I have a burning question...
July 8, 2009 11:37 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for recommendations for a decent external cd burner for an older computer/OS (Win 2000) and the best stores or online merchants to purchase it. [Barring that, if anyone has any hints for unjamming cd-rom drives that are jammed shut (and, I believe, off the track), I'd be interested!]

Somehow my internal cd-rom drive (and only drive with a cd burner) is jammed shut. I've tried the 'paper clip method' to try to get it open, which has worked in the past, but it seems that the tray of the cd burner is partially or completely off the track now. So, it won't budge.

My question (unless you have some ideas of how to unjam REALLY jammed trays) is I'd like to get a new cd burner sooner than later. I'm looking to get an external USB one because I'm not confident about opening up my computer to install an internal. I have an older computer, though. It's about 5 or 6 years old, and I'm running Windows 2000 on it. My current cd burner is an internal Memorex 52MAXX 2452AJ. I really don't care about having a dvd burner; I'm really mostly interested in replacing my cd burner so that I can burn audio cds from files on my computer. I am assuming that dvd burners also burn cds (right??), which is okay, but I have absolutely no use for a dvd burner. So, if it's possible to just get a cd burner (to save a bit of money).. well, that'd be great.

Does anyone have any recommendations for pretty decent, stable external cd burners that would be easy to use for a technophobe and work with an older system like mine? Or, even a company recommendation if not an actual model recommendation? Also, does anyone have any recommendations for online stores from which to buy it? I've looked at Amazon and Newegg, and I generally found browsing their cd/dvd burners to be overwhelming and confusing (especially at Newegg -- and their customer service to be very unhelpful). As I've intimated in many of my past questions, I'm pretty technophobic, so simpler is always better. I'd generally prefer to spend less money.. I'm not really interested in the newest, most bells-and-whistles-y stuff.

Thanks in advance for all responses!
posted by Mael Oui to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Changing out a cdr drive is about the most basic thing that you can do under the hood of a puter. Go to craigslist and get a cdr for free or almost free, buy a buddy of yours a dinner and he'll do it in ten minutes.
posted by dancestoblue at 12:53 AM on July 9, 2009

A basic CD/DVD burner is only about $25 and an external one is not going to be that much more. They are all pretty much the same in terms of features and reliability so don't agonize over your decision. I would just go to Newegg and buy the one that has the most ratings, because it is going to be a decent unit that everyone else is buying.

Yeah, Newegg doesn't have any customer service that is gong to help you pick out a unit, (other than the user reviews). But they are one of the best if your purchase is defective and their prices are good and their shipping is fast and inexpensive.
posted by 14580 at 3:05 AM on July 9, 2009

Seriously, don't bother with an external burner unless this is a laptop. Optical drive replacement in a typical desktop computer needs only a #2 Philips head screwdriver and the following steps:
  1. Unplug the mains power cord.
  2. Remove four screws to take off both the case's side panels.
  3. Remove four screws holding the drive into the case. These will have a different thread from the case screws, so keep them separate.
  4. Unplug the flat data cable, the four-wire power cable and possibly a thin audio cable from the back of the drive.
  5. Slide the drive out of the front of the case.
  6. Examine the back of the drive, and find a small group of six pins labelled in pairs: MA, SL and CS (these labels are typically embossed in the plastic housing surrounding the pins or into the metal casing of the drive right near the pins and/or diagrammed on the drive's label). There will be a little jumper block linking one of these pairs. Find the corresponding pins on the back of the new drive, and move its jumper if necessary to make its MA/SL/CS settting match that of the old drive.
  7. Slide the new drive back into the case.
  8. Gently plug the cables back in. All the plugs are different shapes so they'll only go in the right places, and they're all keyed so they'll only fit the right way around. Once they're lined up nicely, press them firmly home.
  9. Fix the new drive into place with the same screws that used to hold in the old drive.
  10. Replace the side panels, plug in the mains cable and enjoy your new drive and your newfound technical confidence.
It's actually quite hard to find new CD burners now, and when you do, they typically cost maybe $10 less than dual layer DVD burners, so you might as well get the DVD burner - if you're using it for backup, you will quickly save the extra drive cost in lower media costs (one DVD+R holds about as much as 6 CD-ROMs). Don't bother installing the shovelware burner software that will come bundled with the drive - InfraRecorder is small, easy, fast and free.
posted by flabdablet at 6:04 AM on July 9, 2009

Serious question -- Does Windows 2000 even support USB CDRW's? I would avoid purchasing an external drive on such an old machine -- and just replace your internal burner (it really is easy).

