Troubleshooting CD-ROM Problems

Tweaking CD-ROM drives

There are a few things you can do to tweak your CD-ROM and its behavior that might speed things up a little and get rid of some little annoyances.

Turn on DMA

Newer CD-ROM drives support DMA (Direct Memory Access) mode which takes a little load off of your CPU. To enable this, go to Start/Settings/Control Panel/System/Device Manager, click the “+” symbol next to the CDROM category, double-click the entry for the CD-ROm drive and select the Settings tab. Check the box for DMA, click OK, and reboot your computer. When Windows is back, go back to this dialog and see if the setting stuck. If so, the drive supports DMA, and if you don’t see any problems, leave it enabled. If it unchecked itself again, or you have problems after this change, disable this feature again.

Put the CD-ROM drive on a separate IDE channel

If you have a regular IDE CD-ROM drive, then you can increase performance in certain situation a bit by putting the CD-ROM drive on a separate IDE channel. If you were to put both your hard drive and your CD-ROM drive on the same primary IDE channel, then you might take a small performance hit when doing something that requires both devices to be accessed, such as playing a game from CD, playing music CDs while working, or installing software. The reason for this is that IDE cannot multitask, it can only address one device at a time, meaning that data can be transferred either from or to the hard drive or the CD-ROM drive, but not both at the same time. By placing the CD-ROM drive on the secondary IDE channel, hard drives on the primary IDE channel can be accessed at the same time as the CD-ROM drive on the secondary IDE channel.

Turn on/off auto insert notification

You’ve probably noticed that whenever you insert a software CD, the installation program on the CD will fire up automatically within a few seconds. The same happens when you insert a music CD. Within a few seconds the CD player will come up and start playback. This feature is called Auto Insert Notification and is enabled by default in Windows. If you want to change this behavior, you can do this in two ways. To disable this feature on a per-case basis, simply hold down the Shift key on your keyboard when closing the CD tray for about 10 seconds. This will prevent automatic startup for this one instance. To disable this feature permanently, go to Start/Settings/Control Panel/System/Device Manager, click the “+” symbol next to the CDROM category, double-click the entry for the CD-ROm drive and select the Settings tab. Uncheck the box for Auto Insert Notification, click OK, and reboot your machine. For more information on this feature check out our article on Auto Insert Notification.

Modify the Windows CD Source Path

If your CD-ROM drive letter has changed as explained earlier, one annoyance you might run into is that anytime you need to access the Windows installation CD to add or remove Windows components or to install a driver, Windows will still assume that the CD can be found at the old drive letter and you have to change it manually – every single time. This can be easily remedied with a little registry tweak. Go to Start/Run, type Regedit and hit OK. Drill down to the following registry key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Setup. Highlight the Setup key by clicking on it once, then look in the right-hand pane for a string called SourcePath. Right-click this string and select Modify. Change it to the correct path and exit the registry editor. For example, if your CD-ROM drive originally was G:, then the source path probably reads G:\win98. If your CD-ROM drive letter has changed to H:, then simply change the source path to H:\win98.

– Alex –

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