LoboLinks | How to Repair Hundreds of Scratched Discs for Ten Bucks or Less

How to Repair Hundreds of Scratched Discs for Ten Bucks or Less

Date Added: July 04, 2008 05:55:06 PM
When one of your favorite discs is scratched or scuffed, you have a few choices. You can throw away the seemingly-useless disc and buy a replacement. This, however, can cost you anywhere from a couple of dollars to a couple of hundred, depending on the disc. Your favorite music CD might not be too costly to replace, but buying another copy of that expensive PC software can really kill your budget.


If that’s not a good option (it rarely is), you can opt for disc repair. You can take the damaged disc to a professional – usually located in a DVD rental place or record store – and pay a buck or two per disc for repair. These stores use industrial machines to buff out the scratches – most of them, anyway – so that you can enjoy your disc again.


You can also buy a home kit, which can be more cost effective depending on how many discs you plan to repair. These repair kits, which can cost as little as six dollars depending on the brand and how well you comparison shop, generally do a good job on light surface scratches. The compounds and buffing wheels or pads that come with these kits generally are not designed to deal with deep scratches or gouges. So, if you have a severely-damaged disc, the kits are usually a waste of money.


However, there is an even cheaper option: skipping the special repair products and creating your own repair kit. This is easy and very cheap. With a small initial investment and a little practice, you can repair most damaged discs in just a few minutes.


Discs skip and freeze because the player cannot smoothly read the play surface. Scratches and scuff marks throw off the laser, causing your problems. Because the disc’s play surface is made of plastic, you can easily buff out the problems with the right compound or solution. You’ll lose a very thin layer of plastic, but not nearly enough to damage your discs.


Note, however, that there is such a thing as too much damage. Hold the damaged disc up to a light (preferably a lamp or overhead light – anything but the sun). If you can see light through the disc, the data in that area is gone forever. You can repair the disc to remove scratches that are in other areas – and thus be able to recover more of your data – but you usually won’t be able to salvage the damaged sectors. The best you can hope for is that you have a player that “reads through” the damaged sectors.


You will need a few things before you start the repair process. Go to a discount department store or hardware store and pick up these items:


  • A can of Brasso, which will cost anywhere from two to four dollars. This metal polish is perfectly safe for discs, but you should be careful when you’re using it. Read the label before you do anything.


  • Several eyeglass polishing cloths, which will add another few bucks to the bill (the price varies widely depending on what you buy and where). You can substitute with any similar cloth, but make sure that whatever you use does not leave lint behind and is very soft so as not to leave more scratches on your disc during repair.


  • A spray bottle of window cleaner (another buck).


  • A damaged disc that does not matter to you at all (free). Before you try to repair your precious – or irreplaceable – discs, you should get the hang of the technique. A good practice disc is one of the trial CD-ROMs that bombard your mailbox several times a month.


First, scratch or scuff the practice disc. Toss the hated trial CD-ROM on the floor with the play side down and kick it around for a few minutes. Use a house key to add a couple of scratches. Let your toddler use the disc as a Frisbee. How you wreck the disc doesn’t matter as long as you have a few scratches that you can practice buffing out.


Now, find a hard and flat surface for your repair job. You should not hold the disc in your hand while you work because the pressure from your buffing hand can crack the disc.


An alternative to finding the hard, flat surface is to use the tray section of a jewel case. This will keep the disc in place while you make the repairs. Just make sure you use a jewel case that you don’t really want anymore, as the tray will be covered in chemicals when you’re finished.


Put a few drops of Brasso on your polishing cloth (just a couple of drops – you don’t need much of this stuff at all) and start buffing. You should wipe in the same direction as the scratch. This will smooth out the plastic around and inside the scratch, which will lighten the mark and make it possible for your player’s lens to read the disc.


Buff with light, smooth strokes. You should see the scratch lighten with every few passes. If the scratch is particularly deep, use a little more pressure. Don’t overdo the buffing, though. After several passes, you should stop and move on to a different scratch. Otherwise, you can become too excited and buff away too much of the disc’s plastic.


Once you’ve made your first pass on all of the scratches, leave the disc alone. Let the Brasso dry completely. You should have a thin layer of Brasso on the scratched parts of the disc, so drying should not take more than a few minutes.


When the Brasso is dry, use another cloth to wipe it all off. For this step, you should always wipe in a radial pattern (from the center hole out to the edge). You might have to put a little pressure on the disc to wipe off all the Brasso, but not too much.


Now you should inspect the disc’s play side. Most of the lightest scratches should be either very faint or gone. You might have a deeper scratch that’s still visible. If this is the case, apply a few more drops of Brasso and take things from there. You might have to repeat this process several times, but don’t be discouraged. The Brasso will smooth out almost any scratch – even the deeper gouges.


The disc’s surface might look milky or hazy even though you’ve wiped away any remaining Brasso. This is not a big deal. Your player will not have any problems reading through this residue. But, that’s not really an issue anyway because you’re about to clean up the disc.


Once you’re satisfied that you’ve removed enough of the disc’s scratches, make sure that you’ve wiped away as much of the Brasso as you can. Now, spray the window cleaner on the play side and use yet another clean cloth to wipe it off. Once again, you should wipe in a radial pattern.


Once you’ve removed the window cleaner, you should have a clean, smooth disc. You can repeat the window-cleaner treatment if you still see hazy spots. But if you can’t remove them all, don’t worry. Your disc should still play.


There’s just one more thing that you should do before you try to play the disc. Put the disc in a stream of lukewarm water (not cold or hot because these extreme temperatures can damage the disc). Use a couple of drops of mild dishwashing soap to help clean off any residue that might be left. A simple rinse might not work very well, so use your thumb to gently wipe away anything that might be left on the disc. Wipe in a radial pattern so that you don’t inadvertently damage the play side.


You really need to do an excellent job of cleaning up your disc. You should also make sure that the disc is completely dry before you do anything with it. Otherwise, you risk putting Brasso, window cleaner or water into your player. That device will be a lot harder, and more expensive, to repair than the discs, so be patient and thorough with your work.


Once the disc is dry, put it into your player and give it a try. If you still have a problem, examine the disc for scratches that you missed. If there are no visible problems, try the disc in a different player. Sometimes one player just hates certain discs.


One thing to keep in mind when you repair a disc is that the play side only contains so much plastic. If you aren’t careful with your discs, you’ll have to repair them several times. At some point, repeated repair jobs will buff away the plastic until you’ve exposed the data wafer, which means that you have a useless disc on your hands.


Taking good care of all your discs is the best way to avoid this problem. Store all of your discs in safe places – i.e. in cases or sleeves that are kept away from curious children and pets. Always handle the discs by their edges and make sure that your hands are clean before you touch them. These easy precautions will extend the lives of your discs and make your life that much easier.