How to Repair Damaged CDs Or DVDs & Recover Data
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repair damaged cd dvd CD and DVD are fragile media. A few scratches here and there and they can easily become coasters on your table. I have had plenty of them myself.

Let’s just look at some of the ways to repair damaged CDs and DVDs and recover data How to Read Scratched CDs or DVDs in Windows How to Read Scratched CDs or DVDs in Windows Do you have scratched discs that your computer can't read? Don't despair! Here's how to read scratched CDs and DVDs in Windows. Read More from those spoilt CD/DVDs.

Anatomy of Scratches

Scratches that are perpendicular (going from the center outwards) are generally less harmful or damaging than the scratches that go along the spiral. So if your CD/DVD has more of the latter ones, then the chances of recovering data from that CD or DVD may be bleak. Nevertheless, Thou shall try till thou art able to Make good Use Of thy media.

repair scratched cd

Attempt to Recover Data From Damaged CD/DVD

First and foremost try some software apps to make your life easier and attempt to recover data from the disc. You can try more then one application if you didn’t succeed with previous ones. I have had experiences in the past when one of them has done a better job than the others either in the amount of data that is recovered or the speed with which it is recovered. However, most of the time CD Recovery Toolbox has come up on top.

Just insert the damaged CD, DVD, HD DVD (if you still use them) or Blue-Ray disc and the software will show you the list of files and folders found on the disc. Choose the ones you want to recover and click next. The process can be very slow mind you so just be patient.

recoverytoolbox - recover data from cd dvd

CD Recovery Toolbox has been covered in detail on MakeUseOf earlier Free CD/DVD File Recovery Tool - CD Recovery Toolbox Free CD/DVD File Recovery Tool - CD Recovery Toolbox Read More . Check it out if you need more details.

Another software solution you can try is Roadkil’s Unstoppable Copier. It is also a similar software that is capable of recovering data from damaged or scratched discs. If the recovery is taking too long you can also pause, save and resume sessions at some other time.

Roadkil's Unstoppable Copier - repair scratched dvd

If you use Linux you can try ddrescue for recovery needs. It is a command line tool offering plenty of options as you can see below:

ddrescue

Attempt to Repair the Damaged CDs

How to Repair Damaged CDs Or DVDs & Recover Data toothpastefullIf the disc has profound scratches you can try to repair those scratches to make the disc playable again. The best way to do this is to use a whitening toothpaste or some polish (especially those used by opticians) although Brasso also works.

  • How to Repair Damaged CDs Or DVDs & Recover Data brassoFirst, clean the surface of the disc with a soft lint-free cloth. You can use a gentle detergent (or rubbing alcohol) if there are some grease spots. Make sure there are no fingerprints or dust particles. Don’t scrub too hard as you may do more harm than good this way.
  • Now apply some toothpaste or polish on the scratched surface. It is best to start with a minimum amount of either, or else you will have your work really cut out trying to buff away the remainder.
  • Now rub gently with a cloth moving from the center outwards.

If you did a good job, you will actually see the scratch diminishing, or if it was a faint one, it might just disappear.

The success with this method varies greatly. It is hit and miss. I have had an equal amount of successes and failures. Sometimes it works allowing you to even read data from that part, other times it is of no use at all.

Some Tips

  • Try recovery in a CD/DVD writer as opposed to a reader. Writers are generally more precise and can see the tracks better.
  • If possible try recovery on the same drive that was used to create the disc. Chances of a good read have been found to increase if you use the same drive or at least the same manufacturer.
  • If nothing helps you can go to music stores and show them your disc. Such stores usually have a CD refinishing machine and may be able to do a better job.
  • As soon as any of the above methods works, don’t think even twice and just create another copy of the disc.
  • Buy good quality media.
  • Take good care of your CDs

If Nothing Helps

If none of the above helps then maybe it’s time to use the disc as a coaster. However you can put them to some more constructive uses also, like create a spectroscope or a shuriken throwing star or a mobile phone holder.

Do you know some other clever ways to get data back from a damaged CD/DVD?  Or if the disk is ruined, do you have any novel ideas for what to turn the disk into apart from a coaster? Here is your chance, share it with the world in the comments section.

Explore more about: CD-DVD Tool, CD-Rom, Troubleshooting.

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  1. Peter John Mensing
    January 10, 2019 at 10:22 am

