DIY Windows

How to Read Scratched CDs or DVDs in Windows

Dan Price 24-08-2017

Have you ever had a CD or DVD that contained critical information but you could not get to it? Does your disk have a huge scratch running through it? Maybe it’s a little chipped or cracked? Don’t throw it out there might still be hope!


Sadly, there’s a good chance many of your old discs will be scratched How To Play Games Without CD Using No-CD Cracks Any of your games, old or new, on CDs? With these cracks, you'll never have to use a CD to play your games again! Read More . Nobody really looked after their CDs, right?

Don’t despair! If your computer stutters on your optical media, the free tools we show you here can help you read and retrieve data from those scratched CDs and DVDs.

Manual Repairs

Before we look at some third-party apps, it’s worth spending a few minutes to see if a bit of love and care can restore your disc to its former glory.

If you’re dealing with a light scratch, you can try using whitening toothpaste. It’s not an old wives’ tale – it actually works.

Apply a tiny amount of paste and use a cloth to gently massage it over the scratch. It might go away completely.


You should also try to play the CD using a drive that can write to discs, rather just read them. In general, write drives are more precise and can do a better job of seeing the CD’s tracks.

If you’re trying to read a CD you made yourself, you could also try using it in the same drive you used to create it. Anecdotal evidence suggests there’s a higher chance of a successful read if you do. Admittedly, it might not be possible if the CD is very old.

See our guide to repairing damaged CDs How to Repair Damaged CDs or DVDs and Recover Data If your CD or DVD is scratched, you may be able to fix it! Here are some tips on how to repair a scratched CD or DVD. Read More for more information.

Try Third-Party Apps

Several third-party apps profess the ability to read data from a damaged disc. In my experience, the most successful is Roadkil’s Unstoppable Copier.


I’ll show you how to use it, then list a couple of alternatives for you to try.

Unstoppable Copier

Unstoppable Copier can salvage data in lots of different scenarios. Obviously, it can help you recover data from scratched discs, but it can also try and read bad sectors What Are Bad Sectors And How Can You Fix Them? [Part 1] What are these bad sectors? Is this a sign your drive is going to bite the dust? Can these sectors be repaired? Read More and extract data when there are no scratches, but you still see a read error.

To get started, grab a free copy of the app off Roadkil’s website. You can choose either an installable or portable version.

Download: Unstoppable Copier


Using Unstoppable Copier

Fire up the app and accept the End-User License Agreement (EULA). You will see an unpopulated copy of the app.

Insert the scratched CD into your computer’s CD tray, and wait for your machine to recognize it. Next, click the Browse button next to the Source box and select your CD drive.

How to Read Scratched CDs or DVDs in Windows unstoppable copier browse

Now you need to choose a destination for your salvaged files. Click the second Browse button (it’s the one next to the Target box). I’m going to use a temporary desktop file.


The app’s screen should now look like this:

How to Read Scratched CDs or DVDs in Windows unstoppable copier source target

To begin the salvation process, click Copy. You can see the progress of files in the app’s main window along with a progress bar underneath.

At the very bottom of the window, you can see specific data about how many files were damaged and how many of them the tool could recover.

How to Read Scratched CDs or DVDs in Windows unstoppable copier progress

Note: Depending on how damaged your CD is, the process might take a long time. Your CD drive might also make some “strange” noises.

When the process completes, you will find all your salvaged files in your target folder.

Alternative Apps

If Unstoppable Copier doesn’t work, you can check out some alternatives.

  • Recovery Toolbox for CD: This app can read damaged CDs and extract data that became corrupted during the creation of the CD (either because of user error or program failure). The app is free to use.
  • CDCheck: CDCheck places emphasis on error detection, but it can also read scratched discs. It lets you pre-sweep to see which files are damaged before you start the recovery process. Again, the app is free.
  • IsoBuster: Using IsoBuster, you can perform a “light” scan or a “full” scan. The full scan takes a lot longer, but is much more comprehensive and might help you save severely damaged discs. The app is free, but the $30 paid version introduces more advanced features including extraction of MacBinary files and extraction from UDF file systems.

