GameBoy Refurbishing Project

UPDATE a surprising amount of people keeps mailing me about this. I just wanted to save everybody trouble by pointing out that
So do not mail me about it. Instead, I’d suggest to Google around and look for GameBoy enthusiast forums.

Some weeks ago, I decided to build the perfect GameBoy. You see, when you order a used classic GameBoy on eBay or so, the quality of the devices you get varies a lot. The term “used but in good condition” is extremely subjective. To add insult to injury, most sellers don’t even bother testing the devices or putting in high-rez images. So the first GameBoy I ordered this way was in a disheartening condition. The case was yellowish from the sun, the buttons felt flabby and didn’t connect properly.

So I decided to take the case in my own hands. I noticed that every now and then, there would be an entire collection of damaged GameBoys on eBay for sale. The sellers usually didn’t bother testing them. Or they would just simply put the batteries in, the GameBoy wouldn’t turn on and they would leave it at that. I bought a few of those collections and ended up with 11 devices, 10 damaged ones and the one I bought previously. And thus started a lengthy process of refurbishing the GameBoys by salvaging the best parts.

GameBoy Refurbishing - The Raw Material

We can make them better. We have the technology…

Here is what happened:

The reason why the GameBoy classics are relatively repair-friendly is that their innards consist of two separate pieces: front and back. The front part contains the LCD screen, the speaker and the button contacts. The back part contains the batteries and the CPU. If one of the parts is damaged, you can still use the second part for spare parts. This was my initial plan.

GameBoy Refurbishing - The Insides

The insides of a GameBoy classic are pleasantly repair-friendly. But note the gunk on the inside of the case. Eeew!

But of course the first step was to clean the cases. They were in a terrible condition. There was gunk and grime in every corner. There were Pokémon stickers on some devices. After simply getting all the electronics out and washing them, they started too look less aged already.

GameBoy Refurbishing - Washing

Time for the ultimate Water Level.

Especially the slits over the speaker are good places for gunk to get stuck. I found that a toothbrush is a actually a good tool to take care of such problems.

GameBoy Refurbishing - Shower

Exploring the Venn Diagram of gaming and dental hygiene.

I put all the electronics aside with a short note on what was presumably broken. About half of the devices didn’t even turn on.

GameBoy Refurbishing - Electronics

Avert you eyes! So many GameBoys, they are all NAKED!

After the cases were dry, I removed any glue residue with alcohol. Almost every GameBoy had it’s screen lens missing. If the screen lens was still attached it was scratched well beyond repair. That’s not a big deal since you can still buy replacement screen lenses nowadays. The old screen lenses are usually glued to the case with a thick layer of adhesive. Before attaching a new screen lens, it makes sense to remove the adhesive so the new screens sit more flush.

GameBoy Refurbishing - Adhesive Removal

Remving old adhesive. Um… so how did YOU spent your Weekend?

GameBoys are resilient has hell. I noticed that the most common damage is when the batteries spill. The residue usually cakes the contacts of the batteries. This is a relative trivial repair and it’s a shame to discard the entire device because of it. I bought some Battery Cleaner spray for car batteries. It was somewhat effective. But nothing beats simply using sandpaper to clean up the contacts.

GameBoy Refurbishing - Contacts

Battery residue on contacts – surprisingly the most common cause for defunct GameBoys.

Sometimes the battery acid gets onto the electronics. This will usually kill the GameBoy. In one case, the spill wasn’t too severe. One capacitor (??) fell off due to corroded contacts. It was a good opportunity to whip out the soldering iron and to attempt an emergency operation. I used the resistor from a broken model. It was my first successful soldering job and even though it’s not perfect, I’m pleased to report that it worked!

GameBoy Refurbishing - Soldering

I don’t care if it’s a capacitor or a resistor. I fix’d it ok?

A common, tricky defect is a damaged rubber pad below the buttons. Especially the d-pad is likely to wear out. The rubber pad below sometimes tears and causes that direction of the d-pad to feel flabby. This is what happened in the first GameBoy I got. It’s a tricky defect since it’s subtle and not really apparent at first sight, even if you disassemble the device. I collected all of the pads from all of the GameBoys and made sure to always use the undamaged ones.

