CD-ROM Drive Troubleshooting – Page Two

Software and Driver Problems

Regardless of whether you have just installed a new or replacement drive, or worked your way through all of the possible hardware issues for an existing drive, either way you now need to move on to the next step, making sure that the drive works in your version of Windows.

Presuming that all of the hardware related issues have been resolved, there are only four principle reasons why a drive would not work:

  • Windows is not recognizing or identifying the drive correctly.

  • Windows doesn’t have the correct drivers to load or they are not being loaded correctly.

  • MS-DOS drivers are being loaded instead of Windows Protect Mode drivers.

  • The drive itself has physically failed.

Windows is not recognizing the CD-ROM drive:

Before going any further, search your system using Find, Files and Folders and look for your Autoexec.bat and Config.sys files. Rename the Autoexec.bat to Autoexec.old and Config.sys to Config.old. You can do this by right clicking on the file in “Find, Files and Folders” and then choose rename. Just make sure that you choose the correct file.

Other than the above, there are several possibilities for Windows not being able to recognize a CD-ROM drive. Since you have already ruled out the common hardware issues, other than the possible physical failure of the drive, then we need to look at Windows 95/98 closely in order to determine why it isn’t recognizing the drive and loading the appropriate drivers. The Windows 95, 98 and 2000 platforms are very intuitive in that unless there is very specific problem relating either to a physical hardware problem or a driver not installed (or that is corrupt), they will locate the CD-ROM drive and load an appropriate driver. Let’s presume for the moment though that Windows does see the drive but is unable to install it correctly.

The first place to look for problems in Windows 95/98 would be Device Manager. In the Technical Support section of this site you will find detailed information regarding Device Manager. Since some issues are handled differently depending upon whether you are using Windows 95 or Windows 98, our help section is divided accordingly. Click on the Windows 95 hyperlink to go to that device manager, or the hyperlink for Windows 98.

The following will give you a brief overview of Device Manager and how you may possibly handle this issue. You can get to Device Manager by clicking “My Computer”, then click on “Control Panel”, then click the “System” icon. Now click the Device Manager tab.

When the Device Manager properties page opens, click the plus sign “+” to the left of the CD-ROM drive entry to expand that area.

When expanded, the CD-ROM drive section of Device Manager will look something like this:

While this particular machine has two CD-ROM devices (drives), yours may have only one, so disregard that aspect and concentrate on the next step. If you expand this area in Device Manager and do not see any drives at all, or you see your drive but it has a yellow exclamation mark to the left of it, Windows has determined that the drive has a problem. This can be anything from a physical problem with the drive, a resource problem (incorrect IRQ-Interrupt Request) or a driver is not loading.

Important Note: One of the things that we have found quite frequently is that Windows will load a device in Device Manager more than once. This will effectively disable any CD-ROM devices you attempt to load thereafter. However, these duplicates do not show up in Device Manager during a normal Windows session, but do appear when the system is started in Safe Mode. Let’s stop and pursue this for a moment.

You may want to restart your computer and just before the “Starting Windows….”dialogue begins, start tapping the F8 key. This will bring up the Windows Boot Menu. Now select to have your computer start in Safe Mode. Once the system is in Safe Mode, open device manager again and check to see if there are any CD-ROM drives listed. If there are any at all, even multiples, remove them all by click once on the entry and then click remove at the bottom. You may also want to check all other device areas and look for multiple entries of the same or similar devices. If you find more, then remove all of the entries and restart the system and load only one.

If this doesn’t resolve the issue, then you will need to determine from Device Manager what Windows is reporting for this device. You can do this by expanding the device category as above “+” and then click once on the CD-ROM device entry to highlight it. Now click the “Properties” button at the bottom of the page. Now click on the General Tab at the top.

When the General tab is pressed the “Device status” will be shown in the middle of the screen. This should normally say “This device is working properly”.

When the Settings tab is pressed, you will see specific information for that drive, such as the letter assigned to the drive. If you click on the Driver tab, Windows will indicate whether a standard Windows driver has been loaded (or attempted) or whether it requires a specific driver (usually for older pre-1995 drives).

After you have finished in Device Manager, restart the system normally and check it thoroughly. Obviously, if this resolves the CD-ROM drive issue, there’s no reason to go any further. If it doesn’t resolve the issue, then let’s move on to other issues as well as testing the drive in MS-DOS to determine if the problem may be a failed drive.

Other Issues:

  • Cannot access drive – 

    Device Manager shows everything is OK but when you try to access or read the CD-ROM drive you get an error “drive is not accessible or the device is not ready“.

For Laptops, make sure the disk is centered in the holder and that the tray is pushed in all the way in the holding mechanism so that it is latched in place.

For Desktops:

1) Make sure the disk is centered in the drive’s tray.

2) Also check to the autoexec.bat file. If it has an entry for “lastdrive=xxx” this setting might be set too low. Change it to lastdrive=z and reboot.

3) If your computer has a removable drive like a Zip or Jaz installed, you may want to check and see if you may have set the drive letter to the same letter as the CD drive.

