10.16. Troubleshooting CD and DVD Drives
When your PC can't play back a CD or DVD that you've just burned, your first course of action should be to try a different brand of disc. Some brands just work better with certain drives. Don't spend much time reading reviews of blank discs, since they don't mean much unless the reviewer used your brand and model of burner . Instead, experiment with a wide variety of brands. When you find a brand that burns consistently, buy the bulk pack.
The rest of this section describes some common troubles found when using CDs, DVDs, and their drives.
10.16.1. Avoiding Skips or Errors When Burning CDs or DVDs
Unlike hard drives, which suck up data as soon as your PC sends it, CD and DVD drives are much more finicky , demanding undivided attention. Your PC must send data to the drives at a steady, controlled pace, with no interruptions. Any disturbances can cause skips in music or lost data glitches. If your burned CDs or DVDs show any signs of skipping or data loss, the following steps help your PC, particularly older ones, work undisturbed.
10.16.2. DVD Region Settings
Movie studios don't release each movie simultaneously worldwide. Instead, they release the same movie at different times in different regions , sometimes tailoring a movie's content and price for a specific part of the world. That's why DVDs come with region codes embedded signals detailing where a DVD can play. All DVD players, including your DVD drive, obey those region codes.
To see your DVD drive's region code, right-click its icon in My Computer (Start My Computer) and choose Properties Hardware tab. Double-click your drives name , and then click the Region tab. There, buried beneath all those clicks, Windows XP lists your drive's Region code (Figure 10-12). Once you're looking at it, you'll see in which DVD region your drive is authorized to play.
Figure 10-12. Your DVD drive's Region Code tab lists its current region setting, as well as settings for other countries . If that DVD you bought on vacation uses a different Region Code than your drive, head to this tab and change your drive's Region Code to match your DVD's code. You can change your drive's code only five times, though, and the PC's manufacturer used up your first change. Some retailers sell "region free" DVD drives, and The Firmware Page (http://rpc1.org) carries firmware-flashing software to "unlock" your drive's Region Code, if necessary.
10.16.3. Extracting Stuck Discs
Occasionally, a CD or DVD ends up stuck in the drive, keeping the tray from sliding out when you push the eject button. The drive manufacturers standardized on a single tool to remove the drive: a straightened-out paper clip.
Look in the front of the drive for a tiny hole, usually located below the slide-out tray. With your PC turned off, push one prong of the paper clip into the hole, shown in Figure 10-13. The paper clip triggers the release mechanism, pushing the tray out and letting you extract the disc.
Figure 10-13. Be sure to turn off your PC before pushing the paper clip into the hole to extract a stuck CD or DVD. If the PC's turned on, the spinning disc could fly out of the tray like a Frisbee.
10.16.4. Codec Problems
A codec contains the magic formula for compressing and decompressing large media files. Hundreds of codecs exist, each compressing sound or video in a slightly different way. If you don't have the particular codec used to compress a song or video, you can't listen to or view the content. Some hardcore hobbyists create codecs and give them away. But much more often, large corporations are the ones creating, licensing, and selling codecs.
For instance, Windows XP's Media Player includes the codec for decompressing MP3 files, letting you play them on your PC. But until Media Player 10, Microsoft left out the codec for creating MP3 files. That forced you to scramble for a free codec, pay $10 for an official codec (www.microsoft.com/mediaplayer), or resort to Microsoft's own conveniently included WMA codec, instead.
Faced with the iPod explosion, Microsoft added an MP3 creation codec to Media Player 10, which now creates as well as plays back MP3 files. But Media Player still doesn't include a codec for viewing or creating DVD movies.
Movies, especially those downloaded from the Internet, come encoded with a wide variety of codecs. When you try to play material compressed with a codec that Media Player doesn't have, Media Player heads online to look in Microsoft's stash of collected codecs. (To make sure Media Player searches the Internet, choose Start All Programs Media Player Tools Options Player tab "Download codecs automatically.") If Media Player cant find the codec used for that fileor you're not connected to the Internetit gives up.
When faced with a video that Media Player can't handle, you may find help at Free Codecs (www.free-codecs.com). Download their tools, Gspot and AVIcodec. The programs examine your problem file, find out what codec you need, and tell you whether your computer can handle it. If your PC needs the codec, the site offers a wide variety of codecs you can download.
Many online movies come encoded with DivX, a free codec available from the company's Web site (www.divx.com).