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Battery Powered: Bringing Cartridges Back to Life


You’re home from a long day of school or work, and all you want to do is kick back and relax with a Pokémon game. You stick in your copy of Pokémon Gold and turn on your teal Game Boy Color that your parents got you for Christmas. Then it happens. Your save file is gone. You panic briefly, and turn it off, hoping that it must have been a glitch, and try again. Nope, still gone. Your battery has died.

This is something many of us have probably gone through. Since the early cartridge games have internal batteries that power the save file, they ultimately run out and the file is lost. There might not be a way to get this file back, but you can fix the cartridge and start a new game. This was an endeavor I recently undertook. Recently stumbling upon my old Pokémon Gold and Silver cartridges, I was excited at the prospect of playing through these again with my roommates and friends. But of course, having owned them for years, the batteries were dead. I didn’t despair however, I had heard they could be replaced and returned to functioning. I ordered some batteries off amazon, and awaited their arrival.

Upon receiving them, I discovered a problem. I lacked sufficient tools to get the cartridge open. The screw that holds the cartridge closed is very unusual, and can’t be opened with normal tools. You can get a special tool designed for them, or use pliers. I had neither. Luckily I found some wire cutters that were fine yet strong enough to twist it out, and I was on my way to replacing the battery for Pokémon Gold.

There are a few ways you can go about replacing the battery. The best way is to use a soldering iron and solder the tabs of the new battery to where the old one was. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a soldering iron. Who does? So, I went about another way, of using tape. The idea is the tape holds it in place, and also the bulk of the tape (I had gaffers tape) keeps it from moving around and getting dislodged. Of course this method is riskier, because if the battery comes off, the save file can be lost. The hardest part though (aside from getting the dang cartridge open to begin with) is removing the original battery. You have to carefully remove the tabs as not to break them, so they can be taped to the new battery. After working at it for a while, I finally loosened them enough to pop them off. Then I encountered another problem. The batteries I’d purchased had tabs on them too. So, I was stuck with two sets of tabs. I was faced with a choice: remove the tabs on the new battery, or try and get it to fit in the cartridge anyway. I opted for the latter. I faced the battery in such a way that the tabs fit, and taped it on. This probably wasn’t a smart decision, but somehow it worked.

Success! I was able to tape the battery for Pokémon Gold, and it now saves. So far the battery hasn’t come loose, as I still have my save file, and I hope it stays this way. Next, I wanted to replace the battery for Silver. The wire cutters I used were gone. Nowhere to be found. I searched everywhere, meanwhile trying anything else in the house that looked like it could possibly work. I even tried a method I found on the internet of melting the tip of a plastic pen so that it fits the form of the screw, and this didn’t work. Alas, nothing would get the screw out. I’m now attempting to acquire some pliers that are small enough.

As I’m almost as far as it gets from a handyman, it’s clear that if you have enough finger dexterity you could replace the battery for your old games. There are plenty of guides out there to help you, and all I have to say is be careful, and make sure you have the right tools. It’s hard, but it’s worth the effort. (ed note: 3.8 mm security bit is the tool you’d use to get game cartridges open. Also, we aren’t responsible if you screw up your game!)

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