Fixing "snapped/broken" DC2xxx/DC6xxx tapes

[Document Version: 1.50] [Last Updated: 10/22/96]

1. About the Author & Copyright

Author: Filip M. Gieszczykiewicz
or [filipg@repairfaq.org]
Copyright 1994-1997 by Filip M. Gieszczykiewicz. All rights reserved. You may distribute this document provided:

2. Summary

I have yet to see a permanently BROKEN/SNAPPED DC2xxx/DC6xxx tape! In 99.99% of the cases, the tape simply rolled off the spool. This can be fixed but takes practice and a bit of agility and patience. In the name of recycling and reducing the crap that's going into the land-fills, read this article and learn how to salvage these tapes

Besides, these tapes aren't exactly quot;inexpensive" either...

3. How does the tape work

Let's start off with the typical design of the tape cartridge and its contents.

Since the data on the tape is of great value and needs to be reliably read off for long periods of time, the cartridge is designed with reliability and quality in mind.

4. What goeth amock

As you may have suspected from the above, anything that relies proper operation on sensors (especially un-enclosed, optical ones) is bound to have problems at some point of its life. Indeed this is what "kills" these tapes:

DUST blocks the sensor such that the controller NEVER sees the light though the holes at BOT or EOT. Since the tape is NOT physically attached to the spools, it simply rolls off!!!

Note: In some rare cases, a part of a label may have peeled off and stuck to the internals of the drive. In these cases, skill with a thin, flat screwdriver will come in handy - as you must get that crud out of the drive. Only other way is to take it apart - which I do not recommend as these tape drives are made to be put together ONCE and tend to break SOMETHING during [dis]assembly. Hey, what do you want for < $200?

The dust problem applies to almost all PCs which have a fan in the power supply which forces air out... The problem is that this air has to come from somewhere. While some of it does use the intended ventilation slots, a sizable amount chooses the path of least resistance. This is usually the floppy drives, the tape drive, and any other devices which permit free airflow from the outside.

5. Quick fix (for the tape drive)

Get a can of compressed air (avoid the CFC stuff, please) or blow real hard without splattering saliva all over the insides ;-) and direct the air jet into the detector/mirror area in the figure (above)

This should dislodge any dust in the path of the light beam so that the BOT and EOT are correctly sensed. This is only a TEMPORARY solution as the dust soon begins to accumulate again...

There are no easy solutions to the dust-accumulation problem but Dave Fanger suggests the following:

"I have kept a piece of polyurethane foam, cut to the size of a tape cartridge, jammed in the drive to inhibit and filter any air that passes through. Seems to work fine."

6. "Save Thy Ass"

I do NOT take responsibility for your action. I am NOT responsible for anything you do. I am NOT responsible for any mistakes. I am NOT responsible for any omissions. I am NOT responsible for spelling errors. Quantities limited. Batteries NOT included. Prices are subject to change without notice.

My warranty to you: If you find that you have received an incomplete or garbled collection of sentences and paragraphs, you can connect to my WWW server and get a FREE replacement! The above paragraph will apply to that copy also. Happy? You better be ;-)

7. Hint

After fixing MANY tapes, I would suggest that you NOT try this fix on an important tape if it is your FIRST attempt. If possible, invest $20 (or $12 mail-order) in a new one, duplicate the problem, and only then experiment (on the newly broken tape). Then, when you feel confident, try the important tape.

8. Fix it

As for fixing the tapes - I have had 99% success (55-60 tapes). For this operation, you will need:

  8.1) Procedure

9. Lesson

Generally, after one of these experiences, most people will gladly pay the $5-$9 for a can of compressed air and clean the drive on a regular basis. There are exceptions but these are usually due to shallow gene pools ;-)

After fixing, say, 3-4 tapes, this article will make much more sense. Sure, some of the procedure could be more clearly explained and you are welcome to add to this! Just e-mail any changes/corrections to me and I will add them in. Don't worry about formatting. I write in HTML which formats everything very nicely. That's how this copy was generated :-)

Note that other than some case differences, most DC6xx/6xxx series of tapes may be fixed in a similar manner. Ooh, Ahh...

This article was processed/written by Filipg Gieszczykiewicz
[mailto]. The most recent version is available on the WWW server http://www.repairfaq.org/ [Copyright] [Disclaimer]