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Disk Read Error - PS2

Introduction

This guide will walk you through the process of repairing a malfunctioning Playstation 2 or one that gives you Disc Read Errors (called “DRE” from here on). I have tested this process on over fifty Playstation 2s now and it completely fixed the errors on about forty of them.
The most common with this issue seemed to be model # SCPH-30001, and this guide focuses on it. Some of these steps can be applied to other models and won’t hurt them.

This process will void the 1 year warranty of your unit if it hasn’t expired. Perform at your own risk!

How To use This Guide

Before you begin, note that this article was written for older Playstation 2 models, not the second generation model (that looks the same externally as the first model) or the slim PS2 model.


Please refrain from throwing your shoe at the monitor. It will all be okay soon.

What This Guide Fixes

Typically the steps outlined here fix the following:

  • “Disc Read Error” problems
  • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and San Andreas “DVD Read Errors” and “Loading” errors
  • Playstation 2 will stop getting stuck at the “Browser” screen.
  • Skipping should stop in some games and load times may even improve.
  • More DVDs and Playstation 1 games should work.
  • Loud tray opening/closing could be fixed.
  • The PS2 may run slighly cooler.

Before you gather tools and begin, you might want to know what this process entails. You’ll be opening up your Playstation 2 console and cleaning various components inside. Also you’ll adjust the angle of the disc to the laser. Finally you’ll check loose connections and clean the mechanism/track for opening and closing the tray. The whole process is very simple and assuming you have some easily acquired tools, the first time you try this it will only take a half hour or so.

The Playstation Curse Begins

A Little Background: Playstation Woes

This isn’t the first time a Sony console has had problems reading discs. My first experience with Playstation problems was years ago, when a well-known software company named Square released what many people consider to be a masterpiece, one of its finest games: Final Fantasy VII. The extremely long and complex game offered incredible graphics, stunning pre-rendered movies, a great soundtrack, and killer storyline.

I clearly remember picking the game up at Software, Etc. in our local mall and rushing home to waste several weeks playing through it. But after playing it for about 10 hours straight, things started to go bad. Videos began to skip, sometimes constantly. It would sometimes take too long to load, if at all. I was very frustrated since my Playstation was nearly new and the game was only hours old. The problems persisted and I eventually was so frustrated I bought another Playstation from a friend, and sold mine “as is” locally. The problem went away with the new unit until I was about 3/4 through the game, then it happened again a few times during videos.

Supposedly the problem with the old Playstations was that the cooling ducts were placed on the bottom side of the unit, offering very little airflow unless it was stood up on a platform of some sort. Newer models fixed the problem by placing the ducts on the sides, where airflow was generally much better. Not many people noticed this problem until the Playstations were slightly older, especially when games were played for many hours on end and videos were played extensively — exactly what happened with Final Fantasy VII. The game effectively killed many Playstations.

As if these problems were not bad enough, over long times the heat would deform the round black piece that a CD would lock on, causing the disc to drop slightly and create even more read problems. An easy fix was to flip the Playstation over once the disc was in place, which would cure the overheating problem and also put the CD back into its correct position, fixing most video skipping problems. So, problems with Playstations are not anything new, but the fix for the PS2 is a bit more complicated than the original Playstation.

Okay, enough rambling - let’s void some warranties.

Tools Checklist

Recommended tools:

  • 2 x phillips screwdrivers: one is about “normal” sized, one is “very small”
  • (a pocketknife or small flathead may be used in place of the smaller phillips)
  • Q-tips or cotton swabs
  • rubbing alcohol or static free cleaner
  • a marker or felt-tipped pen
  • compressed air to clean the inside of the PS2

It might also be a good idea to have an original Playstation game, two Playstation 2 games (one with blue bottom, one with silver bottom), and one DVD movie. These will be used for testing to be sure you’ve completed the repair correctly.

Be sure you have at least one game to test with so you won’t have to disassemble the console again later.

Disassemble the Playstation 2

  1. Unplug the power and A/V connector from the back.
  2. Remove all controllers and memory cards.
  3. On the rear of the console, cut along the crack of the warning sticker, or remove it entirely.


    This sticker is cool: it says VOID all over it once removed so it cannot be replaced.

  4. Turn the unit upside-down and locate the screw covers. These are tiny (1cm x 1cm) squares. Older models have 8. Newer models have 12: 4 are offset on the ridge area toward the front of the console.


    The 30001 has 8 of these; the 4 corner covers are rubber.

