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How to Recover Data From Damaged CDs

CDs may be an old form of storage nowadays, especially considering their minimal capacity, but many still have data stored on them. While they can be picked up relatively cheaply, it’s inadvisable to use them as any sort of permanent storage solution now. They pale in comparison to something like an external hard drive, which can boast the small physical size and large capacities that CDs cannot. Also, many systems now exclude a CD drive. Not only that, but CDs are incredibly fragile. If they get scratched then that could be the end of your data.

If your CD is damaged and you’re having a tough time accessing your data, don’t fear. It might be that you can recover the data, either through a software solution or physical repair. Let’s look at the two available options.

First, it’s best to grab some data recovery software and see if you can pull the data off. No matter what happens, you’ll want to move the data elsewhere anyway and eventually ditch the CD, but it’ll be quicker to use some software as a first attempt than spend more time on physical recovery.

Download a data recovery program that works on CDs, like R-Studio. This will scan the CD and bring up a list of all the data it finds. This will not only include data that you can access, but also stuff that you might have thought was deleted or unrecoverable. Use the facility to recover as much data as possible. You may not get everything back, depending on how badly the CD is physically damaged, but it’s a great initial step.

Next, it’s time to turn to the physical repair. Take a look to see how your CD is scratched. The scratches that are going perpendicular are often less harmful than those going the other way. Take a lint-free cloth and use it to clean the surface of the disc. Use a gentle rubbing alcohol to get rid of any grease or surface marks. Do not rub too hard. If something isn’t coming out, don’t force it as it’ll likely be a scratch.

Next, get some polish and apply it to the scratched surface. Start with a small amount and add more if needed. Take your cloth and rub from the centre outwards, gentle and slowly. You should see the scratch reducing. It might not get rid of entirely, but it might help. Note the key word there is might – this isn’t a guaranteed method, especially if the scratches are deep.

When you’re ready, try reading the CD. You might have more luck using a CD/DVD writer as these are often more precise than a standard reader.

If this doesn’t work, and you really need the data on the disc, you’re going to have to try a data recovery specialist. This won’t be cheap, but they will have industrial facilities that they can run to try and get your data back. And remember, this isn’t guaranteed either – your data may be gone permanently.


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