How to Fix a Scratched CD
While compact discs (CDs) are remarkably durable, it's nearly impossible to
prevent scratches and scuffs from occurring from time to time. The resulting
damage can be either a skip in your favorite Bob Marley track or, in the case of
data CDs, the loss of that spreadsheet you worked on for two weeks. Don't
despair—repair! While commercial CD repair kits and CD refinishing machines are
available, you may be able to repair the damage on your own with products you
already have. Here's how.
1. Clean the disc. Even if a CD isn't actually scratched or scuffed, dust, oil,
and other surface contaminants can prevent it from playing properly. Thus
cleaning the disc should always be your first move. Run warm water over the
damaged disc to remove dust. If there is stubborn dirt or grease on the disc,
gently rub it with your finger while you are washing it, and use a gentle
detergent (with the water) or rubbing alcohol (in place of water.) Anytime you
rub or wipe a CD, you should do so by starting at or near the center of the disc
and rubbing straight outward toward the edge to prevent further scratching. Shake
the water off and let the disc air-dry (do not dry it with a towel or cloth).
2. Try to play the disc. Many times a good cleaning is all that is needed. If,
however, problems persist after cleaning, try to play the disc in a different CD
player. Some players handle scratches better than others; computer CD drives
tend to be best.
3. Burn a new disc. If you can get the CD to work in one CD player — especially
your computer's — but not in others, try burning a new disc. The CD burning
utility on your computer may be able to read the CD well enough to produce a
perfect copy. You may wish to try this even if the CD doesn't play correctly on
4. Locate the scratch. Actually repairing the disc will be easier if you can
figure out where the offending scratch is. Visually inspect the CD's playing
surface for scratches or scuffs. Scratches that run perpendicular to the CD's
spiral — that is, those that run generally from the center to the rim — may not
affect playing at all, and in any case are generally less damaging than those
that roughly follow the direction of the spiral.
If there are several scratches, but the CD only skips in one or two places, you
may be able to approximate the location of the offending scratches based on
which track skips. Keep in mind that the first track of a CD begins near the
center, and the direction of play proceeds outward to the edge.