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03-14-2009, 12:44 AM
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Note: This first how-to post is for any CD/DVD drive inside of a desktop computer, DVD player/recorder, car CD player, etc.
For cleaning CD/DVD drives found inside laptop/notebook computers, scroll down to post#4. Special instructions for laptop drives are found there.



Why clean a DVD/CD/Blu-ray drive?


It is not uncommon for a DVD burner or DVD recorder to exhibit problems with media. In general, problems arise from the following three conditions:
  1. The home-recorded CD/DVD media is not very good. The discs may not be very reflective (Ritek is a common offender, along with "gold archival" discs), or the dye isn't great. Use better blank discs -- read the DVD blanks review/guide. If the disc is a "store bought" or "not burned" disc -- i.e., a pressed CD/DVD/Blu-ray -- then this does not apply. But I would mention that there are quite a few lousy presses out there, which are cheaply made and are technically out of spec.
  2. The CD/BD/DVD burner or player is dying. Remember that optical lasers used in DVD/CD players/recorders/burners are only rated for a few thousand hours maximum. A common range is 2,000 to 5,000 hours of operation, or a time-based measurement of 2-5 years, when the unit gets regular/daily use. Yes, CD/DVD players are generally pretty lousy, and only last a few years! Some last longer, while others can be dead or problematic in 12-18 months of semi-regular use. A lot of people falsely accuse a disc of "dying" when it's really the player/recorder at fault. Discs don't die easily -- drives do!
  3. The CD/BD/DVD burner or player is dirty! Sometimes a drive that is mechanically sound, but the laser itself has been introduced to too many foreign elements. You can clean it yourself quite easily. That's what this post is about...


DVD / CD / Blu-ray Drive Warnings!


IMPORTANT: Don't use a "cleaner" disc, device or chemical. Take the drive apart.

Those "cleaner" discs will usually scratch the lens, rather than clean it. Cleaner discs made specifically for CD drives have brushes that are too large, and will definitely ruin the drive -- DVDs hover closer to the lens than a CD did. The same is true of those "disc doctor" devices -- those mostly just scratch discs too, in circular patterns. Quite a few cleaning chemicals have foreign junk, as opposed to being a pure or mostly-pure solution.

Smoking in the home or office?

Note that optical electronics develop "lung cancer" and die very early. Optical electronics in the homes/offices of smokers have extremely limited lifespans. A filmy tar develops on the optics. The harmful chemicals in the tobacco byproduct react badly with the optical coatings, causing it to tarnish and ruin. In some cases, it is possible to clean the build-up off the lens, but you'll more likely have to simply replace the drive. Or quit smoking. Or both. The same is true of camera lenses.



How to Clean a DVD/CD Drive -- An Image-Based How-To Help Guide:


The following example was performed on a Pioneer DVR-105 DVD burner:

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Remove the drive from the computer, and unscrew the cover of the drive. Note that you may have to break the warranty seal (but seriously, who cares?).

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With the drive unscrewed, start to dismantle it by sliding the various pieces around, removing removal parts.

Sometimes the disc tray is in your way, and sometimes it isn't. The disc tray may seem tight or firm, and you may need a thin piece of something, like an Exacto knife or boxcutter blade, to help it slide out a bit -- then you can grip it and pull on it. Gently and slowly pull the drive tray. You'll notice that the rubber bands and/or plastic cogs are turning while you pull it out, so be slow and gentle. You don't want to strip the gears or stretch the bands by being rough with it. This is an optical drive tray -- not a lawnmower pulley.

The top spindle usually falls out, as it's free-floating. The front "bezel" (plastic faceplate) has some snap-in tabs that must simply be pried apart. Be gentle, as these are plastic, and will break if you're too rough. But at the same time, don't be afraid to apply as much force as is necessary. It's like the third bowl of porridge -- not too much, not too little, but just right!

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Look for foreign matter, such as dust in the drive, which could be the entire cause of your problems. Computers are magnets for dust, and that includes your drive. A can of compressed air ("duster") may be good here, but be sure it does not spew liquid propellant. Hitting the laser eye with this liquid often kills it permanently, as the chemical tends to destroy the optical coatings. Cheap ones from OfficeMax tend to spew liquid, while better ones from Fry's and Microcenter do not.

