When a disk drive does not read, users may find themselves shut off, not just from media like movies, but crucial recovery tools like mandatory drivers, operating system installers and system recovery resources. Experts always recommend that users troubleshoot and repair functionality for non-working disk drives reasonably promptly. However, most non-reading disk drive causes aren't severe security problems, and users can deal with the majority by following some standardized recovery steps.
Before jumping to conclusions, users should check the supported formats for their disk drive. CD-RW (CDs that the user can rewrite), CD-R, DVD, and Blu-ray are specific formats with individualized requirements – even though the disks look identical. An incompatible disk will not read in the 'wrong' drive, regardless of other factors. However, external disk drives are affordably available for users who need them on short notice.
It also is worth checking the state of a drive's driver software. Out-of-date drivers can cause performance and compatibility issues for most devices and hardware. Windows users might start by opening the Device Manager and double-clicking the 'DVD/CD-ROM Drives' section or expanding it. Right-click the appropriate drive and choose Properties. The new window includes a Drivers tab, which shows the version number and the date – both useful details for users who may need updates. Although the right-click menu for the device also includes a Windows-based update feature, experts recommend downloading through the manufacturer's website directly when possible.
Hygiene also plays a role with disk drives, like most hardware. For desktops, cleaning the PC's interior with compressed air periodically prevents dust accumulation that could cloud the disk drive's optical lens. Experts recommend this practice for good maintenance, but users also can use a specialized 'lens cleaner' disk. If a CD or DVD doesn't read, it might be due to the disk's being dirty, which users can remedy with appropriate cleaning solutions and a no-static, microfiber wiping cloth. In cases of damage, scratch remover products offer a possible solution, although they can't guarantee complete data recovery.
Changes to the AutoPlay feature also may cause unexpected behavior from a disk drive. Windows users can check it by typing 'AutoPlay settings' into the taskbar and clicking the first result. From this window, users can choose to let Windows automatically play CDs and other media. Other options include loading a yes/no prompt to run the media, opening the folder or the media's files, configuring storage settings, or taking no action. If the user chooses the latter, they may play the media manually by double-clicking its icon (from the 'My PC' window, for example).
Users who update their hardware themselves may run into other, less common issues with their disk drives. Not taking static-grounding precautions can damage the hardware permanently. Also, improperly-seating SATA or IDE cables may provide insufficient power or prevent the motherboard from reading the drive's data. Check for symptoms such as whether the PC detects the hardware and whether or not it has power.
Data storage is racing well beyond the days of multiple CD-ROMs, but backward compatibility means that traditional disk drives are far from dead. As long as PC users need them, they'll be there and are hopefully under good stewardship.