Dear Amy: Why don't DVDs and CDs play well when they're scratched? — Paul, St. Paul, Minn.
Dear Paul: A CD or DVD looks like a smooth surface to the naked eye, but if you look at it under a microscope, you'll see that tiny rings of bumps are carved into the disk. You might have heard that computers store information in binary code. CDs and DVDs are also stored in a binary format, where each bit of information either has a bump or no bump. Your CD or DVD player can decode this information using a laser to “read” the bumps and it then converts that information into sound or video.
When a disk is scratched, your player can't read the scratched area of the disk. Instead, it will repeatedly play whatever was read just before the scratch, until the player is able to read the disk again. To learn more about how CDs and DVDs work, go to www.howstuffworks.com/cd.htm.
If a CD is skipping, try cleaning it with a soft, lint-free cloth used to clean eyeglasses. Wipe from the center outward, working your way around the disk. For any minor scratches, a CD repair kit from an electronics store should do the trick!
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