After you make the check HitSquad listed there's some maintenance you can do if you are handy with a Phillips screwdriver: clean the lens inside the drive.
Before I go into that, the good news is that prices for top-notch optical drives have come down dramatically in the past year. You can have a new drive delivered to you for less than $45. Here's a couple of very nice DVD/CD burners:NEC $36 NEC Beige ND-3550A BG OEMNEC $37 NEC Black ND-3550A BK OEM
I just checked their pricing - They both are less than $40 at the moment (free shipping) !
------------------------------------------------------------How To Clean Your Optical Drive:
Inability to read & write any discs is due, most of the time, to one of two causes: A dirty lens in the optics of the drive, or, a bad drive. Since you had temporary success after using a disc cleaner I suspect that its the optics that are giving you the problem. Dust and dirt can easily make its way into the drive; that includes smoke, too.
Feeling handy ? Cleaning the lens will cost you no money, but requires you to open the computer's case, extract the optical drive, open the cover to the drive and then gently cleaning the tiny lens with a soft cloth or tissue and rubbing alcohol. As far as all tools that you'll need, use a Philips screwdriver.
If you don't feel reasonably comfortable doing this yourself, is there someone you know who could help you with this ? The whole process should take less than a half an hour. This is the kind of thing I love to do - get my hands on the hardware - I bet one of your friends would help you out if you asked. Be reasonably sure he or she is reasonably competent, though.
I'll run through the disassembly-cleaning-reassembly procedure in a moment, but if you decide to simply replace the drive here are top-notch drives for under $50 delivered to your door (USA). (I'm a big fan both of Neweeg.com and NEC optical drives.)
What kind and brand computer do you have ? Desktop or laptop ? If it is a desktop, is it store-bought (OEM - Original Equipment Manufacturer) or assembled by yourself, someone you know or a local shop ?
Whether the computer is a laptop or a desktop you really should try cleaning the lens first before giving up on the optical drive and replacing it. If you don't feel comfortable about partially disassembling your machine then take it to a local repair shop for them to do this. They shouldn't charge more than $30 of $40 to do this. If they want more than this then get estimates from other outfits.
Cleaning the lens of an optical drive is actually a straight-forward task that should not be too difficult for anyone that knows how to use a screwdriver.
Laptop drive extraction: Most laptop optical drives slide out from the body of the computer by pushing on an exterior button on or by the face of the drive. Its a bit tricky to push this eject button and pull on the drive but you should be able to do this fairly easily. These drives are made to slide out.
Desktop computer procedure: You'll need to open the computer case, remove the drive, open up the drive cover and clean the lens. This routine is only slightly more complicated than replacing the drive with a new one.
-) Turn off the computer and pull out the power cord. Note how all the other cables hook up to the back of the computer so you can replace them when you are finishing up the job (monitor cable, speaker cable, network cable or phone cord, USB device wires)
-) Get the now-cable-free computer box up on a table where you can easily work with it.
-) Remove the left side case panel. If it is a non-OEM computer then opening the left side panel will be very easy. There will be either 2 Philips head screws or 2 thumbscrews on the back edge of the left side panel that need to be removed. Remove the screws and then slide the panel toward the rear about a half an inch. You should hear a 'clunk' sound and the panel will be able to be lifted away from the case. Set it aside for now.
If your computer is an OEM Dell, HP, Compaq, Gateway, E-Machines, etc., then opening up the case can be somewhat more difficult to very tricky. If the case doesn't have 2 screws on the back edge of the case then look for a button on the lower left side of the front of the case. When a case has this case cover removal button push it in and pull firmly upward or backward on the left side panel to remove it. If the case doesn't have a panel unlocking button the try sliding it towards the rear of the case. OEM computer manufacturers have used all sorts of weird mechanisms to attach the left side case cover. Some Dells use a clamshell design that pivots the left cover away from the rest of the case. There may be a sliding latch on the rear panel of the case that allows you to put a padlock there to prevent anyone from opening the case. Slide this latch out of its closed position in order to allow the panel to be opened.
I have come across OEM cases that I couldn't figure out how to open. You may have to contact the computer manufacturer to get instructions on how to open it. Opening the case may void your warranty, but it looks like this needs to be done nonetheless.
Once the case is opened remove the power cable and carefully wiggle and pull on the ribbon cable attached the back of the optical drive. There will be either 4 screws or a slide latching mechanism that keeps the drive in place in its holder rack. Remove the screws or push on the latching mechanism's release button and slide the drive out the front of the case.
Opening the laptop or desktop drive cover: In either case there will be 3 or 4 screws on the top panel of the optical drive. Unscrew them and carefully remove the sheet metal panel. I find the mechanism of an optical drive to be fascinating. You will see the lens which appears as a glassy bubble in the middle of the drive. Wet your soft cloth or tissue with a little rubbing alcohol. Do not apply so much that it drips. Gently wipe the lens in circular motions to clean the lens. You may not actually notice any dust or dirt come off the lens onto the cloth but this will clean it.
Now, reassemble the optical drive. You know where its screws are, right ?! Replace the optical drive into its bay. Reattach the ribbon cable and then its power cord. Reattach the case side panel and screw any of its attachment screws back in. Return the computer to its original position. Plug back in each of the cables that you pulled out. Note that the speaker wire plugs into a 1/8 inch socket that is usually colored green - there are usually several 1/8 inch sockets of various colors on the sound card panel. If there are USB cables to plug back in then it shouldn't matter which USB sockets they go into. Finally, plug the power cord back in. Before you start up the computer have a fire extinguisher at hand. Just kidding!
Start up your computer and see if the optical drive works now. If it doesn't work properly or at all then you may need to replace it. Now that you know how to take out the drive, replacing it really is easy. Finding a replacement for a laptop drive might be somewhat of a challenge.
I hope this procedure doesn't appear to be too daunting. Like I mentioned, take it to a repair shop if it sounds too involved for you or a friend to do.