CD and DVD Disc Repair Buyers Guide
Scratched or damaged optical disc? There are a number of repair options that can bring it back to life.
Despite many new options available for digital data storage and distribution, optical discs remain a relevant medium, and it's easy to understand why. Many households and businesses use DVDs and CDs to backup digital files, and Blu-ray is a popular format for high resolution media. Optical discs can hold a lot of data, and they don't suffer from crowded bandwidth or need to buffer when playing a high-quality video feed. Discs are also rugged little fellows that are relatively cheap and easily transportable. Unfortunately, because optical discs are so inexpensive and durable, people often take them for granted. We throw them in a drawer or cabinet without cases, spill drinks on them, or carelessly jam the discs into transports and hit play. The result is a scratched, stained or smudged disc that understandably refuses to play.
Our first instinct is to blow the dust off, rub the disc with our shirt or whatever else is handy, or clean it with dish soap and water. Sometimes these techniques work, but when they don't, a disc repair device can come to the rescue.
Types of Disc Repair Devices
Disc repair devices range from simple manual "wipes" to complex robotic units that weigh over 60 pounds. The right one for you depends the volume of discs you need to repair and the cost.
- This type of repair solution can be purchased just about anywhere and comes with a liquid, paste or gel to manually buff the scratches out of your discs.
Consumer-Grade Single Disc Devices
- Advantages: Very inexpensive
- Disadvantages: Wipes work for very minor scratches only and can potentially damage discs more if not done correctly. Because it's manual, applying the substance evenly can be difficult. Not a viable option for repairing numerous discs.
- Best for: Individuals in need of occasional cleaning of smudges, stains and very minor damage.
- A motorized (and sometimes manual) device that cleans and conditions the entire data-side disc surface.
Commercial-Grade Single Disc Devices
- Advantages: Inexpensive. Simple to use. Even and consistent disc conditioning. Can repair most discs that have repairable damage. Small and light.
- Disadvantages: Not meant for high-volume, constant use. Slow relative to commercial-grade machines.
- Best for: Individuals or businesses who occasionally need to clean CD and DVD as well as repair minor scratches.
- 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 five minutes. Heavy-duty motor and enclosure for durability and prolonged use.
- Disadvantages: Very expensive. Relatively complicated to use. Larger and heavier than most other options.
- Best for: Businesses who regularly need to clean and repair large quantities of CDs and DVDs as well as repair minor scratches.
RIP: When Is An Optical Disc Unrepairable?
Any of the above options will clean and repair discs if they are in fact repairable. It's important to keep in mind, however, that some damaged discs cannot be repaired no matter how good the disc repair device is. The following types of damage are generally not repairable. If any of these conditions are met, it may be time to dispose of the disc and say your good-byes:
- Foil Damage: This happens when the label side of the disc is damaged so badly that the disc loses its reflectivity.
- Cracked Discs: Many a frustrated consumer has cracked a DVD trying to remove it from the case. If the crack breaches the disc's playing surface, it's a goner. If the crack does not penetrate the playing surface, back it up right away as a disc repair device will not be able to save it.
- Dented Discs: Dents are deep creases that can happen when a disc is not properly stored inside a case. Like a deep scratch, if a dent breaches the data layer, it cannot not be repaired.
- Warped Discs: Just like the old vinyl records, if a CD or DVD sits inside a hot car or near intense heat for long periods of time, it can become warped. Once the disc is warped, the laser cannot track properly and the disc is toast.
Even though a DVD or CD is rendered unrepairable, be sure to dispose of it properly if it contains sensitive information such as financial records. This means cutting it up or shredding the disc to protect yourself from identify theft.
Do Disc Repair Devices Work on Blu-ray Discs?
The answer to this is both yes and no. Blu-ray discs have a much thinner plastic coating on the data side compared to CDs and DVDs. As a result, Blu-ray discs cannot be repaired like CDs and DVDs. However, Blu-ray manufacturers use special scratch-resistant "hard-coatings" to minimize damage to the data side of Blu-ray discs, making them much harder to scratch or damage. In fact, most problems encountered with Blu-ray discs are not the result of scratches but rather dirt or smudges. This is because the extremely high density of data on Blu-ray discs make reading and writing on them very sensitive to any contaminants such as oils from your fingers, dust, dirt 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.
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By Perry Solomon