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I have a CD which seems to be scratched, smudged or otherwise dirty. Unfortunately, when I put it into the CD player, it sometimes gets stuck, e.g., "H-h-h-h-h-h-how ab-b-b-b-b-bout you-you-you-you".

What is the most effective to clean the CD so that it can play smoothly?

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CDs usually get damaged because of scratches at their plastic surface.

Dirty solution: Wipe the surface of the CD with an oily tissue.

By going in the scratches, the oil will flatten again the CD surface, thus reducing the scattering of the laser beam by the damaged surface. I have tried once with vegetable oil, and I was able to recover a CD with small scratches. Ideally the oil should have the same refractive index as the CD, which is 1.59 for polycarbonate. Also make sure not to put too much oil: The disk spins quite fast, and you don't want to spread oil inside the CD player.

Clean solution: Buy a product to clean the CD.

I have already seen in a specialized shop a cleaning product presented as a bottle with a sponge on the head. The principle is the same as above, except that the liquid to spread is not oil, but some sort of plastic dissolved in a solvent. Once deposited on the CD, it dries. This results in a more permanent solution to your problem.

In any case, the repairs are not perfect, and I strongly suggest you to make a copy of the CD after treatment.

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If the CD is badly scratched then sorry, some things lived enough. They are not repairable.
Just in case wash the CD with water, wipe it dry, and then insert the CD and play again.

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There are a couple reasons why your CD is damaged.

The most common one is scratches. If the surface is scuffed and scratched, the easiest fix is to buff it with a cutting compound. Start with baking soda and water and use a cloth wrapped around a wooden block to keep it flat. Rub down the surface of the CD with only the weight of the block providing the pressure. Keep the surface wet. Rinse off the first layer under running water. The surface should appear even and dull all over (not shiny)

Next you need to polish the surface. Use some toothpaste and a clean sponge. This polishing will get rid of the dull surface finish caused by the roughing step we did with the baking soda. When you rinse the water off this time, it should have a mirror like surface.


Another common way to damage a CD is to damage the silver backing of the disc. If this happens, that bit of information is permanently gone. Nothing you can do to get that back.


The third that I can think of is due to incompatibility of the CD case. The gases being released by the plastic of the CD case can cause the plastic of the CD to break down prematurely. The only way I've managed to recover one of these was a method listed above, where a light oil is used to fill the pits on the surface of the disc. Even then, you may not get all your data back.

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(Below is for scratches, obviously try soapy water first if it's just a smudge)

Head over to amazon or the like and search for "DVD polisher". These devices use fine grit polishing paper to polish scratched plastic on a DVD or cd. The plastic layer is thicker than needed for ease of handling (although if you manage to polish a while lot away the optical focusing properties of the plastic will go away so don't go more that you have to).

You could probably improvise something similar with wet polish and fine abrasive if you happen to have some (eg for acrylic polishing on an airplane) but the kits look to be $15-$17 and they really do work. The "SkipDr" looks like the one that lives in IT departments everywhere for software cd recovery.

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If you hear the music "li-li-lik-like-ike-tha-that" it means that the reader is able to read the music, but not fast enough to render it on time. This suggests that you can retrieve the data on the CD, but there are errors that need to be corrected. Probably scratches.

Side note: audio CDs use a system to dispatch and duplicate information accross the medium, so that a scratch doesn't ruin the CD.

Cleaning

You need to clean your CD to increase the chance that you can read the data on it. You can just clean it with a tissue, but you might also consider anti-scratch oil for smartphone screen.

Extract & Duplicate

Put your CD in your computer and use Cdrdao.

This tool will help you:

  • extract the data from the CD with correction
  • duplicate the data in a file
  • copy the extracted data in another CD

You might ask your local geek for this, as the tool is not very user-friendly. On success, you will a copy of your CD in a file (as backup), and a new CD that is a copy of your scratched one.

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An old trick for discs that are not too badly scratched:

Polish them with toothpaste! Just like the commercial solutions the fine abrasive can help to smooth out the edges of the scratches and allow the disc to be read properly again. Used to do this with just my finger and a generous amount of toothpaste and saved a couple of discs that my computer was not able to read at all anymore.

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If you have a Game or CEX nearby you might convince them to run it through the machine they have for cleaning and polishing discs.

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