  5. Pry these covers out by their corners with a small flathead, knife, or fingernail. Set them aside.
  6. Remove the 8 or 12 phillips-head screws under the feet.
  7. Rotate the top cover upward toward the front of the console. BE CAREFUL! If you meet resistence, check that sticker in the back. DO NOT RIP the cable that leads from the cover to the base. If this cable rips, your PS2 is probably as good as dead.
  8. Remove the tape (yellow arrow in picture below) that holds the cable.
  9. To completely separate the cover from the base, you need to remove the Power/Eject switch from the cover. To do this, put a flathead screwdriver or knife blade between the plastic switch and the cover (there’s a tiny slot where you can fit one), then gently pry upward (away from the cover). Once it pops out of place, slide it toward the back of the cover to remove the switch. This is not necessary, but is recommended to be sure you don’t ruin this fragile cable.


    Pop it upward out of place then slide it back.

  10. Remove the 4 small screws on the disc tray cover (red arrows below) with either a small screwdriver or a knife if you don’t have one.

  11. Lift the disc tray cover off and set it aside. Some models may require additional screws to be removed to remove the disc tray cover.

The disassembly process is now complete. Put all those screws somewhere safe and let’s continue.

Clean the Inside

Since you’re going to clean the laser lens last, it’s probably a good idea to clean all the junk out of the case while it’s disassembled. You’ll probably find some hair if you have pets, lint, fuzz, and lots of dust inside, depending on the console’s age.

Using compressed air preferably, clean out the following areas:

  • Cooling fan (at back of the console)
  • Controller and memory card slots
  • Area around the battery, to the right side of the tray if looking at the front (*** If you remove the battery, you must reset all system settings. If your system is not saving such settings, clean the terminals to the battery with alcohol and scrape them clean. If that fails, replace the battery).
  • Under and on all heatsinks
  • Top cover of the console on the inside
  • Under and over the disc tray

Next you should clean the laser lens.

Clean the Laser Lens

Use a clean Q-tip or cotton swab to clean the laser lens. Dip it in rubbing alcohol (the less water/higher alcohol %, the better) and gently dab it onto the lens. Do this a couple times, or even *very* gently move the swab across the lens. Let it dry for a few minutes before you power on the PS2.


You do not need to open the tray to clean the laser.

Adjust the Angle of the Disc/Laser

Most Disc Read Errors can be fixed by adjusting the angle between the laser and the disc. This step is essential to the repair but can only be performed on older PS2s.

To adjust this angle, we’ll use the white gear at the rear of the disc tray. You can barely see it with the disc tray closed, so plug in the Playstation 2’s power connector and eject the disc tray. Turn off the Playstation 2 from the rear power switch once it’s been opened.

Using a felt-tipped pen or marker, put a line on the gear where it meets the metal notch, so you can always return to this spot if you have problems later.


The plastic gear, found at the rear of the tray, can fix most DREs.

Since the base angle is already recorded, you can now freely spin the gear and observe how the angle of the disc changes to and from about a 10º offset. Set it back to the base point where you marked it. Rotate the disc about 20º or 1/16 of a turn clockwise. You should then test the setting as mentioned before reassembling the console.

Another Method to Fix Disc Read Errors

If your PS2 has a bronze or copper cog next to the white gear, you’ll need to follow the other repair process mentioned below and/or disable the motor that rotates this cog, as it will reset the position of the white gear, causing your efforts to have been in vein. I have not verified this technique, but it can apparently be disabled by disconnecting an orange power ribbon on the backside of the DVD disc tray. It may require additional disassembling of the PS2. This cable has no purpose except to reset the position of the gear. Thanks Josh Boston for the tip!

There is a different trick to fix this problem which works on all mdoels, passed onto us by Ari Vuorela, aka Thuuning, a veteran PS2 technician.

Ari explains that the reason for disc read errors is often not the white gear’s position, but it’s shape and dirt on the lens. He states that as time wears out the unit, the gear tends to bend, creating major problems. Additionally, the lens iself’s movement and position may be part of the problem or the lower part of the lens is dirty. Ari’s technique for repairing the PS2 is actually quite easy and can be applied if the fix we mentioned above does not work perfectly.

