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I remember when playing on the N64 if the game didn't start running when I turned on the N64, I would remove the cartridge, blow into the cartridge where the pins were located, then slam the cartridge back into the N64 and when I turned it back on, the game would run.

My question is, would blowing into the pins of the cartridge really affect whether or not the game would run by removing dust from the hardware, or was this purely psychological? Everyone I know who had an N64 did this!

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    Most probably the air you blew in did less than the mechanical rub on the contacts when the cartridge was re-inserted. I'd rather say it was the latter than the former thad made id going, and the "blow job" (sorry, couldn't resist) was just a bit of additional mumbo-jumbo. – tofro Aug 19 '17 at 12:38
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    The engineer in me wants to say that blowing into a cartridge is a myth and that proper cleaning is what works. However, I swear on my life that at least five times I can recall inserting a cart and it not working, re-inserting, etc. over and over again and each time failing. Then, blowing into the cart and it starts working. Even carts that I have cleaned with IPA. – cbmeeks Aug 21 '17 at 13:47
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Not the blowing but most likely the process of repeated inserting has removed the cause - as so often with connectors, especially PCB connectors.

As @Ross Ridge already mentioned, the Question has been answered in full before at Gaming Why did you have to blow into an NES cartridge to make it work?:

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No, it didn't.

What helped was to remove the cartridge, and to re-enter it again.

It is the same psychological effect that lets us rub coins before we insert them a second time. When the second try is a success, we memorize ok, rubbing the coin helps. If not, we do not think ok, rubbing doesn't help, but rather something like I didn't rub well enough

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I disagree entirely with the answers. I've spent a lot of time experimenting with this sort of thing. I've performed experiments on games where I've had multiple insertions and removals to no effect. However, after blowing on it it pretty much always works instantly.

I've experienced similar things with card-based media up to this day; Nintendo DS cards and SD cards I've had the same experience with.

I've seen it hypothesised that blowing on the contacts aids to the conductivity, and it certainly sounds plausible. Of course in the long term it's likely to promote corrosion and other nasty things, so it probably isn't very good for the contacts in the long run. In the short term though, it really does work.

I encourage anyone with known-problem games to try it out as an experiment before downvoting.

  • I agree with what you are saying. It's not like the pins in the cartridge wear all the way down, so even wear shouldn't be a problem. And moisture does conduct electricity... – Retro Gamer Aug 22 '17 at 16:30
  • Moisture of that level would not be able to conduct the low voltages used for digital cards. The only reason people say liquid is conductive is because it is more conductive than air, so being near a high voltage source (like a radio or hair dryer) in the water is far riskier than when in the air. At the low voltages that digital logic gates operate on, the metal has to actually touch to conduct. – forest Feb 26 '18 at 13:20

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