How to fix “The disc can’t be burned, because the device failed to calibrate the laser power level for this media” error

This post may only be helpful to one person, but as I always say, if you can help just ONE person… then you may as well have not even bothered. But just in case this helps TWO people, I will post it anyway.

Last week I attempted to burn a DVD in my 2008 MacBook Pro for the first time in about 2 years, and was greeted by a somewhat cryptic but high tech error message which read:

Mac OSX disc burning error

“The disc can’t be burned, because the device failed to calibrate the laser power level for this media.”

Thinking the error message must be saying I had a bum disc, I tried two others without success before trying to burn one on a nearby Mac Pro, which went off without a hitch. Being lazy, I Tweeted to my loyal followers who suggested I reset the SMC with no success (Well, actually they suggested I reset the SMC WITH success, but I couldn’t seem to do that).

Anyway, long story short, the quick cheap fix was to blow compressed air into the DVD slot. The only trick is you need a can of compressed air with the straw attachment, as you have to blow through the then rubber membrane that covers the DVD drive slot and you need to get pretty close for the air to be powerful enough to get through. I ASSUME this membrane is designed to keep out dust but obviously it isn’t foolproof. Of course, usual compressed air etiquette applies, so use short bursts to avoid shooting freezing cold goo into your computer.

So, despite an error message that might lead you to assume a bad disc or some sort of drive or power failure, the culprit appears to just be dust. The result, below, is success.

Mac OSX disc burning error

153 Responses to “How to fix “The disc can’t be burned, because the device failed to calibrate the laser power level for this media” error”
  1. Anonymoose says:

    Yay! That was my tip! πŸ˜€

  2. bill says:

    Helped me on my old G5 tower. Thanks

  3. Max says:

    I had similar problems and I used a cleaning CD to get rid of this errror. But obviously it has to deal with the dust inside the burner.

  4. Dood says:

    Thanks, I’m gonna try this!

  5. Tiago says:

    It’s funny, because today i did the very same thing to 4 macpro’s at the office! One of them didn’t start, and i remembered the dust issue. We went to a repair shop nearby and you really can’t imagine the amount of dust that got out of these things – and the office is not a dump πŸ™‚ Problem solved!

    What i didn’t knew is that the dust issue is somewhat related to the laser message (and i tough i had bad drive on my macbookpro!!)

    thanks macenstein!!

  6. Rob says:

    See Doc, you actually helped out 2 people…you should take the rest of the day off…

  7. faerieking says:

    dude, you totally helped me, too! i’ve been unable to burn dvds on my late 2008 unibody mbp for over a year. thank you!

  8. erick says:

    Count me as another helped. Thanks!

  9. Per says:

    helped++ thx

  10. Nelson says:

    Thanks for this. I thought surely it’d be unnecessary with a brand new iMac, but after finding this page I tried the air and it fixed it. Thanks!

  11. Corey says:

    Great advice. Worked perfectly! THANK YOU.

  12. Xan says:

    Dude… THANK YOU!!

    I’ve been at it all night trying to burn my .iso files for school… and was about to use the “shotgun” approach, literally.

  13. Fred says:

    LOL!! I got this error just now and googled it, and found this post. Quite where I’ll get a compressed air can from I don’t know but I’ll look around. Whilst my Macbook Pro’s been a good machine these last few years, the optical drive has been repeatedly flakey and unreliable when burning, both CDs and DVDs. That does rather put me off buying a replacement. I know that optical drives are just soooo noughties, but they still beat the cr@p out of USB drives for longevity and speed – I can burn 4Gb to a DVD in a fraction of the time I can copy even a tarball to a USB drive, as the transfer speed is just orders of magnitude faster.

    Still, my work PC running Windoze flaked out over burning a DVD today, so it’s not just a Mac thing.

  14. MikiSunshine says:

    Worked like a charm and another happy camper. I THANK YOU, too!

  15. Tony says:

    good lord thank you it worked for me too.

  16. Deployed says:

    Worked like a charm!

  17. Jamie says:

    Thank you! Worked right away for me too!

  18. Happy Chappy says:

    Been having problems for days.. searched the error message, and this came up.. if it was only helpful to one person, then that person would be me.. Thank you!!

  19. Gary says:

    You rock!

