What is the dreaded Xbox 360 ‘Laser-burn’? (And how to repair it)

“Xbox laser burn” is a commonly-used term to describe damage that has been found on discs when using the Microsoft Xbox 360 console.

It involves the formation of a perfect ring around the entire playing surface of the DVD disc, rendering it unplayable.

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The damage is not caused by the laser beam burning the disc as the name would suggest, but is instead caused by the laser unit touching and scoring the disc.

While the machine is in use the DVD disc revolves at very high speeds and is read by a laser which sits just a couple millimetres from the disc surface. If the machine is moved or knocked while in use, it jolts the laser unit, which can subsequently score a line around the disc.

The severity of the damage can vary hugely depending on how fast the disc was spinning at the time and how firmly it was bumped. At best there is a light mark that be wiped away with a soft cloth, at worst there is a deep gouge in the disc that you can feel as you examine the surface.

Microsoft, when challenged on this subject enforce the fact that there is no technical design fault with the machine, but that the damage is most likely caused by movement of the machine whilst the disc is spinning – something they try to educate users about in several ways. There is even a label to this effect on the tray that has to be removed before use.

The good news is that almost all discs with the ‘laser burn’ damage can be repaired using a professional disc repair machine and lots of local gaming stores own one.


How to repair it – if you’re an Xbox user:

If you find yourself in the position where a disc has this damage and will not play – there are a couple of things you can do.

  1. If the disc was bought from an authorised dealer and is in warranty – you may be able to use Microsoft’s disc replacement program.
  2. If you do not meet the criteria for replacement, then you could take it to a local disc repairer. If you are in the UK, use www.fixmydiscs.co.uk to find a repairer close to your postcode.
  3. If you don’t want the game any more, you could consider trading it in for a new title. Many gaming stores run a trade-in service, just ask at your local store.

What not to do: There are many methods banded about on the internet, including using toothpaste, or even a banana skin. Although the banana idea is ridiculous, there is some truth in the fact that toothpaste is a mild abrasive, but the sheer amount of manual work you would have to do means you will never get a satisfactory result from this method and it would take you many hours hard work to find that out.

Similarly, you will find cheap manual repair machines online for £10-20 that claim to offer results, but their abilities are very limited and you will simply not be able to satisfactorily repair your disc the way a £1000+ machine your local repair shop can.


How to repair it – if you’re a business owner/disc trader:

To repair both customers’ discs as a service, and potential trade-ins that have the laser burn damage you need a disc repair machine that is capable of doing so. Even if a machine CAN repair the laser burn, it may not be economic to do so.

Most of our machines use a liquid polish technology; this kind of damage usually takes a long time (20+ minutes) and may cost several pounds in consumables. In addition, it may not be viable to complete the repair in one session as this type of repair machine may get too hot during a long and continuous repair. We therefore recommend you monitor the temperature of the disc, polish and pads during the repair and allow the unit to cool down before continuing, so as not to damage your machine or consumables.

A laser burn repair can be performed much more quickly and cost effectively in a machine that uses individual grinding stages, such as the Eco Clever. This repair approach can remove the gouge by grinding away a large amount of the disc surface quickly and without compromising repair quality.

It is extremely rare for laser burn damage to be so deep that the disc is irreparable; the dilemma is whether or not it is cost effective.


If you have any questions on how best to repair laser burn damage please call us for advice on 01202 489 500.

Written by Anthony Golden