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Ask Max: Damaged optical drive?

Asked on 10/09/2006:

My game discs have circular scoring and are no longer playable. I presume it is something to do with the Pioneer drive that came with my G4 iMac. I tried cleaning the drive with a Memorex cleaner, but that apparently didn't work. Any ideas or solutions?


Circular scratches on a disc are the hallmark of a damaged optical drive. A few things can cause the problem inside the drive. If the scratches are on the top of the disk towards the center, then they're caused by the disc stabilizer locking up. A floating disk inside an optical drive presses the CD or DVD down tightly on the spindle that turns the disc. If that floating disk becomes stuck it will grind away at the media you put inside the drive. If the scratches are on the underside of the discs, then it could be some foreign object inside the drive or the laser lens making contact with the disc. If it is only happening on some disks then it is most likely the lens scratching the discs. An optical drive will move its lens closer to the disc trying to read it. If the disk is unreadable to the drive it may zoom in too far and impact with the disc.Even if it was caused by only one type of media, the damage may have been done and a replacement drive could be in order. Just make sure you test with media you do not care about. The problem with damage-causing drives is that it's hard to trust them again, even when it only happened a few times.

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