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Something odd happened to my DVD drive about a year ago. It won't read any blank disks - only original ones. I tried cleaning the lens, but it didn't help. What should I do? It's an old drive, but it never had such problems. What's strange is that it DOES read original disks, but not blank/written disks, although it's a DVD-RW drive.

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What's the make/model of your drive? –  Mark Johnson Dec 4 '11 at 23:55
    
> It won't read any blank disks… What's strange is that it DOES read original disks, but not blank/written disks How exactly is it supposed to read a blank disk? –  Synetech Dec 5 '11 at 0:44
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3 Answers

Since it's an older drive, I'd guess it's just aging and needs some calibration. Here is a guide you might find useful if you don't mind fiddling with the guts of the drive and are prepared to recycle it if you can't get it going. If you're lucky, your potentiometers will be labeled so you know which one to fiddle with.

You might also try upgrading the firmware first. Newer firmware might add support for newer media types, which could be part of the problem.

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> You might also try upgrading the firmware first. Newer firmware might add support for newer media types, which could be part of the problem. New firmware for an old drive is probably unlikely. :-( –  Synetech Dec 5 '11 at 0:49
    
@Synetech: It's a shot in the dark, but sometimes you get lucky. –  Mark Johnson Dec 5 '11 at 3:25
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If by “blank disks” you mean burned discs, then the problem is that the laser has “worn out”.

The problem you described is not an issue with the motor; it is the laser. An optical drive uses a laser to read and write discs and after enough usage, to put it simply, the laser becomes weak. Therefore, when the weak light emitted, it does not reflect back nice and clearly and with full power as before. Because the pits and lands of a pressed disc are much more distinctive and clear than those of burned discs, a drive with a worn down laser will still be able to read pressed discs but not burned discs—and eventually will not be able to read even pressed discs.

As Mark said, your best bet is to try to adjust the gain of the laser to increase its power. Usually, when an optical drive is manufactured and calibrated, its laser will not be maxed out, so there will still be room to “turn it up”. Try the article he linked to; hopefully that will do the trick.

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This is a common problem with tape drives, floppy drives and cd drives. The head is moved by a stepper motor. As wear takes place, it goes out of calibration and you can find that you will start producing media that is only readable by your own worn-out device.

When I found this to be happening with tape drives, I'd take it out of operation, replace it with a new drive, box it up and leave a note with any media that it had been used to create stating what the drive was and where it was stored in case it needed to be used before it's retention date expired.

In the case of your drive, something has gone so far out of whack that it cannot recognize unrecorded media or written media. Since lens cleaning didn't work it could be the head position or focus system is gone out of kilter and can only read stamped media which has sharper lands and tracks than is produced during the cd/dvd burn process. Check to make sure any disk you care about that was created by this drive is readable in another one and replace it.

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