How to clean the lens of a slot-loading optical drive (a MacBook Pro's SuperDrive)

The first sign of malfunction was that the MBP started to be picky about what sort of blank CDs/DVDs it would accept for writing. This was not a big deal since it still accepted 9 out of 10 CDs without any problems.

Some time later I had a failed burning. The burn process started OK, but near the end (or maybe during writing the lead out?) it failed with some mysterious error message. This was quite strange, but I was still not very suspicious (this is my first Mac and having grown up using PCs with Windows I got used to failures).

However lately I started to have problems even reading my CDs and DVDs. Shock This was the last drop of water in the glass. Every sign pointed to either a broken optical drive or malfunction due to dusty lens. I already had issue with dust on the lens of various CD/DVD drives in the household (eg. the Hi-Fi system and my old PC had problems reading CDs too and a manual cleaning of the lens helped - I tried a lens cleaning kit too, but it was worth nothing).

So I was up and ready for cleaning the lens of the MacBook Pro's SuperDrive, however I was a bit unsure about whether there's any gotcha in taking the SuperDrive apart. I had no difficulties with my old PC's 5.25" Plextor DVD-writer (you just had to remove the screws from the drive's case and take off the upper part and the lens was right there), but I've never taken apart a slot-loading drive. Notebook optical drives are a lot smaller and I wanted to see some proof-of-concept photos to get reassurance. After having spent some time with Google, I've stumbled on a discussion thread on Apple's forums that contained a few pics of a slot-loading SuperDrive's internals. It didn't seem risky to take apart so I started the process.

Update: some people had success using a plastic card (eg. a credit card or a drivers license) and some fine cloth (the ones that you used to clean your glasses with). Some applied alcohol to improve the cleaning effect (but I personally only use benzine). The plastic card method might spare you taking apart the MBP, so it's worth to check out the comments and read through the experiences of others before you start to dismantle yours. You should also know that a few people reported broken drives after the cleaning. However my best guess is that it had nothing to do with the cleaning itself (I've already completed this process on a number of PCs, my MBP, a number of desktop DVD players and Hi-Fi systems and never had any problems).

The first step is to take apart the MacBook Pro. iFixit has a very detailed guide on how to do this, so I'll skip over that. After you got the optical drive out from the MBP, you place it on your workpad like this:

As you can see, I've kept the tape on the ribbon cable. I didn't see any reason to remove it. If you've followed the iFixit guide til the end, you've already removed the mounting brackets from the drive. You should memorize which bracket goes to which side and which screw goes into which hole. Otherwise the reassembly will be a little bit tricky for you. Wink
I've taken some pictures of the brackets, it seemed to be the fastest way to take a snapshot of the original mounting of the brackets.

After you've removed the brackets, you've to take off the four screws that keep the lower and the upper half of the unit's case together. Here's a pic with all the brackets and these 4 additional screws taken off:

Now you can remove the upper part of the case. It's really easy to do, just do it slowly, no need to hurry. You'll get to see something like this:

Here I've drawn a small red circle around the lens:

For cleaning the lens I use benzine (the one used for medical disinfection ... we used to have a bottle of this at home): it's great dissolvent (eg. to remove glue that remained on a newly bought product after having removed the price sticker) and it evaporates practically without a trace. It's perfect for this kind of a job (however I've read that some people prefer to use some kind of alcohol).

To apply the benzine to the lens surface I use q-tips (that should not be hard to get either Smile ):

After the cleaning the lens is as good as new:

Reassembling the unit should be a piece of cake. Put it back into the MBP, put the MBP together and test the optical drive's CD/DVD reading and writing capabilities to see if the cleaning had any positive effect. For me it was worth the trouble. I can now read every CD/DVD of mine again and writing works perfectly too. Smile

Update (2010.04.04): it happened today for the first time -since I wrote this article- that I could not read a CD with my MBP's superdrive. The time period was almost 20 months. And since I bought my MBP during Christmas in 2006 (27th of December to be precise), it was 20 months between the date of purchase and the first cleaning. So it's now quite certain that my drive needs cleaning every 20 months. I live close to a road with a pretty high traffic and not too rich vegetation, so a lot of dust is coming into the flat. Probably people living in the suburbs are better off regarding the required cleaning frequency of their optical drives.

