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Repairing a CD-Writer/CD-ROM
  • Introduction
  • Cleaning a CD-Writer
  • Related Links
  • Introduction
    Lately you can hear a lot of complaints about certain CD-Writers going bad after some time. The Philips CDD3610 is one of these CD-Writers which is getting "old" and as a lot of CD-Writer vendors are using the same drive, a lot of them are also bound to fail.

    The same happened about a year ago with the Philips CDD2000/CDD2600 & HP4020/6020 CD-Writers which also had aging problems related to a faulty spring. More info here.

    Usually the problems will occur after the warranty is over and then getting the CD-Writer repaired will be a big problem.

    Problems with the drive not reading the CD, buffer underrun errors and other errors are generally associated with the laser head not tracking the sectors on the CD properly. This can happen from the laser itself no longer being properly calibrated or aligned. When this happens, the laser floats over the CD in search of the initialization information that all CD's have written into the first sectors to let the drive know that there is a CD in it. A laser that is out of calibration or out of tracking will look for these sectors but can't find them. Usually this causes the LED's on the front of the drive to keep on flashing indicating that an error occurred.

    The main cause for all these problems is the intense heat which is produced by the laser & motor inside the CD-Writer. Usually the laser head assembly or parts of it are made of plastic which deforms over time by the generated heat. Just a tiny distortion of this plastic is enough to cause these failures.

    Cleaning a CD-Writer
    About 75% of the CD-Writer related burning problems are not caused by electronically but purely by mechanical & optical problems.

    The CD-Writer laser unit is mounted onto a guiding frame on which it can move back and forth (driven by a small motor). In time the lubrication on this frame tends to disappear or it becomes unevenly spread to one side.

    When needed, remove existing dirt & hairs from the guiding rails. Now apply some silicone grease (heat resistant, non stick, for both metal and plastics) to the guiding rails.

    Make sure the grease gets applied evenly along the guiding rails by physically moving the laser head back and forth. If the motor doesn't allow you to move the head assemble the drive and use, for example, an audio CD and repeatedly do a intro-play of the first and last track. This way the laser head is moved over the full length of the guiding rails. Afterwards check if there is enough grease on the rails.

    Also check if the laser lens is clear, if it is not clean it with some CD cleaning fluid or distilled water.
    Never EVER use alcohol to clean a lens as this will leave a thin film on the lens and it may react with some plastic lenses!

    In most cases this will solve the CD-Writer related burn problems like buffer underrun errors & calibrating errors.

    NOTE: Technical experience is needed to disassemble and clean a CD-Writer or CD-ROM. Usually the whole drive needs to be taken apart to get to the laser head & guiding rails! So be very careful disassembling the drive as this will void any warranty.
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