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CD drive will read startup disk but nothing else.

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January 28, 2010 2:59:39 AM

My girlfriend's laptop--Alienware, Vista 32--is about two years old. Recently the CD drive simply quit reading CDs or DVDs. Once the disk is inserted the drive spins up and continues to spin off and on for about 30 seconds before stopping. Attempting to read the drive afterward (e.g., via windows explorer) spits the tray out and Windows announces that there is no CD in the drive.

However, the drive does read the startup disk and boots from the Alienware Respawn CD (or whatever they call it) just fine. I called their technical support and the tech suggested that I wipe the machine back to factory settings. Given that my girlfriend has accumulated two years worth of files and installs, this seems a bit drastic. However, the tech said it was an issue with the OS and that he couldn't (I assume "wouldn't") narrow it down.

Any suggestion as to what could be causing this?

Thanks.
a c 415 G Storage
January 28, 2010 4:17:36 AM

Are you sure the drive won't read CDs OR DVDs? There are separate lasers for each, and it's not uncommon for one of them to die before the other. The result is a drive that will read one type of disc but not the other.

If your "startup" disc is a CD and the other discs you're trying to read are DVDs, then the most likely scenario is that the red laser used to read DVDs is shot.
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January 28, 2010 5:31:32 AM

Ah-hah! Good recommendation, sminlal. It does in fact read CDs. However, it doesn't do so very well. It takes forever to recognize the disk and beeps and 'grinds' constantly. As to the DVD, it is as I described: the drive spins up, beeps a few times, then spits the tray out. So it seems as if the drive has lost a laser?

The poor performance with CDs seems to suggest something more. The sounds that the drive is making when accessing data from CDs are not what I would describe as healthy-sounding.
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a c 415 G Storage
January 28, 2010 6:42:32 AM

The sounds you're hearing are probably the access mechanism doing a seek reset - the drive will typically make several attempts to do a read and then reset and try again.

I'd guess that either the lasers are going or there's dust in the drive that's interfering with the optical pickup.
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January 28, 2010 2:34:21 PM

Two things come to mind: 1. A "dust bunny" on the r/w head. Most CD/DVD r/w problems are due to dust. 2. A virus.
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January 28, 2010 7:54:55 PM

sminlal said:
The sounds you're hearing are probably the access mechanism doing a seek reset - the drive will typically make several attempts to do a read and then reset and try again.

I'd guess that either the lasers are going or there's dust in the drive that's interfering with the optical pickup.


I just blew out the entire drive; there has been no improvement in either CD or DVD readability (viz., CDs still barely work and DVDs do not work at all). I guess I'll call technical support again and see if I can get them to replace the drive.

Thanks for the timely responses.
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January 28, 2010 7:56:53 PM

Quote:
backup your system and files, after that reinstall operating system, if there is still such problem, it is hardware problem


If you recall my initial post, I'm hesitant to do this because it's A) my girlfriend's machine B) it has two years worth of files and installs on it and C) it's A LOT of work if all I'm doing is troubleshooting. My girlfriend would probably choose to forgo having a CD drive before wiping her system.
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January 28, 2010 8:00:05 PM

rsmith13 said:
Two things come to mind: 1. A "dust bunny" on the r/w head. Most CD/DVD r/w problems are due to dust. 2. A virus.


As mentioned to sminlal, I blew out the drive and used a microfiber cloth thing (the same thing I use for my camera lens) to clean the head. No improvement.

I don't see how a virus could (or would be programmed to?) cause what seems to be a mechanical malfunction in the drive. I mean, to be blunt, the thing sounds and works like ***. If it were a software problem (e.g., a virus), I would imagine that it would either work or not--her drive is doing a little of both and making a lot of effort either way.

I could easily be wrong, of course--I really have no idea.

Thanks either way for the suggestions.
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January 30, 2010 12:10:22 AM

Best answer selected by afterglowefx.
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