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Short Lifetimes of Optical Drives?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago

Data Storage 369

lpq asks: "I have various optical disc readers from standard DVD players (apart from a computer), and both CD and DVD readers on one or more computers. My home stereo DVD's have been problematic for a while. One of them won't even take a DVD cleaner disk as it doesn't 'recognize' it as a playable disc, even though it plays discs that my other DVD player won't play. Usually, between the two of them, I can play most discs, but occasionally some discs, purchased new, won't play on either of them. Heaven forbid if it is an older or used DVD which have even more problems (some of my DVDs are approaching old age at an age of around 5 years). However, this is more about my computer's optical drives, including the CD readers. Both CD readers on two different computers have 'died' and are not able to read program disks. Am I specifically plagued by bad luck or do others go through CD/DVD drives so quickly?""My built-in DVD reader (Dell laptop) no longer reads DVD's, but can still read CD's. My external SCSI plextor has a hard time with music CD's, but can still read most program CD's. My iomega external won't recognize program CD's but can still seem to do DAE on audio CD's.

My internal DVD/CD drive in my desktop can't read either DVD's or CD's. It was about 3 years old. The iomega external was about 2 years old. The laptop internal DVD was about 3-4 years old.

I took apart the IOMEGA, thinking it the easiest to get apart and took an air blower to the lens, but looking at it under a magnifying glass, I can't see a thing wrong with it. It still won't load any program disks, and kicks them back out as unreadable.

One computer is in my bedroom, the other in my living room with both commercial DVD players being in the living room (one used to be in bedroom, but with reliability issues of the older one in the living room, I moved the one in the bedroom out to living room. I still have to switch cables frequently depending on the DVD, as most play on the Digitron, the Sony seems to have poorer error recovery.

Is there anything I can do for maintenance. Air-canisters seem fairly limited in effectiveness and I've verified, at least in the IOMEGA external USB, it wasn't a scratched lens or at least nothing visible under magnification. This is really starting to drive me a bit crazy. It doesn't seem like I should have to replace these things so often.

My parents bought a new DVD player, and 2 out of 3 movies they tried to rent to play were unplayable. They are in their 70s-80s, so they just didn't want to bother with such unreliable technology.

It concerns me to hear about higher capacity DVD's, since with greater density, errors will affect wider areas on the disk. I'm always careful not to touch surfaces of CD's/DVD's but I don't know if the higher density DVD's will be very stable for movie or data storage if they don't do something to improve error recovery.

What do other people do for optical disk drive maintenance? Do other people have to replace them every 2-5 years because the drive is no longer cleanable?

As for video DVD's, should I just be resigned to play errors on almost 50% of DVD's -- usually they won't play on at least one of my players. What about bit-rot on the DVD's. Should I also be resigned to the fact that a DVD purchase is really only a temporary (5 +/-2 year rental) before it becomes unreadable?

The more egregious DVD problems have been with new, multi-CD series, where maybe one disk out of a 6-disk set (Buffy-season 2), Stargate Season 7, just won't play? It's a pain when they are gotten via mail-order even if they are a reputable dealer, since in both cases I've had 1 out of the set be bad, it was the last disc which I didn't get to for a few - several weeks.

What am I doing wrong?"

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yeah. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12255839)

bad luck. sorry man. mine has been working since 1840.

Re:yeah. (2, Funny)

sinfree (859988) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256013)

Yeah well... mine has been working since... Oh nevermind.

Re:yeah. (3, Insightful)

mikecito (777939) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256091)

On a more serious note - I still have a 6-disc cd changer from 1993 made by Sony. It works perfectly, and will play anything I throw at it, regardless of burn speed or whatever. I wouldn't be surprised if the disc changing mechanism actually goes before the disc reading mechanism. It's been used consistently for all 12 years, and still going strong. I'd say it comes down to a well made, and semi-pricey, cd player. They just don't make 'em like they used to.

Yes!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12255844)

frist psot!

DVD cleaner disc (4, Informative)

SpudB0y (617458) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255852)

Stop using a cleaner disc.

Re:DVD cleaner disc (5, Insightful)

glesga_kiss (596639) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256014)

I concurr. A cleaner disk is a set of brushes hitting the sensitive lens designed to delicately float on electromagnets at several hundred RPM(!). They are a last resort "my player is on it's last legs" scenario. Not for preventative maintainence.

Original poster, are you a smoker? The same buildup that makes white walls go yellow also builds up on the lens. You can clean it with the right tools.

I recondidition anything I have that breaks, and CD readers are a common one. You can often fix them by dismantling, cleaning, regreasing, then reassembly. It's common knowledge that mechanical parts are more prone to failure than solid-state, so the likelyhood is that in each of your devices there is a hardware problem.

Remember the original Playstation that had serious problems after a while? Problem there was that the little sled that the lens was on had a plastic runner. After X hours of seeking, it would wear down slightly, causing the lens to drop on one side. This is why turning the PSX upside down made a difference. You could fix that by filling in what had worn with some glue, filed down to make a smooth runner.

Re:DVD cleaner disc (1)

ceeam (39911) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256055)

Sure! The reason why these drives may have problems these days is 80% because the "laser" diod has lost power. Before you may've had a dust particle on the lens but today it has much higher chance to be blown away during "normal" operation (disks spin at really impressive speeds today, exploding disks are not quite "urban legend").

I dont Seem to have that much of a prob (1)

Outthere057 (566345) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256167)

i have a regular dvd player that i have had for 5 or six years and works all of the time but i only use it for watching movies and nothing else. I have had on cd burner start to stop burning but it still read cds most of the time. but it didnt star messing up until i had burned several hundered cds. The best avice i can give you it to make sure that the dvd or cd that you ar putting in your player is clean when you put it in. this is the most important thing you can do because it can cause dirt to build up fast and ruin a good dvd or cd player.

