There are several general categories of symptoms of CD/DVD drive malfunctioning from the drive not lighting up all the way to drives that burn, but with errors. You can diagnosis and repair your optical drive with simple fixes.
Restart your PC before checking or doing anything. Sometimes simply restarting your PC will solve the problem.
If your drive doesn't appear in the "Computer" dialog or Explorer, press the "F5" key to refresh the list. If that doesn't work, download and install a freeware program such as CDGone (aumha.org/downloads/cdgone.zip) to get the drive to reappear in the Device Manager or Explorer. You should subsequently reinstall third party CD/DVD playing and burning software.
If your CD/DVD drive connects with an IDE ribbon cable, try each drive attached on the IDE ribbon separately. If they do work separately, both drives probably have their jumpers set as master drives. Make sure that one drive is set as the master drive and the other to the slave drive.
If the CD/DVD drive door won't open, determine whether the tray is obstructed. Stick a straightened out paper clip in the little hole and try to push out the tray. With a removable laptop drive, pull it out and shove it back in solidly. Also clean the contacts of the drive with a pencil eraser. With a drive installed in a desktop computer, unplug the machine and pull the data and power cables and then reseat them firmly, being sure to connect completely. * With a volt meter, test the power cable going to the drive. It should have two wires with a 5 volt ~1 amp circuit and the other two with a 12 volt ~1 amp circuit. From these tests, you can determine if the drive is mechanically and electrically sound and if the power supply needs replacement. Note that there are usually several spare power supply drive leads which can be tested and used to replace a faulty one. Purchase and use a CD lens cleaner or use a compressed air cleaner can.
If the drive doesn't light up when a CD/DVD is placed in it: With removable laptop drive, pull it out and shove it back in solidly. With removable laptop drive, clean the contacts of the drive with a pencil eraser. With a desktop model, unplug the machine and pull the data and power cables and then firmly reseat them. If the drive functions perfectly well without an indicator light, the drive light may be defective. Failure to light up may indicate a problem with the inner workings of the drive, such as a short in the drive motor, drive train, laser or another kind of electrical failure. In that case, you probably need to replace the drive.
If the drive initially lights and then "dies" after a disk is inserted and you keep receiving a message "Please Insert Disk," this may indicate a dirty laser lens. Use a CD lens cleaner or a compressed air cleaner.
A drive light that is intermittent could indicate loose cables. To verify, remove the cover of your computer and make sure the drive cables are firmly attached. If you have a laptop, a technician may need to take apart the machine to make sure the drive connections to the motherboard are secure. Many laptops have modular CD/DVD drives that you can sometimes reseat by pulling them out and pushing them back in firmly. With removable laptop drive, also clean the contacts of the drive with a pencil eraser.
If the CD/Drive Lights Up but Fails to Appear in the Device Manager: * Try right clicking on My Computer and choosing "Manage." Click on Disk Management on the left hand side and then under the "Action" Menu choose "Rescan Disks." * Also go into the Device manager, click on the root of the tree or on any of the items and choose "Scan for hardware changes." * A dying motherboard, for instance one that has a dead IDE channel, can cause this. A way around is to buy a PCI IDE or SATA expansion card and hook your CD/DVD drives to that. * Viruses can also cause Device Manager disappearances. Do a virus scan. * Remove the upper and lower filters from the registry keys at: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SYSTEM/CurrentControlSet/Control/Class/4D36E965-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318. You may have to reinstall burning and viewing software. * If you use ITunes, remove the lower filter and set the upper filter to the value of "GEARAspiWDM" without the quotes. * See the Additional Resources at the end of the this article and try the popular CDGONE patch. This removes the upper and lower filters and changes some additional keys. Any third party burning and viewing applications may have to be re-installed. * Using search, find the afs.sys and/or afs2k.sys files. Rename them with a "bak" or "old" extension. These Oak Technologies cd driver files conflict with Windows cdrom.sys, the CD-ROM driver.
If the CD/DVD drive appears in the Device Manager but fails to appear in Explorer: Remove the upper and lower filters from the registry key at: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SYSTEM/CurrentControlSet/Control/Class/4D36E965-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318. You may have to reinstall the burning software.
If you use ITunes, remove the lower filter and set the upper filter to the value of "GEARAspiWDM" (without the quotes).
Look at the registry settings for the value "NoDrives" at HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer and HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\policies\Explorer. If the values are anything other than zero, Group Policy may be hiding the drives. You may have to ask your administrator to change things, but if it is a local machine not in a business setting, you can change Local Group Policy yourself by running gpedit.msc in the "Run" command in the "Start" menu.
In Device Manager, uninstall your CD/DVD drive and then have Windows rediscover the device by rescanning for hardware changes. In Device Manager also uninstall and reinstall the IDE port on which you drive is located.
Be sure to make a System Restore point so if you make any changes to your machine you can reverse them. To do this, navigate to the "Start" menu, select "Programs," "Accessories," "System Tools" and "System Restore." Follow the directions to make a restore point.
Back up your registry settings by using the "Export File" option.