Here’s the gist of Ari’s e-mail (translated as best we could):

  1. The white plastic gear that moves the laser must make contact with the “motor”. A bad contact here can cause disk read errors. Sometimes it looks Ok, but you may need to remove the lens and bend the white gear for good contact.
  2. The two rails on which the lens move must be very slippery - which can be lubricated with cooking or motor oil. Usually the holes where the rail is (on the right side of the lens) are dirty or you have to bore then out slightly, making the holes bigger.
  3. The lens uses little torx screw (black) that move the lens up and down on the rail. Usually the lens is too high and requires adjustment.
  4. Take the lens off these 2 rails and take the black plastic cover off. Turn the lense upside-down and you’ll find there are 2 screws (silver, phillips or torx) that you have to remove to take the upper little lens off.
  5. Then you’ll see a larger lens that is usually very dirty (this lens is a mirror to light). If that’s dirty, it will give a disk read error. You’ll have to take the little electric board off that you see on the other side of the big lens-mirror. It’s probably dirty too, so clean it. Alcohol should work OK for this task.
  6. The lens bottom has 2 + 2 screws. You move the upper “little” lens up-down-left-right (this may require a special screwdriver)
  7. The motor “rail” that moves the lens must be very clean and oiled and the 2 rails too.

PS - The secret that makes the PS2 work is that bigger lens under the little lens (the bigger is unknown to most and becomes very dirty).
Usually you don’t have to move this white gear at all.

Test The Console

Reconnect the power and A/V connectors if they are disconnected. Plug in a controller to the front of the Playstation 2. Put the disc tray cover over the plastic alignment pieces and apply some pressure to the top (not much, just a bit to ensure the disc will seat correctly). It should snap into place and lock the disc in.

Open the tray if it’s not already open, and put in a game that’s given you problems in the past with DREs or load errors (in my case, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City). Close the Playstation 2 and access the Browser screen to view if the disc was correctly located.


Hey, that sure beats the “Disc Read Error”!

Try out an original Playstation game if you have any and at least one DVD movie. Also try other PS2 games - at least one with a blue underside as well as one that’s silver. If you still have problems with one of them, adjust the gear a little more until you find the right angle that works with all of your games and movies. I recommend shutting off the Playstation 2 between each adjustment.

You will probably need to adjust this gear several times to in order to find the perfect spot. Once you find this spot, add a second line to your gear with the marker, but distinguish this line so you’ll always have that perfect spot marked. You may need to re-adjust it in a few months or if problems return.

I believe some of the PS2s had two gears instead of one, or a different type of adjustment. These gears do essentially the same thing - try playing around with it and make your PS2 work. If you discover some tips to make your PS2 work that aren’t mentioned here, please let me know so I can share the information with others in your predicament.

A Couple More Checks / Fixes

While the system is disassembled, be sure to check to see if any wires or connectors are loose. Just tug on them gently and see if they come loose. DO NOT TUG ON THE POWER/EJECT CABLE. Also, if you’re having problems with an especially loud open/close mechanism, check the tracks to be sure they’re especially clean. The rods that the disc tray slides on are often dirty and can be cleaned with alcohol and a q-tip. Once cleaned, it would be a good idea to lubricate the rods with WD40, cooking oil, or another lubricant, but use a Q-tip when doing so to be sure you do not get the laser dirty. Also lubricate the path that the laser lens moves on - this is essential to longterm functionality.

If none of the fixes outlined here helped your disc read errors, you may need to calibrate the laser using an oscilloscope. This task may be over your head, and it is better to seek professional help

Reassemble the Playstation 2

Once you’ve thoroughly tested the PS2, reassemble it in the reverse order you disassembled it:

  1. Replace the disc tray cover and tighten its 4 tiny screws.
  2. Reattach the tape to the top of the tray cover.
  3. If it was removed, reinstall the Power/Eject switch by pushing it forward at a 45º angle, over the tab that it locks into. The Power (labled “Reset”) part goes toward the top of the cover. Gently push down on the plastic onto the cover. A screw fully secures it later.
  4. Slide the cover on from the front (using the same angle from its removal), being sure it clears the memory and controller slots.
  5. From the bottom, reinsert and tighten the 8 (or 12) screws (the shorter screws go on the shallow side, away from the power connector).
  6. Put the square screw covers back on (the rubber feet go at the corners touching the ground).
  7. Reconnect your A/V and power connectors, controllers, and memory cards.
  8. Play your favorite game!

One Response to “Disk Read Error - PS2”

  1. Larry Says:

    Hi, I also suffered from this error but recently I found a new tutorial that helped me fix it. I think that you explanation and this tutorial are the ultimate fix for the disc read error problem on PS2 here is the solution page:
    http://www.fixya.com/support/t147428-disc_read_error

    Good luck

    Larry

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