Known as the Mega Drive outside North America, the Sega Genesis hit the markets in 1989 to dethrone Nintendo’s NES, with its new blue mascot.

Having one of these consoles today is a real luxury, especially if they are in good condition and if they are accompanied by the best gems of its catalog. But that brings with it a small complication that can turn into a real headache if not treated properly: the cleaning of the cartridges.

If you are one of those who blow the cartridges of your beloved Sega Genesis console to make them work, you have to know there is a better way… Therefore, we present you with the definitive Sega Genesis cleaning tutorial to make your games work the first time.

Warnings:

You can’t start a tutorial like this without going over some proper precautions.

  • Do not blow: this myth may already be disproved in many places, but there are still gamers who opt for this desperate option, and although by a stroke of luck, the cartridge may work, it may cause long-term damage.
  • Do not clean with water: another of the usual precautions, because you know, water and electronics do not get along well.
  • Use products with alcohol only: as alcohol is one of the primary elements for cleaning, it is quite common to use any product containing it as a fragrance. However, it is always best to use isopropyl alcohol.
Dirty Sega Genesis Game with the Box

Tools needed for cleaning:

It should be noted that the tools for this job will be dictated by the type of cartridge you are going to clean, so keep that in mind.

  • Isopropyl alcohol: with its high degree of cleanliness, this rubbing alcohol is the most recommended by the gaming community for the care of their favorite retro games.
  • Old toothbrush
  • Cotton swabs
  • Phillips screwdriver 
  • Torx wrenches
  • Gamebit screwdriver: the basic tool for opening the cartridges of most retro consoles such as the NES, SNES, N64, and Master System.
  • Bic pen: it sounds out of place, and it is, You will only need this as option b if you don’t have a Gamebit screwdriver.

Something quite peculiar about this console is that  Sega game cartridges were produced by several different companies, so the steps for cleaning vary depending on the manufacturer. Don’t worry, here you will find the best methods to clean your old game cartridges and get them working good as new, no matter the shape and size.

Method For Cleaning Tec Toy Sega Genesis Cartridges

Steps:

  1. To begin, take a cotton swab and moisten the tip with a little isopropyl alcohol. Then rub it firmly on the contacts of the cartridge to clean the residue from that area. Repeat the process with both sides of the contacts, and if there was indeed dirt on them, the swab should come out dirty.
  2. Once the surface cleaning is finished, it is time to move on to the internal structure of the cartridge. To do this, remove both screws from the case with the Phillips screwdriver.
  3. The previous step will expose the EPROM memory where the game is recorded. To clean it, spray some isopropyl alcohol on the toothbrush, and then use it to scrub the memory pins on both sides.
  4. After that cleaning and the alcohol dries, reassemble the cartridge.

Method For Cleaning Sega Genesis Cartridges Distributed By Codemasters

Steps:

  1. As with the previous method, the first thing to do is to clean the contacts with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol. As an additional tip, cover the toothbrush in alcohol to clean the joystick connectors, a characteristic mark of Codemasters J-Carts.
  2. Now, if the previous step wasn’t enough to get the game working, it’s time to open the cartridge, but that’s where a dilemma arises, as the screws are covered by the game’s sticker, so it’s inevitable to damage their appearance to get to the internal structure. A recommended way is to apply a little heat on the edges of the sticker so that it slowly peels off to expose the screws.
  3. Once opened, clean the game board with the toothbrush, and be very careful in the process, as there are other elements at stake such as the gamepad connectors.
  4. When the alcohol has done its job, place the memory back into the case with its respective screws, taking care not to damage the sticker any further.

How To Clean Sega Genesis Cartridges Distributed By Majesco

These cartridges come sealed with two types of Torx screws, some with the common ones and others with the security screws, so equip yourself with a Torx wrench kit before cleaning one of these games.

Steps:

  1. In this case, go straight to the internal structure, as it won’t have much effect to clean the external connectors of this type of cartridge. Depending on the type of screw on your cartridge, use the appropriate Torx wrench to remove the housing and expose the base memory.
  2. Proceed to use the Q-tip or toothbrush with isopropyl alcohol to clean the plaque.
  3. Replace the case and reassemble it with the screws.

Method For Cleaning Sega Genesis Carts If You Don’t Have Gamebit Screwdrivers

As part of the huge variety of cartridges of this console, some are sealed with special screws that can only be removed with a Gamebit screwdriver.

Since these bits are not so common in hardware stores, you may have to look for them online, but if you are unable to purchase them because of the area where you live or other factors, don’t worry, you can still clean your cartridges with the help of a Bic type pen.

Steps:

  1. First of all, don’t forget to do a superficial cleaning through the grooves of the cartridge with the swab dipped in alcohol.
  2. Remove the ink tube from the pen, leaving the transparent tube free. Then, with a lighter, heat the tip of the tube until it starts to turn a black color.
  3. As soon as it starts to melt, insert the tube into one of the screw holes, and apply pressure for a few minutes. The idea is for the tube to conform to the shape of the screw. If all goes well, you will have your improvised Gamebit screwdriver, with which you can proceed with the internal cleaning. The cartridges distributed by EA are recognized for using special screws along with a side slot that held the casing closer together.
  4. Once you remove the screws, slowly open both pieces to get enough space for the internal memory to come out, and thus avoid disassembling the entire cartridge.

Although the improvised screwdriver method works, it is necessary to note that it has certain risks concerning the heated pen, and if you spend too much time exerting pressure on the screws, you can end up causing damage to the cartridge. Be warned!

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Gum eraser as an alternative

There are many cleaning methods, and everyone has their own. That is why many gamers recommend some tools and others suggest very different ones, but the important thing is that the result is positive. 

The pencil eraser is one of the most used when it comes to cleaning the game memory contacts, in the same way that a toothbrush does. When finished, you can remove the particles from the eraser with a brush.

Bonus Tips For Cleaning Genesis Games:

  • Spray some isopropyl alcohol on a small sheet of paper to clean the area of the case where the internal memory is installed. It’s not a big deal, but as maintenance, it doesn’t hurt.
  • Clean the screws when removing them, as they can hold a lot of rust and dirt in general.
  • Pay attention to the original placement of the internal memory. Once you clean it, place it as it was.
  • If you have a multimeter, you can use it to check the state of the memory tracks. If you find that a track is not responding, then you will need to perform other maintenance.
  • Never neglect to clean the surface contacts of your cartridges, they are usually the main reason why they stop working.

If you got this far, it means that the last step regardless of the method you used is to test the game. In most cases, it should work without a problem and boot on the first try, but if it only boots after several tries or not at all, repeat the cleaning method.

If it then doesn’t work, then the problem may be more complex, such as a fault in the internal memory contacts.

I hope these millennial techniques from the Gamers’ Handbook have worked for you, who in the absence of technical assistance from the big companies, put on their heroes’ capes to show you how to revive your favorite retro Sega Genesis games.

Let’s play!

Last update on 2024-04-04 at 01:36 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API