In the recent months rumors have cropped up all over the internet that some of Microsofts Xbox 360 consoles cause problems: a lot of users claim that the console actually damages game discs and renders these discs useless. The Dutch television program Kassa asked us to investigate these problems and report on our findings in the episode aired on the 24th of january.
A bare XBOX 360
As not everybody watches this program but also to share our findings with the rest of the world we have compiled this article that describes the problem and what we think causes it.
As stated in the introduction quite a few users have been complaining about the fact that their console scratches the gamedisc when they are used in the Xbox. This scratching seems to be linked to consoles that use a drive made by manufacturer TSST, as we did not find any evidence of the same problem occuring in consoles that use the Hitachi DVD drive. It is easy to recognise which drive you have, the trays are shaped differently and the Hitachi drive has two small holes in the tray, just behind the silver front. The TSST drive does not have these holes.
The editors of the "Kassa" TV program sent us a Xbox 360 that suppposedly had the problem of damaging the game discs, the ownerr had indicated that this particular console had already scratched a few of his discs.
When looking at the damaged discs of the Xbox owner it is clear that the only way that this could have happened is in the Xbox DVD player, as the scratches are perfectly round and thus cannot be caused by careless handling of the disc itself. If this would have been the case the actual scratches would not follow the round pattern of the disc, but would be completely random.
Rounded scratches on a disc, in this case a disc we used in our lab .
The nature of the scratches causes the problem as well, as a random scratch will not have a huge impact on the disc itself as all data is written in a circle, and when you just miss a few bits due to a random scratch, error-correcting algorithms can solve the problems most of the time. When the damage is in the same form as the data is written to the disc this means that a lot of successive data is lost and this can not be corrected at all. Even a slight scratch like this can render an expensive gamedisc completely illegible and therefore useless.