Can a CD damage a player?
August 20, 2006 2:21 PM   Subscribe

Can a CD damage a player? I'm not talking about a really dirty or greasy CD, but an OK-looking used CD with a scratch or some dirt I didn't notice? I hate to put used CDs in my car player (the last one broke during the first play of a good-looking used CD, but it may have just worn out), but don't know if I'm being careful or just nuts.
posted by EllenC to Technology (7 answers total)
Presumably a dirty CD could get dirt inside the player, but I don't think it's a big issue.

High speed CD-ROM drives spin the CD fast enough that I understand you could get pretty spectacular structural failure of an unsound CD, but I don't think that will be an issue on audio players and I had the feeling it was extremely rare anyway.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 2:38 PM on August 20, 2006

I've played lots of used CDs and never damaged any player. However, I've read that if there are cracks on the inner ring of a DVD, it is possible for pieces of the DVD to break off if it is spinning fast enough, which can really damage the player. I would think that the same principle applies to a CD if it is spinning fast enough. I have no idea if audio CDs spin fast enough for this.
posted by advil at 2:58 PM on August 20, 2006

I've bought over five hundred used cds and have never had any damage to my player. Unless there's loose dirt on them or the cd physically falls apart from spinning you'll be fine.

The cd player shoots a low power laser at the cd. There's nothing that laser can hit that will do damage to the cd player.
posted by aubilenon at 3:01 PM on August 20, 2006

Years ago, there were some novelty-shaped CDs that could damage the spindle motors due to vibration (because they aren't balanced), but there's no real way for a clean, circular CD to break a player. The lens doesn't even touch the disk and the optics are electronically controlled, so it would have to break itself by pushing the motors too far or something. Not gonna happen.
posted by cillit bang at 3:04 PM on August 20, 2006

whether or not a CD is "used" or not really doesn't matter. a scratch will just make the player search for where it was on the CD, or kick in the error correction built into CDs. CDs don't work like records, so you won't actually damage the laser unit in there if you put in a CD with a scratch on it. the worst I think you could do is maybe wear out the motors that move the laser around a bit more than you would otherwise.

that said, both CDs and CD players wear out - chemical reactions in the disc make the shiny bits less shiny (or changes the color in the ink on a CD-R), and lasers wear from use and dim. the latter occurs more frequently than the former, usually. CDs don't really wear from exposure to lasers, and, for your average pressed CD, it usually takes several decades for them to go bad if you take care of them (i.e. keeping them scratch free, not leaving them in the car when it's 110 outside, not leaving them out in the sun, etc.). if you're not buying CDs that have been rubbed with steel wool, they shouldn't have any adverse effect on your player.
posted by mrg at 3:08 PM on August 20, 2006

Do not put CDs with labels on them into a car player. Stick on labels are evil.
posted by caddis at 5:38 PM on August 20, 2006

As others have said, no a scratched cd won't hurt and audio cd player, but as TheOnlyCoolTim mentioned, a CD can most certainly destroy a high speed computer cd drive. Have you noticed that CD drives hit 52x and pretty much stopped there? It's because anything faster crosses the threshold for what a CD is capable of. Even at 52x microscopic imperfections can be more than enough to cause a CD to disintegrate in the drive. These bits are moving more than fast enough to take destroy the drive when the CD breaks.

This isn't theory, I've personally seen this happen a couple of times (and it never fails to scare the bejesus out of me). That said, in an audio cd player, it only has to get the CD up to about 500 rpm so the likelyhood on anything like this happening is incredibly slim.
posted by quin at 6:01 PM on August 20, 2006

« Older Good Volunteer Opportunities in San Francisco?   |   finding one month of housing in Vienna Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.