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

132 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. Steb says:

    Many many thanks. I am a photographer and used my rubber bulb air blower – perfect.
    Many many thanks.

    • Rachael says:

      Also a photographer and was thinking I needed to go buy a can of air then saw your post and ust did the same. Thanks!!

  2. Melissa B. says:

    Awesome! This totally worked on my 2007 Macbook. :-D

  3. clare says:

    thank you!!!! xxxxxx

  4. youbert says:

    You are the man!

  5. Lisa C says:

    Looks like you helped more than 1 or 2, I’m number 106! Thanks so much!

  6. Rob says:

    Another happy customer, THANKS… had just enough air in the can :)

  7. Red says:

    +1 Thanks!

  8. Jazz says:

    Saved me a trip to the Apple store . Mucho Gracias!.

  9. Marcus says:

    Thanks so much. was getting this error on our MacPro. Quick blast into the Optiarc drive and now all is good again!


  10. Zoe says:

    Oh my gosh, thanks so much!! Also a photographer and just used my rubber air blower into the CD slot of my 2010 MacBook Pro as above and now it’s burning away!

  11. Rick says:

    It took a couple blasts but all is well and working once again. Thanks!

  12. David says:

    I got it going after compressed air didn’t work by changing the media, Maxwell DVD-R’s didn’t work at all, I finally used Sony DVD-RW and Imation DVD-R. I found elsewhere that crappy media not up to spec will not record on the mac.

  13. GG says:

    I too am a photog and used a rubber blower. Worked like a charm. Thanks Doc!

  14. Stuart Goldkind says:

    Blowing air into the slot worked for me too! But you can avoid the terrible environmental impact of the so called “compressed air” (which actually contains all sorts of harmful greenhouse gases) by using a hand pump of the type used to inflate basket balls, volley balls, etc. Just use the little “needle” attachment and insert it in the slot of your drive instead of your volley ball. This is also cheaper, if you already have a pump like this.

    Obviously, be careful not to damage anything with the metal needle.

  15. Jatin says:

    Awesome! This worked for my Macbook Pro too. Thank you!

  16. Jonny says:

    this didn’t work for me.. i ended up getting my straw thing stuck inside the drive..

  17. Roberto says:

    Dude! You saved my life!

    Yesterday I took my computer apart (a MacBook Pro 2010) to clean the lens of the burner…with no result, I would still get the message form hell “The disc can’t be burned, because the device failed to calibrate the laser power level for this media.”

    So anyways…I read your post and I almost didn’t try it…Could really some compressed air do a better job than a fine old-styled alcohol-soaked ear cotton bud? YES IT COULD.

    So again..THANK YOU! I’m posting this on my Facebook, other lives could be saved LOL

  18. RG says:

    Worked for me, as well! Thank you.

  19. Keith says:

    Thanks so much for posting. I tried the rubber blower to no effect, then used the compressed air. The disc is now being written on happily, as far as I can tell. I’m sure I would have taken it to the Apple store if not for your advice.

  20. Special K says:

    Well, this worked for me too! I didn’t have a can of compressed air, a bicycle pump or anything like that, BUT I’ve got strong lungs & just blew into the cd/dvd drive really hard, granted, I nearly passed out from lightheadedness, but I’m burning my dvd as I write this….success!

    P.s. I’m gonna check if there are any little piggies with straw houses nearby, ha ha

  21. Keithupatree says:

    Thanks for the post. One hour to the nearest mac store. Save me time, gas, head ache, and kept me from looking like more of an idiot than usual.

  22. inSANEmom says:

    I heart you. Seriously.

  23. Juliet Tanas says:

    I have not had similar luck. I have tried the compressed gas repeatedly but still get the error message on my IMac. I too am a photographer and trying to burn clients discs….so frustrating. Could I be doing something wrong? is there a particular area to burst the air? ugh.

  24. Clayton T says:

    I didn’t have a can so I used a car air compressor and it didn’t make a difference! Any other suggestions?

    • Juliet says:

      It turned out for me it was the media i was using not a dust problem. I was using brand new sony DVD RW…but the write speed was only 2x…when i switched to a 16x it worked.

      • Frank says:

        Same solution here! the DVD burner (on a external Superdrive) doesn’t work on DVD’s with a writespeed up to 2,4. Write speed of 4 and up works like a charm.

        The erasing of DVD’s (+RW) did work for me. That is, after I opened up my superdrive cleaned it, sprayed air a dozen times.

        I am happy here.

  25. janaj says:

    Well, MacEnstein, you helped SAVE THE DAY for yet another stumped Mac disc burner. I blasted and she burned. Never would have even come close to that diagonosis – failure to calibrate the laser power level . . . never would have thought of dust!! but, now i’m burning my presentation and will not be late for my showing. Thank you!!!!

  26. Jerry says:

    Hey, you saved me and my mbp. You are the man! Thank you!

  27. nickl says:

    For those without a rubber bulb air blower, try using a hand pump with the attachment used to blow up footballs.

  28. David says:

    My 2008 Macbook has just suffered the same fate! Today as I attempted to burn a DVD, for the first time in several years, I joined the ranks of “The disc can’t be burned, because the device failed to calibrate the laser power level for this media” club.

    I’ve tried various reputable brands of writable CDs and DVDs at all the available burn speeds. Resetting the SMC and repairing my permissions via the disk utility “utility” as suggested by some in the Apple support community, and finally the compressed air duster and even the credit card and lint free cloth method without any success.

    Has anyone any other suggestions? My MacBook has been very well cared for, and the optical drive hardly used.

  29. Cecilia says:

    Thanks a lot! it really helped!

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