Compatibility (3, Insightful)

Ryouga3 (683889) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255857)

I think part of the original poster's problem is that the CD/DVD standards change subtley over the years without anyone really noticing. My toshiba laptop can't record on 700MB CDs for example. I don't think the problem will be solved until the industry is more forthright about versioning on media and drives.

Yay! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12255861)

Yes! fourth post!

Hell yes (1) (782137) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255870)

I've had two CDR/CDRW drives so far which have decided that they won't let me burn above 8x and then died completely. The ones burned at 8x usually can't be read above 8x either. It's really annoying.

running out of department ideas (3, Funny)

x_codingmonkey_x (839141) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255871)

"from the dept."

Well I guess this is from _the_ department :P

Just replace it (3, Insightful)

beavis88 (25983) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255872)

They're so cheap these days (and I do mean cheap...plastic gears suck), it's hardly worth the trouble to try and repair them. One exception might be high-end jukebox type players, but for single-disc players I'll typically just buy a new one.

I do agree though, that longevity seems to be a much bigger issue for DVD players than for CDs. I have one of the original Discmans with skip protection from circa 1993, and it still works just fine. I bought my first DVD player around 1997-8 IIRC, and am now on my third...

Re:Just replace it (2, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255922)

Plastic gears are just fine when your drive system involves a belt resembling an o-ring.

Re:Just replace it (1)

jvagner (104817) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255958)

I'll be thinking about this post when I'm at Earth Day next week.

I won't buy component CD or DVD systems anymore. They fail too much. I'm building a MythTV system so I can swap out the drives when they fail. Sadly, I wish it wasn't like this..

Then again, I haven't really bought a lot of CDs in the last two years though, streaming music has kept me pretty happy.

Re:Just replace it (1)

MyDixieWrecked (548719) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255964)

I've actually had 4 CD drives fail on me in the last couple years. I wasn't sure what was causing their deaths, but I later decided it was the motor that was going.

I'd put a disc in and it would kinda spin up, but didn't sound right.

I had a CD drive in one of my servers (B&W G3 from 1999) that would actually drop the CD onto the tray. I could hear it spin up then there would be a click and a plastic-on-plastic sound as the disc dropped into the tray and spun a revolution or two.

What's your environment like? (4, Interesting)

Matey-O (518004) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255876)

Pollen? Smokers? I've got an African Grey parrot, they shed a talc like substance that fairly covers everything in his room. You might consider setting up your computer with filtration and airflow so that it pushes filtered air out past the drive, rather than pulling unfiltered air past it towards the back of the machine.

Re:What's your environment like? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12256034)

Beautiful plumage on those things.

Re:What's your environment like? (1)

DaleCarpenter (876561) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256037)

i used to go thru a cd/dvd drive a year because of smoking around my computers. now i have a dryer vent & hose that draws fresh air from outside into the back and pushes it out the front. the only 'filter' i have on thre is an old knee-high stocking i rince out every few months. works pretty good so far, got 2½ years on my lite-on cd burner and sony dvd drive.

Re:What's your environment like? (5, Insightful)

TEMM (731243) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256126)

Or, yknow, stop smoking.

You're not alone (4, Insightful)

bmw (115903) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255877)

I've been through 4 CD drives in the last 2 years and this is only counting my personal hardware. 3 of these drives were burners, one of them a Plextor SCSI drive. From what I hear this seems to be quite common and the burners are especially likely to go bad. At least prices have gone down so much now that they are pretty much disposable. Hell, it practically costs more to buy a spindle of blank DVDs than it does to buy the DVD burner itself. Reminds me of the situation with printers and ink.

Re:You're not alone (1)

EricV314a (581711) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256046)

At my shop, optical drive failure is the second most common complaint behind spyware/viruses. A couple of the older high end drives seem to be lasting forever, but the newer ones seem to only have about an 18 to 24 month life span.
There doesn't seem to be a single common link to the failures either. Some dead drives appear to be in pristine condition, while other working drives are so full of dust you just want to say WTF? Plastic laser lenses get distorted maybe? I dunno.

Re:You're not alone (2, Insightful)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256078)

Reminds me of the situation with printers and ink.

Welll.... no, not really. There isn't really any manufacturer lock-in, and the discs are actually pretty damn cheap.

A spindle could include 100 discs, which is a *lot*.

Personally, my Lite-On DVD-ROM drive started giving me problems with CD-Rs and CD-RWs, to the extent that it won't read them at all (including those from reputable sources); and yet it gives no problems whatsoever with pre-recorded media.

Ditto (1)

Len (89493) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256123)

Of 5 CD & DVD drives I've bought in the last few years, 2 failed just after the 1-year warranty period. These are drives that saw moderate use in a home environment.

what's wrong? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12255879)

What am I doing wrong?

You can't state a concise question, that's what's wrong. By the ancient principle of publication design called "Above The Fold", if your readers can't get to the point without hitting the scrollbar, they'll just stop reading.

Re:what's wrong? (1)

graphicsguy (710710) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256073)

if your readers can't get to the point without hitting the scrollbar, they'll just stop reading.

Maybe you need a higher resolution screen. :-)

I love Taco Bell (3, Interesting)

Kuj0317 (856656) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255881)

The issues u have probably aren't dust, but the laser getting 'worn out' - this is especially bad for PS2's, where often the only thing u can do is manually adjust the potentiometer (voltage the laser gets) or take some clear film and creat a second lens to help the laser focus. And really, i think its just you. My xbox (a refurb) cant read DVD's, but thats the only dvd drive that i have tha has failed me in an unreasonable period of time. I have a Toshiba DVD player from like 1999 or something that is perfectly fine.

