Disc Repair Buyer's Guide
Optical discs are everywhere!Optical discs such as CD, DVD and Blu-ray have become a part of our everyday lives. From Blu-ray movies and video games to CD or DVD software installation discs, optical discs have become one of the most common methods of distributing and archiving information in both the consumer and business worlds. It's easy to understand why this technology is still relevant despite many new options that have emerged for data storage and distribution. Optical discs can hold a lot of data and are relatively inexpensive. They take up a small amount of space and can easily be transported from user to user or location to location. Optical discs come in Read-Only flavors and are relatively durable when handled properly.
Unfortunately, the very fact that optical discs are durable often results in people not handling them with care. As a result, we've all become too familiar with the scratched up disc that just doesn't work right anymore. Scratches, stains and other damage can all prevent a disc from working properly. The devices that read and write to them – CD players, DVD and Blu-ray players –often have trouble reading or writing to discs that are not pristine. The first instinct is usually to try to blow the dust off or rub the disc with your shirt or whatever else is handy, but improper "cleaning" can further scratch your disc if you're not very careful and don’t use the right tools.
Disc Repair Devices to the rescueLuckily, engineers who recognized that too many discs are being be thrown away due to light damage have come up with devices specifically designed to restore damaged optical discs so that they can be used again. "Disc repair" is a process that resurfaces the data side of the disc to remove scratches which prevent the disc from being read and written to properly. It may also refer to a process that cleans fingerprints, smudges and dirt from discs. While quality disc repair systems can work wonders with damaged discs, discs that are warped, cracked, have very deep scratches, or that have damaged label surfaces cannot usually be restored by any method.
For a small organization or department, or even for home users who only occasionally need to clean or repair discs, compact disc repair units are very handy. Video and game rental businesses often need to repair/clean the many discs that are returned daily. Organizations such as these or ones that share discs among users or that append data onto data discs can take advantage of commercial grade units equipped to handle high volumes of repairs. Similarly, IT departments that support a large number of users can repair discs that users have scratched or otherwise made unusable. In each of these cases, using a disc repair unit can save significant amounts of time and money that would otherwise be spent replacing damaged discs.
Choosing the Right Disc Repair Device
Disc repair devices range from manual "wipes" to automated robotic units that weigh over 60 pounds. The right one for you depends on a number of factors, including the volume of discs you need to process, ease-of-use of the machine and build-quality. Cost is probably an important factor as well. Some users may also need to consider the size/weight of the machine if they have space limitations or noisiness if that is an issue.
Here is a breakdown of different types of disc repair solutions:
Manual Wipes - As you've probably guessed, this type of repair solution comes with a liquid, paste or gel and requires you to manually buff the scratches out of your discs.
Advantages: Very inexpensive
Disadvantages: Manual. For very minor scratches only. Can potentially damage discs more if not done correctly. Even application is difficult.
Consumer-Grade Single Disc Devices - Motorized (and sometimes manual) devices that clean and condition the entire data-side disc surface.
Advantages: Inexpensive. Simple to use. Even and consistent disc conditioning. Can repair most discs that have reparable damage. Small and light.
Disadvantages: Not meant for high-volume, constant use. Slow relative to commercial-grade machines.
Commercial-Grade Single Disc Devices - Heavy-duty, motorized devices that clean and condition the entire data-side disc surface.
Advantages: Affordable when compared to robotic machines. Simple to use. Even and consistent disc conditioning. Repairs most discs that have reparable damage in as little as 5 minutes. Heavy-duty motor and enclosure for durability and prolonged use.
Disadvantages: Larger and heavier than consumer-grade options.
Commercial-Grade Robotic Devices - Robotic devices that automatically process a number of discs unattended.
Advantages: Automatic (for example, processes 100 discs unattended). Even and consistent disc conditioning. Can repair most discs that have reparable damage. Heavy-duty mechanisms for durability and prolonged use. Disadvantages: Very expensive. Relatively complicated to use. Larger and heavier than most other options.
As you can see, there are a wide range of options for individuals and organizations in the market for a disc repair device. Fortunately, it is fairly easy to determine the type of device that you need, since it basically comes down to the quantity or discs you need to repair and the amount of money you are prepared to spend. For a typical user of optical discs, consumer-grade single disc devices are affordable and can easily handle all of the occasional damaged discs that may be encountered. These devices are much more dependable and less error-prone than manual wipes, which should only be used if no other method is within your budget. For individuals, organizations and businesses that must regularly refurbish large numbers of optical discs, commercial-grade single disc devices will provide the endurance to handle the job. The sturdy build and heavy-duty mechanisms used to build these machines allow them to keep up with a high volume of jobs. The high price of commercial-grade robotic disc repair devices limits them to customers who have only the most extreme number of discs to process.
A special note regarding Blu-ray discsBlu-ray discs have a much thinner plastic coating on the data side of the disc than CDs and DVDs. As a result, these discs cannot be repaired like CDs and DVDs. However, manufacturers use special scratch-resistant "hard-coatings" to minimize damage to the data side of Blu-ray discs. Often, problems encountered with Blu-ray discs are not the result of scratched discs, but of dirty ones. The extremely high density of data on Blu-ray discs make reading and writing on them very sensitive to any contaminants from oils from your fingers to dust or lint. Devices like Aleratec's DVD/CD Disc Repair Plus can be used to clean Blu-ray discs in addition to repairing DVDs and CDs.