Make a Copy

If you manage to make Windows read your CD, drop everything else and make a copy immediately. You don’t know how long you’ll be able to access the data for; it might be a fluke!

Check out our list of apps that can help you rip and make copies of CDs The 11 Best Tools for Ripping DVDs and Blu-rays to Your Computer Here are the best tools for ripping DVDs and Blu-rays so you can digitize all of your media without any hassle. Read More and DVDs.

If All Else Fails…

If you can’t manually repair the CD and the third-party apps have not worked, you still have one avenue open to you.

You could try taking your CD to a specialist record shop. They often have machines that can “refinish” the CD’s coating and thus make the disc readable again.

Sadly, downloading a new version of the CD using torrents is not an option. It’s a common misconception that you can make backups of CDs and DVDs How to Copy DVDs that You Own Want to rip your DVDs so you can access them digitally? Here's how to get started. Read More you already own using the technology.

Here’s why that’s not true:

  • Torrents involve uploading. Therefore, you are distributing a copy of something without having a license to do so.
  • Many EULAs state that your purchase only covers you for one copy of the CD.
  • It’s unlikely you’ll be downloading an identical copy of the CD or DVD you own. For example, perhaps you own a DVD version and you download a Blu-ray version, or you bought the CD in the UK, but you’re downloading an American version of the release.

At this point, you’re out of options. You’ll have to admit defeat and send your CD to the great library in the sky.

How Do You Read Scratched CD and DVDs on Windows?

Using a combination of manual repairs, third-party tools, and professional services, you will hopefully once again have access the content on your scratched or damaged CDs.

We’ve shown you a few tricks that cover all the bases, but we’d love to hear your advice: Have you found an app that’s so reliable it can salvage data every time? Do you know about any toothpaste alternatives Can You Fix a Scratched CD With Toothpaste? Here's How! Need to play a scratched disc and can't? Here's how to fix a scratched DVD or CD with toothpaste and other household items. Read More that work?

You can leave all your suggestions and recommendations in the comments below. And remember to share this article with your friends on social media.

Originally written by Karl L. Gechlik on 17 June 2009.

Related topics: Blu-ray, CD-DVD Tool, CD-Rom, Troubleshooting.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Michael J Schrenk
    December 20, 2019 at 7:41 pm

    I have a strange situation where the first directory on a DVD+R disk can be read and opened without any issues. Every directory and subdirectories below the first I can see the file information in explorer but I can't open or copy the files. I tried all of the programs listed and none of them help. The all show reading sector errors but couldn't repair or recover the file. I have three disks with this same issue. Not sure if there are more programs I can try or possibly a service I can send them to in and they can recover the files. They are not critical photo files but it would be nice to have them. Any suggestions I will certainly try.

  2. Mark
    January 4, 2018 at 11:24 am

    i have found that a aluminum polishing paste like autosol or mothers cleans cds dvds very well... worth a go

  3. Chris
    December 16, 2017 at 2:52 am

    Having no luck. When I insert my disc, which looks fine to the eye with very minor surface scratches, no cracks or anything, it can't even be read. Basically whatever I plug it into the PC acts like the drive no longer exists whilst it tries to read it. As such I can't even get any of these softwares to work to recover the information.

    Tried cleaning with Brasso. All I can think is the disc is magnetically damaged along the index or something and I may as well be putting a pizza in the drive...

    Any suggestions?

  4. renald
    November 10, 2017 at 7:43 am

    Or, just transfer data on your scratched DVD to a new blank one.
    WinX DVD Copy Pro can process this task, thanks to its support for sector-by-sector reading and copying.

  5. JTL
    September 6, 2017 at 10:23 pm

    I am/was a DJ, and for years I made mix CDs back in the day. I found a few and was marveling at my work. Most are quite crappy, as I was just starting out, but some were true gems... well the ones that played. Uggghh, CD/RW don't last too long, these are some 15-20 years old. I found one that had eluded me forever and was so happy to play it, but it had this straight canyon @ about 7 minutes in. It would lock up when I tried to image it, rip it, copy it, clone it. but after that 7 minute point its fine. So I tried this. Roadkill.
    BIG FAT NEGATIVE. It reads the .cda (that tiny 4k file..) content and successfully copies that, but doesn't get the cd music. So back to the drawing board.
    If there was some way to copy up to a specific point then copy after that point.

