Can A CD-ROM Disc Explode In A Drive?

By · Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Can a CD-ROM Disc Explode In a Drive?Most of the time, recording your own CDs is a pretty straightforward process. However, there are stories circulating around the Internet about compact discs exploding in a disc drive without warning. Can this really happen and if so, under what circumstances?

Now I’m not going to pretend I am the first one to explore this issue. In fact, there is a surprising amount of research that has been done on the subject of exploding discs. The most famous example is an episode of the TV show “MythBusters” which aired in October of 2003. On the show, the hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman set out to discover if a CD-ROM disc could explode when subjected to high rotational speeds.

What they found was that the majority of optical disc drives spin discs at speeds of 40X to 52X with a maximum rotational speed of 11,500 RPM. At these speeds, an undamaged disc will not explode. In fact, the MythBusters found that it took a ridiculous amount of rotational speed – in excess of 23,000 RPM – to shatter a regular blank CD. This is more than twice as fast as any properly functioning disc drive could ever spin a disc.

However, 11,500 RPM is still a very high rate of speed for a polycarbonate plastic disc. At these speeds, small problems with the disc can quickly become big problems that could even lead to a catastrophic failure.

Some examples of problems with compact discs include: an adhesive CD label that is not applied correctly, a plastic washer or clear top disc stuck in the drive, or a crack near the center hub of the disc. Any of these problems combined with the high speeds at which a disc spins are a recipe for failure. A weak or damaged disc can actually explode in a drive. This is a very rare occurrence, but it could happen under the right circumstances.

A disc with a hairline crack in the plastic surrounding the center hub has a greater chance rate of failure versus a disc that does not. A disc that is unbalanced (usually from an improperly applied label) can spin unevenly. You may notice something is wrong if the drive makes a loud or unusual noise as the disc spins up to speed.

An exploding disc is not an immediate safety hazard as the majority of the shrapnel will be contained within the drive casing. Still, it can be a mess to clean up and an unwelcome expense to have to replace the drive.

Here are a couple of tips you can follow to reduce the likeliness of a catastrophic disc failure in your computer or CD/DVD duplicator tower. First, be careful when handling discs. Discs that are dropped or stepped on may develop a crack or hairline fracture in the center hub.

Second, inspect your discs for signs of damage. Discs which are warped or discolored from being left out in the sun (such as on the dashboard of a car) may be weakened. A

When using a portable device like a laptop computer or an external CD/DVD recorder, make sure to remove the discs from the equipment before transporting it. This ensures the discs will not become scratched during transit.

Finally, if you have a drive that is making a strange noise when you are using it, eject the disc and stop using the drive right away. It’s best to call upon a trusted friend or computer expert to check the problem out. With these tips, you should be able to experience the convenience of recording your own CD-R discs without any unpleasant incidents.

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