Rumor: Microsoft Can Kill Xbox 360s Remotely

By  |  Thursday, May 14, 2009 at 2:45 pm

redringofdeathImagine if Microsoft could order a Red Ring of Death on an Xbox 360 if the company didn’t approve of the user’s actions, such as piracy or cheating.

One former software and hardware tester said this is possible. Speaking to 8BitJoystick, this recently laid off employee said Microsoft can activate a trigger that tells the Xbox 360 to fry itself, though it likely hasn’t done so out of lab testing. Upon receiving a broken console for repair, Microsoft could reportedly recognize the problem and decline to honor the warranty.

The source revealed several other tidbits, such as the possible release of Metal Gear Solid 4 for the Xbox 360 and the opinion that testers are overworked and underpaid, but neither of those are as shocking as the story’s other major revelation.

A bit of qualification: I follow 8BitJoystick’s Jake Metcalf on Twitter and he seems like a responsible writer. More importantly, he has a track record of digging up credible inside sources. He famously broke the news that Halo developer Bungie was leaving Microsoft (it was actually amusing to see bigger outlets laugh at him, then eat their words), and has posted a couple other juicy reports as well.

So when Metcalf says the source was “well vetted,” I believe him, even if the source’s information leaves me skeptical simply because it’s so unbelievable.

If the report is accurate, the obvious question remains: Does Microsoft have the legal right to do this? Yes, Metcalf argues, because hacking an Xbox 360 is a violation of the console’s terms of service, as well as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

I was hesitant to agree at first, because Microsoft would then have to reserve the right, in its agreement with the user, to disable the console. However, the proof’s in the pudding. The pertinent section of Xbox Live’s terms says Microsoft may, among other things (emphasis mine ahead):

“(c) upgrade, modify, withdraw, suspend, or discontinue any functionality or feature of the Service, any game or other content available or accessible through the Service, or any hardware or software associated with the Service or with an original Xbox or Xbox 360 console, or personal computer, from time to time without notice, which may involve the automatic download of related software directly to your original Xbox, Xbox 360 console, or personal computer, including software that prevents you from accessing the Service, playing pirated games, or using unauthorized hardware peripheral devices.”

Presumably, such a software update could brick the console, and Microsoft could argue that doing so was necessary to prevent piracy. It boils down to the idea that when you’re playing on Microsoft’s console, you’re playing by Microsoft’s rules, and they reserve the right to handle the console any way they choose. Break the rules, and you’re on your own. That’s no rumor.


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25 Comments For This Post

  1. Eagle 78 Says:

    If this is true, that would mean I got red-ringed 4 times for NOTHING!? I am on my 5th 360, and all from the rrod. I have never modded or cheated in any way, and if this is true I want some answers. Although, in all honesty, I understand initially, only 60% of 360’s off the original production line were tested and deemed “fully functional”, as the california based civil lawsuit against MS revealed. The cheap non-lead solder that caused the boards to become unfastened and warp when overheated is FAR more likely a culprit than a “kill-switch”. But hey, we ARE talking about a huge, multi-national corporation right, so who knows…

  2. Jake of Says:

    The Killswitch is not really related to the RROD. There are millions of Xbox 360 gamers that never did anything wrong only to have their consoles die on them.

  3. Jason Simone Says:

    I don’t believe this for a second – and I’m fully prepared to eat my words if need be. This just isn’t Microsoft’s style. They make way more money with Windows PCs and they don’t cripple them even if they discover piracy. They know piracy helps their business and was one of the biggest selling points for the original Xbox.

    And considering the money they make from licensing games, they would do much better to have a strong face about fighting privacy then to go skulking around silently bricking pirates machines.

    Finally, I am far from convinced of the legality of this. The ‘Service’ referred to in the ToS obviously refers to Live and not the entire console. The terms make no further representations of their right to fully disable the hardware. Nor would I believe the legality of such a broad and irresponsible clause in a software ToS even if such did exist.

  4. JDoors Says:

    I do not like the continuing trend of consumers not owning the products they purchase free and clear. Waiting for the day GM uses OnStar to determine you didn’t come to a complete stop at that Stop sign and they “brick” your car.

  5. Jared Newman Says:


    I hate to break it to you, but this is already happening, though the intended use is for when your car gets stolen:

  6. Suge White Says:

    Not a big fan of the Microsoft people, or any people for that matter, but I doubt this immensely.