Update (2010.12.30): three days ago I took apart my mom's Mac Mini to replace the hard drive (she outgrew the original 120 GB one). Once at it, I couldn't resist to open and clean the DVD-RW drive too. Smile

Here's a pic showing the lens in the Mac Mini's SuperDrive (it's a Pioneer DVD-RW DVR-K06, firmware version Q614):

While opening the case, a small, white, plastic component accidentally popped out. It was not too difficult to put it back in place, but to make life easier, here's a pic showing the part that you should be careful with:

Update (2012.07.01): I wrote a post about how cleaning the fan exhaust port can help you fix performance problems (lagging, slowness) of your notebook/laptop/workstation/etc. Check it out since if you already consider going "inside" your notebook, you might as well clean it out properly. Smile

Update (2013.04.14): I guess it's now my turn to thank for all the comments. Smile Today was the first time that I actually tried the suggested (and many times confirmed) method of using a credit card wrapped in some cloth to clean the lens. I have an old CD that Mac OS X reported as being blank. I didn't want to take apart the Macbook just to read this one CD, so I took a credit card, wrapped it in a wet cloth (a microfiber one used for cleaning glasses) and pushed it through the CD slot. The credit card + cloth pair turned out to be far too thick, so I looked for a slimmer substitute and my tax ID card (in Hungary we get one of these ... has your tax payer ID number on it) turned out to be just the perfect fit. Smile It's a lot slimmer than a regular credit card, so I wrapped the same cloth around it and pushed it through the hole. I've repeated this a couple of times, then tried to read the CD again and it worked. Smile So thanks Chris (who was the first to suggest the credit card method on 15th April 2009)!

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Or you can just insert a cotton swab in the slot...

...and save yourself all that pesky disassembling and reassembling.

The lens is right inside the slot on the left hand side. About an inch in. Easily reachable.

Just a thought.

-LT

Re: Or you can just insert a cotton swab in the slot...

If somebody can indeed reach the lens with a cotton swab through the front opening of the optical drive (and I mean the slot of a MacBook Pro's SuperDrive, not just any DVD drive Smile ), then it's an option you might want to try. I'm not capable of doing it (and I think it's not solely my fault) so for me the only way to clean the lens is by disassembling the unit.

hahha thank you bro

a wise man Laughing out loud

Card trick

Sheesh…so simple and effective…..I wish I would have thought of that…but glad you did….Gracias!

R

Thx

Well, I was just going to buy a new laptop, but then I stumbled upon this resource. Thx a bunch. You saved me 1k!

back in burning business

I was having the same problem and tried a cleaning DVD. After that, it burned one DVD but nothing more. So I found this site and tried the credit card method using my thin health insurance card wrapped with a computer screen cleaning cloth that I sprayed with iKlean solution (from the Apple Store). I inserted this in the drive a few times and tried burning at disc at the slowest possible speed. It worked! Thanks again for this invaluable tip as I was about to layout cash on replacing the drive!!

Q-Tip won't fit but...

I used a credit card wrapped in a piece of thin shirt fabric (not t-shirt type, button down cotton type) which I had lightly dampened with alcohol. Three or four tries of swiping it up and down in the slot and the DVD drive works great again.

Re: Q-Tip won't fit but...

Good idea. Smile Thanks! I just might try this the next time my lens need cleaning.

I searched, came to this

I searched, came to this page, read this comment and the technique worked great!

cleaning macbook cd burner

You are a genius! This worked! I was getting ready to buy on because the cd/dvd drive cleaner did not work. But I wrapped a paper towel around a credit card, dampened it with window cleaner and "wola", it works again. Thank you!

