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XBox 360 games scratched?


A growing number of Xbox 360 customers are reporting having problems with their disc's getting scratched by the DVD drive when switching the unit's position from vertical to horizontal and vise versa..  Initially we thought this was the usual fanboy vs. hater propaganda that swirls around the launch of any new console like this.  It didn't take long until the seriousness of the situation reared it ugly head right here in the Llamma's shop.  I personally have experienced this issue not once but twice already.  Here I was at a friends house helping him get this 360 all setup and networked for Live.  In the process we decided to lay the Xbox on it side instead of the upright position.. I thought nothing of doing this while the unit was powered up and in the middle of a game.  Big Mistake!  I felt and heard the scratch happen and immediately thought; uh oh.. I think I just ruined your Call of Duty 2 buddy... sorry!  You would have figured I learned my lesson and would be more careful next time I attempted something like that.  Yeah.. guess not.  Later on back at the Llamma shop I was taking some photos of a 360 when I decided to get a horizontal shot, again it was powered up so I made sure to do it more carefully.  I guess that I was not careful enough because I got that distinct vibration and scratch noise again.  There was no doubt in my mind what had just happened.  I ejected the disc just to see that it was scratched like the first disc in a almost identical fashion.  It will prove interesting to see if the reported Microsoft response is true or stands about replacement of the damaged game disks.  Here at Llamma we just wanted to know why it was happening. 

We started by disassembling of our one of our Hitachi-LG GDR-3120L DVD drives, which happens to be the only drive in any of our 360's.  Upon inspecting the laser assembly it was obvious there was only one small area that could have caused this.  I applied some silver sharpie marker over the entire black laser assembly housing and reassembled the drive.  I threw in the Quake 4 bonus disk and waited for the small jet to take off.  After the disc spun up I went through the tilting motion a few times.  Video(1.5MB): How to scratch a disc with an Xbox 360(mirrored courtesy of Xbox-Scene.com thanks!).  We then disassembled the drive to find what was causing the scratches.  The following photo shows exactly where the problem occurs.  As you can see the black showing through the silver area that was painted. 


More detailed view.
Hitachi-LG GDR-3120L DVD Drive Tray
Fallen soldiers.  There's one map I can't play on Call of Duty Live :(

Microsoft does in fact say the following in the Volume 1: Setup manual that ships with the Xbox 360:

To avoid jamming the DVD drive and damaging discs or the Xbox 360 console:

  • Remove discs before moving the console or tilting it between the horizontal and vertical positions.

  • Never use cracked discs.  They can shatter inside the console and jam or break internal parts.

  • When the console is vertical do not use discs that are smaller the standard DVDs and CDs."
  • I wonder how many of us 360 owners read our manuals..lol.  I guess this is a good example to do so in the future; not that it would have sunk in.  I had games to play not read and learn important documentation about "the most exciting product on the planet!" 

    Although it should be common sense when operating a high speed disc based device like this not to move it and we are warned of the problem; it is still a surprise how easy it is.  It does not take much effort to ruin one of your games by doing this.  Here's a 1.5MB video clip of how easy and dramatic it is

    Those of us that have experienced the problem will have to pray to have our discs replaced.  I'm sure we will all know Microsoft official stance on disc replacement soon.  The good news is that if you don't move the unit around while a disc is in the drive you will probably never have a problem.  I don't need a third strike to learn that I should not move the unit while it is powered on while a disc is in the drive.  It is cool to show off how the player indicator lights move with the position of the unit... just take your disc out first ;)

    **Edit 12/03/05**
    People should not take this as blaming Microsoft for the problem.  Again it should be common sense not to move a high speed disc device with the disc in.  On the other hand it should be common sense that it's a game console, it will be moved around while its on.  I think the Xbox 360 is a great console and have had absolutely NO problems with any of ours.  I'm sure the majority of problems involve user error to some degree.

    To discuss this topic visit this thread on our forums. 

    - TheJT

    **Edit 12/04/05 **
    I think we should also acknowledge that some users are experiencing scratched discs without moving their console.  We have received some direct feedback from a at least two people.   I imagine the vast majority are due to moving the console but the mechanics of the problem is the same.  The disc spins very close to the pickup and the tray does not prevent the disc from reaching the laser pickup.  If you are experiencing scratched discs without moving your console you should contact 1-800-4MYXBOX for warranty support from Microsoft.


    Update! 12/06/05 How to fix the above problem.

    Refurbishing the Xbox 360 DVD Drive
    (to protect against scratched discs)

    We found that if we added a foam rubber pad on the opposite side of the laser we could prevent the damage that would otherwise occur. Notice the arc near the top of the rubber pad in this photo?That is where the DVD now hits when we quickly tip it from a vertical to horizontal position.


    Foam rubber pad kit now available!


    The pad restricts the upward movement of the disc on one side of the pivot point and in turn restricts the downward movement on the other side of the pivot point.

    We did a little digging to see what the lids of old drives look like (the HL360 drive has the rubber pad because we put them there)


    Notice only the Thomson includes the rubber bumpers to protect the disc.

    In this shot of the HL 360 lid below we can see the three black pads.  The two pads across from each other should be installed about a half inch further out from the ring to optimize performance. 

    With the 3 foam rubber pads from the Thomson in place we now are unable to scratch up the disc.   I'm so confident I will insert the real quake 4 disc rather than the demo disc as before.

    Video prior to pad installation

    Video after pad Installation

    Similar but softer buzz sound, but not the dramatic buzz saw we had earlier.  What do you know, no scratches!

    Updated 12/07/05 04:48:

    A better photo to go by for proper placement of the pads.

    The fourth pad is taller than the metal bump in the lid, this serves to significantly quiet the noise from the drive (when moving it around).  Notice the width of the center pads, it is important to move them out to the edge of the tin so they will contact the disc sooner.  I should also note that I tried this with a single pad at the front and we were able to scratch the disc.  With the addition of the side pads at the width above I was unable to scratch a disc.

    Foam rubber pad kit now available!
















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