These days, while most of us are putting all our music from our CD collection onto MP3 players, we are finding that our old compact discs are not faring so well with the years. Smudges, scratches and spots can make a once loved musical CD unlistenable (much like a perfectly intact Michael Bolton album). Even if it looks like there is a lot of damage to the surface, there may be an easy fix that can have you back listening to your favorite worn out CD in no time. You can fix scratched discs at home, so let's get started.
- Burn a new CD. Before attempting a repair, try burning a copy of it. One CD burner may be able to read the information off of an old scratched CD while another one can’t. It’s certainly worth a try.
- Try another CD player. Test the CD in a different player, such as a car stereo or in a different computer. Often, a scratched disc will play in one player and not another.
- Find the scratches. Hold your CD up to the light and check it from different angles. You can really see the scratches in the surface this way. If you have only one scratch or there are a few scratches in the same area, try to focus on these when cleaning so you won't risk scratching any good surfaces.
Before you go further, it helps to know how a CD works. A compact disc is like a record album. It plays in a spiral motion but is read from the center to the outer edge. Where a record player uses a stylus, a CD player uses a laser that reflects off the pitted surface to read the disc. If something redirects the beam, the CD skips. A scratch that runs from center to the edge isn't as bad as one that runs parallel with the track. The worst, however, is a scratch that is on the side of the CD that displays the label. The underside of this label is like a mirror off of which the laser reflects. If this mirror is damaged in any manner, you are most likely out of luck.
- Gently clean your CD. Some of the "scratches" may actually be smudges (from handling) or some other kind of spot. Know how to clean a CD before moving forward. Take a damp, lint free cloth (like the little microfiber cloths that are used to clean eyeglasses or optical lenses). Start at the center and wipe to the outside edge in a straight line. Do not wipe in a circular motion. This should clean off anything that might have soiled the disc and hopefully remove scratches--or what you thought were scratches.
- Polish or wax the CD. As a last resort, you might try polishing the disc with baking soda toothpaste or a metal polish. As crazy as it sounds, a thin coat of liquid car or furniture wax may also work. Be sure to use a soft lint-free cloth as mentioned above. It is possible to damage the CD further so use a gentle, light touch. Rinse the disc with plenty of warm water to remove any residue . Shake it off and let it dry completely. Wipe it gently and thoroughly again with a clean soft cloth.
- Get a scratch repair kit. Find a scratch repair kit that has a liquid repair bottle like this one at Buy.com. There is also a product for sale that is like a handy-wipe but it is strictly for CD repairing. You can find this one via Amazon.com. Either way, use the same method mentioned earlier, wiping from the center of the disc to the outer edge in a straight line. Just rub lightly on the scratch itself. You could also get a disc repair system that polishes the whole disc. CD Clinic (CarolWrightGifts) or the Skip Doctor (HeartlandAmerica) have a product that can resurface discs. In this process, most all of your scratches get repaired by putting the disc in the unit and spraying it with a special liquid they include. Then, you either turn on the unit or use a handle to spin the disc, depending on the model.
- Pay a professional. Take the CD to a music store or store that rents DVDs. Ask if they can repair it for you. Some of these businesses have refinishing machines. There may be a small fee of five dollars or less to have them do the repair.
Now you know how to fix a scratched CD. Whichever way you choose, be careful when handling and storing them. You might be surprised at how much damage a little dust can do to the surface of your discs. Keep them in their protective cases or a holder that uses soft material as a backing.