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 Wikimedia.org

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 »

  1. I find that, sometimes, it’s simply just that the connectors have worked a bit loose or oxidised 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.

    Like

    Comment by jbe | April 2, 2010 | Reply

    • jbe,
      Thank you. While my own personal experience has been that your method revives “dead” (or, missing in action) drives, and sometimes resolves (data corrupt) burn failures, more than what my questioner describes with not recognizing certain discs.. your suggestion is spot on, and most certainly should be tried before purchasing a replacement drive (or computer).
      I will add your tip to the article itself as an addenda.

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | April 2, 2010 | Reply

  2. Great Advice for everyone out there… That can of air is a computer user’s best friend. Just be careful to not blow debris into your eyes.

    Also, never be at eye level with a CD/DVD burner while it is powered up. I actually was assisting a user on a PC one time where a CD literally shattered and blew out of the front of the drive. It is a very rare phenomenon, but it can occur. I can’t win the lottery, but I can experience those rare occurrences that no one else will : )

    Like

    Comment by Ramblinrick | April 2, 2010 | Reply

    • Rick,
      When using a can of air, one should also try to keep the can vertical, and angle (bend) the tube as needed — so that drops of freon don’t come out and get onto your components.

      I must also say that I have seen a disc shatter — when my friends and I used to gather up all our AOL discs and take turns tossing them into the air as makeshift skeet targets…
      You make an excellent point though: the motors in optical drives spin the discs extremely fast, and reasonable cautions should be exercised.

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | April 2, 2010 | Reply

  3. Believe it or not, when this happened to me where the disc shattered and it actually blew fragments out of the drive. Occurred on a brand new PC.

    Like

    Comment by Ramblinrick | April 2, 2010 | Reply

    • Rick,
      I’m trying to picture that… Yikes! I hope it wasn’t a valuable CD…

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | April 2, 2010 | Reply


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