When a CD or DVD is stuck or the drive won't open

Maybe the disc is stuck. Maybe the door is stuck. Try these things first to see if you can fix it.

Toshiba Satellite P50t

Chisomo Masonga asked about removing a CD or DVD that’s stuck inside the drive.

Sometimes an important CD or DVD gets stuck inside the drive, and the tray just won’t open. That’s when you wonder why you still mess with an optical drive—even though I for one still find them useful.

When the drive gets stuck, you have to try to save the drive, save the disc, and save your reputation as a level-headed person who doesn’t go hoarse screaming at non-sentient machines. So what do you do when you push the button on the front of the drive plate and the tray doesn’t eject?

[Have a tech question? Ask PCWorld Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector. Send your query to answer@pcworld.com.]

Maybe the problem is with the button. Try telling Windows to eject the tray. In Windows 7’s Windows Explorer, go to Computer. In Windows 8 or 10, go to File Explorer’s This PC. Right-click the optical drive and select Eject.

0813 eject from windows

If that doesn’t work, there may be a program holding onto what’s on the disc. Try closing a few obvious culprits. If that doesn’t do it, try closing everything.

Or, better yet, reboot the computer. Press the drive’s eject button as soon as the shut down is complete and the new boot is just starting, before the PC tries to load an operating system.

If that doesn’t work, we can safely assume that the problem isn’t with Windows. But we still have a problem.

Shut down the PC again, and this time, don’t reboot. Bend open a paperclip. If you look closely, you’ll almost certainly see a small hole in the drive’s front panel. If there are two holes, and one looks like it’s intended for plugging in headphones, it’s the other hole.

0813 eject with paperclip

With the PC off, insert the paperclip into the hole and apply gentle pressure. The drive should pop slightly open.

Gently pull the drive out. If it doesn’t open gently, the disc is probably dislodged. Carefully try to maneuver the disc so that it’s sitting where it should. If that won’t work, try to find a way to remove the disc without ruining either the disc or the drive.

If you continually have to use the paperclip trick, you’ve got a bad drive. Consider replacing it.

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