Despite all of their significant advantages over other forms of recording, compact discs (CDs) and digital video discs (DVDs) are not indestructible. And they do require care in handling.

Many people are surprised to learn that it’s the “underside” of the CD or DVD — the side that is NOT printed — which is actually the side which must be read (played) by your player’s laser beam. Dirt, dust or scratches on this side can cause the laser beam to be thrown out of line and result in “skips” or the continuous repetition of a short segment of the music on a CD or a complete failure on the part of DVDs.

Dust can be removed each time the CD or DVD is played by simply blowing gently across the unprinted side of the disc. Dust can also be removed by using a clean lint-free cloth, wiping lightly from the center of the unprinted side to the outside edge in a straight line (not in a circle). Compressed air cans can also be used if the air as sprayed is free of liquid propellants. More difficult problems may actually require a moistened lint-free cloth or towel to remove grime. No abrasive solvents or cleaners should be used that would harm plastics or leave a residue on the disc’s surface.

We strongly recommend that compact discs and DVDs be handled only by the edges. This will minimize fingerprints on the playing surface which could cause problems. We also recommend not placing the discs on dirty surfaces, even for a short time, as they may pick up dust, dirt or scratches on the underside (playing side) of the disc. Store CDs and DVDs in their original plastic containers, with the hole in the center of the CD or DVD carefully placed on the center mounting that is provided in the case. Don't stack discs (if not in cases). Don't bend or twist discs. Make sure the disc is properly seated in the player tray before closing the tray door.

Do not expose your CDs or DVDs to direct sunlight for prolonged periods or to any other heat source which could warp your disc. Scratches or other damage near the center hole of the disc can be especially problematic as this is where the disc’s table of contents (“index”) is stored. Optical players do have a certain degree of “error correction” built in, but this cannot compensate for serious damage.

If your CDs and DVDs play properly when you first get them, any future problems are most likely the result of use (as the discs acquire dirt or scratches) or, perhaps, of a problem developing in your playback equipment (such as dirt on the system’s optics). Your local Radio Shack or other electronics store has special cleaning kits available for your CD or DVD players. They may also have special devices designed to “repair” faulty discs, and, while these may help, they are often of limited value for discs which have been seriously damaged.

Today’s CDs and DVDs provide an amazing advance in recording technology and convenience. With proper care, your discs will give you many, many years of listening and viewing enjoyment.

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