Basic Guide: How to maintain and clean your games and retro consoles

Publié par Frederic Gemus le

Acquiring retro games is not only a thrilling way to game with nostalgia, but also a hobby that requires a little more finesse and care than with modern consoles: some consoles may be 20, 30 or even 40 years old - you probably have not kept your toaster that long!

Nevertheless, these consoles generally work well (at Retro MTL, we make sure to test them, clean them and put them back to their best), but they can still be a little capricious! Here are some tips to keep your games and consoles at their best!



Cartridge-based games (Nintendo, Sega, Atari, and Co.) are the ones that require the most care: Cartridge connectors tend to accumulate dirt, which can make them difficult to operate on the first try. Here are some tips for cleaning them:


  1. Never blow in game cartridges! This is an old myth that blowing would clear dust, but it's the opposite: blowing does not remove any dirt but increases the risk of wetness, which can damage the contacts. It is rather the action of putting the game back in the console that tends to solve the problem, as the contact between the game and the console has just been restored!

  2. Clean the connectors with isopropanol alcohol and a cotton swab. With isopopranol alcohol (70% or +)  applied to the tip of a cotton swab, a large part of the dirt can be removed by rubbing the connectors (the part with metal teeth that is inserted in the console) and help make our games work better.

  3. An eraser can be used to remove heavy dirt. If you have the necessary tools to open your cartridges (you need special screwdrivers), you can use an eraser to rub the connectors of your games and remove heavy dirt. Once cleaned, you can clean the remaining residue with alcohol.


Consoles are obviously more complex to clean. Some consoles are famous for being realy capricious, like the Nintendo NES, but all consoles that work with cartridges are likely to become difficult: the Sega Genesis, Nintendo 64 and even the Super Nintendo can become capricious.

  1. Use compressed air to remove dust from the consoles. The compressed air can remove a large amount of dust that could accumulate in your consoles, without you blowing saliva into it.

  2. Make sure dust can't accumulate on and in your consoles. Make sure your consoles are covered and dust-em off once in a while!

  3. Do not force the connectors on your consoles. Most problems with consoles come from the fact that the contact between the console and the game cartridge is bad: this can be due to dirt on the connectors of the games, but also, because the connector of the console does not completely jam the game cart between its pins. The connectors tend to loosen over time, which can make this contact more difficult: to avoid loosening them more, never move a cartridge into a console by forcing it against the connectors.

  4. Do not open your consoles to clean them if you do not have the experience to do it. It's very easy, especially with portable consoles, to forget parts going up or breaking more fragile parts. Contact us if you think you need a repair on a console!

  5. Always use clean games! This is the best way to make sure your console connectors stay clean!


Even with a clean console, over time, the Nintendo NES will necessarily require a little work to launch the game: it is due to a design error on the console, that fortunately has no effect on its overall duration. As the NES asks us to insert the game and PUSH the game down, it goes against our guideline # 3 on the maintenance of consoles: we push forcing AGAINST connectors! This has the effect of creating, over time, a looser contact between the NES and the inserted games, which results with the legendary gray flashing screen! Here's how to move beyond this screen:

  1. Reposition the cartridge in the NES, sliding it from left to right: this has the effect of better establishing the contact between the game and the console.

  2. Once replaced, press reset and restart the game: if the game starts after pressing reset, stop the console and restart the game to make sure the console won't restart by itself!

  3. If it does not work the first time, repeat the steps! After several tries, take a few minutes to clean your games before trying again.

* This method will work for all other cartridge consoles, of course!

With these tips and tricks, you will have easier time enjoying your retro games and consoles! Remember: these items can sometimes be around 30 years old, so take good care of them!


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