Sounds pretty standard (4, Interesting)

ites (600337) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255884)

DVD is a mess. Between incompatible formats and cheap and nasty players, I've stopped trying to use DVD at all.

My home DVD player will play most movies but with jitters - skipping through parts of movies, freezing on the occasional disk.

I've switched to using disk & lan for everything except rented DVDs. No backups onto CD or DVD, but instead onto multiple redundant HD servers. Movies in digital form where possible. Music all digital since at least 5 years.

Laptops (2, Informative)

keesh (202812) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255890)

I've had two ultrabay optical drives fail on my ThinkPad. Both failed just after the year's warranty expired. One won't play anything at all, the other will play and burn CDs but refuses to read any DVDs (I get repeated DriveSeek errors for DVDs). Very annoying, considering the price.

Re:Laptops (2, Interesting)

oolon (43347) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255971)

The reason why some drives work with only CDs or DVDs, is because oftain use different lasers and one has died, it happened to a toshiba dvd rom drive I had, it read DVDs not CDs!


You're not alone at all. (2, Interesting)

sgant (178166) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255891)

Most of the CD-ROM's and DVD players on the computers I've bought have gone out on me, prompting me to replace them.

That is until I started building my own computers. Haven't had a problem...yet that is. I don't know if Gateway and Dell just cheap out when it comes to the CD-ROM drives they put into their machines, but I've had several go out on me over the years.

Put crap in, you're going to get a crap Drive. But honestly, I don't know why there were so many failed drives.

Re:You're not alone at all. (1)

dustinbarbour (721795) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255975)

I've never had a CD or DVD reader go out on me from a computer I've built. They've lasted years and years.

Re:You're not alone at all. (1)

sgant (178166) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256017)

Same here, the one's I've built have been rock steady. One of the reasons I build my own now...cause I know exactly what's going into them.

Re:You're not alone at all. (1)

glesga_kiss (596639) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256063)

I don't know if Gateway and Dell just cheap out when it comes to the CD-ROM drives they put into their machines

Of course they do. Think lowest bidder. Dropping an extra five bucks per drive is a one time hit for you that you won't notice. To them, it cuts into their margins big time.

Re:You're not alone at all. (2, Informative)

jandrese (485) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256074)

Yeah OEMs LOVE to stick the cheapest drives possible on their systems. Even the high end IBM servers we have at work have the crappiest CD-ROM drives I've ever used. The part I scrounge out of systems that I'm disposing of is the CD-ROM, since I need so many replacements for the ones that fail in the lab. It's a real pain in the butt. On the other hand, I bought a 4X CD-ROM back when that was fast (1995 or so), and it still works like a dream. I have an old SGI with a 1x CD-ROM (and an old Macintosh (Sony) 2x CD-ROM) that work great, of course they need those annoying caddys...

On the other hand, for what you had to pay for those old CD-ROMs, you could buy 5 or 6 cheap nasty knockoff drives today, and the cheap ones are a heck of a lot faster.

Solution (-1, Offtopic)

ehkz (680643) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255894)

Purposely break your cd/dvd drive a right before the warranty expires and hopefully they will give u a new model.

Theres a saying that goes something like... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12255896)

You get what you pay for.

Retractable cub holder? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12255897)

The only real problem I've ever had with optical drives has been with the tray. It seems that with some older, cheaper brands, the mechanism that opens the tray wears out and stops working. The drive works fine, but you just have to open it with a bent paper clip.

the real problem (0, Flamebait)

ikea5 (608732) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255898)

The real problem is that they are all made in China

Wonky opticals (1)

BigMFC (592465) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255899)

I've had only one CD drive crap out on me and that I purchased in '95 (4X.. cost me like 200+). Generally, when I find things don't play, it's usually the media rather than the drive. My 8x burner is still running (got it around 00) as is my DVDROM (2001).

DVD cleaner disk? (5, Insightful)

tricops (635353) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255900)

Uh... besides scratches, there's another pretty important thing called alignment. Does DVD cleaner disk refer to those stupid discs with a little brush on them? If so, what are you thinking? I've never understood how those things could remain on the market. Spinning a little brush at high speed and letting it hit the lens - that has to be incredibly great for its alignment... Sure it might clean it, but it's bound to have some effect.

I've got a dell, same problem... (0, Redundant)

koreaman (835838) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255901)

All I can say is becaues of this, and many other issues, I'm NEVER buying Dell again and I hope you don't either.

About all your other problems and issues, sorry, but I don't know what to tell you.

Brands are sometimes worth extra cash (2, Informative)

Jeehoba (650927) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255904)

I dont know if this is the case, but sometimes spending the extra buck on a plextor [] is worth it. They aren't cheap but I have never had a problem with one. Some of the other value lines like I would find at a rock bottom price on pricewatch [] haven't been as good to me.

Re:Brands are sometimes worth extra cash (1)

Vegeta99 (219501) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256018)

Plextor is cheap anyway!!!

where's mah credit card?! I didn't realize DVD burners had gotten so cheap so quick!

