How Discs Are Repaired

How Discs Are Repaired

Ever put on your favourite movie, album or game and found that the disc skips, jumps or simply won’t play in the machine …You’re not alone, it’s a common problem, but one most people don’t realise can be easy to fix.

The Problem: Scratches

When you get scratches on the shiny side of a disc, the tiny grooves can deflect the laser, which would otherwise bounce off the data straight back into a sensor. By deflecting the beam, the sensor cannot read the data and the disc will skip, jump or otherwise not play properly.

Nine times out of ten, the data is not affected at all by the scratch, it is just a defect in the plastic disc which acts as a lens into the data. All you need to do is remove the scratch and the disc should play normally again.

There are different formats of optical disc, like CD, DVD and Blu-ray which are all constructed slightly differently, though the basics remain the same: if the shiny surface has a scratch, it will probably deflect the laser and prevent the disc from playing.

Disc Scratch Deflecting Laser Beam

* Click to enlarge

The Solution: Disc Polishing or Buffing

Repaired Disc

* Click to enlarge

Polishing a scratch out of a disc usually involves removing the material surrounding the scratch. The scratches are usually less than 1% the thickness of the entire disc, so there is no danger in removing all the material surrounding the scratch.

In some cases the scratches might be very heavy and a repair can take longer as more material needs to be removed. Some scratches can be so heavy that it is not cost-effective to even attempt repairing them, but these are severe and quite rare.

A repaired disc does not need to be completely scratch free to be playable. because of the way the data is distributed around the disc, a few tiny hairline scratches here and there may make no difference to the playability of a disc.

The Exceptions

The data on your disc is stored in a foil layer as tiny impressions that a laser reads as ones and zeros. If any of the foil layer that the data is stored on is broken or damaged in any way, then that data is not recoverable.

The disc repair only deals with removal of scratches from the plastic disc – It cannot replace missing parts of the disc or replace damaged data on the foil layer.

Your disc could be irreparable if any of these apply:

  • Cracks through the shiny surface
  • It’s warped or distorted in any way
  • You can see light coming through areas in the disc
  • There are heavy depressions in the surface
cracked disc
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