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How To Tell If Your Atari 2600 Works?

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Do you have an Atari 2600 and want to make sure it is working  properly? Maybe you are going to purchase one and you want to make sure you know how to tell if it’s working properly or not. No matter why you want to know the answer, we have the answer to this question. 

So how can you tell if an Atari 2600 actually works? 

Although there are quite a few things to check over to make sure an Atari 2600 works, some of them are:

  1. The Sound
  2. The Buttons
  3. The Games
  4. The Controllers
  5. The Paddles 

If you continue reading, we will show you how to make sure your Atari 2600 is working properly, and how to know if it is not. If you want to see some of the Atari 2600 remade models (Atari Flashbacks) you can click here.

If you prefer to watch a video instead of reading you can do that below as well.

If you are an old-school Atari lover then you have to get a classic Atari T-Shirt to show it! To see the most popular Atari T-Shirt retro designs that will stay classics for years just click here.

Atari Flashback 8 Gold Console HDMI 120 Games 2 Wireless Controllers

If you love all things Atari then you have to check out this awesome Atari Flashback console.

The Atari Flashback 8 comes with two wireless controllers (YES, WIRELESS!) two paddle controllers, and 120 authentic Atari games.

How to tell if an Atari works?

The Atari 2600 is in proper working condition if it fulfills all the requirements mentioned below.

There are a few things that you need to look for before purchasing an Atari 2600.

The first thing you need to check is the display cable. The display cable on an Atari 2600 should never be bent, crushed, cut, or braided. If the cable has been bent or has one of the other issues mentioned, the Atari will probably have display issues. These issues can be something as small as a distorted image, to having no image at all.

Although just because it has display issues that does not mean that the entire system is not working properly, or the entire system is bad. You may simply just need to replace the display cord on the Atari 2600. A new one can be purchased here for just a couple of dollars. 

To further check whether an Atari is working or not, you will want to use the upgraded universal cable. For a TV connection that does not support the direct interaction, use the Atari’s gaming adaptor which will ensure it works smoothly by connecting directly to modern TVs.

If you are still having problems connecting your Atari 2600 to your newer TV, you can watch this video to help you. 

Supporting Requirements

Since the Atari was not made in an advanced technological age, it only helped the manual TV switch box that had a mechanical type of port. It does not work with the automatic one. That is why the requirement of Atari’s original adaptor is necessary.

Physical Aspects of the Console

The Original Atari 2600 had a foam insert to help protect the console from dust. Without the preventative dust foam on the inside, the console will soon stop working. You can check to see if this foam piece is there by looking through the little slots. You will want to make sure that it is still in place.

If you find a console without the foam protector, it means that it is refurbished or repaired, and not in original condition. That isn’t always a bad thing but it is good to know.

To make sure the games cartridges are working properly, you will need to insert the game cartridge into the console. If its setting is not disturbed, then it will display a small green bar at the bottom, which is an indication of the factory setting. This method is sometimes called the green color test of Atari. 

Testing the Controllers and Paddles

Plugin the controller and paddle adaptor and do a detailed test by moving the joystick several times to check the inclination. If the player or any icon on the screen moves properly then these controllers are in good condition. Similarly, do a paddle test by playing any paddle-supported game. 

Sound Check

One of the significant problems with the Atari 2600 was that it tended to lose functioning sound after some time. Some of the Atari 2600 versions may not lose the sound, but it certainly tends to gets weaker with age. Proper sound can be tested by playing any game. Plug the cartridge in and listen for the standard game sound. If it does not seem right, or if you don’t hear any music, then your console is not working correctly.

Button Check

The original Atari 2600 has six buttons on its console and each button had a separate functionality. You will want to carefully test each button to make sure that they are in place and perform the task assigned. If you do this, it will make sure that your display and console settings are working properly.

Game Check

The Atari 2600 comes with eight original games. Even though other games were later released, the console was originally only sold with these eight games. Whatever games you have, you will need to make sure to test each one to see if they are working correctly. Also, the place on the console where the cartridge is to be placed has two strips of golden connectors. These golden strips will adjust the game cartridge so you will want to make sure that they are not bent, greased, or worn out.

If you see a bright shine in them, it means that your console will adequately support the game cartridge.

Things to consider

The Atari 2600 is a precious piece of old retro-tech. This is why it needs a lot of consideration before being purchased. Because of its design, it is difficult to tell when one is working and when one is damaged unless you are able to plug it in and test it. Even new boxes could have damaged pieces inside of them because of shipping issues, or other problems but don’t worry, if you check over all of the items listed above, you will be sure not to purchase an Atari 2600 that isn’t working. 

If you are looking to buy a used Atari from an online marketplace, or a tech store, then you have to be careful about your purchase. Because this console dates back quite a number of years, a significant percentage of people sell its repaired versions.  

There are also some Atari 2600 consoles that are flashback versions (such as these here) and they can often look like the original Atari as well however they come preloaded with games so if you turn the Atari on and it has games loaded on it then it is one of these Flashback consoles and not an original one.

Atari 2600 features

The Atari 2600 was first released in 1977, but it is still enjoyable even in this advanced tech world of today.  People who enjoyed these consoles often still have an Atari 2600 in their collections and old stores. Even though leaving it unused over a long period of time can make it a bit rusty and slow, the people who grew up with these would never get rid of them! 

The Atari 2600 was the pioneer in the digital video gaming world and it transformed the gaming specifications with its vast improved gameplay, graphics, games quantity, and versatility.

Before the release of this console, people used to play Atari Pong. It had average quality graphics and less functionality so the Atari 2600 was actually a step up in the gaming world! This is why when the Atari 2600 was released, it gave hope to a new era, the gaming era!


If you have checked over everything and the console seems to be in working order, you should be good to go ahead and purchase it or simply know that your console is in full working order. If you are purchasing it you will want to get home, plug it in, turn it on, and bring back all those childhood memories of you beating your friends on this system when they would come over.