By Stephen Bucaro
Today there are many forms of CD (compact disc) media. CD-RW allows you to over-write
previous data. CD-R is one-time recordable. This article focuses on problems with
standard CD-ROMs (read only media), but some of the information also applies to the
A CD-ROM is written by etching "pits" into the surface of the disc. To read a CD, a laser
beam is directed at the disc as it spins inside the drive. The areas between the pits,
called "lands", reflect more light than the pits. A sensor in the drive reads the data by
measuring the amount of reflected light.
Most problems with CD-ROMs are caused by mishandling. Fingerprints and scratches on the
surface of the CD cause electrical noise when read in the drive. Never touch the recorded
surface of a CD-ROM, always hold it by the edges. Never put a label on a CD-ROM, this can
cause it to vibrate because of an imbalance.
Use the following troubleshooting guide.
• Can't Read CD-ROM
First check the obvious. Try another CD-ROM in the drive. If you have another computer,
try the first CD-ROM in the other computer.
• Recordable CDs are made differently than regular CD-ROMS. Instead of etching
pits into the surface of the disc, heat is used to burn spots on the surface of the disc.
Some high-speed CD-ROM drives cannot read some recordable CDs. Also, the file structure on
a recordable CD may not be compatible with the operating system.
• No CD Sound
If the CD drive starts, but no sound comes from the speakers, try plugging a headset into
the jack on the front of the drive. If the headset works, the problem is in your speaker
system or sound card.
If the CD drive does not start, enable autoplay on your computer. Select Start | Settings
| Control Panel | System. In the System dialog box select the Device Manager tab. Click
on the + sign next to CDROM to open that branch. Then click on the name of the CD-ROM to
highlight it. Click on the Properties button. In the properties dialog box, select the
Settings tab. Check the box next to "Auto insert notification". Click on the OK button.
Then remove and replace the CD.
• Can't See the CD Drive in Explorer
Modern CD-ROM drives use the same ATA (Advanced Technology Attachment) interface that a
hard drive uses. (Sometimes called IDE for integrated drive electronics). A motherboard usually
has two ATA channels, primary and secondary. Each channel can control two drives, master and slave.
In Device Manager, click on the + next to Hard disk controllers to open that branch. Make
sure the Primary and Secondary IDE controllers are listed and they don't have a yellow
exclamation (!) mark next to them. If one is not visible, the controller may be disabled
in the BIOS setup. If there is an exclamation mark, the CD-ROM drive may be defective.
• Eject Button Does Not Work
If a CD gets stuck in the drive, turn off the power to the PC. Then insert a straightened
paper clip into the tiny emergency eject hole on the front of the drive.
• Unusual Problems
Inside the computer's case, make sure the power cable on the back of the CD-ROM drive is
not loose. Make sure the data cable is not loose on the connector on the back of the
CD-ROM drive and on the motherboard. A loose cable may have worked until dust drawn in by
the cooling fan accumulated inside the case.
The ATA channel master or slave assignment is configured automatically by the data cable
or is configured by a jumper on the back of the CD-ROM drive. If a new drive has been
added, check this configuration.
Some software records the letter of the CD-ROM drive from which it was installed. If you
later remove or install a storage device, Windows will reassign the drive letters. The
software may not be able to find the CD-ROM drive. If you can't reconfigure that software,
you can go into the CD-ROM drive's Properties dialog box, select the Settings tab, and set
a letter to be used by the drive.
Some CD-ROM drives require a driver. Follow the drive manufacturers instructions to install
the driver. It can usually be done through the CD-ROM drive's Properties dialog box, Driver tab.
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• Computer Repair with Diagnostic Flowcharts
• How to Troubleshoot and Repair Optical Drive
• The Windows Memory Dump Explained
• Video - Using the Problem Steps Recorder Tool
• How to Restore an HP Computer to Factory Settings
• Undoing a Windows Update
• How to Fix Extensible Storage Engine Errors
• Troubleshoot with Free Process Explorer Utility
• Windows 10 Built-in Troubleshooters