How to Fix the Unreadable Disc Error – Xbox 360
Posted on March 18, 2009 by Jared
A 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!
You 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.
Be 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.
If 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.
If 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