Unable to read a CD-R or recordable disc

Updated: 11/13/2018 by Computer Hope

Being unable to read recordable discs can be a difficult issue to resolve because of all the different possible causes of this problem. Below is a listing of several steps and recommendations that can be taken to help resolve this issue.


Verify you have the latest drivers installed for the CD-R or recordable drive. There are numerous driver-related issues that may cause a CD-R drive or recordable drive to stop reading a CD-R disc. If you are running Microsoft Windows, verify your drive is detected and listed in Device Manager with no conflicts or errors.

If Device Manager detects an error on the drive or if it has any other drives listed with errors, remove them and reboot the computer to let Windows re-initialize the drive.

If Windows shows no errors, the steps above did not resolve the issue, or you are running an operating system other than Windows, check with the drive manufacturer for updated drivers.

CD-R disc

Computer CD-ROMNot all CD-R discs are compatible with all types and speeds of CD-R drives or recordable drives (especially earlier CD-R drives). Verify the disc manufacturer gives a 100% guarantee for supporting all drives and disc speeds. For example, TDK discs often give a 100% guarantee. When in doubt, try a different brand of CD-R disc.

Pre-mastering/Mastering Software

The pre-mastering software can sometimes produce incorrect tracks due to bugs. An incorrect ISO image could be generated, or incorrect sub-header codes could be recorded in the case of Mode 2 discs. A good way to check whether the incompatibility problems lie with the originating software or with one of the other causes listed above is to test the same disc on several CD-ROM drives. If one drive is capable of reading the disc correctly, chances are that the problem was not in the mastering.

Disc is a recordable disc that the drive or player does not support

Verify the drive supports the recordable media you are attempting to read. Below are some situations to consider.

  • Old CD-ROM or early DVD drive - Some early CD-ROM drives and first-generation DVD drives (some of the first DVD drives released) do not support CD-R discs or CD-RW discs. Not only does this apply to computers, but also home entertainment DVD players.
  • CD-RW in CD-R or CD-ROM drive - Some CD-R drives are incapable of reading CD-RW drives. If you are using a CD-RW disc, verify the CD-ROM or CD-R drive is capable of reading the disc.
  • DVD recordable discs - If you have a recordable DVD that cannot be read, make sure it is not a first-generation DVD drive and that it supports recordable DVD media. Additionally, a standard CD-ROM, CD-R, and CD-RW drive cannot read DVD discs.

Disc was created incorrectly

Make sure you are creating the disc properly. For example, a common mistake when creating audio CDs is burning the MP3 files to the CD as a Data disc instead of an Audio disc. All this does is burn the data files to the disc and not create an audio disc. A data disk with MP3 files may work with a computer but does not always work in CD players unless they support MP3 format.

Disc or DVD contains media content not supported by the player

Not all home entertainment DVD players are capable of supporting and playing all the different formats of movie and audio files. Make sure the format or codec of the movie or audio file you're saving to the CD or DVD is supported by the DVD player.

If your computer is capable of playing the files off the DVD, but your home entertainment DVD player cannot play the file, you are likely encountering this problem.

Bad disc

If after reading through the recommendations above you continue to have the same issue, it's possible that the disc is defective. Try re-burning the disc and if possible, try a different brand of recordable disc.

Bad CD-R drive

If all the above recommendations do not help to resolve the issue, the CD-R drive itself may be bad and need to be replaced. However, you can first try to clean the CD-R drive using a CD cleaning disc.

If cleaning the CD-R drive does not help, the drive should be replaced.

CD-R burning tips

When burning a new disc, below are some additional suggestions to keep in mind to help make the processes smoother.

No running programs in the background

Try to close as many unused and open programs on the computer. Programs running in the background may cause issues during the burn process.

Device conflicts

Make sure Device Manager doesn't show any device conflicts with the hardware in your computer. If conflicts exist, it could be an indication of a resource conflict that may be causing issues.

CD-ROM properties

In Device Manager, under the CD-ROM properties, ensure that Auto insert notification, Sync Data Transfer, and DMA are all disabled. To check this, open Device Manager, click the plus symbol next to CD-ROM and disc drives, and double-click the CD-ROM device.

Disable Power Management

Ensure that all power management is disabled on the computer. If the computer or a computer component goes into power saving mode during the recording process, it can cause issues.

13 milliseconds access time or better

It is recommended that your hard drive has a 13 milliseconds or faster access time to keep the memory buffer full.

PC Defrag & ScanDisk hard drive

Run Defrag and ScanDisk on the hard drive.

Master on IDE channel

If your CD-R is an IDE or EIDE device, it is highly recommended that you have the CD-R drive as the master and not the slave.

Do not use compression software

Compression software can cause several issues during the recording process. It is recommended that you do not create CDs off of a compressed hard drive.

Additional information