GameBoy Refurbishing - Pad Damage

Hidden damage is hidden! Pay attention to this if you try this at home.

Another common defect are entire dead pixel columns on the LCD the screen. I noticed that this is usually how a GameBoy dies of old age. Especially the other columns are likely to fail. This is due to the adhesive that attatches the LCD screen to the contacts. It fails eventually. But if the failure is not severe, there is a way to keep the GameBoy going. You can add some padding on top of the contact. I my case I used strips of thick adhesive tape. When the GameBoy is screwed back together, the case will push the contacts down and can potentially fix some columns. This worked for two screens. But there were also two screens simply beyond repair.

GameBoy Refurbishing - Screen Repair

Protip to get rid of dead pixel columns!

One final step is to add the replacement screen lens. As I said, there are plenty of ways to get those. I bough an entire pack of 14 screens at once to save money on shipment. There is one tricky part to this: the colored “Play it Loud” GameBoys have a screen lens with a darker grey. You have to order those separately. Sadly, I noticed that in general, the replacement screen sometimes don’t fit so well anymore and I think they scratch easier.

GameBoy Refurbishing - Screen Lens

Surprisingly difficult – do this without getting dust on the INSIDE of the screen.

Ad then there are some details such as replacements for missing battery covers and so on. But you get the idea. I was able to save 8 GameBoys this way. 3 didn’t make it. It worked out well since I had exactly 3 cases where there was some severe yellowing to exposure to sunlight. From the electronics I have left almost every individual piece is broken.

And so now I’m left with 8 GameBoys to sell of give away. Of course, I will keep two of them. I will keep a transparent one because it’s so cool. I will also keep a vanilla white one, just because of the nostalgia.

GameBoy Refurbishing - Vanilla Cutie

Oh hey! I found this cute GameBoy on my Workbench! Can I keep it?

I probably overdid it a little. The entire project took a bit more work than I initially thought it would. And it probably wouldn’t be that difficult to get a mint condition GameBoy if I was ready to pay enough money. On the other hand, it was a fascinating experience. There is something about restoring an old artifact to it’s former glory. It’s what drives car enthusiast to restore oldtimers. It’s incredibly rewarding and you learn a lot about the the engineering and product design of the machine at hand. It certainly made me appreciate the GameBoy classic a lot more. It’s probably not the most efficient way to get a mint GameBoy classis. But it certainly is a scenic route to get there.

UPDATEI have put up the last 4 GameBoys from the Project on eBay right now.

GameBoy Refurbishing - Lucky 8

The Oceanic 8! So… does anybody want a GameBoy classic?

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

49 responses to “GameBoy Refurbishing Project”

  1. Jared Soctt

    That’s really awesome! Good job! I didn’t realize you could restore something so easily. Hey, if you are seriouse about giving them away I’ll take one. lol

    1. mike

      i just bought a classic game boy for 6 bucks at a second hand store and i didnt have a chance to test it but i had feeling that something was wrong with it. so i took it home at put batterys in and it powered up and have sound but no screen then i took it apart and did something behind the screen and got and all black screen but no graphics to any game i put in. just wonder if u hand any ideas on what it could be.

      1. Krystian Majewski

        Have you tried turning the contrast dial?

        1. mike

          yes i have tryed the contrast dail but nothing. befor i got the black screen i didnt have nothing at all. and yes it all dirty in there from old batteries beening in there. so maybe if i clean the inside maybe i well get a better connection to the screen.

          thank for your help.

        2. mike

          thanks for everybody comments and ideas
          i well get this game boy up in running.

  2. Yu-Chung Chen

    Cool stuff :]

  3. Tom

    Wow man, I’m getting the real itch to load up some Pokemon Red and Kirby right here. Don’t suppose you have any trading cables too?

    Give me a bell when you are going to start giving them away, I’d love to try and get one( I really like the white ones ). Otherwise, I’ll be continuing to follow your RSS.

  4. Krystian Majewski

    I’d love to give some of the GameBoys to you guys but I’d rather not ship them outside of the EU. The shipment costs are quite prohibitive. Sorry.

  5. Tom

    That’s cool man, some other lucky person will enjoy them just as much as we would have. :)

    My very most favorite GameBoy model has to be the SP. After using a GameBoy Colour for who such a long time, when I got my hands on that amazing little box of light and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past everything changed. Such a great set of memories there.

