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How to Fix a Scratched CD or DVD

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Clean the disk. Even if your CD or DVD isn't actually scratched or scuffed, oil, dust, and other surface contaminants can prevent it from reading properly. Thus cleaning the disk should always be your first move. Run warm water over the damaged disk to remove dust. If there is stubborn dirt or grease on the disk, gently rub it with your finger while you are washing it, and use a gentle detergent or liquid soap (with the water) or rubbing alcohol (in place of water). Anytime you rub or wipe a CD or DVD, you should do so by starting at or near the center of the disk and rubbing straight outward toward the edge to prevent further scratching. Shake the water off and let the disk air-dry (do not dry it with a towel or cloth, and don't sun-dry it either).

Try to read the disk in a different CD/DVD reader. Many times a good cleaning is all that is needed. If, however, problems persist after cleaning, try to read the disk in a different CD/DVD reader. Some readers handle scratches better than others. Computer CD or DVD drives tend to be best.

Recover your files with Elprime Media Recovery. If the disk still doesn't read correctly use Elprime Media Recovery to recover unreadable files. It will copy your files to the safe location, and then you will be able to burn or copy recovered files to another disk.

Burn a new disk. If you can get the disk to work in one CD/DVD reader (especially your computer's) but not in others, try burning a new disk. The CD/DVD burning utility on your computer may be able to read the disk well enough to produce a perfect copy. You may wish to try this even if the disk doesn't read correctly on the computer.

Locate the scratch. Actually repairing the disk will be easier if you can figure out where the offending scratch is. Visually inspect the disk's bottom surface for scratches or scuffs. Scratches that run perpendicular to the disk's spiral (that is, those that run generally from the center to the rim) may not affect data reading at all, and in any case are generally less damaging than those that roughly follow the direction of the spiral. If there are several scratches, but the CD or DVD only skips in one or two places, you may be able to approximate the location of the offending scratches based on which track skips. Keep in mind that the first track of a CD and DVD begins near the center, and the direction of data proceeds outward to the edge.

Polish the disk. Though counterintuitive, polishing a disk can repair a scratched disk by removing some of the outer plastic coating and thus making existing scratches shallower. A number of common household products can be used to polish the CD or DVD, but toothpaste (especially baking soda toothpaste) and Brasso are probably the most tried-and-true. You can also use a fine grit polishing compound that's used for cars or hard finishes. Apply a small amount of toothpaste (must be paste, not gel) or Brasso to a soft, clean, lint-free cloth: an eyeglass-cleaning cloth works well. Gently rub the cloth on the scratch or scuff in a non-radial motion, start at the center and rub to the edge and go around in strokes. Rubbing in a circular motion can cause small scratches that throw off the laser tracking system in the CD/DVD reader. Try to focus your efforts solely on the scratch or scratches you've identified (if possible). Polish in this manner for a couple of minutes, reapplying Brasso or toothpaste to the cloth as necessary. Be careful not to apply much pressure, although you will still be able to feel the cloth gently scratching the disk as it polishes.

Remove polishing product from disk. If you used toothpaste, rinse the disk thoroughly with warm water and let dry. Make sure to remove all of the toothpaste and let the disk dry completely before trying to read it. With Brasso, wipe off excess product and let the rest dry. Then, using a clean cloth, gently wipe disk again.

Test the disk. If the problem persists, polish again for up to 15 minutes or until the scratch is almost completely buffed out. The surface around the scratch should begin to look shiny with many tiny scratches. If you still don't notice any difference after polishing for a few minutes, the scratch may be extremely deep, or you may be polishing the wrong scratch.

Wax the tracks. If polishing doesn't work, apply a very thin coat of Vaseline, liquid car wax, neutral shoe polish or furniture wax to the disk's playing surface. Wipe excess off using clean, soft, lint-free cloth in a radial (inside to outside) motion. If using wax, follow manufacturer's instructions (some need to dry before you wipe them off, while others should be wiped off while still wet).

Test the disk again. If the wax or Vaseline does the trick, burn a new copy of the disk immediately. The waxing method is only a temporary solution.


Warnings

  If the disk has important data on it, your best choice is probably to get the data recovered professionally with Elprime Media Recovery before you try to repair it yourself. That way, you can make sure you don't damage the CD or DVD any further in your repair attempts.

  Practice repairing scratched disks that you don't care much about before you set out to repair your favorites.

  If you hold the CD or DVD up to a bright light to check for scratches and holes in the foil layer, remember not to stare at the light for long. A 60-100 Watt bulb should be more than enough to see pinholes in the foil layer. Do not use the sun!

  Keep in mind that it is possible to further damage a CD or DVD if you do this incorrectly (i.e. if you apply too much pressure while polishing or rub the disk in a circular motion).

  To prevent damage to your CD/DVD reader, make sure disks are completely dry and free of excess polishing products or waxes before you attempt to play them.

  If you are using Brasso, make sure to do so in a well-ventilated area, and avoid breathing in the fumes. Always read the safety instructions and warnings on any chemical product as many (such as rubbing alcohol) are flammable and can cause skin, eye, or respiratory irritation.

  When touching the CD or DVD do not use a circular pattern (like when a disk is spinning). Go from the inside to the outside in a perfect line so you prevent data loss.

  When polishing the disk, make sure the surface upon which the disk is laid is flat and firm but not hard or abrasive. Data is stored on the foil or dye layers on the top of the disk (label side) and the protective top layer is very thin by comparison to the polycarbonate plastic bottom layer you will polish. The thin top layer can easily be scratched or perforated. If this happens the data is lost forever as it is not repairable by any means. Pressing on disk upon too soft a surface may crack it or cause it to delaminate.

  Don't touch the disk, or you'll leave finger prints, causing it to get dirty again. Hold it by the hole in the middle.

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