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How to Fix the Unreadable Disc Error – Xbox 360

Posted on March 18, 2009 by Jared

dvd-repair-introA few months ago, I wrote about my disgust with Microsoft because of an unreadable disc error on my Xbox 360. The error, I discovered, was due to a busted DVD drive. Microsoft wanted $100 to repair my Xbox, and I came really close to just paying the fee and sending it in. Guys, I’m really glad I decided to take a look at it myself. The repair was so simple that I had my Xbox up and running in about thirty minutes.

There are tons of really good tutorials and videos on the web that explain how to disassemble your Xbox, so I’m not going to break things down to that level. It’s my hope that approaching the problem from a broad overview will remove some of the fear and uncertainty that surrounds cracking your Xbox 360 open. If you’re not yet ready to repair your DVD drive, check out the different ways you can use your broken Xbox 360.

Please note: If your Xbox 360 is still under warranty, I recommend sending it to Microsoft for repair. Warranty repairs are free and you should get an extension on your warranty, which is a nice bonus. I can only suggest that you attempt the repairs yourself if the warranty has run out and you’re comfortable with handling computer components. Also, even though your warranty may have expired, you can still pay to have it fixed. However, if you open up your Xbox, I’m not sure you’re still eligible for repairs. So, consider that before you begin.

If you’ve ever made a computer repair that involved replacing hardware, repairing your Xbox should be pretty simple. If the thought of opening your computer and replacing a DVD drive frightens you, please stop here and read something else. I’m working on another article that covers all the things you can do with an Xbox even though your DVD drive is broken. Sit tight!

Still here? Great! So let’s talk about some of the things that can go wrong with your DVD drive. There are several common problems out in the wild:

  • A magnet has come unglued. This is the problem I had. After searching the web for a couple of days, it looks like this is a very common problem. Symptoms include the Unreadable Disc error, funny noises, a scratched game disc or DVD, and random Stone Temple Pilot references.
  • The motor that spins the disc is not working properly. To verify this is the problem, you’ll have to open your Xbox 360 and take a peek inside the DVD drive. Though, if your drive is really, really quiet and you haven’t installed your games to the hard drive, you’ve got a reason to suspect the disc motor. You can either just replace the motor assembly, which involves opening up your DVD drive, or you can just replace the whole drive. Replacing the motor requires finding the same motor for the original model of DVD drive installed in your Xbox 360. Replacing the entire drive opens another can of worms, as it means you’ve got to either swap the boards or flash the new drive with the old drive’s key (I know! It’s confusing!)
  • The motor that moves the laser assembly is not working properly. This problem is often associated with odd noises coming from the DVD drive, especially when you first insert a disc. The easiest way to verify this is to open up your Xbox 360 and take a look inside your DVD drive. Spinning a disc up is kinda cool with all the DVD drive’s guts exposed. Just don’t look at the laser.

Before you sit down to disassemble your Xbox 360, you need to gather a few tools. Links to Amazon.com are provided in case you need to make a purchase.

  • A set of Torx Drivers (Sizes T10 and T8 will be used, but you might as well pick up a good set).
  • A Philips-head screwdriver.
  • A really, really small flat-head screwdriver. A precision set will do nicely, and you’ll be able to fix your glasses later if they break.
  • A flashlight or headlamp. I found myself using a headlamp so I could see the little plastic tabs that hold the Xbox’s outer plastic shell in place. When you’re done, you can use it to read late into the night.
  • A flat surface with some sort of protective layer between the Xbox and the table/floor/whatever. Once you’ve removed the plastic shell, the metal chassis can scratch your work surface. Don’t fix your Xbox on your mom’s dining room table
  • Some patience and TLC. <3

As I said before, I’m not going to go into the step-by-step process of taking your Xbox 360 apart. There are tons of tutorials and videos on YouTube you can refer to. To summarize, the Xbox 360 hardware is encased by a plastic shell that is comprised of 5 major pieces. Most of these pieces are held together using a series of plastic clips (one of the large panels is held in place by several screws that require the Torx drivers to remove). Here’s a quick and dirty break-down:

  • Remove the hard drive.
  • Remove the front bezel (the piece where the power button is).
  • Remove the skinny side panels (these use the plastic clips).
  • Remove the large bottom panel.
  • Remove the large screws that run through the chassis.
  • Remove the large top panel.

