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.
David Farquhar is a computer security professional, entrepreneur, and author. He started his career as a part-time computer technician in 1994, worked his way up to system administrator by 1997, and has specialized in vulnerability management since 2013. He invests in real estate on the side and his hobbies include O gauge trains, baseball cards, and retro computers and video games. A University of Missouri graduate, he holds CISSP and Security+ certifications. He lives in St. Louis with his family.