Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Cure A Finicky CD/DVD Drive

Reader Asks Why Their Drive Sometimes Reads Discs, And Sometimes Doesn’t — And, Is There A Fix?

Q:Paul, I have an older computer that has started to give me some trouble and I am wondering if it is time to start shopping for a new PC. I am hoping you can give me some advice.

Courtesy of

Lately it has started ignoring discs when I put them in my CD burner. It can play some and not others. I am not sure why. I have checked, and Windows says I have the right device driver. Is there something else I should check? I don’t really want to have to buy a new computer right now. Thx.

A: Dear reader,
Though you say that your computer is “older”, I doubt that this issue will require you to dump your computer for a new one. Please read to the end.
(Folks, it is standard to – when you ask for help – provide basic information about your computer: make/model and operating system are good for starters.)

There are a few different reasons why an optical drive (CD/DVD) might fail to read (or write) a disc. Discs do ‘fade’ and go bad with age, and sometimes they come from the manufacturer with a defect. Sometimes, the drive won’t like certain formats.. or brand names (maybe preferring CD-R’s to +R’s, say), just to name a few. Usually using a different disc or brand of discs will resolve that, should it occur.

You also want to do as this reader did and open Device Manager and make sure your drive is functioning, and its driver is up-to-date. (My How To article on that is here.)

You may have a drive which is failing, and needs to be replaced. Doing so is neither very expensive, nor impossibly difficult, but you may want to hire a tech to do it for you.

However, I think in this case the most likely cause for the finicky behavior is simply that the lens has become a bit dirty and/or dusty, and needs a cleaning. Though you can buy items advertised as especially for such a job, the easiest way to clean your optical drive is to open the tray, and blow it out with a can of compressed air. (Now you know, folks, why geeks always have those cans.. dust is a real enemy of PC’s.)

[addenda: a reader added this good tip to try before replacing a drive.. or computer. “I find that, sometimes, it’s simply just that the connectors have worked a bit loose or oxidized over the years and all that is needed is to yank out the connectors and pushing them in again several times. Oh yeah, it may be a good idea to shutdown and switch off the mains before working inside your PC but without unplugging the cable from the wall outlet.”]

Copyright 2007-2010 © Tech Paul. All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.

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April 1, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, PC, performance, tech, troubleshooting | , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments