Shiny Silver Disks: How to Fix Them

Back in 1998, I bought a CD collection of fonts, graphics, and etc. Over the years we have used the heck out of it for maps, graphics, borders, fonts and more. But there are more than 10,000 graphics and more than 1,200 fonts – so I wasn’t ready to throw them away when they became scratched beyond usefulness.

This year students started to complain that sometimes they couldn’t use a disk or the graphic wouldn’t load. And they were right. The disks were scratched up bad. So I cleaned them, the usual way – with lens cleaner. Same stuff you use on camera lenses usually does a great job with CDs, DVDs, etc.

No dice.

So, I tried my wife’s CD cleaner. It is a $20 gizmo she bought from Wal-Mart. Usually works too. We rent DVDs from Blockbuster online. Get disks in the mail, send them back – $20 a month. Rent all you want. Great service. But sometimes you get a scratched disk. This gizmo has worked every time, but once. OK, now twice.

There are five disks in the collection and Disk 1 is the most trashed. Even after the gizmo, most of the files (70 percent) are still unusable.

So, I go online. I remember reading an article about using Brasso on scratched CDs. I find several articles via Google. The basic advice is use a clean cloth. I get a diaper. Not a disposable one, a real live cloth diaper. When my wife and I had our first child – 14 years ago, we saved a ton of money by using cloth diapers. When my son was born 6 years ago, we didn’t use them. Disposable diapers were worth the cost since we were making more money. But we never got rid of them. They are awesome at picking up spills and they are soft. Especially after nearly three years of washings. They are super soft.

OK, so get the diaper – apply the Brasso. Don’t be stingy. Use plenty – not so much it drips, but don’t be afraid of it. My dad was in the Army, so I’ve used Brasso before. I was in high school and college ROTC – 5 years.

Read the can. It says let it dry.

I almost forgot – fumes.  Brasso stinks and is probably bad to inhale.  Keep to a well ventilated room and  close the cap whenever you are not getting Brasso out of the can.  Wash your hands as soon as you are done.

It dries.

Use the diaper to wipe it off – in straight lines from the center out – NOT CIRCLES. Then find a new clean spot on the cloth and do it again. The CD should be VERY shiny.

Put it in the computer and see if you can copy the files. If yes, good. If not don’t panic.

Disk 1 let me copy about 50 percent of the former bad files after the first cleaning. Great! So I cleaned it again. I recovered about 30 percent more files. So I cleaned it again. I almost got all of the files. I finally had to accept that about 5 percent of the files were gone. Not too bad considering how badly that disk was scratched. The other four disks were even better – only disk 2 was a problem. But I got back all but one folder – less than 5 percent lost. The other 3 disks gave back 100 percent.

Now I just need to make TWO backups – one to use and one to store.

Good Luck.

Mr. C

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