Can I safely disassemble my CD player, or will it blind me?
August 4, 2009 12:31 PM   Subscribe

Can I safely disassemble my carousel-style CD player, or will the laser [blind me/ fry me/ cross the streams and produce total protonic reversal]?

My five-disc carousel-drawer CD player stopped working, perhaps due to a disc sliding out of place and blocking the drawer. The drawer won't shut all the way, and my gentle efforts to retrieve the disc have failed. (I've seen this previous question about retrieving jammed CDs, and nothing has worked.)

If this were a VCR or other device without a laser, I wouldn't hesitate to take it apart and remove the disc or otherwise gently monkey around inside it, in hopes of salvaging either the disc or the player or both. However, I've seen some warnings about the dangers of lasers and particularly the dangers of "residual power" in CD and DVD players. Is this fact or myth?

Is it safe for me to unscrew the bottom panel of my CD player (unplugged for an hour now) and take it apart?
posted by Elsa to Technology (9 answers total)
There is minimal danger from laser exposure. If it is unplugged, the laser won't turn on, and CD players nowadays use only the weakest sort of laser anyway (can barely see it in normal lighting.). The only thing to worry about is the power supply, wherein lie the large capacitors. Those will store charge for days.
When you take it apart, don't poke around at the hunk of circuitry where the power cord goes in. That's the power supply. As long as it is unplugged, it is unlikely to be Really, Really Dangerous (like a TV) but it might give you a zap if you touch the wrong parts.
posted by leapfrog at 12:38 PM on August 4, 2009

leapfrog, that's all quite helpful --- thanks!

CD players nowadays use only the weakest sort of laser anyway (can barely see it in normal lighting.).

This CD player was manufactured in 1994; would a 1994 laser be more powerful (i.e., dangerous)?
posted by Elsa at 12:44 PM on August 4, 2009

Senconding the laser comment with the addition that they're also meant to focus on the disc and so by the time they get to your eye they're pretty diffuse.

I wouldn't even worry about the power supply, modern switch mode power supplies don't even have really large capacitors.

I'd be more worried about cutting myself on sharp metal than being electrocuted if it's unplugged.

Even modern TVs aren't really dangerous, all you get is a small burn if you touch one of their capacitors. (Yes, I've done that)

The thing you really shouldn't be messing around in is your microwave. They really are deadly.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 12:45 PM on August 4, 2009

CD player lasers are either Class I (won't cause permanent damage) or Class II (laser pointer class, might cause permanent damage if you stared into it for a long time) so you don't need to worry about that. If you see a really bright red light, quit looking at it. It won't hurt you before you can get out of the way of it. The optics in a CD player, as mentioned, focus the light onto something really close to the lens, so there's really no risk there.
As for the power supply, yeah, there shouldn't be any really large capacitors in it, but it's a good habit to just steer clear of the blue cylindrical parts, particularly the larger ones.
CRT Televisions, no matter the age, can hold a wicked painful charge for days.
(see ) Fancy new-fangled LCD and Plasma screens, not so much.
posted by leapfrog at 1:03 PM on August 4, 2009

As mentioned, the laser bit is no threat, however, I caution you on taking this apart unless you don't value your time at all. CD changers frequently contain some awfully crazy bits of mechanical engineering, and it can be really finicky to get all the little springs and gears and so on back together the right way, especially if the mechanism has anything that's "indexed" (like the system relies on a certain gear always starting at position X and moves it N teeth to accomplish Y, you'll know you effed this up if you put it back together and try something and you hear a pinion grinding off its rack, for instance). Imagine a watch or a clock, but on the scale of a CD changer, thats how many small bits are in there (depending, some are way simpler, generally, carousels are on the simpler side so that's a win).

What do CD changers cost these days? Like $20? Depending on how much this thing needs to come apart, this could easily turn into a several-hour project.
posted by jeb at 1:07 PM on August 4, 2009

jed, I'm not primarily concerned with fixing the player (though that would be swell), but with retrieving the CD. Well, obviously, I'm primarily concerned with not having a horrible horrible accident, though it sounds like that's vanishingly unlikely.

And I do have several hours and a deep love of monkeying around with mechanical innards.
posted by Elsa at 1:17 PM on August 4, 2009

I guess I should clarify, modern TV's will 'hold a wicked painful charge' which will give you a burn but they won't throw you across the room and kill you instantly like an older one would. A modern TV is unlikely to do any permanant or terminal damage, it'll just be highly unpleasant.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 1:24 PM on August 4, 2009

Do it! Taking apart my old CD player was the start of my love of electronics, and I have yet to find something that couldn't be safely taken apart and put back together, as long as you are careful about keeping track of exactly what you are doing, and know which parts not to touch (anything that looks like a C cell battery is bad news).
posted by markblasco at 2:41 PM on August 4, 2009

Every CD player, DVD player and other piece of consumer electronics with lasers inside have kill switches that prevent a laser from activiating when the door or the case is opened (just like you can't run your microwave when the door is open).

So if your drawer won't shut all the way it is essentially impossible for the the laser won't activate. Open it up and pull the CD's out, it will be perfectly safe.
posted by Ookseer at 11:51 PM on August 4, 2009

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