Re:Brands are sometimes worth extra cash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12256070)

i have had 3 plextors
1 scisi 4x cd burner (strangly engough that one is still working, then again at 400$ it should)
a 16x plextor that lived a year (cd-rw still works)
a 40x plextor that lived a year and a bit(cd-rw still works)
a 48 or was it 52x aopen died after a year
a dvd-r aopen aswel 1.5 years
my nec 2500 is still working (holds wood) but that one is comming towards the magical 1 year treshold
(and the damn thing wont write dvd+r at more then 2x)

o i still have a nice old cd player i think we purchased it early 90's late 80's still works.

no mater what brand you buy luck is a major factor
some just crap out on you

My Pioneer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12255905)

LASER disc player,
early CAV-CLV dual mode, still works just fine

What are your living conditions like? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12255908)

Seriously, the condition of your air might be a huge problem. Do you happen to live in a dusty enviornment with lots of rough particles (i.e. sand). I have seen drives with tons of dirt from places like Egypt and other desert areas. QUite posslibly you just have a particulate problem.

Of course there are many other issues suck as moisture and other things, but I would think air quality is really important.

I've had weird issues, too (5, Interesting)

Paladin144 (676391) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255915)

I had a Phillips Superdrive (4x DVD burner / 12x CD burner) that refused to play commercially pressed CDs. It was the strangest thing, because it could still read burned CDs, burned DVDs and regular, commercial DVDs. But if you tried to play a pressed CD, it would spin and spin. Sometimes it would recognize it if I ejected & put it back in enough times. Gradually, it got worse and worse until it didn't read any non-burned CDs. It still burned both CDs and DVDs just fine. I guessed that the laser was out of alignment or something. I replaced it with a 8x Superdrive and that has been working perfectly.

To address your question, I think you may be on to something. Perhaps, though, few people notice that optical devices are flaky in general because we upgrade so often and so many other things go wrong with computers. All I know is that my work computer's CD burner is dying now. It reads CDs and DVDs fine, but it is starting to fail when burning CD burns. It's getting worse and now fails about 50% of the time. Are we getting screwed by shoddy manufacturers, or is there a fundamental problem with optical drives?

Re:I've had weird issues, too (1)

Feanturi (99866) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256141)

There's a particular Philips drive, not sure if it's the one you have or not, but it's been out for the last little while. You have to go get the firmware upgrade for it because, and this is weird, unless you upgrade the firmware, you have to make sure to put in a burned disc FIRST when you first try to use it. If you don't, it won't read anything BUT burned discs. The other rule with this drive, is that, without the firmware upgrade, that trick will work UNTIL the drive is slightly jarred by something, at which point it will stop working again. How's that for crazy?

CD Drives (1)

NightEyes Decorum (632494) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255916)

I'll tell you an amazing story. I have a DVD drive on this computer and an old external 4X CD burner. They play most discs, but sometimes one refues to play certain audio CD without skipping madly, and the other is fine. I think I eve had one of the CDs in the external burner REFUSE to play at all, and the computer would recognize it, while it played fine in the DVD drive, and my CD player downstairs. Amazingly enough, as I've been digitize my music, I've had almost no problems with discs digitizing correctly by using the DVD drive, even the ones I had problems with in the same drive when I just played them through the computer. I just stopped trying to figure it out, it was making my head hurt.

Personal experience... (1)

lxt (724570) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255917)

...I've only ever had one computer optical drive fail on me, and that was an external CD-RW, that died after about two years. Even my 486 1x CD-ROM is still going pretty strong. That said, I do take great care of my discs, cleaning them, making sure they're not dusty when I put them in and so on.

However, when it comes to portable CD players, my experience is completely the opposite. Normally (I'm still using a portable CD player, even though I have digital copies of my music collection on my PC...more to do with bad experiences with MP3 players and battery life) - they tend to die ever year or so. I guess this is a combination of cost (I tend to buy pretty cheap players) and rough handling / ease of dust entering the lens casing.

I'd certainly expect a £20 DVD player to die earlier than a £200 one...but I'd say a combination of keeping discs free of dust and cleaning the lens every couple of weeks would go a long way to extending life - I've got a 15 year old CD player that handles everything I throw at it.

Eh? Dust/Dirt? (4, Interesting)

sH4RD (749216) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255918)

How hard do you PUSH those things? The old 2x SCSI CD Caddy drive in my computer from 1994 still works fine. All the media it comes with still works great too. All I can guess is maybe you live in a high humidty or extremely dusty/dirty house. My house is fairly clean, and I have never had optical drive problems. Don't just clean them out when they break, constantly clean them (if it is the dust/dirt problem) with air. Otherwise I can just suggest you be a little nicer to them and maybe they will be a little nicer to you.

Re:Eh? Dust/Dirt? (1)

andreyw (798182) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255980)

Same. Hehe, probably have the same CD-ROM drive too. Mine is a Toshiba, 2x, caddy cd-rom that has been in about 10 computers since 1994. (1993?)

It's the speed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12255920)

I used to have several 2x CD-Rom drives and they worked fine for years. But as soon as speed of CD-Rom drives went over 20x, they too often decided to break down in couple years. Trays broke down, disks began to jump, they refused to read some disks and so on.

So if you really want to have long working cd-rom drive, buy one which is as slow as possible. I'm trying to avoid 52x and 40x 's but it's difficult nowdays. Their realiability is below anything usable or cost efficient.

I've never had an Apple optical drive break (1)

Nova Express (100383) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255921)

I've had two: the regular CD reader on a PowerMac 8500 (1996), and the superdrive on my duel 1 GHz PowerMac G4. neither has ever given me any problems.

Maybe you should avoid buuying cheap PC components, or else expecting to replace it every two years as the cost of going cheap.

I also have a Sony jambox circa 1989 on which the CD player is slightly flakey but still functional. Ditto a 5 disc Teac CD player from around 1997. Maybe it's just you. ;-)

You haven't, but I have (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12255966)

I just put a new DVD burner in my 1Ghz Powerbook (2.5yrs old) because the original DVD/CDRW crapped out (wouldn't read past about 500MB of a CD). My 7600's 8x CD drive died long ago (it's a Lite-On DVD now). Apple's stuff ain't perfect.

