CD/DVD Troubleshooting

Failure Reading a CD/DVD

If your drive fails to read a CD or DVD, try the following solutions:

  • Check for scratches on the disc data surface.

  • Check the drive for dust and dirt; use a cleaning disc.

  • Make sure the drive shows up as a working device in System Properties.

  • Try a disc that you know works.

  • Restart the computer (the magic cure-all).

  • Remove the drive from Device Manager in Windows 9x or later versions, allow the system to redetect the drive, and then reinstall the drivers (if PnP-based system).

Failure to Read CD-R, CD-RW Discs in CD-ROM or DVD Drive

If your CD-ROM or DVD drive fails to read CD-R and CD-RW discs, try the following solutions:

  • Check compatibility; some very old 1x CD-ROM drives can't read CD-R media. Replace the drive with a newer, faster, cheaper model.

  • Many early-model DVD drives can't read CD-R, CD-RW media; check compatibility.

  • The CD-ROM drive must be MultiRead compatible to read CD-RW because of the lower reflectivity of the media; replace the drive.

  • If some CD-Rs but not others can be read, check the media color combination to see whether some color combinations work better than others; change the brand of media.

  • Packet-written CD-Rs (from Adaptec DirectCD and backup programs) can't be read on MS-DOS/Windows 3.1 CD-ROM drives because of the limitations of the operating system.

  • Record the media at a slower speed. The pits/lands created at faster speeds sometimes can't be read by older drives.

  • If you are trying to read a packet-written CD-R created with Adaptec/Roxio DirectCD on a CD-ROM drive, reinsert the media into the original drive, eject the media, and select the option Close to Read on Any Drive.

  • Download and install a UDF reader compatible with the packet-writing software used to create the CD-RW on the target computer. If you are not sure how the media was created, Software Architects offers a universal UDF reader/media repair program called FixUDF! (also included as part of WriteCD-RW! Pro). WriteDVD! Pro includes the similar FixDVD! UDF reader/media repair program for DVD drives.

Failure to Read a Rewritable DVD in DVD-ROM Drive or Player

If your DVD-ROM or DVD player fails to read a rewritable DVD, try the following solutions:

  • Reinsert DVD-RW media into the original drive and finalize the media. Make sure you don't need to add any more data to the media if you use a first-generation (DVD-R 2x/DVD-RW 1x) drive because you must erase the entire disc to do so. You can unfinalize media written by second-generation DVD-R 4x/DVD-RW 2x drives. See your DVD-RW disc writing software instructions or help file for details.

  • Reinsert DVD+RW media into the original drive and change the compatibility setting to emulate DVD-ROM.

  • Make sure the media contains more than 521MB of data. Some drives can't read media that contains a small amount of data.

Failure to Create a Writable DVD

If you can't create a writable DVD but the drive can be used with CD-R, CD-RW, or rewritable DVD media, try the following solutions:

  • Make sure you are using the correct media. +R and –R media can't be interchanged unless the drive is a DVD±R/RW dual-mode drive.

  • Be sure you select the option to create a DVD project in your mastering software. Some CD/DVD-mastering software defaults to the CD-R setting.

  • Select the correct drive as the target. If you have both rewritable DVD and rewritable CD drives on the same system, be sure to specify the rewritable DVD drive.

  • Try a different disc.

  • Contact the mastering software vendor for a software update.

Failure Writing to CD-RW or DVD-RW 1x Media

If you can't write to CD-RW or DVD-RW 1x media, try the following solutions:

  • Make sure the media is formatted. Use the format tool provided with the UDF software to prepare the media for use.

  • If the media was formatted, verify it was formatted with the same or compatible UDF program. Different packet-writing programs support different versions of the UDF standard. I recommend you use the same UDF packet-writing software on the computers you use or use drives that support the Mount Rainier standard.

  • Make sure the system has identified the media as CD-RW or DVD-RW. Eject and reinsert the media to force the drive to redetect it.

  • Contact the packet-writing software vendor for a software update.

  • Disc might have been formatted with Windows XP's own limited CD writing software instead of a true UDF packet-writing program. Erase the disc with Windows XP after transferring any needed files from the media; then format it with your preferred UDF program.

  • Contact the drive vendor for a firmware update.

ATAPI CD-ROM or DVD Drive Runs Slowly

If your ATAPI CD-ROM or DVD drive performs poorly, check the following items:

  • Check the cache size in the Performance tab of the System Properties control panel. Select the quad-speed setting (largest cache size).