  20. Vickie says:

    OHHH I LOVE YOU!!! Thanks!!

  21. Albert says:

    Wow. That worked soooooooooo well….Thanks for the idea!

  22. JoshFMason says:

    Bummer. I followed your advice and shot a few quick bursts of compressed air into the DVD slot. You didn’t specify where, but I’m assuming the optical laser is in the center as opposed to the left or right side. Still no luck. Thanks anyway, but this did not work.

  23. Stephen Lord says:

    This is a great tip. I don’t have a can of compressed air, but I do have access to my girlfriend’s much newer iMac upstairs, so I ran up there and burned the job I wanted to do on her Mac, a Tommy Cooper video (bet you don’t know who he is, but..) “just like that!”.


  24. RC says:

    I am now getting the same error message on my Mac Pro. I tried the compressed air several times on both of my CD/DVD drives but it didn’t work on either of them. I also tried to use a DVD Cleaning Disc with the brushes on it, but that didn’t work on either of them either.

    My drive was working perfectly until I upgraded my OS software. I burned a few photo CD’s last week with no problems at all. Then I upgraded to OSX 10.7.2 and I have had these error messages ever since the upgrade.

    I don’t know if it was a coincidence or not, just seems strange that it happened at the same time, and I can’t resolve it.

  25. GREGORI GREECE says:

    thanks a lot my friend!!!!!

  26. al camino says:

    worked for my 2007 macbook pro. thanks for posting this!

  27. Mike says:

    Big Help! Thanks!

  28. joebase says:

    Thanks! Worked like a charm!

  29. c says:

    Thanks! Now i just need to go grab a can of compressed air =)

  30. Tom says:

    I was quite frustrated with a sudden problem burning discs and “assume”d it was related to iTunes 10.5.1 or Lion. As it turns out, this recommendation solved my problem and I’m burning happily ever after! Thanks so much for the suggestion!!!

  31. mac says:

    thank you for the post, first one I saw after about 20 errors and fixed it immediately, thanks so much

  32. Habib says:

    Since I don’t have a bottle of compressed air lying around, I just blew into the drive a few times (kinda like with old nintendo cartridges) and it work like a charm. Thanks!

  33. Tabitha says:

    Helped me too! Thanks for the tip!!!!!!!!!!!!! πŸ™‚

  34. Neal says:

    Fantastic – quick blast from my airbrush compressor and my MBP works perfectly again !

  35. Peter S says:

    Hiya! You’ve helped me too! Couldn’t get to burn DVDs for client all week. You’ve saved the day! Thanks!

  36. Dan Serfaty says:

    That did it! God Bless You!

  37. Anton Seissl says:

    Hey thank you for the tip!

    Solved it with a cleaning CD – but the hint with the dust was the thing I was looking for πŸ™‚

  38. Diana Gard says:

    Totally solved my problem, thanks for taking the time to publish this!

  39. K Miller says:

    Worked first time. Thanks.

  40. worked a dream. Thanks!

  41. gentry454 says:

    This worked wonderfully!!!!

  42. Tom says:

    Thank you very much, you have saved another one.
    It seems that every time I am ready to do the right thing, like proper file management and backup some glitch happens to hijack the process. but I won’t whine any further. I’m off loading those Pages and Word docs I haven’t opened in a year form my home drive and will get to my external drives next.

    Thanks for the tip>


  43. Jiminyf says:

    Thanks! Worked for me, too!

  44. PrincessA says:

    thank you so much for this tip! it was very helpful, as i first thought i would not be able to burn anything! it saved me a lot of time πŸ™‚

  45. Adam says:

    This happened to me, and I didn’t have any compressed air on hand, so I used a hair dryer on the cool setting to blast the dust out. When this didn’t work I tried the vacuum cleaner. After a few minutes of sucking, it finally worked.

  46. Chris says:

    Another helped! You ROCK Doc!

  47. echo1955 says:

    Thanks…Big help. By now you have helped enough people to take a whole month off.. ? ?

  48. Trups says:

    Thank you thank you thank you for the generosity of strangers who help other people

  49. Outerspaceguy says:

    That did it! WooHoo! Thanks!

  50. Heather says:

    I live overseas where I can’t get the can of compressed air. Blew into the drive also and is burning now as I type! Thanks!

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