    Hello! I own a national media recovery business. I restore media for public and other types of libraries all over the nation. I enjoy reading articles like this one and I am always willing to offer whatever knowledge my company has gained over the past decade and a half in order to keep people smiling everywhere. So here goes. This is the best order I have found, going by experience, BUT FIRST, before anything else, WE MUST have a good understanding of how CD's work. It's important! OK?
    A CD has digital info on it (ok, I know you knew that!) but check this, even though it sort of looks like a baby record, it's not. In other words, The data is written on a CD in tiny short strips. It's NOT like a record groove on a music record. Not at all, in fact, the beginning of a CD goes from the center OUT, the opposite of a vinyl music record.
    It also spins at many different speeds depending its current read status.
    When a laser writes to these, it burns a spot. that spot looks different than a spot that is not "burned". So that is how it is read, whatever the series of burnt and not burnt equate to forms bytes
    That burnt or not surface is a layer that is very thin in the middle of the CD's thickness
    The problem we have is the plastic gets too messed up for the reader to determine what that thin layer looks like through the messed up plastic.
    So here's what you do. You must carefully remove the surface abrasions like this article says, but there is more to it than that. It is quite similar to sanding fine furniture except even way super more sensitive
    When you remove surface from a CD (this is really important), it MUST be removed evenly throughout the entire surface of the CD. This is something that is extremely difficult to do by hand because when doing it by hand, we cannot consistently regulate the amount of pressure being applied accurately enough to remove the bad surface evenly enough. Well, some of us can do it somewhat, but if you have deep gouges in the CD, what you will need is a surface removing tool in order to be successful to go deeper toward that reflective layer where the data is read.
    Another problem arises from all this surface removal folks! Eventually the CD become extremely unstable and you cannot spin it at anywhere near normal RPM. If you do, when enough surface is removed, the CD will shatter. It will not hold up. A good hint is if it begins to crack from the center out. Then what is needed is a special reader where the operator can control the spindle speed of the CD to keep it from coming apart.
    It can get so sensitive that we can no longer even touch the CD, no less spin it. We have special reading devices that can look at the CD when it is just laying on its back per se.
    If you have important data you MUST recover, consider going to a computer store and purchasing a surface removal tool. The slower you remove the material, the better. You can then carefully take the disc to Best Buy and tell them you just need the disc copied, that it has been resurfaced beyond the ability of normal reading and needs to be read starting at the slowest speed possible and increase the speed until there is a read error or no greater than 62.5 RPM. They will charge for the service, but you needed that data! right?
    That is about your most successful route to make it happen.

    Can I just add one more thing for you nice people? Patience. You really got to have quite a bit. Take your time. The easier you go on the CD, the better your chances of it surrendering the data that's on it.

    Thanks for reading this. I sure hope it helps, and I think you got what it takes to make it happen.
    Peace to all.

  2. rmdin
    December 5, 2017 at 8:29 am

    I have another way to get data back from old scratched DVDs - WinX DVD Copy Pro. This is a DVD backup solution that can transfer your data of old scratched discs to a new blank one or convert them to digital files for saving on computer or other storage devices.

    As for completely ruined DVDs, we once made them into small pieces and created a photo frame. It's beautiful.

  3. Abhijit Sen
    September 13, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    Thank you so much. Roadkil Unstoppable Copier works great.

  4. vinay
    March 3, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    i bought gta 5 pc and now my disk 1 data2.cab is installing

  5. anshul
    January 4, 2016 at 11:05 am

    i just bought gta 5 DVD set and 3 disk is not working

  6. Big installer
    February 8, 2010 at 4:03 am

    Thanx for article! I have one damaged CD with a lot images, and I can recover them, but I'm used other tool named Max Data Recovery.

  7. Stuart
    November 21, 2009 at 9:45 am

    Anybody got any ideas how I can repair the CENTRE part of a DVD ??....I have one of family when we were young, which is priceless, but now so badly damaged I cannot play it...It's not badly scratched but the centre of the disk is just a mess!

  8. Blake
    October 3, 2009 at 6:16 am

    I have a few DVD movies that are totally screwed up and at a certain chapter, it just freezes and skips to the next part. I tried every DVD repair technique and they still won't work! The movies I own that are messed up are The Mummy, Godzilla 2000, The Thing and Bruce Almighty. Please let me know if you have any suggestions on what I should do. Thank you

  9. Rajesh
    June 2, 2009 at 6:28 am

    really awesome software,, thank you for sharing ,,if possible keep touch wid my site too..

  10. Tyler
    May 31, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    What about Blue ray disc's?

  11. Vinod
    May 13, 2009 at 9:19 am

    My son has literally damaged the DVD disc, all their Memory fotos had been copied on to that disc, please suggest me some solution as to how to retirve that data back .

    Regards
    Vinod

  12. Mohit
    April 13, 2009 at 2:21 am

    Generally using spirit will do the good job.

  13. nfhiggs
    January 5, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Rubbing compound or jewelers rouge should work as well as Brasso to polish out scratches. The risky thing here is you can polish too much of the plastic away in one spot and unbalance the disk. Unbalanced disks can shatter in a drive.

  14. RICHARD
    December 28, 2008 at 1:16 am

    YOUR NOTE IN THE ARTICLE CONCERNING USING A CD AS A SHURKIN:
    LOOK UP THE WORD SHURIKIN IN THE WIKIPEDIA ON LINE ENCYCLOPEDAI. THE STAR SHAPED FORMS OF SHURIKINS ARE ONLY ONE OF TWO BASIC FORMS. THE STAR SHAPED ONES ARE CALLED "SHAKENS" SEE QUOTE FROM WIKIPEDIA.
    A TERM THAT MEANS The major varieties of Shuriken are the Bō Shuriken (棒手裏剣, Stick Shuriken) and the Hira Shuriken (平手裏剣, Flat Shuriken), or Shaken (車剣, also read as Kurumaken, Wheel Shuriken).

    • mrintech
      December 28, 2008 at 6:28 am

      WTF! What you wanna say??? :O

      BTW Really nice article. I will try this. Got a plethora of dirt covered cd's and dvd's

  15. absurdist
    December 27, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    Pledge or other liquid furniture polish also works well as a last resort. Spray it on, wipe the disk so only a thin film remains, and often it will fill in the scratches enough to enable you to peel the data off.

  16. will
    December 27, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    you can also use a banana peel. just clean the disk, then rub the peel everywhere, then clean it off with a wet cloth. I did it with a scratched up COD4 disk and it started working perfectly.

    • Varun Kashyap
      December 28, 2008 at 3:46 am

      Yeah, I have heard about banana peel being used for similar purposes but never tried it.
      Good you got your disc back, hopefully you backed it up by now.

  17. Monica
    December 27, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    I like the other uses of a disc.. :)