Troubleshooting a CD-RW drive is a straightforward process. Disc drive failures do happen and the problem can usually be traced to one of three causes: defective media, hardware failure and software glitches. To troubleshoot the problem, you'll need a few blank CD-recordable discs. Having access to a CD-RW drive that you know is working will be helpful, as you can swap it out to quickly determine if the existing drive has failed. You'll need a screwdriver to swap out the drive.
The overwhelming majority of CD-RW drive failures occur because the media being used is mismatched to the drive's capabilities. Cheaper CD discs cannot be burned at the maximum speed that most newer CD-RW drives will attempt to use. Verify that the blank CDs you purchased are matched to the drive by checking the speed of the drive itself. CD-RW drives are rated using a set of numbers such as 52X24X52. This translates into the drive write-speed for one-time recordable discs; the second number represents the write-speed for rewritable discs; the last number is the drive's read speed. If a blank disc only supports a maximum speed of 48X and the drive is rated at 52X, a problem may occur. To troubleshoot, substitute a blank CD from another manufacturer or, alternately, lower the speed that the CD-RW writes by adjusting the setting in the CD-burning software, if the program support this option. Refer to the software manual for details on how to lower the drive's write speed programmatically.
CD-RW drives are reasonably robust and will perform for an extended time under most conditions. While failures are unlikely, they do occur and a good number of these are caused by dust. A blast from a can of compressed air might clean out the drive, but this is not recommended as dust can be blown into other areas that could be even more problematic. Never use a shop air compressor for this purpose, as condensed water or oil may be blown into the drive. In cases where the drive appears to have ceased to function, replace the unit with a working drive once all other possibilities are eliminated.
All present-day operating systems provide the necessary drivers and software to install and control a CD-RW device. If you are using an older operating system from the late 1990s or before, finding an updated driver or reinstalling the original software supplied with the drive may remedy the problem. The easiest method to rule out software as the cause of drive failure is to replace the current drive with a working drive and test the replacement device.
- Dell: Troubleshooting – Samsung SN-324S CD-RW/DVD ROM Drive User's Guide
- Microsoft: How to Troubleshoot Issues That Occur When You Write Data to a CD-R or CD-RW Optical Disc in Windows XP
- Microsoft: How to Troubleshoot Common Problems That Occur When a Windows XP-based Computer Cannot Read a CD or a DVD
- cd drive image by Paul Moore from Fotolia.com