This is intended to be a quick overview of the way I troubleshoot problems with an optical drive. At the same time, there will be some discussion that reflects my general approach to hardware troubleshooting. While you’ll find most of my participation on the hardware forums, there are many situations where optical drive problems are caused by software, either drivers or applications, that use these devices. In the disk drives forum, we try to answer all such questions. Only when it is clear that there is a more general operating system cause will we recommend people seek help in the software forums.

In the discussion, I distinguish symptoms from issues. What users report in the forum are symptoms. Our job is to determine the issue that is causing that symptom. When someone posts a message at the end of an existing thread such as, “I’m having the same problem,” I never assume they do. The same symptom may be the result of several different causes.

Here are the most commonly reported symptoms in the disk drives forum for optical drives:

a. The drive fails to read a disc, or one type of disc, or any disc.

b. The drive reads data discs fine, but will not play a movie disc (DVD or Blu-Ray).

c. The drive shows an error in device manager (code 10, 19 and 39, most commonly), or has disappeared from Windows altogether.

d. The drive reads data discs fine, but fails to burn a certain type of disc, or any disc at all.

e. The drive will not boot the system with a bootable disc in the drive.

f. The drive reads and writes fine, but is very noisy.

g. The drive will not eject a disc when the eject button is pushed or the eject command is run from Explorer.

h. When a disc is inserted into the drive, nothing happens.

i. The drive will not burn a disc in iTunes.

1. Determine if the problem is caused by a hardware or software issue;

If it is not readily apparent that the user has a software versus hardware problem, I will suggest performing the Dell diagnostics from the F12 partition. Here’s how to run the Dell diagnostics from the F12 partition.

1. Reboot your system. When you see the Dell logo, hit F12 to enter the boot menu.

2. Select Boot to utility partition or Diagnostics.

3. Select Test System.

4. Select Custom Test.

5. Use the arrow keys or mouse to select your CD/DVD drive.

6. Insert a CD, DVD, or BD disc (try them all).

7. Click Run Tests.

8. Write down any error messages.

2. If the problem is hardware;

2.1. Update the firmware (find these in downloads). This may fix a few drives (not many).

2.2. If the drive can read DVDs but not CDs, or CDs but not DVDs, replace it.

2.3. If the drive reads some CD/DVD/BR discs but not others, replace it. For example, the drive reads some some movie discs but not others.

2.4. If you cannot eject a disc already in the drive, try the eject command from within Explorer, try ejecting while in safe mode, or try ejecting while booted to the BIOS.

2.5. A new desktop drive is only $20-25. Most desktops have the option of adding a second drive, so for an intermittent problem, you can get a new drive and keep the old one.

3. If the problem is not hardware;

3.1. Run the Fix-It utility.

3.2. If Fix-It finds but cannot fix the problem, manually delete the upper and lower filters.

3.3. If the drive is not reading properly (playing an audio or movie disc, initiating autorun), check the
following:

-- Check the autoplay options. Alternatively, disable autoplay and start the desired application manually.

-- Try to read the contents of the disc in Explorer.

-- Try to read the disc contents in Explorer in safe mode.

-- Try another disc. If some work while others don’t, it’s probably best to replace the drive. (But see below for problems with BD discs.)

-- Try an alternate application for playing audio or movie discs. VLC Media Player is one of the most popular, but does not work for all BD discs.

-- For CD-R and DVD_R discs with data on them, see if the disc is readable on an older computer. Some discs written using “packet-writing” programs will not work in Vista or Win 7.

3.4. If the drive is not writing to blank media at all or inconsistently, check the following:

-- Use a media-reading utility such as DVD Identifier or Nero InfoTool to determine if the drive is reading the blank disc.

-- Reinstall your burning program, or try a different burning program (ImgBurn, for example).

-- Be sure you are using high quality media, such a Taiyo Yuden, Verbatim, etc.

In Vista and Windows 7, I recommend using the mastered disc-burning option for best long-term reliability and compatibility. Note that the commonly seen advice to burn at lower speeds
almost never solves burning problems.

3.5. If you are having audio disc problems, but everything else works fine, try another computer to check the integrity of the disc. If the disc is good, then suspect a content protection (DRM) problem. DRM problems can sometimes be solved by using a different model drive, or by updating the firmware.

3.6. If you cannot play a BD movie, and the disc is readable in Explorer, and your system is DHCP–compliant, it is most likely a DRM problem with the software. The most effective way to fix the problem is to install a trial version of a retail BD viewing application (PowerDVD or WinDVD), and buy if it works.

3.7. If you cannot burn a disc in iTunes, my suggestion is to peruse the iTunes forums for ideas. It is common to have upper/lower filter problems with iTunes. iTunes also provides its own set
of error codes that are useful for solving problems.