Tech – for Everyone

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

CD drive won’t read discs

Folks, here is a question I received that I think is of ‘general benefit’ to all to know.

cdrom-thumb.jpgQ: Hi Tech Paul.
The disc player in my Dell Optiplex has started to ignore cds and dvds that I burned myself but still can play those that I purchased or rent. What’s going on? Do I need a new codec?

A: Dear Reader,
No, you do not need a new “codec“. I suspect that your “reading” trouble is due simply to dust/dirt on the laser’s lens. Blowing on it with compressed air (such as from a can of the venerable Dust Off) should resolve your problem. (If you cannot see the little lens unit, open the tray, and blow around in there as best you can.)

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Today’s quote: “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” ~ Isaac Asimov

Copyright 2007-2013 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

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August 27, 2013 - Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, PC, performance, tech, troubleshooting | , , , , , , ,


  1. Hi Paul.

    I might also suggest to those who have smokers in their homes to use isopropyl alcohol on a cotton swab, applied directly on the laser lens followed by a dry swab or a blast of air. That pesky smoke film will disappear!.


    Comment by KsTinMan | August 27, 2013 | Reply

    • KsTinMan,
      Yes, quite right. That is the “heavy duty” lens cleaning method, and will remove any sticky film that can build up (such as from smoking). There are hundreds of How To videos on YouTube showing the steps involved (where disassembly of the drive is required to access the lens).

      Basically, the methodology I use is:
      First, air.
      Second, swab dipped in alcohol (if the lens is accessible w/o drive disassembly).
      3rd, replace the unit (they’re cheap).


      Comment by techpaul | August 28, 2013 | Reply

  2. Hi Paul,
    It seems to me that if the drive will read purchased or rented CDs, but not those he created himself, then the problem may not be with the lens. Have I missed something?


    Comment by Paul Lubic, Jr. | August 28, 2013 | Reply

    • Paul Lubic, Jr.,
      A pleasure to see you here again. I hope all is super groovy with you and yours.

      The way I understand it is, discs that are manufactured are done so in a way that makes them very easy to read (bigger, darker “dots”, perhaps) so they can be “read” by the widest range of devices, while discs we burn are more concerned with data density (smaller dots?).. a bit like a childrens’ book (larger font) vs adult books. So if the “glasses” of the reader get a little dirty, they have a harder time with the smaller dots, but can still make out the big, dark “letters”.
      To use an analogy.

      I read somewhere, long ago, that 90% of all disc problems were caused by dirty lenses. (And that gibes with what I’ve experienced in RL.)


      Comment by techpaul | August 28, 2013 | Reply

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