I don't want to start from scratch!
June 30, 2007 11:16 PM   Subscribe

After I installed a new hard drive on my laptop my DVD burner/player no longer works, but plays and burns CDs just fine.

I own a Dell Inspiron 6000 laptop (running XP) and some months ago the hard drive crashed (lost all my data) and I had to install a new one as well as all the programs I lost, etc. Everything else on my computer is now working just fine, with the exception of the DVD player and burner. When I insert a blank DVD I am prompted to format the disk but the formatting always fails. I am also unable to watch regular DVDs regardless of the software I use to view them (mediaplayer, VLC, and various viewer programs on the DVDs themselves). I am still able to listen to music CDs and record data to blank CDs.

I've tried Dell's tech support, and they said that my only option is for me to back up all my data and restore everything on my laptop to the default settings! Surely there is a less drastic measure to take?
posted by kosher_jenny to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
I saw this recently (last month or so) on AskMe, but can't find it for the life of me.
posted by niles at 11:21 PM on June 30, 2007

First of all, are you sure your optical drive is, in fact, a DVD burner, and not a CD-DVD combo drive? A lot of laptops included combo drives for packaging and power consumption reasons, but combo drives never had the ability to burn DVDs - they could read CD, CD-R, and usually, CD-RW, write CD-R and sometimes CD-RW, and read DVD-ROMs, and sometimes DVD-RW and or DVD+RW. But the lasers for burning CD-R and DVD-RW or DVD+RW are generally very different, and in the small form factors of laptop drives, the first and second generation drives gave up DVD burning capability.

In any event, if you could read DVDs once upon a time, you should still be able to. But, there is nothing that says your DVD laser is still good, or that its lens isn't obscured by dirt or finger smudges, particularly if it is a combo type drive. Failures of different components do happen coincedentally, so don't rule this out, without checking it out! Probably worth a good cleaning. You can also obtain various optical drive testing suites (some manufacturer specific) from the usual Web sources, for testing your drive. You might have even disturbed the CMOS detection and stored values for your optical drive when installing and detecting your new hard drive, so it is worth verifying BIOS settings, too, before going further.

You can get DVD writers for notebooks, that will fit in the slots formerly occupied by CD-DVD combo drives, but they're slower at writing CDs, and far slower than good desktop form factor DVD writers.
posted by paulsc at 11:54 PM on June 30, 2007

On the Dell support page for your laptop, there are quite a few firmware updates available for DVD drives, although most are dated 2005/2006. This kind of update isn't actually related at all to your hard drive replacement, but if you haven't already patched, it's probably worth a shot. Most seem to fix things like: "Firmware upgrade enables write support for additional brands of DVD R media." Aside from that, make sure you have all your windows updates as well, and if you know what you are doing, maybe take a peek in your BIOS to see if anything looks wrong there.
posted by tracert at 8:52 AM on July 1, 2007

paulsc: I'm holding a laptop right now which has a combo CD+DVD burner, and I've tested the feature by burning DVDs successfully, so it's definitely not true that "they don't exist".

Anyway, I'm guessing it's a driver issue (as.. usual, you know). Have you uninstalled and reinstalled just the driver? Which driver did you use anyway? Have you tried figuring out who actually made the burner (hint: probably not Dell) and digging through their page for newer drivers?
posted by anaelith at 9:30 AM on July 1, 2007

"Combo" is a specific marketing term used to describe drives that read and burn CD's, but only read DVD's.

Any DVD burner will also read and burn CD's.

Windows has inbuilt support for burning CD's, but it doesn't work for burning DVD's, even if you have hardware that can do so. You need to install something third-party.

If you already have the same third-party DVD-burning software installed as you did before the hard disk got replaced, and your DVD burner used to burn DVD's but no longer does so, then it's probably time to get it replaced. Burners do just die.
posted by flabdablet at 6:30 PM on July 1, 2007

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