My PS2 is having intermittent trouble reading disks.
December 22, 2004 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Speaking of dying Sony products, my PS2 has issues. [+]

It's an early unit (model SCPH-30001) and about a month ago, it started intermittently not being able to read perfectly good discs. Seemed to happen more with PS1 discs at first, and the problem generally went away after opening and closing the drawer a few times. Now it's progressed to the point where all discs work pretty much never. I should point out that if it does recognize a disc, it won't have any problems at all reading the data. Also, there's a slight grinding noise when the tray comes out.

I know there are sites that sell PS2 parts for fairly reasonable prices, and I'm fairly confident in my fiddling around inside expensive electronic equipment skills. Trouble is, I have no idea what part's failing. So: a) What needs to be replaced? b) What's a dependable site I can order from? c) While we're at it, know any reliable sources for modchips?
posted by squidlarkin to Technology (16 answers total)
Best answer: A previous Ask MetaFilter thread on the subject of PS2s suggested that Sony will replace defective disc-read-error-throwing units at no charge. Further investigation seemed to verify this assertion [self-link], with confirmation from at least one person who took advantage of the offer.
posted by Danelope at 10:04 AM on December 22, 2004

It's the laser. From what I remember from when that happened to us, the cost of replacing the laser was comparable to just buying a new system. Which we did- an X-box. It's a widespread problem with early PS2 units, although Sony doesn't claim any sort of responsibility. Doing a search for "playstation disk read error" will find you a lot of repair guides, like this one, but I offer no personal recommendations, as my solution was to just junk the system.
posted by Ruki at 10:05 AM on December 22, 2004

I had a similar problem with my 1st-gen PS2 and I found that cleaning the laser lens with a Q-tip dampened with isopropyl alcohol solved the problem completely. It's a 5-minute job, so I would recommend trying that before trying to order replacement parts. It won't fix the grinding noise, but there's a good chance you'll be back to playing Katamari Damacy in no time.
posted by kidhuevos at 10:08 AM on December 22, 2004

So is this an issue only with the 1st-gen PS2's? I'm looking at buying a console and am leaning toward the PS2, but if it's got problems I could just as well go Xbox or Gamecube.
posted by isotope at 10:19 AM on December 22, 2004

Honestly I would buy an Xbox as I was burned by Sony.
posted by Keyser Soze at 10:22 AM on December 22, 2004

It's actually probably the white gear that holds the laser in position. Newer PS2's don't have this, but yours does.

The instructions in the link work, but it will take an afternoon at a table. The sony service is great, but it takes weeks and word on the street is they don't care if you've opened it yourself so long as you don't break anything worse. (disclaimer: I am not Sony.)

I'm looking at buying a console and am leaning toward the PS2, but if it's got problems I could just as well go Xbox or Gamecube.

The newer ones don't have this problem. However, I only have the PS2, but I don't think it's the thing to get now. It's near the end of its run and will be replaced sooner than the xbox.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:28 AM on December 22, 2004

While I am not the foremost expert in this arena, I don't believe the same issue occurs in the new smaller PSTwo units. As discussed in this thread, choosing a system really comes down to your taste in games and which platform delivers the best in that genre. Hardware failures happen regardless of platform (and, as an addendum to my previous self-link, my PS2 is still fine several months and a hundred hours of GTA: San Andreas.)
posted by Danelope at 10:29 AM on December 22, 2004

Best answer: I hope you didn't open it!

Open this link and specifically read "Disc Read Error Sony Repair FAQ". If you haven't opened it, you are likely entitled to free repair.

So, you opened it, didn't you? ARGH!

Tools / Stuff needed: Q-Tips, Compressed air, 99 - 100% IPA, #2 philips screwdriver, #00 or #0 philips screwdriver, hex or allen keys, #7 - 9 torx.

#0: Unplug your PS2 (duh).
#1: Remove all 10 screws under the console.
#2: VERY CAREFULLY remove the top lid. There are cables attached!
#3: Do not remove the buttons. Simply put the top of the case on its side while you work.
#4: Don't touch the power supply!
#5: Remove the TINY black jewelers screws holding the lid of the PS2 drive on. Lift off the lid.
#6: Take some compressed air and dust the laser off with it. CAREFULLY. It's mounted on tiny wires inside which will be wrecked if you are not careful.
#7: Swipe (do not swirl) the laser with an alcohol soaked Q-Tip.
#8: Dust the laser again with the compressed air to dry up the remaining alcohol.
#9: Remove the white plastic donut in the lid you took off. Power up the console (watch the PSU!), put a game in the tray, and put the plastic donut on the disc (this is magnetic and is 100% what holds the disc in place). Preferrably use a DVD game, rather than a CD game (the DVD laser is the weakest and the DVDs don't spin up to life-threatening speeds!).
#10: If you can boot the game without using the browser, you have won, if not, read on.

#11: Remove the game. Do you see a white cog at the back of the drive with an allen socket on the top? You can adjust the height of the laser with this. Mark its present position and turn it (either way) 2 or 3 clicks. Test the drive again. Repeat until you are satisfied the game loads as fast as possible.