  • Check to see whether the drive is set as the slave to your hard disk; move the drive to the secondary controller if possible.

  • Your PIO (Programmed I/O) or UDMA mode might not be set correctly for your drive in the BIOS; check the drive specs and use autodetect in BIOS for the best results.

  • Check that you are using busmastering drivers on compatible systems; install the appropriate drivers for the motherboard's chipset and the operating system in use.

  • Check to see whether you are using the CD-ROM interface on your sound card instead of the ATA connection on the motherboard. Move the drive connection to the ATA interface on the motherboard and disable the sound card ATA if possible to free up IRQ and I/O port address ranges.

  • Open the System Properties control panel and select the Performance tab to see whether the system is using MS-DOS Compatibility Mode for CD-ROM drive. If all ATA drives are running in this mode, see and query on "MS-DOS Compatibility Mode" for a troubleshooter. If only the CD-ROM drive is in this mode, see whether you're using CD-ROM drivers in CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT.

Remove the lines containing references to the CD-ROM drivers (don't actually delete the lines—REM them), reboot the system, and verify that your CD-ROM drive still works and that it's running in 32-bit mode. Some older drives require at least the CONFIG.SYS driver to operate.

Trouble Reading CD-RW Discs on CD-ROM

If you can't read CD-RW discs in your CD-ROM, try the following solutions:

  • Check the vendor specifications to see whether your drive is MultiRead compliant. Some drives are not compliant.

  • If your drive is MultiRead compliant, try the CD-RW disc on a known-compliant CD-ROM drive (a drive with the MultiRead feature).

  • Insert CD-RW media back into the original drive and check it for problems with the packet-writing software program's utilities.

  • Insert CD-RW media back into the original drive and eject the media. Use the right-click Eject command in My Computer or Windows Explorer to properly close the media.

  • Create a writable CD or DVD to transfer data to a computer that continues to have problems reading rewritable media.

Trouble Reading CD-R Discs on DVD Drive

If your DVD drive can't read a CD-R disc, check to see that the drive is MultiRead2 compliant because non-compliant DVDs can't read CD-R media. Newer DVD drives generally support reading CD-R media.

Trouble Making Bootable CDs

If you are having problems creating a bootable CD, try these possible solutions:

  • Check the contents of the bootable floppy disk from which you copied the boot image. To access the entire contents of a CD, a bootable disk must contain CD-ROM drivers, AUTOEXEC.BAT, and CONFIG.SYS.

  • Use the ISO 9660 format. Don't use the Joliet format because it is for long-filename CDs and can't boot.

  • Check your system's BIOS for boot compliance and boot order; the CD-ROM should be listed first.

  • SCSI CD-ROMs need a SCSI card with BIOS and bootable capability as well as special motherboard BIOS settings.

Updating the Firmware in a CD-RW or Rewritable DVD Drive

Just as updating the motherboard BIOS can solve compatibility problems with CPU and memory, support, USB ports, and system stability, upgrading the firmware in a rewritable CD or DVD drive can also solve problems with media compatibility, writing speed, and digital audio extraction from scratched discs and even prevent potentially fatal mismatches between media and drives.

For example, I noticed that a Plextor CD-RW drive with a maximum CD-R writing speed of 40x was working near its maximum speed when writing to green-gold media brands such as Philips and Imation. However, when using azo blue/silver Verbatim media, performance sank to an average of 10x or less.

A check of the Plextor revealed that the latest firmware upgrade improved results when Verbatim media was used. After I installed the update, the drive wrote at top speed to azo blue/silver, green-gold, and other types of CD-R media.

To determine exactly which problems a firmware update can solve for you, be sure to check your drive vendor's Web site. This is especially important if you have a Pioneer DVD-RW drive; it can be a matter of life and death to your drive!

Several Pioneer DVD-RW drive models—including the DVR-A03, 103, A04, and 104 models, as well as the DVR-7000 and PRV-9000 standalone recorders—can be damaged or destroyed if they attempt to write to high-speed DVD-RW/R media (4x DVD-R, 2x DVD-RW speeds) before the firmware update is installed.

Now that high-speed media is also available for DVD+RW drives, firmware updates are available for these drives to prevent problems with 2.4x drives writing to 4x media.

Determining Whether You Might Need a Firmware Update

If you encounter any of the following issues, a firmware update might be necessary:

  • Your drive can't use a particular type of media, or it performs much more slowly with one type of media than other types/brands of media.

  • Your writing software stops recognizing the drive as a rewritable drive.

  • You want to use faster media than what the drive was originally designed to use (particularly true with Pioneer drives).

