Replacing A Broken DVD Or CD Drive
Modern laptops and PCs have an internal drive – usually a DVD rewriter (burner) which can both read discs and write (burn) to blank discs for recording music to a CD or backing up data to a DVD. If it appears to be faulty, first check if it is really broken.
There are several things that can cause apparent failure of an optical drive:
Dirty Lens – if it ejects and closes ok and sometimes works but sometimes cannot read or write discs, the lens inside may be dirty. You can try cleaning the lens with a special lens cleaner CD (widely available in shops). This may resolve the problem but, in our experience, is often only a temporary fix – if the problem reoccurs the device should be considered faulty.
Disc Stuck In It – occasionally a disc may get stuck in the drive (particularly if it wasn’t inserted correctly). You can manually eject the disc by carefully pushing a pin into the pin sized hole in the front of the drive – inside the hole there is a tiny button which, when pressed, manually ejects the CD tray allowing you to retrieve the disc.
Software Problem – more than half of the supposedly ‘broken’ drives we see are actually the result of a software problem, there is nothing wrong with the device itself. The drive may suddenly ‘disappear’ from Windows i.e. it no longer shows in My Computer and other programs like Nero and Itunes, so you can’t play or access a CD/DVD – even though it continues to eject alright, and you may hear it spinning when you insert a disc, you still can’t read or burn it.
To fix this problem see our article to fix a missing CD or DVD drive. Unless you are certain it is mechanically faulty (e.g. the disc tray has broken or the eject button doesn’t work) we would recommend trying this software fix before replacing the drive, just in case the problem is software related.
Options For A New DVD Rewriter – If it is definitely faulty you will need to buy a new one but you have two options:
1. Internal Drive – many people assume that they must replace the internal device without considering the alternative below. Replacing an internal drive is cheap and relatively easy in a full size PC but more difficult and expensive in a laptop or a slimline/media center PC.
2. External Drive – just leave the faulty drive in place and buy an external USB replacement. An external DVD rewriter (often called a portable DVD drive) is powered by USB so there is no need for a separate power adapter/plug – just plug it into a USB socket (some models require 2 USB sockets) and use it the same as you would use an internal one. Modern USB drives are extremely lightweight (just over a pound) and very compact in size.
Should I Buy An Internal Or External Drive?
Often it does not make sense to pay a lot of money to replace a faulty DVD writer, particularly if you have to pay someone to do it and only use it occasionally. Most people now use DVD rewriters very rarely e.g. to install a new printer from a CD – burning music to CD is less common as MP3 players have all but taken over. Netbooks do not even have an internal DVD slot and this causes people few problems.
We recommend buying an external USB DVD rewriter for several reasons:
- They are much easier to install – just plug it in via the supplied USB cable.
- There is no need to remove the computer case or delve around inside with a screwdriver.
- Obviously there is no need to pay a computer repair shop to fit the new drive for you.
- You are not limited to using an external USB device with just one computer – you can plug it into and use on any other computer (PC, laptop or netbook).
- Internal DVDs usually last for a few years unless damaged (e.g. you stood on the open disc tray) so it is likely that your computer is also a few years old. As the lifespan of a modern computer is typically 3 – 5 years, replacing the internal drive will be wasted money if your computer dies whereas an external one could be sold or kept to use with other computers.
- External drives connect to your computer via USB which is standard on Windows computers from XP onwards – so you know when buying that it will work with your computer. However, internal devices for a PC connect via one of two different methods (IDE or SATA) so you will need to open up your PC and check to ensure you buy the right type (IDE uses approx 2 inch wide ‘ribbon’ cable whereas SATA uses approx quarter of an inch wide cable). Likewise with laptops which may require internal drives to be a specific size/height or the replacement will not fit.
Disable The Faulty DVD Drive
If you plan to buy a USB external DVD writer it is a good idea to disable the internal (faulty) DVD device – you do not have to do this but it is helpful to ensure that it no longer appears in Windows – so there is no chance of you trying to use it in future by mistake.
To disable the faulty drive:
1. Click ‘Start’ then right click ‘(My) Computer’ and click ‘Manage’ to open the ‘Computer Management’ window.
2. Under ‘System Tools’ in the left hand panel, click on ‘Device Manager’ to show all the devices in your computer. In the right hand panel double click on ‘DVD/CD-ROM drives’ to reveal the name and type of the device(s) in your computer.
3. Right click on the name of your faulty drive and click ‘Disable’. NB If you have a PC with 2 DVD/CDs, make sure you choose the faulty one!
4. A message now appears warning that disabling the device will cause it to stop functioning – click the ‘Yes’ button to disable it.
Tip: If you had a PC with 2 drives and you disabled the wrong one by mistake, follow the above steps again but in step 3 choose ‘Enable’ to re-enable the working one then choose ‘Disable’ to disable the faulty one.