#12: Still busted? There's more adjustments. The little black screw to the left of the laser that appears to be holding the laser unit to the metal bar, the one with the small torx / allen key head? That's the another skew adjustment. Mark its present position and play with it until you get the game to load up quicker.

#13: Argh! You're still in trouble? This is where it gets tough, and dangerous to the life of your laser. But hey, better fixed than not working, right? Remove the philps screwat the back of the unit that is holding the right metal bar of the drive sled down. Once this is removed you will find the laser simple to flip over. Mark the two very small potentiometer dials' present positions. Now adjust them a little. No more than 25%. Generally, clockwise is gain, anti-clockwise is attenuation. Too much and you *WILL* destroy the laser for sure!

#14: Some less common problems are bad grease (you can use light household oil to grease up the sled and tracking screw if you want to freshen it up) or the plastic tab on the laser is not fitting into the groove of the tracking screw properly (sometimes it can get worn down).

#15: Cheap-ass fix for the plastic tab: Remove the laser as in step 13. You'll note the plastic tab is attached with a single jewelers philips screw. Remove that. Place a small spacer between the metal and the plastic tab so the plastic tab is slightly lower. I use one of the orange insulator washers you get with computer cases cut to fit. Screw it all back together and in place and enjoy!

Well, if you put your PS2 back together properly, you should have a working one by now. I've probably repaired a few dozen this way with about 70% success.

BTW: All Sony lasers are garbage. The new PSTwos have the following major faults:

- DVD-RW media will shorten laser life dramatically (I've seen cases of under 1 month to laser destruction.

- The mechacon, which controls the laser and DSP units (for authentication, mostly) is no longer protected from lockups. When the mechacon locks up the IC that drives everything (they integrated it that much now) places all its outputs high. That means the laser melts. I have seen this already once myself.

- There is no longer a physical off switch, so when the above happens, I hope you remember where you plugged the PSTwo in.

- The PSTwo has a minimal amount of airflow. With all the integration (EE + GS in one) this might not be a problem, but after only two hours I have noticed discs coming out warm.

- The PSTwo power supplies are VERY poorly regulated. Since the PSTwo expects 8.5 volts and does not appear to have much internal regulation its power input this is a major problem. PSTwo power supplies vary from 8.0 - 9.0 volts output.

The pinnacle of PS2 development was the V7 console (SCPH-39001 with 8 screws on the botton, 3 in the expansion bay). It had the best laser in it that Sony ever had, it was the last console Sony developed that still had a mechacon watchdog, and all chips were properly heatsinked.
posted by shepd at 10:45 AM on December 22, 2004

Response by poster: For posterity:

Just called Sony at 1-800-345-SONY, they said they'd fix it free of charge so long as I'd been a good consumer and not gone tinkering inside of it (which I haven't, yet). They say they'll ship it back within 7-10 days of receipt. I'll post back here when they do.
posted by squidlarkin at 11:18 AM on December 22, 2004

Sorry trharlan, I haven't been repairing any (real) DVD players yet... If I do I will let you know! :-D
posted by shepd at 11:59 AM on December 22, 2004

shepd, thanks for that!
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:04 PM on December 22, 2004

(plug) squidlarkin... I'll have my site for modchips up shortly (guess what my job is). Note they're not legal in the USA so finding a USA vendor is TOUGH. Some popular sites that sell modchips in North America (most are located in Canada but will ship to the USA):

Modchips for PS2 are a serious PITA to install. From the age and model number you've given, yours is the HARDEST PS2 to mod (V1 - V3). You will be soldering to the absolute smallest of surface mount connections. Sorry...

BTW: Since you have an older console, I suggest buying a higher end chip. Unfortunately, a lot of the dirt cheap chips nowadays don't support V1-V3 very well anymore. If you can find an old DUO original that would be your best bet (fewest wires and I can attest it fully supports V1-V3, plus they _were_ cheap).
posted by shepd at 12:08 PM on December 22, 2004

shepd is the God of PS2 , I'd start a religion only to worship him.

Lord, I knew about the DVD-RW badness, but what's your opinion on the best kind of DVD to use if one is to burn PS2 games: DVD+R or DVD-R? I suspect it's the same but...
(WARNING: I don't do it and I don't support the practice neither does mathowie and this is only for educational purposes)
posted by matteo at 12:16 PM on December 22, 2004

trharlan, do you have link for that menu trick? Google doesn't give me anything.
posted by cillit bang at 12:38 PM on December 22, 2004

DVD-R is "best" simply because older PS2s did not support the codes that DVD+R used to present to the player (basically, like a lot of old DVD player, the PS2 didn't think the disc was a DVD).

Otherwise, I think on the new players, from a laser lifetime perspective, they're relatively equal (and, from a booting perspective, also equal).

I simply steer people towards DVD-R because it works in all PS2s ever built, plus there's a lot more data points from people on what is a good DVD-R for a PS2 and what isn't. For some good brand names, I suggest discs branded Verbatim or Mitsui. But anything that costs you over $2 or $3 per disc is going to be good enough to not worry about.

Just don't go buying the 100 spindles of DVD-R that are covered in dust and marked down to $10...
posted by shepd at 3:22 PM on December 23, 2004

posted by matteo at 5:33 AM on December 24, 2004

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