Monday, May 07, 2007

Repair Damaged DVDs and CDs

Turn Old Into New

How many CDs and DVDs have you set aside because they are scratched and no longer play?
Did you buy one of those machines that spin the disk while you crank in vain knowing that it will probably still skip anyway? It seems like that spinning machine just puts another layer of scratches on the disk. My experience is that it will only work 50% of the time at best. I gave up on those mechanical gimmicks a while ago.

Wax Your Disk

If you have any experience working with Car Wax or Polish this lesson will be a no brainer.

First of all, keep in mind that all of your data is on a layer of the disk that is below the bottom surface. There is about a 1/16 inch plastic layer that the player's laser has to penetrate through before it can read the data. When the surface of this layer becomes excessively scratched the laser beam bounces off the scratches at random angles preventing the beam from reaching it's target.

The data on optical disks is arranged in a circular pattern. The most severe scratches on a disk are the ones that are also in a circular pattern. Or, at least, lay directly over the data pattern for some length. Like an inch or more. This is why it is recommended that you clean a disk with strokes from the center to the edge of a disk. Of course, this method is also refferring to "lite duty cleaning" with a damp cloth to remove finger prints and foreign particles.
What we are going to do is use the same soft cloth that you use for lite duty cleaning and apply car polish to it before you start to scrub out those scratches.
There a several car wax products that will do the job. The best are the ones that feature scratch restoration. McGuire's car wax feature many products that will remove scratches and swirls with various sizes of grit mixed into the product. My favorites are "McGuire's Swirl Remover" and "Turtle Wax Formula 2001". They work great on my cars and do a good job of restoring my optical disks.

Scrub A Dub Dub

Apply some car wax product to a soft clean cloth and clean your disk from the center to the outside and back again with a slight circular pattern. More like an oval. Use medium pressure to help the grit plane down some of the plastic coating. Wipe off any residue and look for scratches. They may not completely go away but the object is to smooth the scratches out enough to not interrupt the laser beam.
Try to play your disk at the part of the movie or music where is skips or freezes. If the problem persists repeat this process or use a car polish product the same way you used the swirl remover only with a lighter pressure which will leave just a light coating of polish that will help fill in the scratches. Wipe clean and try to play it again.

This method in not a "cure all" for every problem (some disks are just not fixable) but it is worth a try on any disk that you can't play anyway!

If you prefer to err on caution try this method on a throw away disk for practice. The first disk I tried this method on was a music CD I found under the seat of my car. The surface debris included scratches, coffee stains and a dead bug. Once again, I can hear "Lacuna Coil" all the way to work in the morning!

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