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Fixing Problems with an Optical Drive

Are you having problems with your optical drive (e.g. CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray)? For example, maybe its not reading or writing a disk correctly. If the drive is still spinning a disk, and you can hear the head move there is a chance that the drive might still be functional. Below are some troubleshooting tips that might help you fix the problem, or at least identify what is causing it.

When troubleshooting any type of computer problem, there are generally two things that you have to do. First, find out if the problem was caused by any recent changes that were made to the system. If so, reverse these changes and see if the problem goes away.

If no modification were recently made to the system, or reversing the change didn't fix the problem. Then the next thing that you need to do is find out if the problem is hardware or software related?

Hardware related problems:
  • Try booting your computer with a bootable CD (such as your OS's installation disk). If you can do this then its a good indication that your drive maybe working properly and the problem might be software related.
  • If you're still having problems, open your computer and check your drive's cable and make sure they're properly plugged in correctly on both ends.
Note: before you open a computer make sure that its unplugged, and that you take appropriate safety precautions before preceding.
  • On notebook computer the drive's laser lens could get dirty, from dust or finger prints. On a desktop computer, dust can get into your drive. These contaminants can prevent the laser from being able to read/write to the disk properly. You can try blowing out the drive with compressed air.
  • On a notebook computer, place a disk on to the drive's spindle and spin it to see if the disk is spinning correctly. If it doesn't spin easily and/or wobbles, there could be a problem with your drive.
Software (or system) related problems:
  • When burning CD or DVDs its a good idea to make sure that there are no background processes running, they can cause some buffering problems because they're eating up to much CPU time and/or RAM. Check the Task Manager and make sure that you have enough memory and CPU cycles available.
  • Did you recently install some new software on your system right before this problem started happening? If so, try un-installing it and try to burn a disk again.
  • Did you recently modify the drive's parameters in the Device Manager or your computer's BIOS? If so, revert the settings back to their original state.
  • Try un-installing all your CD/DVD burning software that you're using, and use Windows XP built-in CD writer feature. If this works and you're able to burn CDs, then there is a software compatibility problem with your burning software. Check the software manufacturer's web site for updates.
  • Try using an alternative CD/DVD burning program like CDBurnerXP Pro. Check if you still have same problems creating a disk using this software. If so, it could be a hardware problem
  • If the disks you're creating are only readable on your computer and not any other system, the problem could be with your CD/DVD burning software. If you're software doesn't close the session on the disk, it may not be readable on another computer. Check how your CD burning software is configured to create disks.
Other suggestions:
  • Search the web for your drive's model number and the keyword "Firmware", sometime manufactures will release updates to their drive's firmware.
  • Try another brand of media, you might have gotten a hold of a bad batch of disks. If you use really cheap disk, this situation is not too uncommon.