Because any firmware update runs a risk of failure and a failed firmware update can render your drive useless (I've seen it happen), you shouldn't install firmware updates casually. However, as the preceding examples make clear, sooner or later you'll probably need one.

Note that firmware updates don't fix the following problems:

  • Drive not recognized by a newly installed CD or DVD mastering program

  • Drive not recognized by Windows XP's built-in CD writing program

Because each rewritable CD or DVD drive has special characteristics at present (in the future, Mount Rainier support will standardize drive characteristics), CD or DVD writing programs you buy at retail must have model-specific updates to work. Get the update from the software vendor, or use the software provided with the drive.

If you are trying to use an OEM version of a program with a different drive model from the original, you will also need an update from the software vendor (in some cases, an OEM version works only with the original drive with which it was packaged).

Windows XP's built-in CD writing feature is a pale imitation of even the worst third-party CD mastering program, but if you insist on using it, be sure your drive is listed in the Windows Catalog of supported drives and devices.

To install the latest updates for Windows XP, including updates to the CD writing feature, use Windows Update. Microsoft Knowledge Base article 320174 discusses an update to the CD writing feature. Search the Microsoft Web site for other solutions.

Determining Which Drive Model and Firmware Are Installed

Before you can determine whether you need a firmware update for your rewritable drive, you need to know your drive model and which firmware version it's using. This is especially important if you use a drive that is an OEM product produced by a vendor other than the one that packaged the drive for resale.

You can use the following methods to determine this information:

  • Windows Device Manager (Windows 9x/Me)

  • CD/DVD Mastering Software Drive Information

With the Windows 9x/Me Device Manager, follow this procedure:

  1. Right-click My Computer and select Properties.

  2. Click the Device Manager tab.

  3. Click the plus (+) sign next to CDROM in the list of device types.

  4. Double-click the rewritable drive icon to display its properties sheet.

  5. Click the Settings tab; the firmware version and drive name will be displayed.

With Roxio Easy CD Creator 5, follow this procedure:

  1. Click Tools.

  2. Click CD-Drive Properties.

  3. Click the drive letter.

  4. The firmware revision and drive brand/model are listed along with other information.

With Nero Burning ROM 5.5, follow this procedure:

  1. Click Recorder from the top-level menu.

  2. Click the drive desired.

  3. The drive model and firmware version are displayed along with other information.

After you have this information, you can go to your rewritable drive vendor's Web site and see whether a firmware update is available and what the benefits of installing the latest version would be.

Installing New Drive Firmware

Generally speaking, the firmware update procedure works like this, but you should be sure to follow the particular instructions given for your drive:

  1. If the firmware update is stored as a Zip file, you need to use an unzipping program or the integrated unzipping utility found in some versions of Windows to uncompress the update to a folder.

  2. If the drive maker provides a readme file, be sure to read it for help and troubleshooting. If the update file is an EXE file, it might display a readme file as part of step 3.

  3. Double-click the EXE file to start the update process. Be sure to leave the system powered on during the process (which can take 2–3 minutes).

  4. Follow the vendor's instructions for restarting your system.

  5. After you restart your system, the computer might redetect the drive and assign it the next available drive letter. If you previously assigned the drive a customized drive letter (for example, on one computer in my organization, Q: is used for a CD-RW drive and R: for a DVD+RW drive), use the Device Manager in Windows 9x/Me or the Computer Management service in Windows 2000/XP to reassign the correct drive letter to the drive.

Troubleshooting Firmware Updates

If you have problems performing a rewritable drive firmware update, check the vendor's readme file or Web site for help. In addition, here are some tips we've found useful.

If the firmware update fails to complete, there might be interference from programs that control the drive, such as packet-writing programs (InCD, DirectCD) or the built-in Windows XP CD writing feature. To disable resident software, restart the computer in Safe Mode (Windows 2000/XP) and retry the update. Restart the system normally after the update is complete.

With Windows 9x/Me, you can use MSConfig (System Configuration Utility), select the Selective Startup option, and uncheck Load Startup Group Items and Process Win.INI File Before Restarting. After completing the firmware update, be sure to rerun MSConfig and select Normal Startup before restarting the computer.

To disable Windows XP's own CD-writing feature for a particular drive, right-click the drive icon in My Computer, select Properties, click the Recording tab, and clear the check mark in the box next to Enable CD Recording on This Drive. If the firmware update doesn't improve drive performance on a system running Windows 9x/Me, DMA might not be enabled on the rewritable drive.