Sometimes pulling out an old CD from your music archive reveals some discs haven't fared well in the passage of time. CDs are vulnerable to fingerprint smudges, a bit of dried syrup from the time you spilled that Coke in the car, perhaps even some scratches from the time that CD disappeared under the passenger's seat three years ago.
If you've got some CDs that are well past their prime (and no, we don't mean that perfectly unblemished Spice Girls disc you've been hiding from your friends), fear not. There are ways to get that disc spinning again so you can transfer the music or data to a more respectable media, like MP3s.
The first thing to try with your potentially damaged CDs is a PC. Many times a CD that's too mangled to work in a car stereo will work just fine in your (much faster) computer CD/DVD drive. In addition, CD/DVD computer hardware and ROM software error-recovery differs by brand; a high-quality player will play discs which freeze or skip on a lower-quality one.
This article is a wiki. If you still buy CDs and want to help people restore their music collection, hop on and improve this article.
* 1 Polish
* 2 Repairing scratches
* 3 Recreate
* 4 Future Outlook
If you've got a disc that won't play, start with the simplest solution: give it a gentle, but thorough cleaning.
Take a damp, lint free cloth (the cloth used to clean eyeglasses works very well) and starting in the center of the CD, wipe to the outside edge in a straight line. The direction of the polishing is important, don't wipe in circles, and don't wipe randomly. Move in a straight line, center to edge.
Now that you've got all the surface blemishes off, give the CD another try. Still no luck? Well, read on.
If polishing alone doesn't work, chance are your CD is scratched. See if you can find the offending scratch -- hold your CD up to the light and check it from different angles.
CD's read from the inside out to the edge so you may be able to locate the scratch that's causing the problem based on which tracks skip. Obviously if you CD has data rather than music this method won't work.
Once you've found the scratch there are a few ways you can repair it. However, before we get started, be aware that some of these methods can actually damage the disc even more so. Use them only as a last resort.
Polish the CD Two popular ways of polishing out scratches include using toothpaste (get the kind with baking soda in it) and Brasso. In either case apply a thin layer to the scratched area and wipe from the inside out to polish out the scratch. Although popular in internet postings, the brand of toothpaste may matter, and the toothpaste or Brasso abrasive will replace scratches with finer ones, possibly making the problem worse. A low-cost commercial solution such as Allsop 'DVD Scratch Repair" (about $3 retail -- www.allsop.com) provides extremely fine abrasive fluid and a fine polishing cloth which always will improve the playing; the cloth alone may improve results with toothpaste or Brasso.
Wax the CD Along the same lines as the toothpaste method, you can try applying a very thin coat of vaseline, car wax or shoe polish to the scratched area. Caution: Wax may be difficult to remove and may make further polishing attempts more difficult.
Professional Refinishing Unless the scratch is very deep the above methods should work. If they don't you can always try having your CD refinished by a professional service. Consult your local music store or try searching for CD refinishing in your favorite search engine.
Audio CD Scratches For some CD's that are scratched and skipping, you can use iTunes to import the CD and attempt to fix some of the scratches. To do this go to the Preferences -> General -> Import Settings and make sure that "User Error Correction when Reading Audio CD's" is ticked. For a badly scratched CD it may take a LONG time to read it (possibly hours for one disc) but it can make some CD's quite listenable.
Meguire's Deep Crystal (cleaning system) Paint CleanerPersonally, the best product I have ever found to restore BADLY damaged CD's and DVD's is Meguire's Deep Crystal Paint Cleaner, which is part abrasive and part high quality carnauba wax. It is applied by 2-3 drops onto the offending disc. Spread it thin on the whole disc or just where you see scratches. Allow it to dry completely and then buff in a circular motion while checking that it is indeed polishing the scratches out. Some people may say to wipe from the center out, and that is OK for cleaning some discs, but with this product I would recommend a soft, lint free, dry cloth, such as a microfiber towel burnishing/polishing in small circular motions. With this cloth or towel you will obtain the best results by polishing in small circular motions. The reason for this is because not all scratches will be fill-able only moving from the center towards the outside of the disc.
(ALWAYS INSURE YOUR CLOTH OR TOWEL IS ABSOLUTELY CLEAN FIRST: You don't want new scratches added)
Because this product is for Automotive use, and is clear coat safe, it has minimal buildup and may require several repetitions of the above steps to completely restore your disc. This makes it much safer than household abrasives such as Brasso or Toothpaste. As many as 12-15 coats may be needed for VERY badly damaged data discs or DVD's, but so far with patience it has proven to be the right solution for all but cracked discs, which are best replaced with new discs.
If you're dealing with an audio CD, here's an interesting option.
This may not be legal in some countries but where it is legal you can download all the tracks in the highest quality you can find and recreate the CD. Find 320Kb/s MP3 versions, or better yet, lossless versions, and use a CD burning program that can create audio CDs to recreate the CD.
Optionally scan the front of the original and print it on a CD sized sticker.
I know for US citizens this might sound as ridiculous illegal advice but in for example The Netherlands this is perfectly legal.
The future of CDs looks like it is set to mirror that of the Dodo circa 1660. While music, movies and data storage devices of the future will have their own set of problems, at least we won't have to resort to toothpaste to recover lost tunes.
The trade off is the lack of a physical medium to show off to your friends as a sign of music superiority. In other words, no more fancy album art. In many ways the album is going the way of the Dodo as well. The record industry is increasingly focusing on singles rather than congruent records.
Don't fear, Pink Floyd fans (and other fans of congruent, thematic concept albums). Online MP3 stores, like Apple's iTunes store, are starting to bundle album art and even extra songs and video with downloadable albums. While you still can't frame your favorite MP3, at least you can watch the behind the scenes making of it. Better yet, you don't have to worry about scratching your MP3 like you can a compact disc. If you lose your music, chances are, in the future, your music store will replenish the music you bought from them for you at little or no cost.