CC Trick

I wish I would've read this two days ago– I've been trying to install Windows 7 a bunch of convoluted ways cause the DVD drive was acting up and this did the trick. And to think I was just about to swap drives with another MBP. Silliness.

gooood

very good idea ok for me too , tkx a lot (the frenchy marseille)

Cleaning DVD

I was so desperate I took some toilet paper and placed around a business card and gently wiped a few times. It worked !!! Thank you !

craziness - worked for me too

i love you however you are. i spent 3 days trying to figure this out

worked for my old mac mini

this credit card cleaning method worked for my mac mini!!

thx!

The credit card cleaning

The credit card cleaning method works great!!

Credit card cleaning method for superdrive lens

Problems for burning dvds at the beginning, that became worse with time...
At the end, could only read manufactured audioCD ! even audioCD burning didn't work anymore...

I took a ordinary plastic card (without magnetic tape or electronic part on it), wrapped it with a cloth to clean glasses lenses, inserted the card on the left side of the slot and my sister in law wedding photo CD that could not be read works perfect now !!!

I imagine that taking apart the superdrive can be useful for severe dirt coating of the lens ( when the computer is used in a polluted atmosphere with greasy dust (smoke from gas-oil, cigarette ... )

Thanks a lot for this thread .

MacBook Pro 15" 2,4GHz intelcore2duo

Cleaning DVD MacBook Pro

I was really frustrated this week. I only wanted to make a print of my fotoalbum created with iPhoto on my MacBook
1) i needed a newer version of iPhoto
2) then I had to buy not only iPhoto version 11 but a whole package with iMovie etc (iLife)
3) and an upgrade of Leopard to Snow Leopard to get it installed
4) then I went to the store to hurry things (I always trie to impress my girlfriend with my MacBookPro) and lined up in a queue
5) could not buy the software here - (only online); and cycled home again (with my laptop in my backpack)
6) bought it online - UPS came; stayed home - but the internal video system appeared not to work so I missed him
7) on the second day the courrier made a phone call before delivery ; finally I had my software
8) I put the CD inside - and my Mac gave it back, it even wont read my favourite BradPitt film anymore
9) called Apple tech center ; the P-R-reset did not work ; I was adviced to go to the Apple store I began with earlier this week
10) while my stocks are falling - I tried the internet as last escape and there it was, more Apple users with the same problem
11) I tip helped me out : use a credit card, wrap your spectacles tissue cleaner around it, damped with alcohol
12) totaly frustrated I put the credit card and the tissue in the CD opening, twice - without alcohol. I put in the snow leopard cd and

it is working again !!

Thank you for this excellent tip. Michael, The Netherlands

Worked on MacBook too

I won't raise false hopes, but it worked on my MacBook 13'' (2006) too.
I was lately having issues with reading low quality CD (the ones you usually can find at 20 eurocents), but oddly I could still read all DVDs and some CDs.

Thus, since my machine is functional but ancient, I tried wrapping the cloth I use for cleaning my glasses (and if I didn't get then scratched...) around an old credit card I keep around for issues like those, lightly spraying the cloth with alcohol (of course I washed and rinsed it after using it back on my glasses) and "swabbing" it five-six times in the slot.

Currently I can read even the low-quality CD the Matsushita Superdrive stopped reading.

Can't believe how simple this was

I'd been trying for weeks to get an optical drive cleaner that didn't warn about using on slot drives.
A few seconds with a strip of paper towel over a credit card, sprayed with window cleaner and my drive is reading disks again! (once I figured out to put it in wet side down Smile )

Cleaning the lens of Superdrive of Macbook pro (2006)

Thanks for that great tips. I was told by one Mac dealers in town that it was impossible to fix. Expensive replacement of the drive would be needed or I could buy a cheap external CD/DVD ROM drive/burner. I basically, as you suggested use a credit card size plastic card covered with with a piece of tissue paper (Klenex) which was wetted with a little rubbing alcohol. (I am aware that you had suggested a piece of cloth.) Following that I used a Phillips CD cleaner. This fixed my problem, of not being load and play my music CDs. By the way in the past the Phillips CD cleaner refused to load.

easily and simply fixed my issues too

I have a 2009 model MBP, and had a similar problem with CDs no longer reading.
After reading this thread, and looking at the photos of the internals of the drive, I simply wrapped my screen cleaning cloth around a plastic card similar to a CC, and pushed it in and out of the left hand side of the drive opening.

