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How To Repair Scratches in DVD's and CDs

How to Fix a Scratched CD or DVD

Handling CDs and DVD's often results in skin oil being deposited on the data side of the disc. That skin oil attracts and holds dust and dirt which can, in turn, lead to scratches. Handling also results in discs being dropped, improperly inserted into the disc drawer, left sitting out and more. All these things result in damage to the disc which can make disc unplayable.

Some damage to discs can be repaired with a few simple steps, while others may require more extensive techniques or even professional efforts. It is important to note that any repair attempt has to potential to make the problem worse. If you are trying to repair a disc that has critical, unreplaceable data or files, you should strongly consider going directly to a professional service for repair of the disc.

The techniques described here should be equally effective for all types of data, music, video or game CDs and DVDs.

Tip: Once you repair a disc making it readable again, immediately make a back up copy of the disc.

Tip: Some companies offer a disc replacement service, such as Disney Video. They will exchange your damaged disc for a new one for a small fee.

Methods to Repair a Disc:

Clean the Disc

  • Warm water can be used on discs although rubbing alcohol is better for dissolving oils, such as fingerprints.

  • Always wipe from the center of the disc to the outer edge. Never rub in the direction of the tracks, around the disc.

  • Use your finger, while the disc is wet or better, use a soft cloth, a clean t-shirt or even better an eyeglass or camera lens cleaning cloth.

  • If you can see the damage causing the problem, focus your efforts on that spot.

  • Now test the disc. If it plays, make a backup copy immediately.

Data Recovery

  • Use your PCs disc burner to copy the disc and burn a back-up copy. Even a disk that may not be playable by one device may be readable by your PC or a different PC.

  • Some burner programs, like Nero, allow you to control settings that instruct the program to take extraordinary steps when it encounters unreadable data. Look for these features in your program and set them as liberally as possible.

  • Many programs will insert random filler data to replace unreadable sections. This may make a previously unopenable file usable again. It also, is very effective for music files since it replaces a skip with noise, sometimes unnoticeably.

Polish the Disc

  • Polishing the disc removes a thin layer of the plastic from the disc and with it can eliminate or reduce the severity of scratches. This can also lead to making the disc completely unplayable or otherwise increasing its susceptibility to further scratching. Polishing should be used only as a last resort. Do not attempt this if you are willing to pay for professional restoration as this step could result in the failure of even professional repair.

  • Apply a small amount of toothpaste (paste not gel) or Brasso to the disc and wipe gently from the center to the outer edge with a soft cloth. Continue for a minute or two to thoroughly polish the surface.

  • Wash off the remaining polish.

  • Test the disc, if it works, immediately make a back up copy.

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