While in Device Manager, verify the settings for your devices, such as the IDE drives (CD-ROM and hard drive). The following device list and the respective settings and resources used should provide you with some insight as to what they should be.

Device Common Port Range (h) IRQ
Floppy 03F0 [- 03F5]    
Video Cards 3B0 [- 3DF]    
Parallel Port LPT1 0378 0378 – 037F 7
Parallel Port LPT2 0278 0278 – 027F 7 *
Serial Port, Com1 03F8 03F8 – 03FF 4
Serial Port, Com 2 02F8 02F8 – 02FF 3
Serial Port, Com 3 03E8 03E8 – 03EF 4
Serial Port, Com 4 02E8 02E8 – 02EF 3
1st IDE drive 1F0   14
2nd IDE drive 170   15
3rd IDE drive 1E8   10
4th IDE drive 168    11
NE200 Ethernet Network Cards 300 300 – 31F 3,11
Sound Blaster 220 220 – 22E  

*While the port addressing for a second LPT port will be different than that of the first, LPT#1, the IRQ will be shared via Windows.


Okay, here we are, we have checked all of the mechanical hardware issues and then checked Windows, and still nothing.

All things considered, this would point to a failed drive, but there is a way to make certain, and that is to see if the drive will work in an MS-DOS environment. This will take a little work, as you will need to locate the MS-DOS driver for your CD-ROM drive, create a bootable floppy disk and then add the drivers for the CD-ROM drive to that disk and then create the autoexec.bat and config.sys files in order to load the CD-ROM drivers.

On the next page, we will walk you through setting up your files to load a CD-ROM driver in an MS-DOS environment. You can get there by clicking the “Next” button.

Note: If you have a SCSI (Small Computer System Interface) CD-ROM drive, read on a little more for some tips that may help you with these types of drives.

SCSI drives:

Unlike IDE CD-ROM drives, SCSI devices do not rely upon settings such as Master and Slave. Instead, these drives rely on settings in the SCSI interface setup, referred to as the SCSI Bios (separate from the motherboards Bios), physical jumpers on the drive, a terminating device (if the device does not have auto-termination) and a driver. Let’s take them one at time, and keep in mind that the following has been limited to devices (SCSI Bios and drives) of recent vintage. Older legacy computer equipment may have to be handled differently.

Device Termination:

All SCSI CD-ROM drives have at least two sets of jumpers, one to set the “Termination” for the drive on the SCSI Chain and the other to set the device “ID”. Let’s discuss what SCSI Chain and Termination means. In short, unlike IDE, which limits you to two IDE buses and two IDE devices on each bus, the SCSI interface (or bus) can have as many has seven (7) devices on a single ribbon cable (subject to a specific length of ribbon cable) and newer SCSI device controllers have as many as two or three such device buses, meaning that you can have as many as forty-five (45) devices “chained” together. The connection of these 7 to 45 devices on one, two or three ribbon cables is referred to as a SCSI chain.

Now, another significant difference between IDE and SCSI, is that the last device on the SCSI Chain must be “Terminated”. To over simplify, think of the chain as two parallel tubes, one for data out and another for data in. By terminating at the last device, your connecting the two tubes at the end thereby permitting communication in both directions. If the termination is left off, there would be no communication with any device, therefore none of the devices would be able to function.

These drives normally employ one of three types of termination. A jumper to set or unset termination, a terminating resistor (separate component) that is attached and on newer drives, auto-termination, where the drive determines whether it should be the terminating device on the chain. In any case, regardless of the method, the device at the end of the chain must be terminated.

Device ID:

As the term implies, this set of jumpers is used for setting the device identification for the device you happen to be working with. On the average SCSI chain, there are seven (7) devices and seven Device ID’s. Two of these ID’s are reserved. Device ID# 7 is reserved for the SCSI Bus (SCSI card), while SCSI ID # 0 (zero) is reserved for a boot device. While this raises quite a few more issues, we will deal with two to help you reach an understanding of what is going on.

As it pertains to older computers that do not have the ability to select a SCSI device as the first boot device (eg: boot to floppy and then to IDE first), you normally cannot have a mixed hardware environment where you have both IDE and SCSI drives in the same system, as the system would try and boot both the IDE as well as the SCSI hard drive.

Most newer computers have a selectable boot process built into the bios where you can choose which device will carry out the initial boot, whether it be floppy, CD-ROM, IDE or SCSI, and even a zip or jazz drive in some machines.

Okay, so here’s the rule of thumb, the SCSI ID must be set on all devices on the SCSI Chain and each device must have a unique ID. No other SCSI device on the chain can have the same SCSI ID. The last device on the chain must be terminated, regardless of the method of termination used.

There are several ways to determine which IDs are in use by devices. Most SCSI controllers will report this information during that portion of the computers boot process when the SCSI Bios is loading. Also, programs such as EZ SCSI by Adaptec report what IDs devices are using. And if all else fails, you can always look at the jumpers of the other devices in your system and compare the settings.

Need to enable a CD-ROM drive in MS-DOS? If so, click “Go”! 

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