With this accomplished, you’re ready to take a look at that pesky DVD drive. Note that there are four screws running through the bottom of the chassis that holds the DVD drive in place. Just remove these screws and the DVD drive will come out. On the back of the drive you’ll find two cables that run to the mother board. Disconnect these two cables from the drive.

Remove the drive from the Xbox and flip it over, you’ll see four to six screws holding the DVD case together. Remove these screws and the two pieces of the DVD case will come apart. Now we’re getting somewhere!

drive-missing-magnetYou should now be able to see the inside of the drive. Take a look at the top piece of the drive case. Do you see a little magnet stuck to the top? If so, you just need to re-glue it back into the spindle that sets below the center of your game discs. Don’t use too much glue and take care to allow plenty of time for the glue to dry.

magnet-stuckBe sure to re-assemble your Xbox before you return to normal use. There’s not much harm in just testing it out before you put it all back together. Just be sure to use extreme caution to never touch anything inside the Xbox. Yes, this means your finger, your little sister’s Cool-aid, etc., needs to stay away from the Xbox! Once you’re sure everything is working properly, put the Xbox back together. Doing otherwise is putting your money, hard work, and safety at risk.

dvd-magnetIf you believe your trouble is the result of something other than a loose magnet, you’ll likely need to replace a component within the DVD drive or the entire drive itself. I’ve seen numerous videos on YouTube (some better than others) that show how to do this.

inside-of-xbox-360If after you fooled around with your DVD drive and you begin to notice odd sounds, check to make sure the magnet didn’t come back out. If the magnet is still where it belongs, adjust the laser assembly. Do not touch the lens, but check to see if the laser assembly slides back and forth rather easily. Set the laser about an inch away from the spindle and try again. Of course, don’t do any of this while the Xbox is on, silly.

If you were already planning on fixing your Xbox yourself, I hope you found this article encouraging. In my case, a few minutes of my time and a squirt of glue saved me $100. I hope you have the same great results! Until you decide to fix your DVD drive yourself, head over to my post on how to use your broken Xbox.

If you’re ready to give up and just get another Xbox 360, check out eBay. There are lots of deals to be found by just looking around a bit. Here’s a great list you can use to find a good used xbox (updated automagically).

Also read: When to buy a used Xbox


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Comments

25 Responses to “How to Fix the Unreadable Disc Error – Xbox 360”

  1. Matthew on May 5th, 2009 10:55 am

    Well my friend gave me a broken 360 and i took it and i have been tinkering with it for a while and i realized that the disk drive needed to be fixed and/or replaced…. and so i did that and it still won’t read the 360 games (but it has had no problem reading DVDs!!) and it keeps giving me the error message (“Please insert a Xbox 360 game disk”) and i haven’t been able to fix the 360 and it has been driving me insane, but to much thanks to you i have realized what i need to do and i am hoping it will work.

  2. wes on July 4th, 2009 5:14 pm

    i had the same exact problem but when i stumbled on to this site i ended up figuring out what was wrong with it. i didnt have to replace the disk drive. i think most of the time when people see that it doesnt read a disk they automatically assume they have to replace the disk drive but there are alternatives and i was fortunate enough to stumble onto this site that provided me the information i needed to fix my xbox. you have adjust the POT COLLABERATION. if you need to do some research on how to do this

