From my experience with frequently used Hi-Fi systems, portable CD players and even PC CD & DVD-ROM drives, the laser can get quite dusty over a year or two, especially if the drive is present in a bedroom or living room. If you have ever opened an appliance that is cooled by fans and is over a few years old, youâ€™ll see the amount of dust that can build up over time. The same applies with CD and DVD players as the spinning disc causes air to circulate over the laser, thus leading to dust building up after quite a bit use.
As your player can still play discs, what I would recommend doing is to get a CD/DVD cleaning kit. A CD cleaner is usually an audio CD with several fine brushes across the surface of the disc. These sweep some of the dust off the laser as the disc plays. There are some CD cleaning kits where the disc does not contain any content, but instead have one or more thicker fine brushes on them. These tend to do a better job at cleaning the laser, however many players are very quick to reject these (show â€˜No Discâ€™) upon loading. I would recommend avoiding kits that use cleaning fluid as these often leave a residue on the laser and I even have seen these cause CD players to become more picky! :doh:
Finally, if you are willing to open your player (assuming it is out of warranty), you could try cleaning the laser with a Q-tip instead. I had to do this before with a Hi-Fi system and a Playstation2 where the laser got dusty to the point where it would no longer recognise (or spin up) any disc. If you would like to try this method, only lightly brush off the laser lens to avoid cotton strands from getting caught on the laser or its assembly. At the same time, I would recommend cleaning dust and hairs off the tracking and lightly lubricating it with Vaseline or petroleum jelly (these also help silence drives with noisy seeking).
So far I have only encountered two cases where a laser wore out. One was in my first CD writer (an early Ricoh 2x2x6 speed) and the other was in a well used Hi-Fi system.