Reviving an IDE DVD-RW Drive
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DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! Or anywhere else, for that matter. The laser in use here is mostly infrared, so it will not trigger your aversion reflexes, and you will end up doodling a pattern on your retina PERMANENTLY. This stuff is fairly dangerous, and I am NOT RESPONSIBLY for ANY results, good or bad. You ignored my warning, it's all on you.

Recently I had an optical drive fail out of the blue. The belt that drives the sled in and out slipped, and for whatever reason, that caused the tray to crack and also knocked it right off it's tracks. I also thought it scuffed the optical lens, rendering the whole thing useless. I mean, optical drives are not worth alot, right?

A look at the optical sled

Have you priced an optical drive recently? They're like 30 dollars each! That's a bit rich for my blood, so at the time I decided to just set the unit aside and do without an optical drive.

Earlier tonight (July 17, 2014), I decided to try my hand at fixing the old drive. After all, the worst I could do was break it further, and I had nothing to lose at this point.
Below is a photo of my test setup:

The test setup. Yes, this thing can be powered on.

It looked pretty bleak; no amount of pushing on the sled could get it back into it's track, and to make matters worse, somehow the sled had been pushed closed, and the emergency eject lever would not budge.
As proof that no job is ever left undone, with use of an Allen key (!!!), I managed to get the tray to eject, and I was able to pull it out (making a gut-wrenching grinding noise in the process).

The state of the drive after pulling the tray out

Now comes the fun part: how the h-e-double-hockey-sticks do I fix this darned thing?
First I tried simply pushing the tray all the way in, while pushing down on the optical assembly so it wouldn't come back up, again making that grinding noise. This didn't work, and only served to make my life difficult because the drive got stuck again.


Next I tried completely removing the tray, just to see what would happen. The drive went through the motions of an eject cycle just fine, okay. So I put the tray back in.
It now decided to draw the tray back in, however the broken piece got stuck on the back of the optical assembly, which caused the drive to Majorly Freak Out, and spit the tray back out again.

Still, that's better than where we were before.

I tried bending the tray plastic up. No matter how many times I bent it up, clearly it was just going back to where it was because it kept getting caught up and inducing a panic from the drive.

Then I got the BRILLIANT idea to try and lift the plastic up while running an eject cycle. Big mistake, not only did I cut my finger open in the process, but I ended up knocking the tray off the track all over again.

Fully exasperated with this thing at this point, I unplugged the drive, picked it up, and promptly threw the entire thing on the ground. Yes, I Threw It On The Ground. If I had a cake near me, I'd have thrown that too.*
BUT, imagine my surprise when yanking the tray out and putting it back in again resulted in a WORKING DRIVE!


So, now that I was on top of the world, I set out to putting the case back on it. And here's where Murphy brought his law into play. Every single screw for the case was missing.
I thought, well, no big deal, I have a huge collection of screws. Well, in this case, I had everything but the kitchen sink, and the kitchen sink was what I wanted. I had NO screw that would fit.

I wasn't about to let some screws ruin my plans, however. So I took some Scotch tape (!!!) and taped the housing together. Surprisingly it was pretty darn sturdy!

The tape job

And yes, it still works.

So, Genius, you fixed the sled problem, now what about that scuffed laser lens?

That was the least of my worries. Finding an IDE cable to put into my system of choice (the custom built Pentium D system) proved to be easy enough. Getting the cable into the system, however, took alot of sweat, blood, and swear words, mostly due to a combination of the awkward motherboard design and the shoddy case that I had to work with. But I got it in there. I even put in all the screws!

The set-up

"Firing it up" didn't become a literal experience, so that was good news. The BIOS detected it as the Primary Master, like it should have been.

BIOS detection

It still works          It still works

Now, how about a disc to test it with? Naturally I chose my only copy of the most useful tool I have, my Ultimate Boot CD, to test it out. What could possibly go wrong?
Let's test it with an important disc!

Nothing went wrong. In fact, you could have knocked me over with a feather when the darn thing booted the disc with no problems.

It actually freaking works?!?

Yes, it does!

And yes, it still works. So I basically fixed an optical drive for free, using Percussive Maintenance no less, and although I would rather not have the big bulky IDE cable in the system, I'd rather have this than to have my wallet lightened by 30 bucks.

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*: Yes I repeated myself for the sole reason of getting that reference in there.