    (This tutorial is made by Moda from xbox-scene, this tutorial is free to distribute providing you keep it in original form, if you wish to
    modify if atleast let me know what for etc… I take no responsibility for any damage caused to any of your consoles through the use of
    this tut, basically I aint takin no shit from no one, if you’re a retard then don’t bother doing this mod,.. anyway good luck! )
    XBOX 360 DVD POT CALIBRATION V1.0
    (For Samsung drives – technique is the same for other drives)
    (I have rushed to make this tut, I will release a better one in a couple of days time)
    This tutorial is for those of you which have dirty disc errors, discs sometimes working
    and sometimes not. Etc .. I hope you get the point.
    Remember to test your disc on another modded box before you recalibrate the pot to
    make sure your disc is a good working copy in the first place.
    I can recommend using only high quality branded media, Verbatim DVD+R DL seems to
    be the best so far, after that I would recommend something with Ritek dye. Ive had lots of
    problems with MCC dye so I wouldn’t recommend that for now, but that’s me and
    everyone may have mixed results.
    Ok lets start.
    Get your Xbox 360 opened up (I’m assuming you know how to do this considering you
    want to adjust the pot.)
    Take the metal casing off the dvd drive by removing the 4 screws holding it in place.
    Now turn it over and you should see the following…
    You need to push the black tab on the bottom right to one side, this lets you lift up the
    pcb. Do this VERY slowly as it will only lift up a little. One you have lifted it a tiny bit
    you can remove the cable which is holding the pcb In place, one you have removed this
    you should lift the pcb over and left it there. (remember to be gentle at all times, this
    cables are hard to come by if you damage them)
    Now you should see the picture above. Remove the cable connecting the pcb to the lens
    so you have more room to calibrate the pot. Now look at the pic below.
    To measure the pot, get a multimeter, and also a micro electronic screwdriver with a
    2MM tip (flat head).
    Now get your multimeter and set it to 20K (ohms). Connect it to the two connections on
    the pot. (doesn’t matter about positive and negative, any way round will do) and take the
    reading.
    The reading for the DVD pot is around 3.4k ohms > 4.2k ohms. Once you have taken this
    reading, write it down somewhere safe just in case you want to put it back to the original
    setting.
    Now its time to calibrate the pot and reduce the resistance (increase the power of the
    laser) and hopefully eliminate those dirty disc errors and “open tray” problems.
    I would recommend reducing the pot by upto 100 ohms at a time, keep trying until your
    discs read, DONT REDUCE THE POT TO LESS THAN 2.8K as you will risk burning
    out your laser.
    Using your screw driver, rotate the pot clockwise a fraction at a time , remember a
    FRACTION at a time, and read the pot again, like I said, keep reading the pot with the
    multimeter and reduce it by 100ohms or so each time until you find a good setting. Ive
    found that around 3.0k > 3.4k ohms works ok. But feel free to experiment (be sensible)
    Now put your console back together and hope for the best. If you would like to see
    anything added to this tut then feel free to post on the xbox-scene forums. Thanks
    Moda

  3. Sagz on July 10th, 2009 8:37 pm

    Matthew,

    The Xbox 360 will only play DVD’s because the new DVD Drive Key does not match the one stored on the motherboard.

    There are two options available…

    1) If the replacement DVD drive is the same as the original, you can switch the PCB boards on the drives. So that the key matches the motherboard.

    2) If the new drive is different, you need to extract the DVD Key from the original drive using Jungleflasher. You then need to spoof the new drive, so that it matches the original. You also need to input the DVD Key.

    If you have thrown away the old drive, there is nothing you more you can do. It will just have to be used as a dvd player or for arcade games.

  4. Jay on July 26th, 2009 10:03 pm

    Well i got a 360 from someone and it wont play games at all, it just reads movies and audio etc.. well come to find out i believe that the dvd drive was swapped out. so there is no way to find out what the key is? From the motherboard? Just curious. Thanks!

  5. cindy on July 30th, 2009 8:33 pm

    I have a question I fixed the red ring issue with my xbox, but now my dvd player says when I put in a game that I have to insert the game into a xbox 360..It the same dvd player that I took out. It still plays the dvds. What do I have to do to get it working to play games. I will try the laser fix if you think that will work. Or do I need to flash the drive. If so how do you flash the drive it sounds very complicated: is it?

  6. Adam on August 19th, 2009 4:26 pm

    Great writeup, I just got a refurb unit that has this problem, since its still under warranty im sending it back, but if it ever happens to again I will def try this out. BTW what kind of glue should you use to attach the magnet?

  7. Matthew Vonreiner on September 1st, 2009 1:27 pm

    wes you mention a picture? I was wondering where that was, I would really like to try this adjusting the pot to see if it would work for me but am not sure where I need to connect and what screws to adjust.. and im assuming that the laser should be under power when doing this?

  8. XBox DVD Play error on November 18th, 2009 11:07 am

    Hey everyone . i just wanna know how to change the dvd key. its weird and how do i get to connect the drive to the computer. its very complicated and i need help =P.

  9. Zac Brogan on December 3rd, 2009 9:41 am

    Go to http://www.se7ensins.com they have tutorials on how to calibrate the POT of the dvd drive. It will tell you exactly what you need to do. Id list a link but, im at school and cant access se7ensins

  10. Matt on January 2nd, 2010 12:08 pm

    I bought a 360 on feeBay for $1.30 + 9.95 shipping from a high volume Powerseller. It was a Thursday night and just nobody bid. The console still has the MS seal and LIVE works, but the DVD drive makes odd noises and won’t read disks.

    Anyway the step of flashing a replacement Hitachi DVD drive intimidates me. I only have one laptop, and the thought of messing around in the BIOs doesn’t seem like a good idea. Might attempt to locate the magnet piece as described in this article, it would be great if that did the job.

