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CD/DVD cleaning discs may do more harm than good

There is evidence that CD/DVD cleaning discs either accomplish nothing or actually harm the drives they're supposed to protect.

Are CD/DVD cleaning discs worth using? Most of these cleaning discs consist of a brush mounted to a CD-sized disc; you insert the disc into the player, let it spin, then remove it. The idea is that the brush will remove any dirt or dust that has accumulated on the drive's laser lens, which can indeed cause problems if enough accumulates.

But do CD/DVD cleaning discs work? Samuel M. Goldwasser's RepairFaq.Org Web site cites some of the reasons why these cleaning discs may do nothing, or more harm than good. Here are three of them:

  • CD/DVD cleaning discs may not do any real preventive maintenance. The brush on the cleaning disc is not intended to be replaced (unlike the disposable wands that are used to swab off the heads, capstans and pinch rollers of a tape deck. They lift away dust and dirt that might be on a lens (or at least try to), but they often don't trap it. If they're re-used,they may only make the lens dirtier, or simply throw the existing dirt around the inside of the drive.

  • There are no standard designs for CD/DVD disc cleaners. There are a variety of designs for the inside of a CD/DVD drive, and there is about as much variety between one kind of lens cleaner or another. In short, there's no guarantee that a given cleaner will work at all on a given drive.

  • The drive itself may invalidate the cleaning system. Some drives are designed only to spin up if they sense there is a real CD or DVD loaded. With such a drive, if you load a CD/DVD cleaning disc that doesn't do a sufficient job of tricking the drive into thinking there's a real disc in there, the drive never spins up and the cleaning disc never does anything at all.

The best ways to keep CD/DVD drives in proper order are to maintain proper environmental protections, with little dust, pollen, smoke or dander in the air. Also, the drive should be properly mounted and the cables neither crimped nor folded.

Remember, CD/DVD drives are also commodity items, like mice or keyboards. If they fail, they can be replaced without incurring much of a cost.


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About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Insight, (formerly the Windows Power Users Newsletter), a blog site devoted to hints, tips, tricks and news for users and administrators of Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Vista. He has more than 12 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to and

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