Reading “unreadable” CDs

I have a longish commute, and I like to pass the time listening to audiobooks. I get them mostly on CD from my local library system, but because my commute is evenly split between car, train and walking, I rip the CDs to my iPod.

Unfortunately, library CDs are often not in the best shape, and often individual tracks are unreadable, or, as with a book I was ripping this morning, the CD won’t load at all.

As it happens, almost all computer CD drives these days are actually DVD drives, and a DVD drive is at best a compromise when it comes to reading CDs. It occurred to me to resurrect an old external CD drive from my parts closet (I used it back when my old PowerBook didn’t have a CD writer), and presto, all three CDs I was having trouble with on my DVD drive (and my wife’s DVD drive, an entirely different model) were readable with no trouble at all.

So if you’ve got an old external CD drive lying around, you might want to hang on to it.

(The audiobook in question: Elmore Leonard’s The Switch, which I’m listening to because I’m a fan of the narrator, Mark Hammer, and I’ve found Leonard’s stuff entertaining in print.)

Update. I meant to pass along another tip. I find that sometimes, maybe one time in ten, but erratically, the insertion of an audio CD wakes up iTunes, but doesn’t get mounted (or ejected, as can happen with a bad CD). When this happens, it can be difficult to eject the CD (because the system doesn’t recognize it as mounted); if you do manage to eject it, inserting it again, perhaps more than once, will eventually persuade iTunes to see it.

An easier and quicker solution is to run Disk Utility, where you’ll see an unmounted “Audio CD”. Select it, click the Mount button, and Bob’s your uncle.

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