-tips, Brasso metal polish, and isopropyl alcohol. Apply the Brasso to your Q-tip and apply the polish to both sides of the blade. Continue swabbing the blade on both sides. Next, go over the blade and surrounding area within the lip of the cart with a Q-tip dipped in alcohol several times to remove any residue from the Brasso. Finally, just go over it one last time with a dry Q-tip to remove any residue from the alcohol.

Above: If you can’t get a security bit, your next best option is to use Q-tips, Brasso, and isopropyl alcohol 

Above: Look how much grime we got off with a few quick swabs 

How to clean your NES console and replace the 72-pin connector

What you’ll need:
Phillips screwdriver
72-pin connector
A pencil eraser

Cleaning your carts is only the first step in getting your NES to play games properly again. It doesn’t matter how clean your carts are if the inside of your NES is full of dust bunnies and cat hair. Also, the 72-pin connector, the part that connects with the blade in your games, is notorious for wearing out. So we’re going to walk you through the process of opening up the console so you can clean it up and replace the 72-pin connector.

Above: A new 72-pin connector is easy to find online and will cost you about $7 or $12, a small price to pay for a near new NES


  • nyef - November 9, 2009 2:52 a.m.

    another way to get your nes working is to open it up until you reach the 72 chip, but instead of taking it out and replacing it... just take a soft bristled toothe brush and some rubbing alchohol and start scrubbing. thats what i did with the one my friend gave me that was in his closet for 10 years and it works fine
  • chinesesoldier - November 6, 2009 5:18 a.m.

    My old tech teacher was doing a project on turning his NES into a computer. He told us all he needed was a smaller motherboard and a way to change the controller ports to USB ports. I don't know if he ever got it done.
  • waynski1457 - November 3, 2009 4:11 a.m.

    I am lucky enough to own a second, broken NES. I turned it into a PC. It's pretty decent just for messing around on.
  • Tatts4Life - November 2, 2009 2:06 p.m.

    I'll have to try this out when I can get a new pin connector. My system has been harder to get to work and it's been sitting in my closet for years now.
  • Cyberninja - November 2, 2009 11:57 a.m.

    can you do one of these for my broken dreamcast please
  • matt588 - October 31, 2009 5:01 a.m.

    hmm.. maybe I should find and dust off my old NES, and the first game I'll play?? ABADOX
  • iluvmyDS - October 31, 2009 4:35 a.m.

    I'm going to say thank you in advance, my NES was being temperamental, and we had a flood that might have killed it completely. I will use this to bring it back.
  • Sidnapolis - October 31, 2009 4:29 a.m.

    I never owned an NES, but I might have to open up my SNES sometime and give it a good cleaning. Also, I'd love to recommend to you guys, which is a Java-based, online NES "bemulator" that is actually legal. They were able to work around the copyright law by not allowing people to download the games (only play them in your browser) and by only hosting games that they legitimately purchased. Much better than GameTap, and it works with the NES-USB adaptor.
  • Styrophoamicus - October 31, 2009 3:57 a.m.

    The last time I hooked up my NES it didn't work, and the last time I hooked up my SNES the only game that would play was Mario Kart. For some reason, I forsee the Wii sharing the same fate
  • JoeMasturbaby - October 31, 2009 2:27 a.m.

    i have 3 NES's that dont work. and like 30 games too. thanks!
  • Amnesiac - October 31, 2009 12:18 a.m.

    Clean cartridges? Feh. Real men just blow into the carts.
  • NotBraze - October 30, 2009 10:24 p.m.

    I never had and NES but I do have a SEGA Genesis sitting in my parents basement. I'd love to take a spin on Aladdin on Sonic 2 again but I can never get it to work properly. You should do a cleaning guide for the Genesis so I can take the old 'broken' system off to my dorm room.
  • kissmeimgreek - October 30, 2009 10:19 p.m.

    Great read! i however dont have a nes... but i do have a barely working n64 and would love an n64 cleaning guide... hintity hint hint
  • Brutus - October 30, 2009 10:07 p.m.

    hm, I think I'll give this a try, I picked up an old nes and 20 something games at a yardsale for $12 and it didn't work, been sitting in my room for months.
  • iKOemos - October 30, 2009 9:59 p.m.

    This would be great!.... if I had a NES.... Still a fun read though, thanks Tyler.
  • Dawlish - October 30, 2009 9:45 p.m.

    ACE WHY WHY WHY? move with the times
  • IIIIIACEIIIII - October 30, 2009 9:34 p.m.

    Hehe my NES, SNES, Megadrive and Master System all work fine and I use them near enough every day :P
  • Nin10DOH - October 30, 2009 9:27 p.m.

    thats cool, i should try these out

Showing 1-18 of 18 comments

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