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My MacBook (Snow Leopard) seems to be unable to read DVDs and CDs. I've searched around the nets, and it looks like I may be experiencing a relatively common problem, but I don't want to jump to conclusions. Unfortunately, all the threads I've found are filled with "me too me too", and not a lot in terms of actual help.

What tools can I use, or tests can I run, to try to diagnose (and perhaps even solve) the problem myself before give up and replace the drive?

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wiki? I can't do it. –  Tim Jan 12 '11 at 5:29
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This is apparently quite a common problem with Macbooks. It happens when you pick the Macbook up too often, when open, holding it in the area of the Superdrive; it essentially breaks the drive. It is a hardware issue and the only solution is to replace it. It's not particularly hard if you are a 'handy' kinda person. –  user2457 Jan 12 '11 at 10:26
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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Try running the Apple Hardware Test. If I remember right, reboot holding D. If that doesn't work, reboot while holding D, with an OS X disk in. Of course you'll need to have an external DVD drive for that to work.

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It would depend first on what it means to not read the discs. Does the disc insert and then eject, or simply not show up in the Finder? Does it mount and not burn properly? etc.

You can check for the optical drive in your System Profiler to see if the hardware is present (see: Disc Burning).

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When I insert a disk (DVD or CD; I've tried a couple of each), the drive spins up, and (it sounds like) moves the laser back and forth a few times, then ejects the disk. I haven't tried blank media. –  Tim Jan 12 '11 at 7:09
    
If known-good media doesn't work, blank media may respond appropriately, but it's a rarity. You could also reset the SMC (support.apple.com/kb/HT3964). –  David Metcalfe Jan 12 '11 at 8:09
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