Tip: Be sure to inspect the whole drive -- top, bottom, sides -- to make sure all dust/etc is gone. Make sure that the drive has all of the outer shell removed, so that dust doesn't have anywhere to hide.

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Get yourself some alcohol. It needs to be denatured alcohol, or at very least 70% or better (70-100%) isopropyl alcohol, commonly sold as "rubbing alcohol" in drugstores. Please watch for the isopropyl % as many of them are 50% or less, and you don't want those.

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Get a good non-cotton swab and lightly soak one end in the alcohol. The photo above is a Q-Tip, a "cotton swab" -- you DO NOT WANT THESE. Using a cotton swab could scratch or otherwise damage the eye. Non-cotton swabs are also often sold at the drug store, near cotton swabs. Electronics stores (Fry's and Microcenter, for example) usually have non-cotton cleaning swabs too. Don't let a salesman sell you their other cleaning products (mostly overpriced junk), however.

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Find the laser eye, and gently swipe the lens once or twice. If it does not dry instantly, you can turn the swab around and very gently swipe the lens dry once. Looking at the eye, there should be no residues on the majority of the lens starting from the center (optics often has build-up around the very edges, this doesn't matter as much, it's been there since manufacture most likely).

You're done. Put the drive back. If it works better, your cleaning helped. If this did not help, you have other issues.


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Last edited by kpmedia; 11-26-2010 at 06:36 PM. Reason: added some instruction text
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  #2  
05-11-2009, 08:43 AM
SRoyC SRoyC is offline
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Thank you, a good guide. Though a little explanation in the sliding part could do.
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  #3  
03-21-2010, 02:49 PM
funky_junky funky_junky is offline
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Done it a few times myself before reading this post, but still, I feel much more easier to do it again now that someone relevant said it's Ok to do it that way.
I've also been using one of those "cleaning-discs" with brush on them, but always felt a bit anxious to because it seemed to me that it's more likely for it to cause problems, by scratching disc surface, than to solve them.
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11-22-2010, 06:07 AM
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Cleaning a CD or DVD drive on a laptop is easy -- probably the easiest of any drive. Unlike desktop drives, car/vehicle CD players, or DVD players/recorders, the laser lens and assembly is not buried within a pile of metal and plastic that must be unscrewed and dismantled.

Most modern laptop/notebook DVD burners are built "backwards" from their desktop counterparts. The laser assembly is visible on the slide-out tray. In fact, the tray itself is really the DVD burner -- the rest of the "drive" is just brackets and screws to hold everything in place, with some sort of spring/latch to keep it firmly in place when in use.

For example, this is the drive on my laptop (laser assembly highlighted in the blue box):

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And here's a closeup of the laser lens "eye" that needs cleaning.

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... and then simply follow the instructions from the first post.
Start with the the sentence "Get yourself some alcohol..." under the photo of the isopropyl alcohol bottle.

That's all there is to it!


HOWEVER...

It should be noted that this may not solve your disc reading/writing problems. Laptop drives are notoriously finicky with media, especially when a laptop DVD burner is trying to read a burned homemade CD-R. To call my laptop DVD burner a "piece of crap" would almost be an understatement. In addition to merely being a laptop burner, it's also a laptop burner made by LG -- one of the worst performing laptop drives I've ever come across, and a common source of complaints found online in blogs and forums by end users.

This is why I carry a good "non-slim" external DVD burner with me, whenever I'm sure to need to burn or read some discs, and don't have the luxury of gambling my chances that the LG drive wants to cooperate. For example, the Pioneer DVR-X152 external USB 2.0 DVD burner (around $60 shipped, new), or Pioneer DVR-X162Q external (pre-owned).



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  #5  
10-21-2012, 08:27 AM
piculina piculina is offline
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it was verry helpfull milion thanks
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08-25-2013, 11:28 PM
crazycows crazycows is offline
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I know this is an old thread but i thought it could use one bit of information that might be helpful. One time i had a Norcent DP-300 dvd player that started giving trouble. I cleaned the laser the conventional way than reassembled with little to no improvement. I took it back apart flipped the drive part over and saw that dust had accumulated under the laser assembly. I cleaned it with a few blasts of compressed air than put it back together and the player worked like new for about a year or two until the spindle motor started giving out
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08-25-2013, 11:32 PM
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Nah, something like this is never an old thread. It's evergreen.

That's a good tip, and I'll add it to the first post right now. Thanks for posting it!

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