I have recently had problems playing one of my favourite DVD’s, although the disc is not badly scratched you can see a number of tiny scratches and some star shaped imperfections (resembling a stone chipped windscreen).
1. Clean the disc
It may sound obvious, but finger prints, dust and oils can build up on the disc surface, so before trying anything gently clean the disc with a lint free cloth, rubbing from the centre to the edge of the disc. Do not rub in a circular motion as this can cause more scratches.
2. Copy the disc
If cleaning the disc fails try making a new copy of the disc. Some CD burner applications have error correction or can skip unreadable parts of the disc, which results in a new playable disc with a few missing sectors. There are a number of applications to try. Start with Nero Burning ROM and attempt a straight 1:1 copy. If this fails try AnyDVD or ISOBurner.
3. Polish the disc
If the above methods have failed as a last resort you can try polishing the disc using either toothpaste or brasso. The idea is the polish will take off the very top layer of the outer plastic coating, hopefully removing the scratch (providing it’s not too deep) and enabling the disc to be read or copied. Some points to note, when polishing the disc you don’t need to apply too much pressure, and remember to polish from the inside out, and not in a circular motion. Before inserting the disc back into the disc drive be sure to remove any polish residue. Toothpaste should be washed off under a warm tap and left to dry completely. Brasso should be polished out with a lint free cloth.
4. Use a refinishing machine
You can buy these machines from a variety of retailers, they can be found quite easily on the internet from Amazon or Play.com. I haven’t got one myself and i hear mixed reviews about them. They aren’t that expensive if you do decide to go down this route, but i would only suggest them as a last resort for your most important discs.
Sadly none of these methods are guaranteed to work, and chances are if the damage to the disc is significant then your going to have to bite the bullet and purchase a replacement, or say goodbye to your data. A good backup routine is the best pro-active approach, always keep a backup of your most important discs.
The below Wiki guide goes into further detail for anyone wanting to know more about these methods. Good luck!