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Is there any reason why running a lengthy ddrescue session on a scratched DVD would be bad for the DVD drive? Something like overheating or straining of certain components?

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Unless "lengthy" = "days and days", not really, no. Even then I wouldn't worry about it unless it's a really old/heavily used/extremely cheap drive.

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+1: The only damage you will get is wear and tear. –  Satanicpuppy Aug 11 '11 at 14:27

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