  6. William Vasquez
    August 24, 2017 at 4:35 am

    Be very careful with a cracked CD or DVD. They rotate so fast that the spinning force will make a crack expand and literally blow up the disk into pieces inside of the player. I had this happen to me. Luckily, I was able to open the cd player and remove the many tiny pieces of the cd.

  7. C.Suresh
    December 11, 2015 at 11:32 am

    One of my CD with thousand photos had got scratched and was not running. Roadkil Unstoppable Copier successfully culled out the data and saved my photos, Excellent it is. Hats off to the developers. Best wishes.

    C.Suresh, India

  8. Hasan
    February 10, 2015 at 4:36 am

    I am trying to recover the files. Update information I will put asap...........................

  9. Roshan
    December 19, 2009 at 8:56 am

    Ya dude u r right. Even i lost my cd burner trying do something like this never try this with ur own dvd burner.......

  10. Mian Farhan
    September 7, 2009 at 1:38 am

    Very good information.

  11. Peter
    August 14, 2009 at 6:15 am

  12. Win7Guru
    June 17, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    I have used this program, but it didn't help me recover my Vista Home Premium OEM disc. Any suggestions. I have the disc and it has what appears to be a crack shaped like a branch. Please help me, as Windows 7 will expire soon.

  13. David Gerard
    June 17, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    How does this do on audio CDs? I tend to recover badly frisbeed music CDs using either cdparanoia (the standard audio CD reader on Linux) or Exact Audio Copy (a Windows app that also works perfectly in Wine on Linux). Each of these has discs it will read that the other can't quite cope with; a third tool for the armory would be most useful.

    (EAC is the Chuck Norris of audio CD rippers. I gave it a badly decayed band demo on CD-R, from back when CD-Rs were blue and decayed in a few years. It took seventeen hours, but I think it missed one second of the six-song disc.)

    • Gaurav Kumar
      June 17, 2009 at 1:58 pm

      Frankly speaking, I left damaged discs on their own after compromising a ROM. I now often backup DVDs with good quality ones. But I remember for sure leaving the system for many hours so that more and more data can be recovered. The more hours you spend and the slowest mode you select will shorten the life of your ROM.

      • Zymos
        June 19, 2009 at 12:41 pm

        I don't think there could possibly be any difference using this software and playing a movie in terms of wear on the laser or "lens" (which does not come in contact with anything).

  14. Gaurav Kumar
    June 17, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    Nice but use it with CAUTION. I used it to recover data and the next thing I new was my DVD-ROM's lens was destroyed and was rendered useless.

    • Karl L. Gechlik
      June 17, 2009 at 1:05 pm

      How is that even possible? How do you know your lens was destroyed? I used this application on 26 disks yesterday with no issue.

      I would like to contact the author but I would need more info from you please email me at karl at asktheadmin dot com

      • Gaurav Kumar
        June 17, 2009 at 1:22 pm

        When the disc has scratches and the software forces the ROM to read those particular data bytes, the lens keeps on making efforts to try and read them. As a result the scratched surface renders the lens unusable. Even my ROM was working fine after first run. It stopped working after several runs of this software.
        The only thing that I can suggest is that if you have a movie or something on a scratched disc, then try this s/w with mode set as the fastest so that it can skip those bytes which are unreadable and still read readable bytes f the same file. As a result only a few frames of the movie won't be available.

    • David Gerard
      June 17, 2009 at 2:00 pm

      You can in fact overheat and burn out your CD-ROM or DVD-ROM's laser or motor with this sort of severe disc-reading application.

      EAC has an option to let the drive cool for 15 mins after each hour's reading.

  15. Christopher
    June 17, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Excellent, i have a few old games, and some apps hat i need, hopefully this can help, and if not, im off on ebay to find a cheap copy.

  16. Chris
    June 17, 2009 at 10:09 am

    Very NICE!!

  17. JX
    June 17, 2009 at 10:40 am

    For recovering data from scratched DVD+/-R discs, I tend to use either ISObuster or ISOpuzzle