Inserted a CD, and voila!!! Smile

Working like new.

Quite a buildup of dust around the opening dust guards came away with the cloth too, so I'll be cleaning these from time to time from now on.

magic! thanks

I have avoided burning CDS for ages because the drive was so spotty about when it would work. I didn't want to go through the hassle and cost of having it fixed. This solved all the issues in 3 seconds. It took longer to find a credit card and a bit of cloth than it did to use them. Thanks so much!

One More thanks

Credit card, Cotton scarf. totally worked

It worked

I wrapped a card with a quality piece of lint free papertowel (Viva), dampened with windex. Stuck it in three or four times, flipping the card over each time. It did the trick. Thanks!

Yup, I used a paper napkin

Yup, I used a paper napkin wrapped around a credit card with a little windex on it. Worked like a charm! Thanks

YES!!!

OMG thank you!! This has been driving me nuts!!! I used a thin card (medical card was thinner than credit card) worked like a charm!!! I first tested it out with a movie that i could not play the other day, worked! Then i tried burning, it didnt work at first, but my setting was still on 1x. In the system profiler, it says 2x or 4x or 8x, so i changed to 4x and WHOO HOO!!!
Now it burns and plays on my computer, tv, and old dvd player. YAY!!
Apple wanted $50 just to talk to them!

made my day

Laughing out loud as simple as effective

Mac Mini dvd lens cleaner

Thank you. Worked perfectly!

OMG THANKYOU

Honestly.

Brilliant

After reading a lot of posts and trying a few tricks I still did not have a running CDROM. The thought of ripping it out and breaking it apart to clean it was a bit daunting so I tried your credit card and shirt fabric trick - 3 minutes later my CDROM is running again. Great thinking! Thanks.

me too

I tried this and wamo worked great thanks for the tip

The credit card trick worked!

I recently bought a 2009 Macbook Pro from a friend of mine, but the cd/dvd drive would not read discs. I tried the credit card trick (I folded a glass cleaning rag with some rubbing alcohol on it over a credit card and swiped it in and out of the left side of the drive 4 or 5 times - it came out with some visible dirt on it) and now my drive seems to be working fine. I'm stoked! Thank you!

Mighty fine voodoo you have there!

I was two short steps from madness. I've had my 'used' Macbook pro,( early 2008 version- non unibody) for about a year and the superdrive had never worked which has caused more than a little consternation. I figured more expenditure on a new Superdrive which didn't sit well with my wife who had helped finance it. 'Why!', she said. 'If Mac's are some damned good,( and so pricey!) then why do they go wrong as much as this one. A lame duck crossed my field of vision as I contemplated her words. A motherboard issue shortly after purchase had helped to prime her negatively I must admit so I didn't want to lose this one. So, cutting to the chase- I did a Google and came across these threads. The result? restored faith! One Gym membership card wrapped in a single use lens cleaner tissue and bingo!, two swipes later the drive purred into life. Magic. I love stuff like this. Simple, a real game changer and,( if a dirty lens is the issue) then a big saver in time, frustration and cost. A huge thanks to all the commentary's on this forum. Hey, the wife may even let me back into the bedroom again,(I sleep at the foot of the bed!). Wink Wink Wink

Re: Mighty fine voodoo you have there!

Yet another marriage saved, mission accomplished. Wink

Brilliant!

Chris, absolutely brilliant. You saved me a trip to the Apple Store!

Thanks much!

Combined free solution...

