Unreadable photo CD-R disc


I hope that other forum members will be able to give me advice about recovering data from an unreadable photo CD-R.

My father gave me a CD-R on which some digitized photos were saved about 10 years ago by a photography shop, in JPG-format. The CD-R seems to be unreadable, it is not recognized by Windows at all. There are no visible scratches or fingerprints on the CD surface. After reading through this forum and several others, the most likely explanation for this problem seems to be CD-R dye ageing. (Interestingly, other CD-R media from the same batch do not seem to give any problems.)

I have tried to read this CD-R medium with four different laptops (running Windows 2000, XP, 7), using CD-R, CD-RW, and DVD-RW drives. The outcome is identical for each case, i.e., the CD-R disk is not recognized.

For recovery data software, I tried so far:

  • Isobuster 3.1: recognizes the amount of data saved on the disk after trying to read it for about 10 minutes (it reports 29.05 MByte, which is about the amount I expect), but also reports that “no file-systems nor files and folders could be found”. When attempting to recover the data then, almost none of the CD sectors can be read.

  • CD-Roller 9.50: recognizes the CD-R as “type: data CD”, but reports “no file system detected on the disc”.

  • CD Recovery Toolbox Free 1.1.17 and Finaldata Standard 2.0 do not recognize the presence of a CD.

In the past, I encountered the phenomenon that some CD-R media could not be read reliably on some CD-ROM drives, but would be read just fine on other drives. Would anyone know a particular type of CD/DVD drive that can deal better with difficult cases like my unreadable CD-R? Or are there any other approaches that I could try?

Many thanks for any advice you might be able to provide!

You might want to try ISOPuzzle also. http://www.videohelp.com/tools/IsoPuzzle

If you have only tried reading the disc in laptop drives, it may be time to try a regular cd/dvd drive in a desktop computer. No one manufacturer is consistently superior in reading abilities…it varies a bit, model to model. But no one around here much likes laptop optical drives.

I have a similar CD -R done with Windows98SE.
XPpro (on an older computer) ,Vista . or Windows 7(laptop) show nothing but the disc title. When opened no files.
I have a registered version of IsoBuster Pro .
I don’t have the new version best_cabbage used. version 3.1 .
The reason is to update to it requires a new license even though when I bought the license I have it indicated it would be for newer versions .
The version I have meets all my needs so far so I won’t be updating .
What I did was Open IsoBuster & let it read the CD.
I then R. clicked on the green lettered UDF box in track 01 This is where the pictures & some documents were. I selected “Extract” by the green lettered UDF
box in the R. click menu . It extracted everything there with no problem.
On the second track I had to do a “Find missing files and folders” . This took a while. I Extracted it the same as track 1 but most of it was damaged & couldn’t be read. Mostly .pdf files . Some were readable.
So You will need a registered (paid) version to do this. The new version should be able to do this but I have no way to verify that.

I gave IsoPuzzle a try but it didn’t recover a usable .iso .
I like IsoPuzzle & I’ve used it for several things. So it may work better for you on your CD.

Thank you for your responses!

Meanwhile, I tried IsoPuzzle 1.7, with results identical to IsoBuster: the amount of data on the CD-R is recognized correctly, but when the software tries to recover the actual data, the sectors are unreadable.

I also tried a DVD-RAM drive in a desktop computer. The result was not encouraging, IsoBuster did not recognize the CD-R at all with that drive.

Maybe older drives, possibly without DVD reading/writing capability, perform better in reading degraded CD-R media? So far, the drive that performed best (in the sense that IsoBuster/IsoPuzzle can recognize the medium) is an ancient CD-ROM drive without writing capability in a laptop, of the make “Teac CD-224E”. I will try to get hold of some other, similarly old drives.

@ best_cabbage , Do you have the registered Pro version of IsoBuster ?

Although an older drive the one I used was a DVD +/- RW .

I tried IsoBuster 3.1 (the most current version). I did not buy a licence, because the software did not seem to be able to read the defective CD-R at all. To my understanding, buying a licence will make additional functionality available in the software, but will not actually improve its performance on difficult-to-read media. Did I misunderstand something there?

Meanwhile, I tried a range of desktop and laptop drives (CD-ROM, CD-RW, DVD, DVD-RW), and most of them led to identical results: IsoBuster and IsoPuzzle can recognize the defective CD-R and determine the amount of data that was saved on it, but neither can recover any of the data from it.

I feel I tried hard enough to retrieve data from this CD-R and I will likely stop now. If by some miracle I do find a method that works after all, I will post it here, of course.

In any case, many thanks for all your help!

The CD disc I’m using was done with Windows 98 SE
In Windows Explorer on Vista.
There is nothing when it is opened but “Properties” does show Used Space & Free Space.
The first image is what IsoBuster shows with just clickin Session 1.

The second image is when I click on the green UDF.

The third image is what I select to Extract the files.
I beleive this is only available for the paid version.
If it is on your trial version you can give it a try.

Thank you for your suggestions, cholla!

IsoBuster’s reaction to my defective CD-R is a bit different, so now I am wondering whether I might have misdiagnosed the problem, i.e., whether it might be due to a bad FAT or alike, as opposed to degraded dye.

For illustration, I am uploading a screenshot of what IsoBuster says about my CD-R:

Does this message provide a clue to the source of the problem?

I think some “photo CD” are proprietary in nature and can only be opened if you have the software required. If this one was made by such software you may not be able to open it in Windows. Some of the old photo shops would also give out CDs like that, and some of them would need to install software from the same disc before you could open the files.

A red X by the track is not a good sign.
On the messagein the screen shot select “Make it so”/
ISOBuster will try to find any files or folders .
The Track 01 I recovered was mostly photos & simple .txt files.
My Track 2 had the red X . It only recovered some of the files.

Many thanks for your suggestions!

CDan: I tried some other CD-R media that were given out by the same shop, and they can be read fine by the CD drive. Exactly as you write, an image viewer software starts up automatically when inserting such a CD-R into the drive. However, the CD-R has a normal file structure and the photographs are saved in JPG format, so luckily the image viewer software is not required. From this observation, I concluded that the single unreadable CD-R in the batch might be suffering from dye degradation or a similar problem.

cholla: Unfortunately, IsoBuster cannot recover any data from “Track 01” that shows a red cross on the screenshot (and neither can IsoPuzzle). I am wondering whether there are specific CD-drives that are more tolerant when dealing with poor contrast ratios between “0” and “1” bits (I guess this would be the effect of degraded CD-R dye?) and might thus be able to recover some of the data.