    Thanks for the well written articles (Jared).

  11. daniel on February 17th, 2010 4:54 pm

    my xbox is modded and it reads almost every disk. but it recently stoped reading some of them. it stops in the middle on of the game and it says that the disc is ureadable and to clean it with a cloth. i was wondering if there is anything to fix that or whats the problem. thank you

  12. Josh on March 8th, 2010 1:56 pm

    So this sounds like what I have, but what type of glue did you use?

  13. Jonathan DeVries on June 8th, 2010 5:43 pm

    Dude thanks a lot for that explanation! My problem was that the disc tray would not stay shut. Everytime I closed it, it would simply reopen in second. Even if I shut down my xbox, it would still reopen the tray. I glued the magnet back on and now it works like a charm once again ^^

  14. mike on December 28th, 2010 12:40 pm

    ya while i was playing fable 3 it made a noise that wasn’t supposed to happen and it said unable to read the disc. so i put in black ops to be sure. it played fine but when i looked at the back it was all scuffed up on both discs. i havent played it since then, scared it will ruin one of my games. it still plays fine but again dont want to take the risk. help

  15. nick on December 30th, 2010 9:48 pm

    i just recentl replaced the dvd drive on my xbox and the drive was brand new and the xbox wasnt. i bought a new one from microsoft and now its broken again!do you know if it was just weak assembly or is it a part that is one of the more common broken items? thanks!

  16. dustin on March 7th, 2011 3:39 am

    What if you can’t find the magnet that fell off?

  17. Anthony on March 19th, 2011 4:42 pm

    i lost the magnet on my disc drive.. could i use something from home or can i find a replacement?

  18. Heydon on April 24th, 2011 10:17 pm

    um i was just wondering if there was somewhere you could buy those magnets, coz i lost mine trying to hot swap my xbox

  19. jack on August 28th, 2011 1:53 pm

    my xbox makes two short buzzing noises the sometimes makes a longer noise after but will not read discs is plugging in the magnet the right thing to do??

  20. Jared Holt on August 28th, 2011 2:03 pm

    If it makes these sounds only when attempting to read discs, I would suspect the magnet and the small round plate inside the drive are not doing their job (stabilizing the disc and preventing it from slipping). However, it’s important to note that there are other components inside the drive that could fail, such as the drive motor and the gears that control the laser/lens. In any case, it’s nearly impossible to know without opening up the console and drive, which should only be done if your warranty is up and you’re comfortable with doing such a thing.

  21. matthew on September 11th, 2011 4:52 pm

    try my way what you have to do is lay your xbx down flat not standing and while the disc is reading just gently tap on top above where the tray is and it should work:) first time for me and i had this error for years

  22. Jimmy Louis on December 27th, 2011 2:12 am

    I recieve my new game on Christmas Day im on the exspert round but my game said my disk is dirty i clean it w/ a cloth like it said but it comfirm its not clean nd my game is FORZA MOTORSPORT-4 wat do i do

  23. nathan evans on June 25th, 2012 10:02 am

    Hi, ive read through your thread, and it sounds really simple (and i aint even a techy!) what it is, my xbox no longer reads ANY kind of discs…i insert the disc..it makes two verry odd humming noises..then the xbox tells me to open the disc tray…as if i hadnt even put a disc in! Repeatedly opening and closing the disc tray used to work, but now, nothing! :( could this be a loose magnet? Everything on the xbox is as how it came when brand new, and its had no mods. The warranty has run out, so im fully prepaired to rip it open if i need to. Thanks.

  24. Angelo on July 2nd, 2012 2:43 am

    Thanks but too much work!

  25. Ron on August 20th, 2012 6:44 pm

    Thanks for the info great post. btw i opened my xbox360 thinking it was a magnet problem as described. i found the magnet in place. after careful inspection i found a piece of long hair (my girlfriends) and a small little fuzball on the arms that the laser rides on. i cleaned those and since im a smoker i also used a q-tip with rubbing alchohol and cleaned my laser lense. i very lightly regreased the running rails for the laser and put the drive back togethor. after putting it all back togethor it is working fine. I am however taking 4 of my fav games and installing them on my HD . mine would recognise the game discs but only load a few moments of them or stop and give the dirty disc error after playing for a few seconds. i figure if my favs are installed and the system recognises the disc if it happens again at least i can play one of the games i installed.

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