We've all been there. You're watching your favorite movie on DVD and, without warning, it locks up in a pixelated mess of glitching and blippy sound. When you take the disc from the player to examine it, you quickly see the problem: the DVD is scratched up.
While the DVD will never have that smooth, pristine look it had when you bought it, rebuffing a disc can make it playable again so you don't have to spend the cash on a new copy.
Rebuffing is done using a machine that wears away at the top layers of a disc, removing most of the scratches in the process. The reason this works is because the information on a DVD, CD or any disc is actually located closer to the label side. Therefore, as long as you don't have a hole in the top of the disc, you should be able to fix it. You can check this by holding the disc up to the light; if you can see holes or scratches with light shining through them, the disc is likely beyond repair and will need to be replaced. This is because the information on the disc has been permanently damaged and cannot be repaired.
Where to Have Your Discs Rebuffed
This is where things get a little tricky. There are plenty of websites on the Internet where you can send your discs in to be rebuffed, but if you're uncomfortable with that idea, you should definitely check local movie rental and video game retailers. Many places that deal in used and rental DVDs have a rebuffing machine in the back to help deal with the damage done to their products over time. It never hurts to ask, and if they rebuff a disc for you, it shouldn't cost more than a couple of dollars, at most. Try stores like Game Crazy, GameStop, Blockbuster and independently owned retailers.
Of course, you could always buy your own rebuffing machine, but those tend to be very expensive. So unless you're repairing a lot of discs, you're likely not going to want to do this. While there are cheaper methods of disc repair available, none of them work nearly as well as rebuffing, with many of them actually doing more damage than good.
BluRay, Rebuffing and Disc Care
While you can easily have all your scratched CDs and DVDs rebuffed, it is unwise to have your BluRay discs rebuffed. BluRay discs are scratch-resistant to begin with, so disc damage should never be an issue if you take care of your BluRay discs and keep them in their cases. Of course, if they do get damaged, rebuffing them may only damage them further because of their protective coating. Also, the information on BluRay is highly dense, so a tiny scratch on a DVD will be far more damaging to a BluRay disc because it affects more information.
While discs normally wear over time due to typical use, taking care of them will increase their lifespan greatly. Make sure to only hold a disc by the edges, never touching the play side. If a disc gets dirty to the point where it's skipping, wipe it gently with with a soft, lint-free cloth. Rubbing hard to remove dirt and debris will only scratch it, so avoid this if possible.