Types of Disc Damage

There are many different types of disc damage. On this page we define some of the most common types & outline what typically can/cannot be repaired with our Professional Disc Repair Service.

The shiny side of the disc is side where the laser reads the data off the disc (the “read” side). The most common type of read side damage is scratches.

Scratches caused by normal every day wear and tear is absolutely no issue to repair. This is typically caused by neglecting to insert a disc into its case when finished using it. Your disc can be entirely covered in scratches and you may think it is beyond saving, but in most cases, it can be resurfaced to look brand new again!

Circle Scratch / “Laser Burn”
While the term “laser burn” is not really correct, this is how the infamous circle scratch is described by many. This is normally caused by the disc coming into contact with the internal mechanisms within the disc drive. This can happen if the unit playing the disc is bumped or moved while spinning.

This type of damage is mostly seen in Xbox 360 games, or discs used in laptops. We have fixed thousands of discs with this type of damage and 99.9% of them come back looking brand new and work perfectly!

Label Side Damage
The label side of the disc is where the artwork appears, or the “top side” of the disc. Most people are not aware that this is a very sensitive side of disc media and is just as important to guard against damage as the read side. Maybe even more so, since label side damage cannot be repaired.

Extensive label side damage can render a disc unplayable. Basically, with this type of damage, the optical pickup cannot read the data on the disc without the critical reflective layer present, which is a microscopic layer just under the label.

Unfortunately, nothing can fix this type of damage and if it is extensive the disc will not play. Trying to restore the reflective layer by painting over it with silver or nail polish unfortunately doesn't work. The vital structures which form the reflective layer under the label are only nanometers deep and are highly sensitive if damaged.

The easiest way to check for label side damage is to hold your disc up to a very bright light bulb with the shiny side facing you. If you see scratches and/or pin holes shining thru from the label side, you have label side damage. If the damage is very minimal, you may be ok, but there is really no way of knowing for sure unless you play the disc.

Heat Damage
Heat damage can be cause by many factors. But the most common is a disc left in an environment that allows direct heat or sunlight to build up, such as on the dashboard of a car in the summer or next to a heater, etc. Note that a disc left in its case is not protected from the effects of heat buildup and may cause damage. Heat damaged or melted discs are not repairable.

Warped discs exhibit a permanent deformation such as a twist or bend in the disc media.

Warping can be caused by many scenarios. Examples include: Discs exposed to even mild heat over long periods can cause warping, such as next to a TV or vent. Discs that are stepped on or mishandled can cause permanent warping. Discs sent thru the mail system that have not been packaged properly for shipping. Always take precautions when mailing discs and either ship in a box or in a padded envelope with a piece of cardboard to help prevent bending.

Excessively Deep Scratches & Gouges
This type of damage represents a disc that has seen considerable abuse and extreme neglect. While it is possible that it may be repaired to a playable state, there is really no way of knowing for sure until resurfacing has been completed and the disc is played.

Depending on the severity of the damage, it may reach the data layer, which in turn damages the program on the disc rendering it unsalvageable.

Severely deep scratches and gouges may be reduced but not fully eliminated during commercial resurfacing. It is worth attempting to try to save the disc, however, since reducing deep scratches may possibly be just enough to allow the disc to be read so long as the data layer is intact.

Dents can be caused by blunt force to the disc such as dropping a heavy or sharp object on it or letting your dog chew it. Many times dents look like an ice pic has been taken to the disc. Dents may be seen on the label side, the read side, or both.

This type of damage can cause a myriad of problems, such as damage to the data layer (if it’s deep enough) and the inability for the laser to focus properly on the disc to read it. A minor dent on the read side of the disc may be repairable as long as the data layer is not compromised.

A cracked disc can be easy or difficult to spot depending on the type of crack. Obviously, if a disc is cracked all the way thru, from spindle to outer edge, that’s pretty easy to detect. However, smaller cracks need closer inspection to uncover. They can be anywhere on the disc, but most of the time they start from the inside spindle and extend out from there. The easiest way to check a crack near the spindle to see if it reaches the data layer is to give the disc a very slight bend (but be very careful not to exacerbate the crack). If you see it extending into the data area of the disc, it cannot be repaired. If it appears to only be in the spindle area, you should be ok. Just take care that the crack does not get any worse.

Possible disc/data rot
If the acrylic sealer used to protect the disc layers is compromised, it is possible for oxygen and other contaminants to penetrate the disc. If this happens, you may see discoloration in on the shiny side of the disc (sometimes looking like a coffee stain). Discoloration of the layers will affect reflectiveness and can progressively get worse over time. Unfortunately this is irreversible. At some point the oxygenation will progress to the point that no drive will be able to read the data on the disc. Fortunately, this type of damage is rarely seen.

Disc Layers Separating
Disc media are made up of multiple layers such as the polycarbonate layer, reflective layer, etc. Although rare, it is possible for these layers to separate if there was a manufacturing flaw, or the disc has been mishandled or damaged. Like disc/data rot, the disc layers separating allow for oxygenation, which will render a disc unreadable over time. Fortunately, this type of damage is also rarely seen.

While we have covered some of the most common types of disc damage, there are other less common types that you may come across. If you have any questions regarding the different types of disc damage, please feel free to contact us. We are here to help!

Important: For full details about the repair service, types of disc damage, what can/cannot be repaired, etc. please reference the following pages prior to ordering:

Repair Process Details
Types of Disc Damage (this page)
Scratch Removal Potential
Bulk Repairs / Price List
Disc Repair Outsourcing (If you are a business in need of bulk resurfacing)
Repair Service Ship-To Address

If you have any questions or need any help regarding our disc repair service, please do not hesitate to email us at sales@retrogamefan.com and we would be happy to assist!

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