Re:I've never had an Apple optical drive break (1)

oolon (43347) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256040)

Its not just the cheap stuff, I had a 1 speed 1400 dollar Sun cdrom drive fail on me after 6+ years service, I also had a toshiba DVD rom drive stop reading CDs after 4 years, and a Yamaha CD Writer start burning costers after 2.5 years. I have also put other drives out of use because of upgrades which is the one silver lining, my DVD writer is only single layer, so it dies it will be a good reason to buy a dual layer :-)


Not me (1)

Acidangl (86850) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255923)

i have had completly different luck. the DVD player i've had for 3 years is just now starting to show problems. it probably played at least 4 movies a day. I have cd/dvd drives in computers that are probably close to 10 years old now and still work fine. granted now that i said that they will probably all die.

Welcome to the disposable age (3, Interesting)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255928)

I have about a 60% success rate with hard disks working more than a year, my wireless router lasted just past one year. My DVD player from 1998 or so is about to go in the trash because it does not recognize enough disks to be worthwhile.

The only upside is that everything keeps getting cheaper and more "featureful" so its not that bad to keep buying new stuff, but in general I find that consumer grade electronics are geared towards this quick obsolescence. If you want something to last, buy "professional" grade stuff. The low prices of regular junk is seductive, but don't count on any of it lasting.

Re:Welcome to the disposable age (1)

kellererik (307956) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256148)

There is just one problem regarding the "professional" grade stuff, with every new generation of hardware, the manufacturers of said gadgests introduce new "features", say DRM-"improvements" (sometimes waiting in your gear for the command to bite you in the backside when you least expect it), blocked or non-existing ports, and so on. Sometimes its better nowadays to buy the cheap stuff - produced too cheap to contain any new "nifty" (as seen from the *AAs) features.

my 2 cents

2 hints (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12255929)

Dump the IOMEGA and get some newer parents.

Cheaper Components/ Quality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12255930)

Along the same lines as this problem is the recent issues surrounding the new Sony PS2 slim design. It has had many reports of the laser death at very early ages. As I understand it, it was not the laser itself but the coils used to focus it that were the problem. Perhaps this is just more of the manufacturers using lower quality components to get us our $19.99 dvd player while still having everyone make a profit(?) getting it to you.

I'm a Troll (0, Troll)

galo (716595) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255936)

Please mod me up so I can have my first successgul FP!


DVD Cleaners etc (2, Insightful)

mikeleemm (462460) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255938)

Don't use Drive cleaners or even compressed air, majority of the time it does more harm than good.

Re:DVD Cleaners etc (1)

rmbzz (833101) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256107)

It seems to me that overzealous cleaning might be the problem. I have six optical drives that were bought in 98, 98, 00, 02, 02 and 05. Five work, the sixth (one of the ones from 98) was cleaned with compressed air near the time it quit.

Hmm (2, Interesting)

ksilebo (134470) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255954)

I don't know what you're doing, but I have several optical drives that have lasted well over 6 to 8 years. One being the 8x Compaq CDROM drive which came in my first computer which has a place of honor in an old server. Next being my TDK 24x CDRW drive that is actually a rebadged Plextor, I believe its about 4 years old. My DVD-ROM drive in this computer is a Pioneer that works perfectly, I've had it about 4 years as well. I sold a SCSI Yahama 6x CDRW drive to a friend and that's still kicking. Its about 6 years old.

What are you doing to your drives?! From what I can guess is you're buying piece of shit components and expecting them to last the long haul. If you notice, besides the Compaq drive, I buy somewhat quality components and they last and last and last. I don't expect a $20 bargain bin CDRW drive to last me more than maybe a month or 2 of heavy use, but all my plextor drives have lasted me.

One thing is for sure, however, you have a Sony. Every single SOny drive I've ever used, or every DVD player that they make has been crap. Sure it looks all pretty and may work with normal DVDs, but put a burned CD in there or maybe use your DVD player once a night and it will 'burn out' in less than a month or so. That's the case in my experience. With their DVD-ROM drives, they simply stop working well after a week. So my friends and I stopped buying them.

Here's how to solve your problem: (4, Insightful)

Tibor the Hun (143056) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255955)

1. Don't buy any more Dells.
2. Don't use cleaner discs.
3. If your disks get scratched, clean them with toothpaste. (make sure to clean the toothpaste afterwards.

Re:Here's how to solve your problem: (1)

01000011011101000111 (868998) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256097)

Toothpaste? I've heard of reoiling C or G PU fans with olive oil before, but thats a new one to me...

Re:Here's how to solve your problem: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12256115)

If your disks get scratched, clean them with toothpaste

In case anyone is wondering, PLEASE don't do this. It will scratch the hell out of your disc. Toothpaste is more abrasive than plastic cleaner.

They make plastic cleaner or disc cleaner that works very good on discs. Use that.

Re:Here's how to solve your problem: (4, Informative)

ceeam (39911) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256119)

Who modded this funny?! The toothpaste "trick" works really well with DVDs (on rented disks, for example; if you bother). Just don't try that with _CD_s, because the "data" layer is on top of the disk and you can damage _that_ while trying to polish "mirror" surface on the bottom. DVDs are two layers of plastic with data surface in-between them - that's the cool thing they've done about them. So - if your DVD disk does not read - put some toothpaste on it (with water), polish it with your _fingers_, don't use abrasive materials, of course. Wash it with the kitchen goo afterwards to remove grease. If successfully done, don't forget to copy the data to the new disk.

