Most modern laptops and PCs have an internal drive – usually a DVD Rewriter (burner) which can both read discs and write (burn) to blank DVD or CD discs e.g. for recording music to a CD or backing up data to a DVD.
If the drive appears to be faulty, first check the list below (especially the first problem) to see if it is really broken.
Reasons For A Broken DVD Drive
There are several things that can cause an apparent failure of an optical drive:
More than half of the supposedly ‘broken’ DVD drives I see are actually the result of a software problem – there is actually nothing wrong with the drive itself.
In this situation, the drive suddenly ‘disappears’ from Windows i.e. it no longer shows up in File Explorer or programs like iTtunes, so you can’t play or access a DVD or CD.
The drive continues to eject and close without problems, and you may hear the disc spinning when you insert it – but you still can’t play it or burn data to it.
To fix this software problem see how 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) I would recommend trying this software fix before replacing the drive, in case the problem is software related.
If the drive ejects and closes fine and sometimes works but sometimes cannot read or write discs, the lens inside the drive may be dirty.
You can try cleaning the lens with a special optical lens cleaner CD (widely available in shops). This may resolve the problem but, in my experience, is often only a temporary fix – if the problem reoccurs the drive should be considered faulty.
Disc Stuck In The Drive
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 disc tray, allowing you to retrieve the disc.
Disc Internal Mechanism Broken Or Drive Has No Power
If the disc doesn’t spin at all or makes disturbing noises the drive may simply be dead. If it appears to have no power (e.g. the disc tray doesn’t even open) then, in a PC, you could look inside the case to check if the drive is still connected to a power supply cable, or try using a different cable.
But, considering the low cost of a new DVD drive, it isn’t worth spending much time trying to diagnose a hardware fault.
It’s very unlikely that you would be able to find the right parts to replace any of the internal mechanism anyway – a broken DVD drive is not designed to be taken apart and serviced or repaired.
Buying A New DVD Drive
If the drive is definitely faulty you will need to buy a new one – there are two options:
1. Internal Drive
Many people assume that they must replace the internal drive with another internal drive, without considering the alternative below.
Replacing an internal DVD drive is cheap and relatively easy in a full size PC but is more difficult and expensive in a laptop or a slimline/media center PC.
2. External Drive
You can leave the faulty drive in place and just buy an external USB replacement instead.
An external USB DVD Rewriter (often called a portable DVD drive) has no need for a separate power adapter/plug – just plug it into a USB socket and use it the same as you would use an internal drive.
Modern USB drives are extremely lightweight (just over a pound) and very compact in size.
Should You Buy An Internal Or External DVD Drive?
It may not make sense to pay a lot of money to replace a faulty DVD Rewriter, particularly if you have to pay someone to do it. Most people now use them very rarely e.g. to install a new printer or antivirus from CD – but you can usually download the same software from the net anyway.
And burning music to CD is far less common now that MP3 players and mobile devices have taken over. In fact many new laptops, netbooks and some PCs don’t even have an internal DVD drive nowadays.
But if you do want to replace a faulty DVD drive, I always recommend buying an external USB 3.0 DVD Rewriter, see price at Amazon for these reasons:
- They are much easier to install – just plug it in via the supplied USB cable
- There’s no need to open the PC case and delve around inside it with a screwdriver or try to work out how to remove a laptop drive
- Obviously there is also no need to pay a computer repair shop to fit the new drive for you ;-)
- You are not limited to using an external USB drive on just one computer – you can plug it in and use it on any other computer (PC, laptop or netbook)
- Internal DVD drives usually last for a good few years unless damaged (e.g. you stood on the open disc tray…) so it’s likely that your computer is also a few years old. As the typical lifespan of a modern computer is about 4 – 6 years, replacing the internal drive would be money wasted if your computer died. Whereas an external USB drive could be sold or used on a new computers (which may not have a DVD drive).
It’s also worth noting that USB is standard on all Windows computers from XP onwards – so you know when buying an external drive that it will work.
But if you have a laptop, this may require an internal DVD drive of a specific size, height or connection – you may have to buy a drive unique to that laptop make and model (which can be expensive), otherwise the replacement may not fit.
Disable The Broken DVD Drive
If you buy an external USB DVD Rewriter it is a good idea to disable the internal (faulty) DVD device – you do not have to do this but it’s helpful to ensure that it no longer appears in Windows file manager, 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 ‘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 computer with 2 DVD drives, make sure you disable 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’ on the faulty one to disable that.