My macbook pro became picky about the media as well...after a good research I knew it needed a cleaning. I was asked for 80 bucks for diagnostics and probably cleaning but I knew I can do it myself. After careful reading of many threads I came to the following conclusions and eventually a solution:

1) Don't use compressed air since it will just make things worse: it's going to blast all the dust inside...
2) Don't try to squeeze cotton swabs through the optical drive since it's too big and will leave some stuff...
3) Cleaning CDs may work but cheap ones may damage the lens by scratching it.
4) Quick free solution: I used a thin plastic (came with the packaging of an SD card, but you can get any plastic used for packaging goods - usually the ones for electronics are tiny enough and strong enough for the job) + iPhone cleaning cloth (other similar cleaning cloth that's thin and doesn't leave marks for example for cleaning glasses). I wrapped the cloth around the plastic (like U shape around the front of the plastic), then while holding the ends of the the cloth I inserted few centimeters from the front of the plastic covered with the cloth in the optical drive, pushed and pulled a bit and it was all cleaned. The drive works perfectly. Just a few tips: I placed the cloth a bit to the left since LT pointed the lens should be at the left hand side. Don't use too bulky plastic or cloth since you may damage something or get it stuck inside. Hold the loth so it doesn't get inside the slot. You don't need to insert it so much since the lens is not so deep inside. It's just few cm in. All took me exactly 10sec to do. NB> turn off your laptop while doing it Smile

Hope this helps Smile

Re: Combined free solution...

Thanks for the feedback. Sounds simple and easily doable. Smile

iPhone cloth + business card

Thanks!! I just tried using my iPhone cloth wrapped around a "thick" business card and indeed it came out all dusty.
This was by far the simplest and harmless solution given. My MBP superdrive is now reading and burning cd/dvd!

plastic card + iphone

plastic card + iphone cleaning cloth = IT'S ALIVE!

cleaning a mac mini slot drive lens

I just used a piece of laminated plastic card ( my local sports club membership card - nice and thin and flexible) wrapped in my glasses cleaning cloth .......just push it in and move it back and forward a few times...

One completely non-functional mac mini dvd slot drive fixed - in about thirty seconds - you should have seen how much dust came out in the cloth !

no solvents, no dismantling, no problems
Smile this is an all time best slot drive hint! thanks !

You're a god.

Mr. Clean can go to hell. That's all I can say. Marvelous technique and 100% results. Thank YOU.

iPhone cloth worked perfectly

I ran into this problem trying to install OS 10.6 today. I'm pointing to this site on the Apple Support discussions as there wasn't such good simple advice there. I used the iPod Touch cloth method with the instruction card with the software. Indeed came out dusty and even a dog hair :{ The result? My disk is waiting for me to click install. THANKS!

Credit card and a cleaning cloth

Thanks for this tip. I just tried using a cleaning cloth that came with my sunglasses, wrapped it around my credit card and carefully stuck it into the superdrive slot a few times. AND IT WORKED!

Wow, this is GREAT!

I was so eager that, even though I didn't have any alcohol or solvent, I grabbed a thin card out of my wallet, wrapped some thin cloth around it, gave it three wipes and bam! It WORKS! Such a simple thing but it took finding out where the lens was to make it happen! So happy to have my DVD's running again. CD's worked fine. Strange though, I'd read that there were two separate lenses, one for CDs and for DVDs. Maybe they share a lens yet have separate hardware immediately after. That or maybe reading DVD's is harder to do.

Whatever the case, Thanks!!

Re: Wow, this is GREAT!

DVD-RW drives have only a single lens. I'm not sure about the old CD-RW + DVD-reader combo drives ... they might have had seperate lenses for the two types of discs.

Credit card and cleaning cloth

Wow!
I just bought a can of compressed air, having read how people successfully fixed their MBP DVD burners. I googled again just to be sure and found this thread with the credit card + cloth solution. Thought I'd try that first before I started blowing things around. I used the kind of cloth you clean glasses with. It worked immediately! Ha! Beautiful. I'll try to return the air can now... Hope it works.
I do think the compressed air would have worked, blowing the dust further into the slot probably wouldn't have done any damage. But this was easier.
Many thanx!

Wow

thanks so much for the help on this forum guys... reading dvds again!

Business card-cleaning cloth worked

Thanks for the tip. I wrapped a camera cleaning cloth around a thick business card and cleaned with it. It worked for me too.
Before this I could read DVD but not CD. It would either get spit out or show as a blank CD.

re: Combined free solution...

thank you so much, this worked for me.
glad i didn't have to get the drive replaced or even buy a cleaning kit for that matter.
thanks!

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