Re:Here's how to solve your problem: (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256154)

Boiling (and freezing) help too.

Hey Slashdot...! (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255967)

The guy has a serious problem but no one seems to be providing him a solution! on the go, and provide real answers to what he might be doing wrong. As for me, I have no clue! All I know is that there is some kind of conspiracy with all electronic vendors. They all seem to agree on one thing -- Vendor Lock-in, for as long as it's possible.

Re:Hey Slashdot...! (4, Insightful)

fm6 (162816) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256155)

He's probably not doing anything wrong. From the sound of it, he's a knowledgable, careful techie, and has just had a run of bad luck with a technology that's not designed to last. I could be wrong about that, but if I'm not, there's nothing to tell him but "replace them when they break".

I often carp about silly Ask Slashdots, but I consider this to be a really good one -- even though the basic problem is going unsolved. It's nice when we can help somebody, but that's not the main point. If you just want to solve a technical problem, there are plenty of places that can do a better job of helping you than Slashdot. What makes a good Ask Slashdot (or any other good Slashdot story) is when we end up talking about an issue that's important to all of us, debating its nature and consequences, and generall educating each other.

Viva Tape! (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255983)

I have had less problems with VCR tapes than DVD's. Tapes "degrade" better. And, they seem more child-proof. My kids ruin DVD's at a rate almost 3-to-1 over tapes. And, tapes are easier to fix: just transfer tape to a new case if the case is damaged, or use super-glue, and use transparent sticky tape to put snapped or tangle-fixed tape back together (one peice on each side). It will play a bit mumbly for the bad part, but that is far better than what bad sections of DVD's do. I will agree that it can be a lot of work to fix the worse-case tapes, but at least they are usually fixable if you decide to spend the effort.

Xbox (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12255992)

It seems to me like many xboxes, especially those that play cdrom-intensive games like Halo, cause the DVD drive on them to break.

Typical (2, Interesting)

supabeast! (84658) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255994)

In my experience short lifespans are typical for optical drives, although if you spend a lot of money and get high-end Pioneer or Plextor drives they last a long time, and the Pioneer drives are good at reading the most scratched discs that other players will just spit out.

On a related note, stop using DVD cleaner discs - all they do is scratch the lens unless your DVD drive is located somewhere that it collects massive amounts of dust. Electronics stores have been pushing those stupid things on consumers for years because the markup runs anywhere from nine-hundred to several-thousand percent depending on whether you just buy the disc or buy it as part of some silly cleaning kit comeplete with a soap and isopropyl alcohol solution.

fingerprints (1)

xonen (774419) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255998)

Have you made sure the disks itself are clean? not scartches etc, but typically finger prints.
Fingerprints (everyone leaves them, hands washes or not) are likely to generate errors. always hold optical discs by it's side and optionally center hole.

In my experience, 99% of read errors are from fat fingers. you can easily detect them by 'breathing' on the cd, the moisture will clearly show fingerprints. Wipe with something soft, like a t-shirt.

Just my two cents... (1, Interesting)

Anne Honime (828246) | more than 9 years ago | (#12255999)

Are you a smoker ?

I am, and my drives display the same short-life behaviours as yours. I suspect tar glues to the optic and is not removable without a major cleanup (mechnical action like air blow or cleaner discs is inefficient).

clean the lens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12256004)

when i had a creative 24x cdrom, i occasionally took it out of the case, screwed it open and cleaned the lens with some random piece of cloth. worked like magic.

My 2 cents (2, Informative)

ceeam (39911) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256008)

Don't know about pure "reader" drives (except in standalone players, anybody uses them yet?) but modern burners in my experience tend to gradually go down after ~500 disks (you may not even notice that if not using some testing tools). And that's nothing to be surprised about - you get what you buy - these things work on the edge (why do you think after you burned 10 disks in a row the last ones are so hot?), they are made of cheapest components possible, and they cost $60 for a high-speed DVD burner. OTOH - earlier TEAC drives, like W58E are still going OK around me (maybe done several thousands burns and used as reader all the time). But they costed $150+ (multiply by 2 to account for inflation) and they weigh around a kilo (~2pounds).

BTW, nowadays, I tend to buy Sony/LiteOn.

Hate (0)

northcat (827059) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256010)

Your computer hates you.

(That's seems like a logical explanation for most of my problems)

General Lack of Quality (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256020)

Ive noticed that newer drives tend to have a shorter life span then older ones.

Harddisks, the same, tape drives, monitors.. Pretty much any conusumer product really... They may *look* cooler, have more features, but they just are not made to last.

If they sell you something that lasts, where will their sales for next season come from?

Old DVDs and Protection? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12256044)

While I haven't had so many problems with the drive mechanisms -- other than CDs recorded above 8x not reading back on a different drive (I only record at 4x now if I can help it).

My problem is that I have an older DVD player (3 years old) and on many disks the picture changes brightness up and down at random, and occasionally I get the picture dropping down on the screen and the sprocket holes on the edge of the film showing for several seconds at the top of the screen. This does not happen on my computer DVD player.

This seems to be related to Macrovision or some other copy protection on the disks. It almost always happens with Criterion and disks from within the last 2 years, but not at all for disks pressed before then.

