Soft Boiled Software

When it comes to repairing CD’s and DVD’s, there are a number of practices and household products which people swear can make a disc good as new. I tried several of the most well known methods in my youth, and found that none of them did a damn thing. Brasso, for instance, never managed to make a scratched disc run any better. Same with toothpaste. I even tried boiling a used copy of Devil May Cry. I ended up “fixing” it by buying another copy.

Ever since these failed experiments, I wondered whether any of these methods really, truly could work.  I can report that under certain circumstances, you can fix a game by boiling it. I’m surprised and a bit baffled, but I tried it yesterday, and I can attest to the results.

The game in question Tekken 6 on the 360. I bought it (new and factory sealed) almost two years ago on clearance, but it turned out to be defective out of the box. I arranged to return it to Namco-Bandai for a replacement copy, but due to laziness I never sent it out. I completely forgot I still had it until yesterday, when I unearthed it during a spot of spring cleaning. Not wanting to throw it away, I decided I might as well try to see if something might get it to play. Since it had no scratches, I knew the toothpaste/Brasso approach would do me no good. The boiling trick, on the other hand, still had some promise. I still didn’t know what it was supposed to do to make a disc playable, and I suppose the sense of unknowingness convinced me it was worth a shot. I heated up a pot of water, dropped the disc in for a good three minutes, then let it dry in a hand towel. About an hour later, I placed it back in the console, and it started up immediately. No freezing, no hanging, no issues whatsoever. This was in stark contrast to its original state, in which the 360 couldn’t even recognize that there was a piece of media in its disc tray.

So tender you can cut it with a fork.

While happy to have a working product after all this time, I still wasn’t satisfied. I went online to find out once and for all whether there was any sort of science behind boiling an optical disc – and found the answer on the first page of Google results. Here’s what softpedia has to say about the method:

One of the reasons why a brand new disk can become unrecognizable for the drive is the exposure to condensation, a phenomenon that occurs within the plastic wrapped subscription, as water molecules trapped in the air turn liquid when the temperature drops, for example during shipping.

The thin layer of plastic covering all discs, meant to protect the readable surface, can expand and contract in the optical drives, where the temperature is much higher than in the room or on a store shelf. The simplest way to eliminate water from the disk is to boil it.

Makes sense I guess, though the explanation reveals that this fix is only applicable to discs that are dead on arrival, and only due to this particular phenomenon. If your game stops playing after you’ve played it for some time, boiling probably won’t do it any good. It also seems that, despite my results, it isn’t a good idea to stick your game directly into a hot pot on the stove – you can get the same results by heating up a shallow plate of water in the microwave, without risking having your disc melt.

Some will argue that buying Tekken 6 in the first place was a waste of money, but at least now it won’t be a complete waste.

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