Computer CD-ROM drives are fairly robust and need little if any attention. They can function even with a fair amount of dust on the lens, but on rare occasions, may get dirty enough to require cleaning. Symptoms of a dirty lens include long read times, problems recognizing that there is a disc in the drive, and skipping or repeating on audio CDs. These symptoms are often intermittent and a CD drive may function perfectly most of the time and have only occasional problems.
These should never be cleaned routinely. Clean them only if you suspect a problem. The cleaning process itself carries a small chance of damaging the lens or other equipment.
If only one disc is behaving badly, it's likely to be just that disc that is the problem. Even if several discs have problems, your first step should be cleaning and inspecting the discs rather than the drive. Here's how to clean a CD.
- Dampen a soft cloth or paper towel. Don't use a dry cloth as that may scratch the disc.
- Wipe the disc gently from center to edge, not in a circular motion.
- Try just using water at first, but if that doesn't fix the problem, you can try a mild detergent. Never use abrasives or solvents.
- Dry with a lint-free cloth.
If the CD drive is not working, and cleaning the discs doesn't help, you can try blowing out the dust from the drive. Do this only with the computer turned off.
- Don't blow into the drive as you will just blow in saliva and whatever you had for lunch. Tiny particles you can't even see are like boulders to a lens. The best thing to use is an air bulb, but you can also use a can of compressed air if you are very careful.
- Use gentle, short bursts of air. You're not blowing out birthday candles, so if using a can of air, use a very light touch.
- If using a can of air, be sure to hold the can upright. If you hold it at an angle you will blow in some of the liquefied gas which can damage the lens.
If blowing out the dust doesn't work, you might consider getting a commercial CD lens cleaning disc, but be careful with these disc cleaners. These cleaning products are designed for cleaning audio CD drives which spin at a much slower rate. Even discs marked as being specifically for cleaning CD-ROM drives are often just repackaged audio CD cleaners.
If you've tried a CD cleaner and it is still giving you problems, the next step would be to open it up and clean the lens with a cotton swab. Since this will void your warranty and carries some safety concerns, you should take the computer in and let a professional handle it.
The best thing to do is to keep the drive from getting dirty in the first place. Try to keep pets away, keep the CDs clean and in their cases when not in use, locate the computer far from the kitchen to avoid grease, and if you are a smoker, then smoke in another room.