So, it appears that indeed creeping changes in the formats are wrecking compatibility -- and you have no real alternatives except to get new gear.

why only optical disks ? (1)

krayfx (694332) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256047)

i saved my 3 year old keyboard recently from being garbage after being "diagnosed" by my vendor as dead - the fix, open the board, get some moisture out from near the power button where the wire exits. i also saved my logitech mouse - the left clikc button was worn out after overusage and again "diagnosed" by the vendor as dead and replaceable - the fix? a fraction of a millimeter in height of glue placed on contacts of the left click button and the sensor inside. both work like a treat. however - i couldnt get my lousy samsung cdrom drive tray from getting stuck, nor could i stp my old hp drive fromg going phut after years of using it, while samsung was a clear case of cheap plastic works, Hp drive wasnt. after all samsung pioneered the art of making products with a timer - that timesout just after the warranty period. well, almost! my hp drive had fits of getting misaligned. probably its a case of vendors thes days wanting to make products that last a few years say - 3-5 years everything depending on price. either ways - the product would get outdated, along with the particular standard! (vcd, supervcd, ld, dvd, minidisc, flash storage, digital tapes, the list goes on ...whew!)

Yes, and no (1)

The-Bus (138060) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256048)

Cheap optical drives will stop working after a while. I've gone through three drives on my PC, all of which have stopped working in the past 5 years. As much as I hate Sony, they seem to make pretty good portable products. My Discman still works perfectly, and my Walkman stayed alive for over ten years. The separate DVD player is a Panasonic, and is holding up OK except for one error it had when it just died in the middle of Fight Club.

you get what you pay for (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12256050)

stop buying chinese dvd players.

Very few of my optical drives last 3 years (1)

oritpro (679586) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256058)

After 2-3 years, most of mine have stopped reading R/RW disks, then it's all downhill from there. Only one drive I had lasted more than 6 years, a Mitsumi 4x CDR. My kids used to go through drives every 6 months! All the DVD players I bought for the TV, a whopping 2 of them, still work fine. One is a Sony that is coming up on 8 years now and we still use it.

CD Drive Failures (1)

macaroo (847109) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256059)

I own a small PC repair business and have replaced more CD disk drives than I would care to admit. I feel and usually tell my customers that heat build up inside the case shortens the life of the CD drive. Most people cram as much as they can inside the case usually without any thought of power supply requirements or cooling. Most agree to an additional case fan after I replace the CD Drive.

Optical drives and (windows) software problems (1)

Feanturi (99866) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256087)

I work in tech support, and fairly often people call in because their CD or DVD rom drive isn't working anymore. Roughly 60% of the time or more, it's actually a software problem and their drive is just fine. This usually happens when burning software has been removed, or replaced by another program, windows can't load the driver anymore and there's some stuff you have to clear out of the registry before it will work again. Or sometimes you just have to remove the IDE controller, reboot and let windows reinstall it and find the optical drives again.

Re:Optical drives and (windows) software problems (1)

Svet-Am (413146) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256150)

while that may be, how about the fact that my set-top DVD/CD player no longer plays discs and its barely two years old? No drivers or software issues there -- just a crappy drive.

My CD drive story. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12256090)

In 1990 I bought myself a brand new CD ROM! Wow! In those days they didn't even have 1x or 2x speed, it was just a CD ROM. It was made by Philips I think. It lasted me a full 6 years until 1996 when it broke because I snapped the tray during a party. No doubt it would have continued for many more years faithfully rotating out data at a laughable >1x speed. So I bought a new one, an amazing 4x Hitachi CD R/W. It came with a 12 month warranty. It lasted exactly 11 months and died without warning. I was very happy that the store honoured the warranty and replaced it with a brand new one. However, since they didn't make 4x devices any longer I begrudgingly had to take a 6x one. Well guess what? 11 month later to the day nearly, I boot up and the 6x CD is making a ghastly clicking sound and looks like its bought the farm again. So I check the warranty, and Im covered. So back to the store and this time they are all out of 6x devices, so after much arm twisting and threats I reluctantly go home with an 8x CD ROM unit. At this point let me factor out the obvious iteration and say that this cycle lasted 5 times through, taking me to 2001 whereupon I accidently became the unfortunate owner of a device capable of outliving its warranty (by 3 or 4 months). Damn! I've done very well out of the 'disposable age' thanks very much.
Then again thinking of those landfill sites overflowing with mountains of dead and dying CD ROMs makes me sad for the environment, and the CD ROMs.

Welcome to the club (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256094)

I have yet to see any computer optical drive last more than four years. Most of them barely work when they're new. I guess they're telling us not not expect much for 60 bucks. We shouldn't let then get away with it. We all really fell for that hype about the durability of CDs and DVDs. And now we will have to buy new players and media every few years. I know I won't have the ability to build a long term solution until I can hack my turntable to back up my data to vinyl.

Disposable (2, Interesting)

fm6 (162816) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256099)

I think the big problem with DVD players and drives is that the marketplace has dictated that they be a cheap, low-margin item. Consider: most DVD players don't even have RF outputs. Yeah, most people use component outputs, but RF is still widely used, and most VCRs and PVRs support it. Profit margins on DVD players must be really low for them to leave off a feature that's still pretty standard.

So how else do manufacturers cut corners? By skimping on quality control, obviously. If 20% of your production run dies within months of coming off the line, it costs you -- but apparently not as much as making your production methods bulletproof.

When my mother asked me to help her buy a DVD player, I knew she'd freak if she bought one that died quickly. So I looked hard for a model that has a solid reputation for never breaking down. Couldn't find a one. Even the expensive models from Big Name brands seem to get a lot of complaints that say, "Had it for a year, then it died." Thought of recommending a service contract, but that's almost as expensive as replacing the thing every other year. So I had her buy the cheapest one in sight, and crossed my fingers. So far so good.

Perhaps you're doing something wrong, but I think you've probably just had a run of bad luck. The only thing you can do is just replace the drives as they die. There ought to be a better answer to your problem than that -- but I really don't think there is.

