Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Replacing a PS2 laser

When my PS2 stopped playing dual-layered games I thought a laser replacement was the answer. It reality it turned out to be an arduous nightmarish adventure involving guns, drugs, naked ladies, and a crazy dude from Czechoslovakia. Actually, apart from the Czech, most of that is an exaggeration, but still, it’s worth reading.

I have an old fat PS2 with Messiah chip, which for a long time was the best way to play import PS1 or PS2 games on a PS2 system. It loaded everything you threw at it, even Betamax tapes (not really). But mine was an old model that had seen much use and I discovered it couldn’t play dual-layered DVD9 games. One guy on a forum actually said that the original Messiah chip prevents the PS2 from booting DVD9 games. I don’t know about this, but when Rogue Galaxy was released (the first DVD9 I had tried in my life) I had to buy a brand new slim to play it, and then I modded the PS2 to use Swap Magic for my Japanese and American imports.

The problem is: Swap Magic can’t boot import DVD9 games. Which was fine, since I didn’t own any (dual-layered PS2 games are fairly uncommon). Until I acquired Sakura Wars, a Japan/US exclusive RPG which was DVD9. The fact the UK never got it I suppose is payback for America not getting Siren 2, which we did and which is in my opinion the best game on the PS2. Seriously, if you can play PAL DVD9 games, please play Siren 2. It’s really special.

Anyway, I asked on forums and was recommended to buy a cheap £5 laser. Which I did. I watched some videos and read some tutorials and it seemed easy enough. The laser arrived, and the first problem was they’d sent it without a protective covering. It was just loose in the envelope, rattling around. No doubt scratched to hell I’d assumed. I was rather annoyed at this, since a laser is a fragile thing.

I stripped the machine, lubed the gears to remove the “farting tray” problem that can crop up, and then I installed the laser. Some tutorials recommend calibrating the laser, but I tried it first without doing so. Nothing. Then I tried calibrating both up and down, on the two tiny screws. Again nothing. Then I tried tweaking the height screw on the one side, to alter the angle and height. Hell, I tried altering everything. I spent an entire Saturday doing this, tweaking the damn laser, and it refused to work. The laser move back and forwards and made some noises, but it couldn’t seem to read anything. Putting my old laser back in it worked just fine, loading standard non-DVD9 games.

INSTALLATION TIP: use a bit of blutac to hold screws to the end of your screwdriver, if it’s not magnetic.

I emailed the store and complained about their shoddy packaging. They apologised and offered a refund, agreeing to pay my return postage. So I sent it back, and got a refund for the item and my postage, which was nice of them. Then I bought another one off the same store, since they assured me they’d send a new one, better packaged. True to their word it arrived well packaged. I then spent another day without success – the damn thing still wouldn’t work! At first I worried that I shouldn’t have bought the cheapest I could find. Some places charge £20 for one. Then I wondered if I had the wrong model of laser, but I triple checked various sources online and it definitely was the right one. So I asked again for a refund, saying I wouldn’t buy from them again.

I also emailed some of the people who’d left positive feedback for the item – I got hold of two of them, and both said their lasers didn’t work either, but they’d left the positive feedback before installing them. Just as I logged in to my email account to mentioned this to the store, it turns out they’d emailed me, saying that they’d been receiving so many fault reports on the lasers they were going to send out a mass refund and I didn’t even have to bother sending it back. Apparently the entire batch was bad! Which was very nice of them to do. Lovely people.

So I looked for another store selling lasers, and found a guy in the Czech Republic offering cheap European postage, so bought one. Arrived in a nice little box, well packaged, but again it didn’t work. This time it didn’t even make any noises – it was utterly dead. Now, I am fully aware some lasers require de-soldering, and I checked the solder points, they were find. This was just a dead unit that the PS2 ribbon cable didn’t even recognise as being there. So I emailed the guy asking for a refund, having decided to quit this malarkey. And here is why I hate eBay. He said he’d only refund me I left him good feedback. I didn’t feel like the drawn out process of reporting him to eBay so stupidly, foolishly and naively agreed. Whereupon he promptly refused to refund me.

The filthy sonnovabitch!

I threatened to report him and he sent back some snarkey message about how they were the last of his batch he was sending out and so he didn’t care if they didn’t work. I couldn’t work out whether he was saying he knew they didn’t work, or he didn’t plan on selling anymore so didn’t care if I complained.

Anyway, I opened an eBay complaint against him, and suddenly his tune changed, since eBay got back saying he would give a refund if I returned the item. Problem is, under eBay policy this is only valid if I return it insured mail, with a tracking code. I checked the price and this would cost more than the item itself cost me to purchase. If I sent it back as is, without a tracking code, I’m sure the bastard would claim he never received it. There was no way to contact eBay and explain the situation, so I had to eat the loss. Bastard.

So, out of pocket, with two broken lasers, a faulty system and still no way to play Sakura Wars, I settled on a foolproof solution:

I bought an American PS2! It was only £40 delivered, truth be told, which is an OK price, and it does mean I can now play all my US imports without disc swapping. Best of all, it runs DVD9 games just fine.

The moral of the story: don’t trust people on eBay.


  1. "The moral of the story: don’t trust people on eBay. "

    That should be the moral of EVERY story, honestly.

  2. At least the game is worth the trouble.

  3. The good thing about Ps2 is that new ones are relatively cheap now; 99 bucks at wal-mart!

  4. Ah nothing like searching the bowels of the internet for electronic replacement parts.

    Pretty hilarious to read about someone getting an American PS2 for import games though.

    Slightly off topic but I didn't realize that Madden 2012 and a hand full of other sports games are being released on the PS2 this year. Where would these even be sold and how could they possibly make a profit? Gamestop (ugh) doesn't even carry new PS2 games and is rapidly clearing out used stock with a perpetual B2G2 free sale.

  5. Sakura Wars is so worth it. The best game no one played, bar none.

  6. You know, it's much easier to run games through the HD. You don't need a mod chip, either. Though there are compatibility issues with some games.

  7. That was my first consideration. But dual layer games like Sakura can't be placed on it. Additionally, the ****s who made HD loader have specifically stated they put region locking in it, ON PURPOSE. Meaning if your unit is PAL you can play NTSC games. Honestly? I'd like to punch the HD Loader guys in the face.

  8. ROFL! HD loader has NO region protection in it. At least modern versions of it. You can use a pc program to transfer the game onto the HD and it will boot. As long as your TV can handle the video mode the game uses, you are good.

    Free MC Boot for the win. Oh and dual layer games have been doable on HD for ages now.

  9. Nice post, should try using ps2esdl ,works great with dvd 9 games

  10. Hi there, I have a fat ps2 (the first ones) Model Number: SCPH-30003, I am having trouble with my ps2 and I know it is the laser reader that is going wrong. After searching a long time ebay I couldn't seem to find the right laser reader for it. I want the reader to be say under £10 because I just want to see if it is salvageable to play one of my favorite's GTA: San Andreas on it. I ws wondering if anyone knew a place I could get this and possibly link me to it. Thanks and btw, nice article!!