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I have a totally unscratched 700 MB CD-ROM that always been in its case, but it was on the top of the stack and took some sunlight (from a close window) during months (if not years).

The CD looks like new but the data can't be read. I kept it for years (now in a dark closet) and tested it with all CD/DVD drives I owned (many brands, LG, Asus, Samsung...). None could read the data (after many minutes, Windows tells to insert a CD in the drive as if the CD wasn’t there). Tested it with XP, Vista and 7 with no luck.

I'm sure ultra expensive data recovery services could recover some (if not all) of its data (CD-R is half full). Do I have alternatives? I saw much software who claims that they can recover lost data like this but I'm skeptical.

Anyone have successfully recovered data from a (sunlight) damaged CD-R? If so, how?

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It may well be damaged beyond recovery, except perhaps at a price you couldn't pay. Since CD-Rs use photosensitive dyes to record information, the sunlight could very well have wiped all the data clean. A government forensics lab might be able to retrieve a disk in that state, but your average commercial shop can't. – msw Jul 10 '10 at 21:51
BTW only the front of the disc (NOT the surface beign writed to) was exposed to sunlight. – AlexV Jul 10 '10 at 23:26
If you lived back in the before-times and left video tapes, cassette tapes, or records on the dash of a car, you may have seen them melted in the sun. CDs and DVDs can too. The sun is an amazing thing. – Slartibartfast Jul 11 '10 at 2:49
Yeah I know I saw melted VHS back in the days, but now we are talking of a CD left inside on a shelf with some indirect sunlight from a window with curtains... My CD look like new: not deformed, "just" unreadable. – AlexV Jul 11 '10 at 17:45

Try Linux.

At the very least, you might be able to dd data off the disc. However, there are probably a few LiveCD distros built for data recovery, and they'll probably have better tools. Of course, if you choose to go with a LiveCD Linux, you're going to either need a second CD drive, or to boot off a thumb-drive.

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I always have 2 DVD-Writers on my PCs. I might try that... – AlexV Jul 10 '10 at 23:25

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