Old game discs are a pain to deal with because you never know when they might get scratched up. Once the disc is scratched, you risk not being able to play that game ever again. Gamecube discs are of particular note since mini DVDs are quite rare and it is very easy to mess up the outer polycarbonate layer while sanding.
Can Gamecube discs be resurfaced? Yes, but you have to be extremely careful with the sanding process otherwise you’ll end up with an unreadable disc. A professional resurfacing machine like the JFJ Easy Pro should do the job, but you can also use scratch remover fluid (Novus 2 is good).
The issue with resurfacing GameCube discs is how these little DVDs are designed, with the data layer closer to the transparent side (bottom). And if you’re buying used, you have no way of knowing whether the disc has already been resurfaced or polished. So when you sand it down again, you might end up hitting the data layer and killing it.
Can Gamecube Game Discs Be Resurfaced?
Like any regular CD or DVD, GameCube discs can be sanded down and polished to remove surface imperfections. The way an optical disc stores data is it has these little metal pits and flats sandwiched between two layers of polycarbonate. Your console or PC disc drive has a laser reader that focuses light through the polycarbonate layer, into the metal data layer.
The pits don’t reflect light back, while the aluminum-coated flats do. The laser reads pits as 0s and flats as 1s. This binary code is used to store everything from games to music.
However, scratches on the outer polycarbonate layer affect how the laser is refracted through the disc. And scratches that are too deep can cause the light to be out of focus when it reaches the data layer. If the scratches aren’t too deep, you can sand off the top layer and polish it afterward to get a nice finish.
In a GameCube disc, data is stored closer to the bottom side than the top side. This means that you can get away with some pretty nasty scratches and the disc will still work.
However, resurfacing affects the bottom side. While regular DVDs have more material to go through before you hit the aluminum layer, GameCube discs can be finicky. On average, you can resurface a GameCube disc about 3 or 4 times before it dies.
How Can I Fix My Scratched GameCube Disc?
To fix your scratched GameCube discs, you must do a few preliminary checks. First, you need to hold the disc up in front of a light source. If you can see light shining clean through, it’s probably dead.
You should also check the disc for bubbles and discoloration. These are signs of disc rot, and happen when air gets through the polycarbonate layers into the metal data layer. Oxidation turns aluminum into aluminum oxide and ruins the data.
Finally, take the tip of your thumbnail and run it gently over the bottom side of the disc (opposite to the label side). If the scratches are deep and wide enough, you will feel your thumb bounce off them. Deep scratches might render a disc unfixable.
For a lightly scratched disc, grab some microfiber cloth and Novus scratch remover fluid. Apply some dots to the bottom side of the disc, and start polishing in a circular motion. This video tells you exactly how to do it.
If you have dozens or hundreds of GameCube discs (and other discs) that need polishing, it might be worth investing in a machine. The JFJ Easy Pro is relatively affordable and runs off a 110V supply. However, you should also get the GameCube pads and adapters for this machine.
Using regular pads and adapters for mini DVDs can damage your GameCube discs. Here’s a video guide on how to use the JFJ machine.
And don’t buy one of those ultra-cheap disc buffing tools that looks like an angle grinder. The cheap ones cause more harm than good.
Do GameCube Games Suffer From Disc Rot?
They do, like any other optical disc. Disc Rot happens when the metal layer sandwiched between the two polycarbonate layers oxidizes. Writable discs also suffer from rot, because they have an additional organic dye layer that can degrade when it comes into contact with air.
ROM discs, like most game discs, have a simple aluminum data layer. It oxidizes if exposed to air. The adhesive is used to bind disc layers together and can break down over time.
Can You Burn GameCube Games To A Disc?
You can burn ISOs to a blank mini DVD, but your unmodified GameCube won’t read them because of its copy protection system. There is a barcode embedded into each GameCube disc that interfaces with the copy protection system in the BIOS. Early hacks involved replacing this BIOS with a hardware mod that allowed homebrew software and burnt discs to be read by the console.
Will GameCube Discs Work On PC?
Grab a DVD reader and plug it into your PC, then insert your GameCube disc. Actually, don’t because your PC won’t even detect a disc in the drive. Each GameCube disc uses a unique encoding format that can’t be read by PCs.
To run a GameCube game on your PC, you’ll have to rip the game data and turn it into an ISO. Then, you can use an emulator like Dolphin to play the game.
Should You Buy A Resurfaced GameCube Disc?
I highly recommend buying from a local store, rather than buying resurfaced discs online. If you’re getting these discs for extremely cheap prices (a dollar), and the seller has good ratings, then sure- go for it. But it’s better to just visit local thrift stores and used game stores.
They also have disc resurfacing services for a couple of dollars. If you take your own GameCube to the store, you can test individual discs right there, on the spot.
I hope this article helped you understand the quirks of resurfacing a GameCube disc. If you aren’t comfortable with the thought of buffing and polishing your own disc, there are professional resurfacing services offered by game shops. For those among you who need to refurbish very large collections of retro game discs, a disc repair machine might come in handy.