  6. ryan

    Hey I have a gameboy color and it has a big scratch that isn’t deep right through the middle. I was wondering where I could get a replacement screen and how to put It on.. Oh and if your selling one of those i would buy one

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Just look for “GameBoy Color Replacement Lens” on eBay. The old lens should pop off if you carefully wedge a small screwdriver underneath. The corners work best.

    2. Sita Dulip

      You can also buy them over at He has a great stock and is a fabulous man to order from.

  7. James Plant

    Do you still have any to give away? I’d like to request one, if there’s any left.

    As a side note: Just downloaded TRAUMA – It’s awesome! It’s rare to see a media bring me into a world like that.

  8. Casey Watkins

    It would be great if you still have one left and you were serious about giving them away. My girlfriend had one when she was just old enough to play it. I’d like to surprise her.

  9. Michael Burns

    Awesome story, dude. My fiancée just brought me home a yellow Play It Loud Game Boy that a former coworker heard I might like to have, and when it came, it was in horrible shape – the whole thing was taped together as the battery cover clip had snapped off and was floating around inside, and the lens was taped on too. I did what any good nerd would do and immediately took it apart completely, cleaned it as best I could, and ordered a replacement battery cover, Play It Loud screen lens, and even a couple of alternate color buttons (d pad and b/a). Looking forward to getting the “new” parts installed, but even the way I have it now, it looks about 15 years younger :)

    1. Debbie


  10. Justin

    This is exactly the kind of article I was looking for. Awesome project. Quick question, what are the cases soaking in, is it just water? Thanks :)

    1. Krystian Majewski

      It’s water and dishwasher fluid. Later, I used some plastic cleaner. But soaking is not very effective in general. You will need to do some serious brushing to get the job done.

  11. lachlan

    where abouts did you get the replacement lenses of a lighter grey colour? i am in need!!

  12. Krystian Majewski

    I got all replacement lenses on eBay. They have both varieties.

  13. Ryan H.

    I will pay for the shipping and the gameboy itself if you have any left!!
    ive always wanted a mint condish classic gameboy something to keep in a nice case for display :) and use my old beat up one to play with.

  14. Debbie

    I would love the red one <3

  15. Zach

    Any luck finding those little covers for the connect ports on the side? I don’t even know the proper term for it. Dust plug? It seems like they all disappeared with the 90s.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Yeah. I know what you mean. I think I saw them on eBay. But they haven’t been used in the newer “Play It Loud” Series.

  16. Dion Johnson

    Hey man I love what you’ve done and you’ve really inspired me to try and refurbish a gameboy pocket (not sure what im going to do with it). If you were going to give one away I live in the UK so the postage wont be huge, lol. Please drop me a line if you wouldn’t mind letting me do some retro gaming. Whatever the outcome I will mention this page on my youtube channel.

    Cool how you documented it so we can all read and see it, thank you.

  17. Ryan

    You could try using retr0brite on the cases, it will reverse any yellowing from age.

  18. Krystian Majewski

    Attention: Some of the GameBoys are now on eBay. If you want one, check it out.

    They are the last ones from the project, so grab them while you can.

  19. superpika

    I love what you did it a real inspiration. I’m still young
    But I’m a old game player, I have the gameboy colour,AND
    Xbox….. the first one.

  20. MGB

    there is a special place in hell for who put stickers on their Game Boys :)

  21. sophie

    Were do i get the things to fix my gameboy like were do you get the screens and stuff!! this is very well done!

  22. Arty

    Hi there!
    I stumbled upon a dead game boys lot a short while ago on ebay and after reading your article I dicided to go for it.

    Long story short, turns out the “duct tape” fix for the dead pixels didn’t work for me, but I managed to restore a more than half dead screen by messing around with the contacts and a soldering iron after removing the original rubber padding.

    Anyway, nice article mate!

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Yeah, the duct tape fix doesn’t always work. I would be interested in insights on how to apply the soldering iron.

      1. Arty

        I think I saw a video on youtube about that…
        Basically, you have to remove the thin black adhesive rubber pad and heat the contacts the nearest to the screen as you can, playing around like that should do the trick! :)
        And don’t forget to put the rubber pad back as it holds the contacts.

