Thursday, January 20, 2005

Care and feeding of CD drives

My CD-ROM/RW drive has been acting up lately-- not reading discs or creating errors when writing which cause write-once discs to be trashed. Very annoying. For some discs I'd have to open and close the drive, moving the disc slightly in the tray each time, up to twenty or thirty times before it was able to read. And some discs not at all.

I suspected that dust buildup was the problem, or that the tracking gears in the drive were wearing out.

Dust is a real issue. I built this computer myself, but the case I bought and motherboard layout really don't work well together. The CPU is blocked from a lot of airflow from the cooling fans by being right behind the power supply, and tended to overheat after a while, or at least run hotter than recommended. I found that I could just leave the side of the case facing away from me tilted open and it was fine. Not a great solution, but it worked and was good enough and didn't require that I spend any more money. However, dust buildup in the open case became an issue, so I had to unplug everyting and vacuum it out from time to time. No big deal.

For some reason a lot of dust seemed to accumulate around the CD drives, so I guessed that some of the dust worked its way into those same drives.

I made a CD lens cleaner, and it nicely solved the problem.

Here's how to make a nice lens cleaner for your CD drives and players.

This is what worked for me and is an experimental device described for informational purposes ONLY. Not responsible for any damage done by following these instructions. Use at your own risk.

Take an old CD which you will never need again. I used one which didn't burn properly because my lens was dirty.

Cut a small (1/2" or so) piece of velvet into a rough circular shape (helps to be married to a seamstress!) and trim off any corners and loose bits of stuff and bits which could fall off in your drive.

Using a light layer of glue all over the backside of the patch, and NONE on the front which could scratch the lens, glue it onto the bottom side (not the side with the label) of the disc, on the inside near the middle hole but covering up the inside beginning of the data area.

Let it dry and brush off any loose bits or trim any loose corners.

Put it into your drive and let it spin for a second or two, remove quickly.

If it doesn't work the first time, put a small drop of rubbing alchohol on the velvet pad, and insert it again briefly.

Afterwards, let the drive sit open for a minute for alchohol to evaporate.

If that doesn't work, you probably have other problems besides a dirty lens.

You probably only need to use this every year or so and only when reading discs becomes a problem because you don't want to risk scratching your lens.

Hope this helps.


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