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[ The PC Guide | Troubleshooting and Repair Guide | The Troubleshooting Expert | Troubleshooting Specific Components | Troubleshooting CD-ROM Drives | Errors ]

I have a CD-ROM drive that is consistently giving read errors (data errors, sectors not found) on many different disks

Explanation: Your CD-ROM drive is frequently encountering read errors, even when using different disks or types of disks. (If you just have a disk or two giving errors, you should be looking here instead).

Diagnosis: This symptom usually means that the CD-ROM drive is dirty and needs to be cleaned. It can also be caused by internal alignment or electronics problems, but these are much less common. Incorrect configuration or loose cabling can be the culprit (rarely, because usually the drive won't recognize at all in this situation).


  • The first step to try is to clean the drive. Consistent errors can be caused by dirt or debris on the heads. This is often not as simple as doing this with a floppy drive, so you may need to contact your drive's manufacturer for technical support.
  • Make sure that you have not used incompatible drivers. In particular, some CD-ROM drives will not work properly when IDE bus mastering drivers are installed under Windows 95.
  • Make sure that you have not set the interface timing (PIO mode) too high for the drive. You may want to try reducing the timing and seeing if this resolves the problem. Remember that some motherboards do not support independent device timing on the same IDE channel. If you set up your new hard disk on the same channel as your CD-ROM drive on one of these motherboards and set the timing to PIO mode 4, you may have problems with the CD-ROM since it probably only supports slower modes.
  • Make sure that you are not using an IDE cable that is too long, if you are using an IDE/ATAPI drive. The specified maximum is 18 inches, but some drives need them to be even shorter than that to work properly. Try replacing the cable with a shorter one, if possible.
  • There may be an interface or configuration problem causing the errors. These are typically the same possible causes of the drive not being recognized at all, so you should look in this troubleshooting section for some more possibilities. Bear in mind that these are less common causes for errors of this sort. You may just have a bad CD-ROM drive.
  • Try to make sure that you have eliminated any of the possible configuration gotchas that can lead to errors. If you do and are still getting these problems, you should contact your manufacturer's or system vendor's technical support department. If the drive is new or the system is still under warranty, insist on a replacement drive.
  • If you replace the drive and the problems continue, you may have a problem with your interface setup or even your motherboard.

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