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Fix a CD Drive That Won’t Read

A range of software and hardware issues can make it difficult or impossible for your CD drive to read a disc properly. The following guide works best for Windows 10 users, but most steps can easily be adapted to Windows 8, and 7 users.


Check Your CD Drive First

When a CD drive or DVD drive won’t work, you might try checking the hardware and disc first. CD Drive components are fine-tuned and may read your disc incorrectly if the hardware, lens, or CD is damaged.

Check the CD Drive Hardware

The CD Drive Hardware may be malfunctioning. A quick inspection should rule out any drive issues. Things to note:

  • The disc tray may be damaged – A CD drive uses internal optics to read data from the disc, so it’s important that your CD is properly aligned. Inspect your tray for any bending, and try reseating the disc. If using a slot-load disc drive, which will have no tray, simply eject the disc and reinsert to determine if it was a seating issue.
  • CD Cables may be loose – if you’re using an external CD Drive, cables might have worked themselves loose. Try reconnecting your cables and swap out for different ones if available.

Check the Disc

A bad disc can’t be played, no matter how hard you try.

  • Clean your discs – Grime and dirt can make it hard for the drive laser to read small groves located on your disc. If the disc is dirty, you can try cleaning it with filter water and a clean cloth; or better yet, a specialized disc cleaning solution and cloth can be purchased in most electronic stores.
  • Swap out the disc – if cleaning fails, your disc might be far too damaged to allow it to play properly. Try swapping out the disc to make sure that it wasn’t a hardware issue.
  • Check for compatibility – Most CD drives can play recordable(R) and rewritable(RW) discs. Make sure that your drive is compatible with the disc you are trying to read. Most drives will display the readable types on the tray flap; it can also be viewed from the manufacturer.

Is the Drive Lens a Problem?

Disc drives use lasers to read disc data as 1s and 0s based on the amount light that’s reflected back to the optical system. A dirty lens won’t read anything, so it’s important to make sure that no dust has accumulated. You can try one of two methods:

  • Try a lens-cleaning disc – Specialized lens cleaning discs are sold specifically for cleaning disc drives. The disc goes in as normal and tiny brushes on the disc will clean the lens as the disc spins. After one cleaning, you may find that your drive can read discs better, stops skipping, and distorts less.
  • Try compressed air – Compressed air cans are easy to come by at computer specialty stores. It’s not as efficient as the cleaning disc, but it gets the job done. Open the try and aim the air into the slot; it should do the trick as long as not too much dust accumulated.

CD Drive Software Might Cause Issues

Multiple programs are used by your CD drive to run and read discs correctly and may require updating. System updates may cause compatibility issues with your pre-installed drivers, firmware, and BIOS settings.

Update CD Drive Firmware

Firmware is device-specific software that’s stored internally in your CD drive. Outdated firmware can cause communication issues between computer and driver, which can also impact the drive’s ability to read discs. Try visiting your computer manufacturer’s website for any applicable firmware updates. Your CD drive might come with a free utility that lets it do firmware updates automatically.

Update Your BIOS

The BIOS is the computer’s Binary Input and Output System and handles communication between your CPU, motherboard and CD drive. BIOS updates can fix many issues but should be done carefully. Incorrectly changing BIOS setting may cause permanent damage to your computer. Your PC manufacturer will normally provide utilities to help perform BIOS updates automatically.

Set Up AutoPlay

AutoPlay is used to automatically play content that’s loaded onto your system. If your CD drive isn’t doing anything, your AutoPlay settings may be set incorrectly. Here is how to change them:

  1. Go to Start and search for AutoPlay
  2. Make sure Use AutoPlay for all media and devices is turned on
  3. Go to your CD drive and choose Ask me every time

Update Your CD Drivers

If your CD player still won’t play, you might try updating your drivers. Drivers are software packages used by Windows to interact with your hardware, and outdated CD drivers can cause compatibility issues between your disc drive and Windows. Drivers can be updated automatically or it can be done manually with the following steps:

  1. From the Start menu, search for Device Manager
  2. Find your DVD/CD-ROM drivers tab
  3. Right-click your CD Drive from DVD/CD-ROM and select Properties
  4. Click the Driver tab and select Update Driver. Follow the prompts.

Reinstall Your CD drivers

If a driver update fails to get your CD drive reading, you might try doing a fresh install of the CD driver. The Windows operating system includes basic drivers and will attempt to reinstall the driver after you reboot the system. Here’s how:

  1. From Start menu, search for Device Manager
  1. Expand the DVD/CD-ROM driver tab
  2. Right-click your CD drive and select Uninstall
  1. Go back to Start, and Restart your system.

After an Update, Your CD Drive Still Fails To Read

If nothing seems to work, try rolling back your driver to a time they were reading discs ok. Windows lets you roll back drivers individually. The process is simple:

  1. Go to the Start menu and search for Device Manager.
  2. Go to your DVD/CD-ROM driver folder.
  3. Right-click your CD Drive and select
  4. Click the driver tab and select Roll Back Driver and follow the prompts.

Get Your CD Drive Working With a System Restore

Sometimes driver updates just don’t do the trick. An unknown update or change may cause your CD driver issues.

In this case, a system restore works better. The Windows system restore tool can be used to revert computer settings to an earlier date while keeping your personal files intact. Performing a system restore is easy:

  1. At the Start menu search for Control Panel
  2. Click System and Security
  3. Click Security and Maintenance
  4. Click Recovery
  5. Click Open System Restore
  6. Click Next
  7. Select a System Restore point, click Next and follow the prompts.

Last Resort: Restore Your PC to Factory Defaults

As a last resort, you might try resetting your PC to its original factory settings. Most PCs come standard with reserved hard disk space set aside for re-installing the operating system. Data will be wiped from the system so it would be wise to create a backup copy of anything important. You can reset your PC with these steps:

  1. Got to Start and search for Settings
  2. Click Update & Security
  3. Click Recovery
  4. Select Get Started and from Reset this PC and follow the prompts.

Let’s Keep Your CD Drive Running

CD drive errors can be created by hardware and software issues. It’s always best to check your disc and hardware for serviceability as well as checking your software for any updates or changes that can affect your CD drive’s performance.

Your CD drive or computer manufacturer will usually provide tools you need to resolve firmware updates and play your media correctly. As for Windows, you must be sure to keep your drivers updated, which can be done manually or automatically with special software.

Driver Support will keep your CD running and your drivers updated. It’s important to capture the most recent driver updates, which Windows doesn’t always do. Let us take the manual work of finding driver updates off your hands so you can keep your discs running, instead of driver updates running you.