Keep optical drives away from vibrations and heat (4, Interesting)

c0d3h4x0r (604141) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256129)

Two short stories:

A friend of mine had a portable CD player that he hooked through his home stereo with a Y-cable. He put the CD player on top of the amplifier when in use. Guess what happened? The heat from the ventilation slots on the amplifier ultimately killed the accuracy of the CD player such that it wouldn't track anymore.

My parents bought a cheap DVD player and set it on top of their TV. They don't have a home theater or stereo system, so they just use the speakers built into the TV. Plus, my dad is losing his hearing so he always has to jack the sound way up on movie to hear the dialog. Guess what? The DVD player now doesn't track right, probably due to all the vibrations being constantly sent through it by the speakers inside the TV set.

Laptop optical drives (and hard drives and screens and everything else) die frequently because people jostle their laptops around and mistreat them, so no surprise there. But if you're having as many optical drive tracking-related failures as you claim to be having, then your drives are probably getting damaged through thematic mistreatment. Make sure your drives aren't sitting on any surface that eminates heat or is carrying vibrations.

BTW, the reason heat kills tracking of optical drives is that 99% of optical drives are built with a standard type of laser-tracking mechanism. The laser head rides along a metal rod/rail on one side, and then a parallel worm gear drives the head movement on the other side. With this approach, it's crucial that the metal rod/rail and the sleeve that rides on it have a low-friction relationship so they don't catch when the worm gear on the other side is trying to slide the head around. It's also crucial that the worm gear itself have a low-friction relationship with the threaded sleeve that rides along it so that it won't catch or bump as it does its work. It's typical for manufacturers to put some special lubricant on both the worm gear and the slider rod to reduce friction -- and it turns out to be essential for the whole thing to work. If you continually expose the device to heat, or to extremely dry conditions, the lubricant dries up and then the device won't track properly anymore. I've fixed several CD/CD-ROM drives that weren't tracking right by simply opening them up and applying a safe-for-plastics (silicone-based) lubricant to the worm gear and rail/rod with a Q-tip, and then working it in evenly by putting in a full audio CD and skipping from track to track to cause the head to move along the full range back and forth a few times.

They fail sometimes, but not that often (1)

Wyzard (110714) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256131)

I have a stack of five optical drives under my desk. Four of them are dead, but only one of those is a DVD drive; the rest are old CD-ROM drives. The working drive is a K Hypermedia 48x CD-RW, which a friend gave to me after replacing it with a DVD burner.

What's not in that stack is another drive of mine which failed in a very peculiar way: it reads silver-colored pressed discs and CD-Rs just fine, but it rejects gold-colored discs, which happen to be about half the DVDs I own. I'm not sure about CD-RWs.

Currently in my computer I have a Plextor 16/10/40A and a generic DVD writer. The Plextor died a few years ago, but was replaced under warranty. These days, I have no problems with either drive.

DJ's usually get their CD players realigned. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12256132)

DJ's usually get their CD players realigned. DVD players are no different. Just because a DVD player thinks it is in position X doesn't mean it actually is.

It's called "planned obsolescence" (1)

podoboo (731311) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256144)

Capitalism requires continually increased consumption, so commodities must necessarily have shorter and shorter lifespans. Soon you'll be buying a dvd player every month, wondering what happened to the "good ole days" when it was every couple years. The upshot is: commoditizing resources faster than they can be replenished is impossible to sustain.

I always keep a couple spares on hand.. (1)

the_rajah (749499) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256145)

I've been noticing this a lot over the past couple years with friends bringing their computers for me to fix. I can't correlate to any particular brand of computer or drive. Just seems like a high failure rate in general. I've not been using DVD drives long enough to evaluate reliability, but will probably be on the lookout for good sales to keep one or two in the storage room cause I figure I'm going to be needing them.

Just you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12256162)

Invest in some air filters for your house.

My $2 (adjusted for inflation) (3, Informative)

Reziac (43301) | more than 9 years ago | (#12256174)

1) Don't use cleaner disks that have the little brushes; they can knock the head out of alignment. As a last-ditch for a dead drive, you might try one of the cleaner PADS, but even so that is not something to do with a working drive.

2) Make sure the case has positive air pressure inside (simplest way is to have one more intake fan, placed at least halfway up the case, than it does outflow fans), to keep air flowing OUT through the various drive orifices. I live in the dusty desert with house cats, and even so, thanks to their intake fans, my systems stay nearly white-glove clean inside.

3) Make sure the case has good cooling; some CDRWs are extremely heat-sensitive.

4) If you smoke, quit. Cig smoke residue is very hard on computer components. (Damp ocean air isn't much better.)

5) DON'T put labels on burned disks; there is no way you can align them exactly enough to avoid throwing the disk out of balance, and that can eventually damage the drive's alignment.

As to personal experiences:

ALL Yamaha CDRWs I've seen to date (20 so far, both SCSI and IDE) have died prematurely, due to overheating that eventually warps the laser out of alignment.

But otherwise, they're pretty damned durable. Right now in everyday use I have:

-- Plextor 24x CDRW (2001)
-- LiteOn 52x CDRW (2002)
-- LiteOn 48x CDRW (2002) -- has burned over 1000 disks (with occasional all-day marathons).
-- Acer 50x CDROM (2000)
-- Mitsumi 4x CDROM (1995)
-- LiteOn 16x DVD (2002)

Plus a whole bunch of CDROMs (Panasonic, Sony, various generics) in other boxes, that date back as far as 1994, and still work. Also, I've *never* seen ANY LiteOn unit go bad, and most clone dealers will say the same.

The only optical drives I've had die were three Yamaha CDRWs (see above), and one ancient Panasonic 2x (1994) that lost its drive belt at age 6, tho it still worked otherwise.

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