  23. dodo

    Where to buy Mono Screen of original Gameboy?

    1. Krystian Majewski

      I bought them on eBay.

  24. dabe

    Hey i was wondering where you got the replacement rubber pads for the buttons

    1. Krystian Majewski

      I salvaged them from other GameBoys.

  25. Marie

    Amazing, but how did you fix the doesn’t want to turn on any more problem? Was it mostly just the battery spills that caused that problem? I have 2 original game boys and they use to work just fine less than a year ago and now i put new battery’s in and they wont turn on. :( I’ve tried warming up the battery’s *It use to work* tried blowing out any dust I saw *like we use to do with our nes system* one of them doesn’t have the battery cover, so i have tried it with the cover, with tape holding the battery’s in place and even using my fingers to hold them securely in place nothing has worked so far, and I don’t really want to have to open them up though because I don’t want to accidentally break anything.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Put in the batteries, turn on the GameBoy, crank up the volume. With the battery cover open move your palm across the batteries so they spin around. If you can see the red battery light flashing or hear a click from the speakers you can be certain it’s the contacts.

      Another, almost 100% sure way to check if it’s the contacts is to get the original GameBoy Rechargeable Battery Pack or a compatible AC adapter. It plugs into the side of the GameBoy circumventing the battery contacts altogether.×500.JPG

      In any case, if that’t your problem you can take a few Q-Tips and some Electrical Contact Cleaner. Spray some cleaner on the contacts and rub them clean. Don’t forget to clean the springs too! Don’t worry too much about liquid getting into the device. Contact cleaners usually don’t conduct electricity or evaporate quickly enough.

      If that doesn’t work you will have to screw the GameBoy open and sandpaper the contacts.

      1. Jason

        If you were to sell one of those how much would it cost because I want one?

  26. Shinobi-wan

    I just dropped my original game boy on the floor!! Now the far left & right of the lcd screen are white bars now! I’m so angry at myself! Do you think it’s fixable using the adhesive tape trick you mentioned?

    Thanks so much for creating this repair post I wouldn’t have even known where to start with out it.

    1. Shinobi-wan

      UPDATE – so I took it apart, tried messing with the adhesive tape below the screen. Nothing worked. Thought all hope was lost till I went on youtube. apparently what happens is the solder that connects the the screen breaks so the only way to fix it is to reheat the solder with a soldering iron. I just tried it and was able to fix two distorted screen original game boys. They’re like brand new now. Youtube it.

  27. Carlos

    Thanks for your guide!
    Recently got an used one, sold as “for parts”. Opened it, cleaned the battery contacts and for my surprise it was all fine!

  28. daniel

    great job on the restoration,
    when you cleaned the gameboy cases did you have any issues with the logo under the screen being scrubbed off or the stickers on the back?

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Nope, seems to be pretty scrub-proof.

  29. Trevor Belmont

    Hello dear friend.

    I admire what you’ve done/are doing.

    I have been doing the same thing here in the states, and specialize in Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance and Game Boy Advance-SP refurbishing/restoration.
    From time to time i do work on the DMG or Pocket, but i find the above mentioned ones to be so fulfilling that my work on them is my new favorite hobby.

    I have been doing this for at least a year now, have rescued/restored aproximately 43 units altogether, most of wich i store and display in a personal videogame museum (my closet shelves for now…haha).

    I also have formed a group of like-minded individuals into a small but growing group that i have titled “the Game Boy Relief Society”.
    The group specializes in retro-videogame (mainly old Nintendo handhelds) restoration and collaboration.

    Anyway, i happened upon this site and just wanted to stop and let you know that you are not alone.

    Hope you keep at it and nice to also see that I am not alone in this endeavor.

    Great job my friend!!! :)

  30. Darshit

    Good Job Dude…
    Can u ppl shit to india we dont have any gameboy stores here.
    And even finding a used one is difficult here.

  31. Bob Mckenzie

    I recently got a gameboy DMG-01 for free. The shape the thing is in is really sad. I’m currently using it for parts for another one i have, what i wanted to know is there a way to get rid of that horrible yellow stain that seems baked into the gameboy’s cover?

  32. Trevor Belmont

    The best thing you can do is soak the shell in dishwashing liquid and water for a long time and hope for the best.


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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