Slim Sony Playstation PS2 Disc Read Error - FIXED
Last night I got a bug up my butt after my slim Sony Playstation 2 refused to play yet another DVD. This time it was the new Journey to the Center of the Earth starring Brandon Frasier, which we had rented from Netflix, and just the night before it had been The Cat Returns. We were also having trouble with a few other discs as well, and Gran Turismo 4 was even starting to act up, refusing to load occasionally.
What makes this particularly irksome is that all of the DVDs that refused to play and generated the Disc Cannot Be Read error message worked perfectly fine in a generic $23 DVD player that we've had for longer than the slim PS2. I had initially fixed the problem about 6 months ago or so by cleaning the lens with some cleaner fluid and a camera lens cleaning cloth. That technique was not working this time, and since we can't exactly just go out and buy a new game system right now, I decided to do some research on the net and see what other people were experiencing, and whether they had found a way to fix the problem.
As it turns out the disc read error is very common on Sony Playstation systems, not just with the PS2 slim but with the original Playstation and even the new PS3, which is actually expensive enough of a game system to justify spending $100 for repairs after warranty (apparently this is what Sony charges to repair a PS2 system out of warranty according to someone's report on a forum that I scanned).
Sadly, the only fixes I found were in regard to the original PS2 system with an ejecting CD/DVD tray, which unlike the slim PS2 featured a control wheel that could be turned to adjust the height of the laser lens, and with trial and error get the discs that would not read to read. Unfortunately, the slim PS2 does not feature any such control wheel for this kind of adjustment. But I wasn't just going to give up. So this is what I did.
I started this repair at about 2:30am - Brigitte initially thought I was being silly and should just go to bed, but I was raring to fix it right there and then, and I knew if I put it off any longer it would end up with a laundry list of projects that need doing that I'll eventually get to whenever I manage to shake off my procrastinator ways - which translates to never. Anyway - Autumn and Willow were asleep, but Elish was not and to keep her satisfied I let her keep watching Madagascar 2 on the working DVD system while I borrowed the kid's TV set and set up a work and test area in the kitchen, which has the best lighting available in our house. For tools I got myself a mini screwdriver set, a small phillips screwdriver, a can of compressed air safe for cleaning electronics, a small wide paint brush, some Q-tips and some rubbing alcohol, and a pair of plyers I didn't actually need.
- Before actually going through the entire process of disassembly and cleaning, it is a good idea to give the system's self-diagnostics a try - apparently it almost never fixes the problem, but it could save you a few hours of work. To access the diagnostics, turn on your PS2 while it is hooked up to a TV but without any discs inserted to access the main menu. From there, press the Δ key on your game pad or remote to access the system menu, navigate up to the top choice "Console", and press the Δ key again. From there, press the X key to reach the enable/disable menu under Diagnostics, and select Enable, followed by pressing the X key again. Then insert the DVD or game disc you were having trouble with. If it loads, great. If not - you may have to follow the next set of steps. Also bear in mind that I had success occasionally with this self-diagnostics utility, but the problem returned the next time I rebooted the PS2, so you may want to test it a few times before you accept that you have solved the problem.
- To disassemble the Slim PS2 there are 6 screws along the bottom, covered by square shaped panels. Two panels are actually just rubber feet that are not hiding anything. Four of the panels are plastic and look as though they are just part of the outer shell but they are removable, and I used the largest mini flat screwdriver I had in my set to pry them off. The other two rubber feet revealed the last two screws. I also had to remove a VOID WARRANTY sticker to access one of the screws covered by a plastic square, but this system was easily more than two years past warranty anyway. Don't forget to unplug your PS2 before you start disassembly.
- The next step was cleaning - I used the canned air and small paint brush to remove excess dust and debris from the system, especially from the cooling fan area. If you decide to follow these steps, avoid blowing compressed air on the laser lens. I also used the rubbing alcohol and Q-tip to clean the lens. According to a Sony repair guide I found, it is recommended to saturate one end of the Q-tip, but not enough that it causes alcohol to drip from the tip. Rub the wet Q-tip around the lens roughly 30 times, then use the dry end of the Q-tip in the same manner to remove excess alcohol from the lens.
- While the system is still disassembled, this is probably a good time to test whether your fixes have worked. Carefully plug it back in, and put in your disc that was causing you trouble. After you push the button in the front to turn the system on (the LED should turn from dull red to bright green), you will need to press and hold two tiny black switches, one roughly toward the center of the back of the unit, and one directly above the power switch. This simulates the lid being closed on this unit. While holding down these two switches, the system should start spinning the disc, and you should be able to faintly make out the red laser light through the DVD. Hopefully, if all goes well, your disc will load. You may want to test a few different discs to make sure everything is working properly before you reassemble your system. WARNING: do not look directly into the laser light, it can cause blindness or irreparable vision damage.
- For me, the above steps made things better, but I still could not load Journey to the Center of the Earth, and occasionally the other DVDs did not want to load, or would only load if I rebooted the PS2. So I went a bit further in my research and found a large number of laser replacement related articles and videos on YouTube. Being a computer repair tech, I remembered that a number of times I had successfully fixed a computer system without actually replacing parts, but simply by removing and reinstalling certain ones that had perhaps come a little loose or had particles of dust trapped between the contact leads. I decided to follow the steps in this video to remove the laser lens assembly completely, and then reinstall it.
- Again, before reassembling the system I tested a few different discs and had some success. I reattached the outer shell without screwing it back down again so that I could close the lid and have my hands free, and ran the Diagnostics utility again, and suddenly every disc worked perfectly. However, I heard a weird noise emanating from the PS2 while the discs were playing, and noticed I had not properly attached the data cable beneath the laser assembly, and part of it was poking out behind the laser and lightly scratching the surface of the DVD in an arc. Not good. I took everything apart once more, carefully reattached the data cable so that it was stuck in place, and put everything back together.
The entire repair, including research and testing and retesting and retesting some more, took me roughly two hours. I'm seriously reconsidering console repair. After completely reassembling my slim PS2, everything works perfectly. Awesome.