  7. Ivan_PSP Says:

    This might be true, Microsoft is a dirty company. When i play all my Xbox 360 modded games i unplug the Ethernet cord for precautions purpose only. PLAYSTATION RuLeZ all.

  8. Bob Says:

    What a load of crap.

  9. Josh Says:

    Simple, don’t mod your Xbox. When you download a 360 game for free, you’re making sure the studio who made the game doesn’t get paid. When that happens, studios shut down. If you’re too cheap or poor to buy games, you’re too cheap or poor to buy a 360. Quit ruining it for everyone else and take care of your financial responsibilities, ya f’n modders.

  10. alan Says:

    I believe microsoft can do this but they have decided not to

  11. raunchmark Says:


  12. Chris Taylor Says:

    “Does Microsoft have the legal right to do this? Yes, Metcalf argues, because hacking an Xbox 360 is a violation of the console’s terms of service, as well as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.”

    Wrong the answer is NO. its called vandalism. Trespassing. Theft of Property.

    If I write a EULA that says I can MURDER you if you utter the word “the” is this a lawful legally binding EULA?

    the EULA may not violate the law OR the constitution.

    I do not recognize nor agree to any terms of service for property purchased. I do not recognize license for property purchased.

    The only “license” or “Eula” that I would ever recognize is for SERVICE (such as x-box live) and ONLY so far as access to said service is concerned.

    This is illegal for them to do this and that portion of the EULA is null legally.

    This would be no different than “Ford” saying they can disable your car if you put anything but “Ford” gasoline or “Ford” parts into it.

    those things are also illegal.

    The X-Box does not belong to Microsoft. it belongs to the one who purchased it. Its personal property. If they damaged your personal property (FOR ANY REASON) take them to court and file a police report for destruction of property theft and vandalism.

    Wake up people.

    SO NO they can not “legally” do this.

  13. Chris Taylor Says:

    In fact it gets even worse. They could get into trouble for impersonating a police officer or law enforcement person.

    They have no legal authority to DEFINE what piracy or hacking is. That is for a court of law to decide.

  14. Bureau 24 Says:

    Well, such a thing is possible and probably useful. It is computer software and chips. Microsoft also has the ability to remotely connect to your computer.

  15. jmndos Says:

    I’m pretty sure its doable……

    Microsoft’s contract is unconscionable and they know it, i believe….

    Service agreement or not, the xbox is not a service, it is a piece of hardware and you are buying it as a tangible good to use it. Disabling it a class C felony on microsoft’s part. Also, the contents and configuration can be considered private, as a computer, so legally, microsoft cannot look at the configuration of the device via a push…like if it has a mod chip installed or playing illegal, but its hard to tell that anyways..

    The only way they would be able to disable the units legally is if they had the permission of the owner. If you are cheating or stealing, then they can only ban the device, legally, even though their service agreement says otherwise.

    Now, if they were licensing the xbox, say for 30/mo which includes xbox live for that month, then they own the unit and thus they can legally disable it without your permission…

  16. Peter Says:

    Well – simple answer: Don’t buy M$ products.

  17. Ben Says:


  18. NE0GE0 Says:

    Dude! Bill Gates ownes the world. What does bill do? What ever the f..k he feels like.

  19. john Says:

    They definitely can, but they wont…..they just dont have the guts to do it.

  20. Bob Says:

    Microsoft has no right to do this just like they have no right to sell xbox’s that are incapable of playing “backup” games. It is our right to backup our software. Also reguardless of what they say to discourage you from doing this it is also legal (in the USA anyway) to backup up your software. Then when the device it’s intended to play from can’t play it, then that should be illegal.

  21. Direct Says:

    Disgruntled employee lol

  22. Nick Says:

    Lies! I'm sure they can do it…but i doubt that they do

  23. That Free TV Site Says:

    I assume its possible…but doubt it will ever be implemented

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  25. Alex Says:

    Just wanted to put out there that I had already planned to but the new xbox 360 priced at 199$ comes with everything wifi all that good stuff. I recently updated my old xbox 360 with new dashboard interface only to find that I killed it lol apparently the update placed a kill switch on it to make sure I would buy the new xbox 360. Why? because they… Microsoft truly is an monopoly of great market power and resources to get the upper hand on the consumers. The only reason I stayed loyal to xbox "Halo" in general all of them.

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