When it comes down to it -- they are all fairly similar. this $17.99 drive shoud do the deed.

There are a number of videos on youtube (such as this) showing how to replace the drive. Its super easy.

(as a side note -- i have a perfectly fine couple year old 52x cdrw in my pile of "tech junk" you are welcome to if you send me a fedex/ups label I can stick on a box. send me mefi mail if your interested)
posted by SirStan at 6:08 AM on July 9, 2009

Response by poster: dancestoblue - I don't have a buddy! Seriously, I live with my elderly mother and I'm surrounded by all of her elderly friends. I don't have anyone to help me with anything at all. That's why I submit pathetic questions to this site.

And.. I had a post a bunch of weeks ago about buying a tv and setting it up for the digital transition. I bought a new tv, I set it up (actually, I didn't even set it up, my sister who lives six hours away and doesn't visit often set it up).. and I get nothing. No, that's not true.. I get one channel when I used to get about 12, and it goes in and out a couple times a minute, and now pretty much my only contact with the outside world has been taken away from me. I am absolutely not about to open my computer up and completely destroy it. What's super easy for people who feel confident mucking about with this stuff isn't super easy for me. I'm like an old lady when it comes to technology. I don't understand it. I don't know what I'm doing, and I probably will kill myself if I lose this one small connection I have to the outside world.

I looked at Newegg, but I don't have a credit card, so I think that rules that site out. That's kind of why I was asking about different stores. I spent HOURS on Newegg trying to make sense of the different things, the user reviews that said everything I looked at sucked, and then I emailed them only to get a useless response.

flabdablet, something tells me your response is the best answer, but I seriously don't understand it. I don't know what any of those pieces are. And I can't put a DVD+R in my cd player and play music on it, can I? No, seriously, can I? Ah well, thank you all for your responses!
posted by Mael Oui at 7:54 PM on July 9, 2009

Response by poster: Actually, my response above is pretty sad, now that I've read it over. I'm just at a loss for what to do. I'll look over all the videos and information that you all so graciously provided me with and, who knows, maybe a miracle will occur and I'll have some results. Thank you!
posted by Mael Oui at 8:01 PM on July 9, 2009

Best answer: I can't put a DVD+R in my cd player and play music on it, can I? No, seriously, can I?

No, but you can use a DVD burner to burn an audio CD to CD-R media. Anything you can do with a CD reader-writer you can also do with a DVD reader-writer, plus more.

I get one channel when I used to get about 12, and it goes in and out a couple times a minute, and now pretty much my only contact with the outside world has been taken away from me

The fact that digital TV sucks where you live doesn't mean there's something wrong with your technical ability; it just means that digital TV sucks where you live.

I am absolutely not about to open my computer up and completely destroy it.

Quite so.

You won't destroy it by taking the side panels off and having a look in there. You won't destroy it by removing the CD drive mounting screws. You won't even destroy it if you unplug and remove the CD drive and can't figure out how to replace it with a new one - you'll just stop it from being able to use the CD drive which, given that it's jammed anyway, is a difference that makes no difference.

Ways to destroy your computer by opening it include:
  • unplugging and re-plugging bits without having disconnected the mains cable thirty seconds beforehand
  • dropping screws inside the power supply or losing them under the motherboard, then switching the computer on without having first shaken those screws back out
  • wearing a mix of nylon and wool to build up a nice static charge, then touching componentry without first having touched a piece of the case metalwork to discharge yourself
  • giving all the internals a good thump with the back of a ball peen hammer or small hatchet
If you can trust yourself to avoid doing any of those things, your chances of hurting anything are negligible.
posted by flabdablet at 1:53 AM on July 12, 2009

Sorry - without having disconnected the mains cable at least thirty seconds beforehand. It takes about that long for standby power to wind down after the mains voltage is removed.
posted by flabdablet at 5:20 PM on July 12, 2009

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