Well, I finally killed the drive on my Saturn!


Established Member
:rofl: It's been going out for a while - sometimes, the drive motor would just stop, the game would freeze, and it wouldn't do anything at all the next boot up. It's not just the laser, because it doesn't even try to move or focus. It's totally dead.

Aside from age, I actually never did the "swap trick" for playing games - I didn't need to, because I owned most of them at one point, and had a region switch instead. I did however, use a sort of "swap trick" to play different music discs in Sega Rally. You could do it right after the loading screen for the next stage. I haven't done that in years, but I suppose the damage was already done.

Anyway, fast forward to now. I was showing my kids the Grandia english translation and they really want to play it, but emulation still isn't as good as hardware. I thought I could do the swap trick a couple times just to try it (I intend to get an ODE at some point). I had removed my external switch for the drive door many years ago, so I just opened the Saturn up and used a piece of tape.

It took 3 tries but I got past the security ring. Game starts to load.. then, nothing. Black screen. The drive isn't doing anything at all. Turning the Saturn on and off - no response. The spindle doesn't rotate, the laser doesn't move or try to focus. It's dead, Jim.

Luckily, I have an extra Saturn that is basically for parts, and that drive is in good shape. I doubt anyone has tried the swap trick on it before (it was my friends), in fact I am sure it hasn't been used since the 1990s. Swapped that back in and I'm in business. I actually have a better idea for doing a "swap trick" that won't damage my Saturn, since I have the real Grandia disc anyway. I'll post that later.

Mayble I'll try to repair the other drive too.. I actually think the laser still works fine.
The pickup will not move or focus if it can't see the disc properly, which can happen for a number of reasons other than the pickup being dead.

The most obvious is of course that you need to tweak the pot, but the tray height also plays a big part. If the tray is too high or too low, the pickup will be unable to focus on the pits. So try adjusting that first, it may be what you need to get it working again. THEN tweak the pot. It might still be alive, just needs to be calibrated.
yeah I kept the old drive to mess with it later. But the one from my other Saturn is working perfectly, so I haven't messed with the dead one yet. The "new" one probably has thousands less hours than my original (I don't think my friend played this thing after the first year he had it). so hopefully it lasts a good while longer.

however, what I'm saying is the disk doesn't spin. The drive motor doesn't move. nothing happens at all. Maybe it can be fixed, or I'll just get another laser.. we'll see.

I haven't tried my other disc swap method, because none of my CD-Rs are good enough to be used on the Saturn, and I haven't got the new ones in yet.
Like I said, the disc does not spin because the pickup can't even see that it has a disc in front of it, let alone read the pits on it. Setting the right tray height and calibrating the laser pot may overcome these problems, I'd do that before buying a whole new machine.