Can't read CD's - DELL CD-ROM DRIVE - 6T980 - HLDS GCR-8240N

14 Jul 2009
Posted by Laptop Junction

Somehow, the standard DELL D610 latitude CD-ROM drive can't read CD's created by various CD burners. The CD-ROM drive spends ages roaming freshly burned CD's without being able to read any of them. The laptop CD-ROM drive came from old stock, after collecting dust for years. A dig deeper into the problem drifted to the subject of 'thin tracks' CD tracks. Read how the issue got solved.

The standard DELL D610 latitude CD-ROM drive has DELL part number 6T980 and is know as a GCR-8240N made by H/L Data Storage from Japan. The drive itself is manufactured in China. It's a 24x speed CD-ROM drive and is hot-swappable, meaning it can be removed and inserted without shutting power down. The drive is manufactured in January 2005 with factory firmware version V1.06.

inside the GCR-8240N CD-ROM drive from H-L Data Storage

Above a look inside the GCR-8240N. Apparently the CD-ROM drive had seen some activity, a bit of dust had accumulated on the right side of the slider bar that carries the laser head.

Can't read freshly burned CD's

The CD-ROM drive could read music CD's and other factory made CD compilations. It just couldn't read CD's created with various other CD burners. The problem quickly lead to 'thin track' problem. It seems positioning firmware wasn't capable of driving the mechatronics part of the CD-drive the right way so it could find the thinner tracks of modern CD/DVD burners. It seemed futile looking for newer firmware, but just for the sake of it the DELL support website was checked.

Updated CD-DRIVE firmware is still available

Amazingly, DELL had released a firmware update for this particular CD-ROM drive. It's V1.10 version released in 19 October 2005. Instructions were simple, put the software on a bootable floppy, boot the D610 on it and the rest will follow automatically. Right, first of all there was no floppy drive available. Secondly the only way to boot the system was to either create a DOS bootable harddisk or to boot from the CD-ROM drive itself. The latter of course with the 'thin track' problem. Nonetheless, lets give that one a go anyway.

Creating a bootable CD with CD-DRIVE flash software

NERO burning ROM has a standard feature to create DOS bootable CD's, using a flavor of DR-DOS. The new firmware with FLASH program was downloaded from the DELL support website and included in the CD compilation. The CDROM was created with another DELL DVD+RW drive, which also had a recent firmware upgrade. It took less than 15 minutes to create the bootable CDROM.

Flashing CD-DRIVE firmware

Amazingly, the D610 booted from the CDROM and ended up in a DR-DOS prompt. The DR-DOS bootable program created a D drive with the V1.10 firmware and HLDS-JVS1 flasher program made by the Korean division of H-L Data Storage. The only step left was to execute the "AUTOEXEC.BAT" file.

Without warning the firmware update was started immediately after entering "AUTOEXEC". The firmware update was completed in less than a minute, resulting in the following end-screen. 

HLDS CD-ROM DRIVE JVS flasher software V1.02

Testing the CD-ROM drive with updated firmware had better results while reading CD's with thin tracks. All CD"s that previously failed, now could be read by the GCR-8240N.