News Article

You Fools, Blowing on NES Cartridges Is Not The Answer

Posted by Damien McFerran

Well I never

We've all done it. Blowing on cartridge connections has (apparently) always been the most effective way of getting stubborn games to load, but according to MentalFloss, it could actually cause more problems in the long term.

MentalFloss spoke to Digital Press expert Frankie Viturello and he had some pretty damning words to say about the time-honoured method of game-cleaning.

While I admittedly may have dabbled in a little cartridge-blowing as a naive NES-playing youth, I’ve long-since been an advocate for not doing it with the stance that for whatever it may do to aid in the temporary functionality of an NES, it ultimately opens the door for damage and distress to the hardware.

I suppose it has a lot to do with the placebo effect. US NES hardware required, on most games, optimal connection across up to 72 pins as well as communication with a security lock-out chip. The theory that ‘dust’ could be a legitimate inhibitor and that ‘blowing it out’ was the solution, still sounds silly to me when I say it out loud.

So why has this procedure become so famous? Viturello offers his own theories:

The act of removing, blowing in, and re-seating a cartridge most likely creates another random opportunity for the connection to be better made. So removing the cartridge 10 times and putting back in without blowing on it might net the exact same results as blowing on it between each time. The moisture that occurs when you blow into a cartridge has some type of immediate effect on the electrical connection that occurs. Either the moisture helps to eliminate/move any debris/chemical buildup that has occurred when the contacts and the pin-readers rub together, or the moisture increases conductivity to a degree that it can send the data through any existing matter that was previously interfering with the connection. Those are my best theories.

Viturello has even backed up his stance with a semi-scientic study, where he took two copies of the same NES game and blew on one 10 tens a day while leaving the other untouched. The results are shown below.

So there you have it. When you blow on your NES cart, you're being cruel rather than kind.

[via mentalfloss.com, eurogamer.net]

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User Comments (64)

Bankai

#2

Bankai said:

It's like I've been transported to 1984 when this would have been news.

Mk_II

#3

Mk_II said:

My semi-scientific study shows that some people have way too much time on their hands.

Chunky_Droid

#7

Chunky_Droid said:

I haven't blown on cartridges in over 15 years for this reason. All my old instruction booklets say never use alcohol, but I find if I use brass polish and then wipe that off with an alcoholic wipe, the cartridge works like new again, and works for a long time.

RedYoshi999

#8

RedYoshi999 said:

I guess this applies to N64 games too. I use to blow on cartridges when I was younger but I've realised not to now.

OorWullie

#9

OorWullie said:

A good old blow never failed me.I also used to blow inside the console too so I guess whoever inherited my old consoles have got damaged goods.

NintyMan

#12

NintyMan said:

I've blown into SNES carts since the beginning and they still play to this very day. I guess NES carts must be weaker.

ZeldaFan5991

#14

ZeldaFan5991 said:

After twenty-five or so years of Nintendo advising not to blow on cartridges or their connections, it took a 'scientific' study for people to achieve this conclusion. .... My faith in humanity is lost. >.>

rodoubleb

#17

rodoubleb said:

Those photos look for suspicious for a simple 10 day experiment. I've been blowing in some of the same carts for more than 2 decades, and the pins look better than either of those examples.

I'm not claiming it's the best option , but the blow is still a quick and reliable fix. There should be no reason to 'blow' daily. Usually the dust is only a problem if the cart has been sitting for a long time.

Of course Nintendo advised people not to blow in their cartridge, because then you wouldn't be purchasing their overpriced and unnecessary cleaning kit.

bezerker99

#18

bezerker99 said:

just stick the cartridge into the NES disc drive, turn the power ON, ....take your fingers and wiggle the cart back and forth ever so slightly until you get the proper connection.......Hit Reset and BINGO...u are ready to do some classic gaming!

shinpichu

#19

shinpichu said:

I've known about this for a while. Best thing to do to clean the contacts would be to wipe them with a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol(make sure it dries before you put the cart back in, though) or opening the cart and cleaning it with a soft white eraser.

grumblegrumble

#20

grumblegrumble said:

I think I spent half my childhood life blowing in Nintendo cartridges lol ;) I read online you can get a q-tip and dip it in isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol and clean the insides of the chip that way...

evildevil97

#21

evildevil97 said:

This isn't really news. I knew about this for well over a decade. Someone working at a store back in the SNES or NES days mentioned this to a young me, and I never forgot it. Granted, it hasn't stopped me from blowing on NES cartridges, but still. This news is as new as a Super Mario World release date.

Radbot42

#22

Radbot42 said:

"He blew on it 10 tens a day" lol TYPO!!

Other than that I already knew about this, but I still do it...

iphys

#25

iphys said:

I wonder how the blowing idea became so widespread, being as that was before the Internet age. The first time I encountered it was when I rented TMNT and couldn't get it to work: when I took it back to the shop, the lady that worked there tested the cart, then blew on it, put it back in and it finally worked. I remember watching her and being all impressed, and then her explaining that you should always try blowing on the cart if you have problems. The trick I use these days is when I push the cart down with my index finger in the tab, I nudge it left, then right, and then left before finally releasing it — I think it seats the cartridge better somehow.

TheChosen

#26

TheChosen said:

This is old news. I think Nintendo themselfs even made a statement about this "blowing" thing.

