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PlayStation 2 Disc Read Error Fix

Don't throw away your PS2. Fix those errors with these simple steps.

By Robert Heron


About a month ago, I noticed that my aging PS2 would no longer read DVD video and audio CD discs. I tried using a laser-lens cleaning disc as well as upgrading my DVD software, but my PS2 continued to report the dreaded "disc read error." With PS2 repair jobs costing about as much as a new unit, I was determined to find a (hopefully free) fix.

After scouring countless online sources and finding little useful information, I came across a message board posting that suggested the problem may be related to an internal adjustment gone awry.

The result is that the disc read errors (DREs) are gone, and my PS2 is now as snappy as the day I pulled it out of its pretty blue box.

If a once-working PS2 has suddenly developed a case of the DREs, there is a good chance it can be fixed.



Achtung baby!

Disclaimer: While I have tried to make this guide as accurate and concise as possible, I take no responsibility for any damage you may cause. In addition, any alterations to your PS2 may void your warranty. Proceed at your own risk.



What you need

Before attempting the fix described below, read through this guide completely in order to familiarize yourself with the steps involved. Once that is done, gather the following items.

  • Standard Phillips screwdriver
  • #0 Phillips screwdriver (or eyeglass-sized)
  • Cotton swabs
  • Isopropyl rubbing alcohol
  • Felt-tip pen or marker

Optional cleaning tools.

  • Vacuum
  • Can of compressed air



PS2 Tip No. 1: It's best to use a vacuum for cleaning the dust from electronic devices. Wiping the surface or dusting with compressed air may force contaminants inside of the device, making things worse.




Open Up Your PS2



Screws and stickers



Before you do anything, disconnect the PS2's power and video connections. On the bottom of the PS2 are 10 square-shaped screw covers. Four of these double as rubber feet for the PS2 (when the device is laying flat.) Remove these covers to access and remove the screws. Some of the screws will be longer/shorter than the others so keep track of what goes where.

Removing the case

Once you've removed the screws, it's time to break the seal and completely void whatever warranty you may have had. Seriously, there is a "warranty seal" sticker near the PS2's power connector that must be removed in order to gain entrance to the innards of the beast.

With the screws removed and the warranty sticker "void," gently turn the PS2 right side up. Carefully remove the top cover by lifting the back edge and pulling it toward the front of the unit until it clears the controller jacks as well as the front of the disc tray.

You'll notice a metallic ribbon or white wires (depending on your PS2's age) connecting the main base to the eject/play buttons on the top cover. Remove the tape that normally holds this wire in place and set the top cover off to the side. Don't try to disconnect the ribbon/wires. There should be enough slack for the cover to lie off to the side.

Before moving on to the disc tray cover, now is a good time to blow out the dust that has collected around the fan and main circuit board. A can of compressed air will do the job nicely.



PS2 Tip No. 2: Always operate a PS2 in its prone position. Standing a PS2 vertically looks cool, but it seems to cause more problems than it's worth.



Make the Adjustment

With the PS2 splayed open, the disc tray cover removed, and the unit plugged in, eject the disc tray.

Toward the back of the PS2, behind the laser, is a white gear about 0.75-inches in diameter. This gear adjusts the distance between the disc surface and the laser's eye. It's also the key to fixing a PS2 that frequently suffers from disc read errors (DREs.) On the left side of the white gear will be a notched metal tab or a smaller brass-colored gear.

Use a felt-tip pen to mark the white gear at the point it contacts the tab/smaller gear. This provides a reference point for the original position of the gear as we prepare to make our adjustment(s). Now would be a good time to gently clean the laser's eye using a cotton swab dampened with a bit of rubbing alcohol.

Adjusting the gear position in order to fix DREs involves the following steps.

  • Turn the white gear a notch or two (clockwise or counterclockwise)
  • Replace disc cover (holding it in place with your hand)
  • Insert a DVD
  • If it works, insert a purple game disc
  • If it works, insert an audio CD
  • If all three work, you are finished.

If any of the disc types fail to be read follow these steps.

  • Eject the disc
  • Remove the disc tray cover
  • Move the gear a notch or two (perhaps in the other direction)
  • Replace disc cover (holding it in place with your hand)
  • Retest until all three disc types are properly detected

Once you have correctly positioned the gear and all disc types are reading properly, reassemble your PS2 and get gaming!




This guide describes how to adjust the distance between the disc surface and laser pickup. I have read reports of DREs being caused by improper laser voltage levels, and this fix will do nothing for that type of problem. DREs caused by an incorrect gap between the laser and disc appear more common with early PS2 units, as they used a small spinning gear as the stop rather than the notched tab found in later models.

Also, this fix will not remedy a disc-specific playback problem. My PS2 was among the first batch released in the United States, and I have since "upgraded" it with Sony's PlayStation 2 DVD remote that includes the V2.10 DVD software. I've noticed numerous playback issues have disappeared since applying this software upgrade.

If your PS2 doubles as your primary DVD player, Sony's remote/software is worth the $15 to $20. Unfortunately, it requires a sacrifice of just over 2MB on a memory card in order to store the update.