It’s fairly easy to troubleshoot optical drive problems. In most cases, it’s a scenario where the optical drive is either working or it isn’t. There’s very few things you can do to save an optical drive, so in the event that it’s not working properly, it’s almost always an event where you’ll need to replace it. In this guide, we’re going to show you some common problems you might have with an optical drive and how to hopefully remedy them.


Typically, there aren’t going to be any warnings before your optical drive dies. Like we said, it’s either working or it’s not, so you’re not going to get much of a heads up in advanced. But, here are some signs that you have a problem.

  1. Read errors: If you run into general read errors, it might be that disc. Clean the disc and try again or test with a different disc. You could also use a cleaning disc to try and clean the optical drive. A reboot will often fix the problem as well; sometimes components can just get “hung up.” A reboot or shut down refreshes things and, more often than not, returns everything to working as usual.
  2. Reads a DVD but not a CD: If your drive will read a DVD, but not a CD, this could indicate that one of the drive’s read lasers have died. The only fix is to replace the optical drive.
  3. Behaves erratically: Like we mentioned above, erratic behavior can usually be fixed by a simple reboot. Other times, there might be a firmware update needed to fix the problem. Refer to the manufacturer’s support site for the most recent firmware updates.
  4. BIOS doesn’t see optical drive: If your drive operated normally before, but now your BIOS doesn’t see it, the optical drive has died and needs replacing. Alternatively, if you’ve recently been inside your computer replacing parts, cleaning or checking on things, and only after that the optical drive has stopped working, you may have loosened or damaged a data cable.


dvd-in-dvd-trayIf you’re experiencing read errors with CDs and DVDs, it could indicate that the CDs, DVDs or the drive itself needs cleaning. A tray-style drive seldom needs cleaning, as they’re very good at keeping particles out. But, many manufacturers recommend that you run a cleaning kit through any type of optical drive every so often. If you’re experiencing read errors, it never hurts to run one through your own optical drive, as it’s very possible it could clear up the problem.

One of the problems we noted above was erratic behavior. Often this can be fixed by a simple reboot and other times this indicative of drive failure. Before determining it’s drive failure, make sure you’re on top of your firmware updates. Firmware updates will fix bugs and sometimes add features to optical drive. So, if its a bug causing your drive to act erratically, a firmware update will usually remedy the problem. You can find firmware updates from your manufacturers website.

Sometimes you aren’t experiencing drive failure at all. Some optical drives just don’t support certain formats. To find out what your optical drive supports, you can head into Windows’ Device Manager, expand the optical drive section and find out what your optical drive’s model number is. From there, you can search Google for the model number and find out what it supports. Or, you can use software called DVDInfoPro to find out what your drive supports.

One final thing you can try (if you have a dell machine) is Dell’s own PC Diagnostic tool. Run it on your optical drive, and it’ll tell you if it detects any problems or not. If you don’t have a Dell machine, you can use one of Microsoft’s tools for your specific situation (in this case, you would want to click on the link that says “Find and fix problems with devices and hardware”). If it’s not something fixable with a firmware update, like we said earlier, it’s a either working or not working scenario. So, if there’s an actual problem, the next step is to replace the optical drive.

So, if your BIOS doesn’t see your optical drive, it’s seemingly missing in Windows Explorer and none of the above steps have worked to fix the problem, it’s time to replace the drive.

dell-dvd-eject-holeIs your drive not opening or closing? Make sure it’s connected to the computer. If not, it could’ve just failed outright. If you have a DVD in there and can’t get it out, sometimes there’s an emergency access hole that will manually eject the tray so that you can retrieve your disc. If there’s no hole there, your best best is to safely and carefully disassemble the optical drive to get your disc back without damaging it.


Unfortunately, there really is nothing you can do to fix a failing optical drive. By following the steps above, you’ll be able to figure out if it’s a small glitch in your system that can be easily remedied by a reboot or new firmware or if it’s something where the optical drive most definitely needs to be replaced.

If you’re still stuck, be sure to head on over to the PCMech forum and post your problem to get some additional help from the PCMech community! We have many experts over there always willing to lend a helping hand or offer some advice.