It's a frustrating thing to have your favourite disc suddenly refuse to play in whatever machine was designed to play it, and I am sure I am not the only one who has wished on several occasions that there was an easy way to get them back to playable condition again. The Dr. Fix It electronic disc repair kit is basically Disk Doctor's entrant into the consumer market of disc repair systems, and at $89.95 a pop, it could turn out to be a wise investment if you have any five-inch shiny optical media that refuses to play (going under the pre-parallel importing prices, it'd pay for itself in three repairs). The claim is also made on the relevant web site that this product can also repair the three-inch Nintendo Gamecube discs. So, how well does it fix the discs that it is entrusted with?
The following items were found in the box of the Dr. Fix It system when I opened it:
The machine itself
A repair kit consisting of two repair heads, a tube of repair liquid, and a brush
A cleaning kit consisting of two cleaning heads, a tube of cleaning liquid, and a brush
Four additional heads
A chamois-type cloth
A 240-volt AC adaptor
In essence, everything one needs to start cleaning and repairing their DVDs or any other type of optical disc is here.
Having recently reviewed a boxed set of Friends, Season 7, I don't feel any shame in telling the reader that it came to me in less than optimal condition. The sixth disc had come loose in transit, and was flopping around inside the gatefold case, often making contact with the teeth that are supposed to hold the disc in place. As a consequence, the disc was heavily scratched on side B, and while I managed to make one of the episodes play once, that was all I could do without repairing the surface of that side of the disc.
Essentially, I put two of the repair heads into the machine, applied three drops of the repair liquid (which looks a lot like pus from an ingrown nail) as per the instructions, put the disc in with the scratched side facing down, and pressed the Repair button. This resulted in the disc spinning while the heads whirred, spreading the repair fluid over the disc, which in turn made a rather audible grinding noise that caused me some alarm. That was, it caused me some alarm until the spinning stopped and I opened the machine - one should note that it should not be opened before the disc stops spinning, as this will scratch the disc (a common malady of any optical disc related product with a fold-up lid). Once I had taken the disc out and given it an inspection with hypersensitive eyes, I found that the scratches which had bothered me earlier were gone, as well as the ones I had introduced when I opened the case early during a previously aborted repair operation.
The specific episode that was affected by the scratches on the Friends DVD was The One With The Vows, although the subsequent episode, The One With Chandler's Dad, was also fairly apt to show MPEG tracking errors during the first minute. Both of these problems were gone when I played the disc after cleaning it with Dr. Fix It, which proves that this product is very handy for those cases where a disc arrives in a broken case and is significantly scratched.
The product also proved quite successful at repairing large surface scratches on a couple of my older CDs.
One such older CD was Faith No More's third album The Real Thing, an effort that took the world by storm in the early 1990s and has been in my possession for nearly thirteen years, often coming out for a sampling of a great bassist's abilities. This disc has certainly seen better days, with repeated plays in lesser, often top-opening, CD player units being reflected in the number of nicks and scratches on the surface of the disc that, while not directly affecting playback, certainly weren't a pleasant thing to look at. Again, the same procedure was used to repair the surface of the disc, with drops of the repair fluid applied to the appropriate head and the disc placed with the data side facing down against said heads. After the repair machine was left to stop on its own, the marks on the surface of the disc had seemingly disappeared, leaving only the smear of the repair fluid which of course can be cleaned away using the cleaning procedure.
No optical medium is immune to the problems that excess dust can introduce, especially since current playing devices attract dust and dirt quite effectively. So, cleaning is often required so that the laser of the player reflects properly from the data surface of the actual disc, and this is where a variety of products are available. In this case, the procedure to clean a disc is much the same as the procedure to repair one, although the repair heads must be replaced with cleaning heads, and a different liquid must be used.
So again, the procedure was tested using a disc that appeared to be smudged and dirty, with the results being entirely satisfactory in terms of making the disc's surface appear clean and shiny. Admittedly, it took me repeated attempts to achieve what I considered a satisfactory result, and in all honesty, this is a bit of a weak link in the product, with the cleaned disc tending to look a bit streaked, although it was definitely an improvement over the cosmetic appearance of the disc after being repaired. Suffice it to say that my manual radial CD cleaner and the accompanying fluid is not going to be retired anytime soon.
In terms of cleaning, Dr. Fix It leaves a little to be desired, but it is the quickest, simplest, and most easy-to-use optical disc repair system available for the home market. If this product doesn't fix a scratched disc, then it will need to be taken to a store with the $2,000 professional version of the repair system for a more serious resurfacing, and considering some of the abuse that has been dished out to a couple of the discs I have tested this version on, that's going to be rare. This product is basically the thing that people who are asking "why can't I get this disc to play on my player?" have been waiting for.
The one complaint I have about the product is the need to use different heads for cleaning and repairing, as the process of changing heads is somewhat more intensive than I would like. The cleaning process is also a little less effective than I would like, but the product's name is Dr. Fix It, not Dr. Clean It, so I can overlook this. Ninety dollars might seem like a lot, but this is a small price to pay, especially considering that it can repair DVDs that would cost upwards of thirty dollars to replace. Although it won't repair deep scratches that have penetrated the reflective layer of the disc, I don't see how one could go wrong with an investment in Dr. Fix It.
© Dean McIntosh (read
November 18th, 2002