How can I read CR-Rs with labels on them?
December 17, 2004 6:59 AM   Subscribe

CD-R problem: Anyone have any luck reading old CD-Rs that they were dumb enough to stick those printed labels on? [mi]

A couple of years ago, we archived a whole bunch of old digital photos onto CD-R, and we were overzealous enough to print up those circular paper labels and stick them on. (The kind that basically cover the entire top side of the CD.)

Well, when we burned them, they worked fine, and as recently as several months ago, they still read fine. Now, though, the discs won't work in any of our CD/DVD drives...not our iMac, not my laptop, not the DVD player downstairs. They make some kind of loud noise as they spin now, which makes me think the paper label's probably soaked up some humidity and gotten warped and/or off-balance.

Anyone here have any luck resurrecting a disc in this state, either with a home-grown solution, or by sending it off to a service? Part of me is thinking to maybe try to dehumidify it, by either putting it in a warm environment or sticking it in a container with one of those little chemical packs, but the more rational part of me is highly dubious. Any ideas, or recovery service recommendations, are very welcome.
posted by LairBob to Computers & Internet (16 answers total)
Response by poster: Oh, yeah, and here's a warning to anyone who might be inclined to use those labels...DON'T DO IT!!!
posted by LairBob at 7:01 AM on December 17, 2004

if you think the data is fine, but the paper is the problem, soak the whole think in very warm (but not scalding hot) water for a while. Then scrape the label off.
posted by jaded at 7:09 AM on December 17, 2004

Response by poster: I may give that a try--my main concern with taking the label off is that unless you can do it completely, adhesive and all, you're likely to still have an unbalanced disc, with all the crap still stuck on the top, right? (Have you actually done the soaking thing?)
posted by LairBob at 7:24 AM on December 17, 2004

I've bought a number of CD's from indie bands around the midwest that do the same damned thing. They refuse to play in my (slot-loading) car CD player, and in fact, I'm pretty sure they're responsible for the death of a cheap boombox of mine.

I don't have a solution, but I'm interested in hearing one. If I were going to try this, I'd see if I could either

A. Get a really old (2x) CD drive and use that, because maybe going slower with older, more robust hardware would help.

B. Seeing if I could slow the drive down in software, as well.

I'd keep them out of a warm environment.. a chemical dessicant like silica gel would be the only way to dehumidify that wouldn't destroy the CD.
posted by fake at 7:42 AM on December 17, 2004

fake's advice of slowing down your drive is good. Nero DriveSpeed can slow your drive down and is a free download. If you already have Nero, it also comes with it.
posted by zsazsa at 9:28 AM on December 17, 2004

my main concern with taking the label off is that unless you can do it completely, adhesive and all, you're likely to still have an unbalanced disc, with all the crap still stuck on the top, right?
posted by LairBob at 7:24 AM PST on December 17

You could always swipe the top with some Goo Gone, it's available in most craft or hardware stores. Designed for just that purpose- sticky label gunk removal. (I'd test it on a blank CD first, though, just to make sure the solvent isn't so strong it causes damage).
posted by Kellydamnit at 9:46 AM on December 17, 2004

Response by poster: Awesome, zsazsa...I was poking around for 15-20 mins trying to figure out if I could do that with my laptop, somehow. Thanks.
posted by LairBob at 9:48 AM on December 17, 2004

Google for an utility called ISO Buster (for the PC) Start it as you go to bed, in the morning most if not all the data will be on your drive.
posted by Fupped Duck at 9:51 AM on December 17, 2004

Best answer: Then scrape the label off.

DON'T DO THAT! DO NOT DO THAT. I'm sorry, but it's a stupid suggestion. If you scrape too hard to you will remove not only the label but the reflective layer underneath. I've done it. It will permanently and forever ruin the disc. One scratch and bye-bye data.
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:31 AM on December 17, 2004

Response by poster: Hey, thanks for the warning, Mo. I'll avoid that.

FD, I did find and download ISOBuster, just in case I was wrong, but my initial reservations were right--the problem is that the disc won't even mount in the first place, because of some kind of mechanical problem. I don't think any kind of software-based solution is going to help.

I did also try DriveSpeed, with no real luck...the disc does seem to be spinning a bit slower, from what I can tell by the sound, but it still doesn't manage to get around to mounting. It spins faster and slower as it seems to try and read it, and then eventually just spins down to a stop.

Ugh. Well, the disc recovery places I called all said $75-200 if they can recover, which is a lot of money, but may be worth it to recover the family photos. (I know, I know...I was trying to mount them today to back them up on more media.)

Thanks all...any additional recommendations are still appreciated.
posted by LairBob at 10:49 AM on December 17, 2004

Are you sure it is the fault of the labels? It seems weird to me, especially since you had them working just a few months ago??

Could anything else have happened to them in the meantime? Maybe try a few more different drives and you'll get lucky?
posted by jacobsee at 11:44 AM on December 17, 2004

Response by poster: Tried every drive I've got access to in my home/home office, and none of them seem to work (although they're all reading other discs just fine). These are the only 2 discs I've got with these paper labels, so that seems like the main common criterion. They were also burned on the same day, so I suppose it's possible that they both had some kind of media degradation error that cropped up over time, but generally media errors don't seem to give you the kind of mechanical failure I'm seeing with these.
posted by LairBob at 11:55 AM on December 17, 2004

Now I'm concerned about the fancy Jewelboxing set I just bought. Will the labels really affect the CDs?
posted by thebabelfish at 12:48 PM on December 17, 2004

Best answer: I have seen rings that attach to cds to eliminate wobble. Audiophiles have some gear that can true up the edge of the disks if you really must have that data. I would try to obtain a balancing ring first though. You might first try this trick. Make sure the drive is level with, um, a level. With two non-critical disks, see if one of your drives will run/read two disks stacked on top of each other. The top disc should be a coaster as it may be abraded by the label during spin up. If there is clearance and it works, then try your photo disk and see if it really is a wobbler.
posted by roboto at 1:05 PM on December 17, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for the info, roboto, but I may be out of luck with that of the 2 CD drives I have right now is an iMac slot-loader, and my laptop drive is one of those trays with a clip-in holder in the middle. I don't think either one will take 2 discs stacked one on top of the other. (If I do get really desperate, maybe I'll lay down $20 for an old 2x tray-loader.)

And babelfish, if the problem is what I think it is, then I guess it would really depend on whether the labels you got are paper or not. The discs worked fine for a while, like I said, so if you used some type of vinyl that didn't warp or soak up humidity, you'd probably be fine. If they are paper, though, I'd really think twice, or at least make an archive dupe of the same CDs that _don't_ have paper labels. My real problem isn't really the labels--it's that I put all our eggs into a single basket, backup-wise.
posted by LairBob at 1:56 PM on December 17, 2004

Best answer: I've always heard that *all* labels are bad because the adhesive can react with the laquer, reflective, and dye layers which are just microns thick. Here's a good page with discussion on the damaging aspects of labels.
posted by zsazsa at 4:58 PM on December 17, 2004

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