CD won’t rip? Try a different drive.

Last Updated on July 15, 2017 by Dave Farquhar

A few weeks ago I uncovered a stash of CDs from my college and early bachelor days that, for one reason or another, I’d never ripped to MP3 format.

When I started ripping the discs, I got one clue as to why I never ripped some of them: Some of them made the DVD drive in my Dell laptop sound like a Commodore 1541. If you ever owned a Commodore, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t ever owned a Commodore, let’s just say my drive groaned in protest very loudly, and in exchange for putting up with the noise and insanely long rip times, I received a bunch of errors and a few MP3s that played really poorly.

In some instances the discs were pretty badly scratched up, but I had other discs with only one or no visible flaws at all. The first thing I did was clean every suspect disc with window cleaner, and that did indeed help some of the discs to rip. Most of them stubbornly refused, however.

But I remembered from my days when I enjoyed doing audio and video work that not all drives are created equal. I can’t recommend specific brands anymore, given that I don’t put optical drives in new machines that I build anymore. What I can say is that the external Amazon Basics USB DVD burner I have ripped all of the discs that the drive in my Dell wouldn’t. I own other CD and DVD drives, but they’re all of the old-school 40-pin IDE variety, and getting the Amazon USB drive working was a lot easier than trying to get one of those to work.

So if you have more than one PC with an optical drive, try ripping in a different machine with a different drive if a disc throws too many errors. If you don’t, see if a friend can rip the disc for you. In my experience, if a disc will play at all, then a good drive will be able to rip it. It’s just a matter of finding that drive.

It’s possible to get a CD resurfacing machine, but the problem with those is that the machines that cost $20 or less usually do more harm than good, and the machines that cost $50 do a pretty good job but have a limited life expectancy. I’ve owned resurfacers in the past but don’t currently have a working one, and the machine cost more than the discs were probably worth.

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