Marioman64

#27

Marioman64 said:

i think his test is flawed. how do we know he blew properly? he could be one of those people that blows like "pfffblbplblbblbpbllll" instead of "pheuuuuuuuuu"

and anyway i replaced my 72-pin connector a couple years ago and it worked wonders

gefflt

#28

gefflt said:

Well I remember blowing the dust from my games back I played on my SNES and it still works fine to this day so...

ueI

#29

ueI said:

I never understood why people would blow on cartridges. Breathing on them works much better. Seriously.

Ren

#31

Ren said:

I'll remember this when my WiiU cartridges aren't working.

AVahne

#33

AVahne said:

Advance Wars 2 wouldn't boot up last night so I blew into it. Made it work, but guess that means that that shortened its life huh?

SteveW

#36

SteveW said:

We haven't all done it, only people that don't realize that moisture on the contacts is a bad idea...

MeloMan

#37

MeloMan said:

I already knew this, but it still made all my friends' dusty cartriges work... and still does :)

ultraraichu

#40

ultraraichu said:

I remember back in 1992 I was the little snot nose kid telling the teenagers not to blow in the cartridge because it will mess it up. If only it meant something today :(

Gameday

#42

Gameday said:

Ha well it worked for me way back. Id make that mug whistle , nes users know what im saying indeed.

Token_Girl

#43

Token_Girl said:

I'm calling bs on that picture too. I have some Genesis games that would contradict that damage. I can see the excess moisture leading to issues long term, but it's not like consoles are being spat on. I don't think that all that much damage would be done.

Henmii

#45

Henmii said:

I guess it's time for me to stop this habit! I even blow in my DS/3DS, DS/3DS game-cards, the AC adapter connector, etc. My 3DS manual also says you shouldn't blow.

Who would have thought there would be so much moisture in your breath?

DarkNinja9

#48

DarkNinja9 said:

lol wow this bring up so much memories :o if blowing on the game didnt work i also did use rubbing alcohol to wipe and try to 'clean' it i guess and yeah it would work all the time and after that i didnt even have problems but some games were stubborn though =/

Grodus

#50

Grodus said:

"...where he took two copies of the same NES game and blew on one 10 ~tens~ a day while leaving the other untouched." Typo!


Huh. Who knew.

Robo-goose

#51

Robo-goose said:

He needs to stop eating donuts before conducting tests that require him to shoot air out of his mouth at something.

WaxxyOne

#52

WaxxyOne said:

Anyone who says blowing in the cartridges is bad because of the moisture being introduced doesn't actually know how to blow into the cartridges and should never do it again.

As a long-time expert at getting NES games to work, I can tell you that you need to purse your lips and wipe away any moisture before carefully blowing into the cartridge so that only air is introduced, not liquid. If you can't figure out how to blow without spitting (and I've known many people who apparently couldn't), then you should let someone else handle the act of cleaning dust off of the contacts.

And why would he be surprised that dust could cause a problem in the first place? With 72 contacts and the finicky hardware of the day, it stands to reason that enough spots with dust on them can get in the way of solid contact. Clearing the dust out by carefully blowing (read: NOT SPITTING!) in the cartridge is a perfectly valid way of minimizing the interference.

Omega

#54

Omega said:

Blowing on cartridges is really inane and much too time consuming. I put them into the dish washer once a month.

Zombie_Barioth

#55

Zombie_Barioth said:

@WaxxyOne summed it up rather nicely. Unless your practically hocking loogies into your carts there shouldn't be any problems, and if your blowing into them 10+ times a day you have bigger problems than that.

Thats how I've done it since I was a little kid and only needed to if they were sitting around for a long time. I don't see how using rubbing alcohol is any better and I use both methods.

antster1983

#56

antster1983 said:

The Q-tip/cotton bud and a tiny amount of cleaning fluid is the best way to clean out the pins of your game cartridges, if AVGN is to be believed.

Rapadash6

#57

Rapadash6 said:

Get some clothes on? I was thinking she was wearing too much! And yeah, insert childish "blow" euphemism here, I guess.

DaveGX

#60

DaveGX said:

Ironically, blowing on the cartridges or not when you've owned and useda system for so long never really did the trick. Sure it was a temporary fix, but what do you do when the system decides to freeze up and all you see on the screen is part game part garbled numbers and alphabet? I'm not too sure whether or not this has actually 100% resolved my problem, but I remember a time my the plastic piece attatched to my Game Genie cartridge broke off, so basically my cartridge was stuck inside the system. So for the longest time until I cold figure out how to get it out, I left it and ironically it actually did seem to freeze up a lot less frequently with the garbled screens.

KAHN

#62

KAHN said:

alright, then what the heck is the correct way to fix a cart if blowing wont work?

theblackdragonAdmin

#63

theblackdragon said:

@DaveGX: actually, using a Game Genie is a long-standing fix for NES systems that won't work properly. darn that silly ZIF connector :(

@0LD:SK0OL_PUNK: if you really want to blow some dust out, canned air will work. the problem with blowing into a cartridge is the moisture in your breath, so without that present, you're in the clear. :3

PKNoUsernameHere

#64

PKNoUsernameHere said:

this would have been good news to hear when i got my NES with the legend of zelda,and this was the same day i got mother

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