Modify a Saturn to Read CD-RW Media

This guide was originally on SegaXtreme, but now I am hosting it due to future server cutbacks. It was writen by RadSil a while back.

Below is instructions on how to adjust the laser in the Saturn to read CD-RW Games. It can be handy for testing out games and home development.

Disclaimer: If you screw something up don’t blame me. If you have any reservation at all about doing this, then don’t do it. Note that this technique will shorten the life of the laser–not much, but it will. Thank you.

Tinkering around with my Saturn one day, I discovered a particularly strange orange screw mounted on the laser unit. Logically, being a tinkerer and part time techie, my first reaction was that the screw controlled the power or intensity of the laser beam. I was struggling in my head to find a use for this (why would it be there?) and was enlightened. I had remembered that CD-RWs required a stronger laser intensity than a typical pressed disc or CD-R.

Naturally, I whipped out a Philips-head and gave it a 3/4 turn. Now, I needed a game to test… so I burned a copy of the first disc of ‘D’. It was close by, so I burnt it. Also, if you are unfamiliar with ‘D’, it is an FMV game. I also figured that maybe it would be more of a test for the laser because of the data streaming.

Lo and behold, it worked! Of course, I was excited to say the least. I tried it with different games, and they worked as well.

So to sum up, here is a nice ordered list of instructions in case you aren’t perceptive enough to pick them out of the above text:

  1. Open your Saturn
  2. Turn the unit so that the back is facing you
  3. Locate an *orange* (how could you miss it?) screw on the back of the laser unit
  4. Give it a slight turn (25-30 degrees should do it)
  5. Test with a Saturn game written on CD-RW
  6. Turn the screw left a little and try the disc again
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until you have the minimum amount of power to use a CD-RW

And there you have it. This mod will come in handy if you want to make Saturn demos/games and don’t have a PAR cart and PC card. Maybe in the future I’ll write a doc on how to make a proper Saturn ISO, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

14 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Is that with or without a modchip?

  2. racketboy says:

    Yeah, you’ll need a modchip

  3. Anonymous says:

    Is it possible that this’ll cause some damage? I mean, is it possible that it’ll shorten the Saturn laser’s life span?

  4. racketboy says:

    yeah, mostly likely it will damage the laser in the long run.

    You just have to consider that when you decide how important it is to use CD-RWs.

    My philosophy is that unless you’re developing homebrew stuff, you should just use CDRs since they are cheap.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hi, i have a problem here: doing this method the cd-rw worked fine in the first time, but since i had turned my saturn off, if I use a cd-rw on my model1 saturn it looks for the track on the cd wich says that is an original one, even with a modchip installed, so I need to do the swaptrick to make it work. the originals and cr-r medias works fine, without any problem. did you see that before?

  6. I didn’t even have to do this. I just installed my modchip today and discovered that CD-RWs work fine without tweaking anything. I’m using 650MB TDKs @ 10x. I’ve only tested one so far (Dead Or Alive), but it booted up perfectly normally.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Is it a clockwise turn or counterclockwise? The gamecube requires this too, because it has trouble reading burned DVDs.

  8. z0de says:

    Could you post an image. i have a sayno saturn and cant find the orange screw.

  9. racketboy says:

    I do not have a Sanyo Saturn so, I cannot take a picture of one and I don’t personally know where the screw is on that model.

  10. Chris U says:

    hi i used this method and got my cd drive to read games again lolz o and your chips work like a charm m8 🙂 happy holidayz m8

    mmz16x

  11. RadSil says:

    Wow, blast from the past.

    I’m a lot older now. To elaborate: It’s a turn to the right (clockwise).

    The last step is in there for a reason: This mod WILL cause the laser to crap out sooner, but it also will give more reliable performance for CD-R and CD-RW discs. The idea behind the last step is to minimize this damage. The mod works, but in this day and age–racketboy is right, you should probably just stick with CD-R’s. Seriously.

  12. racketboy says:

    Hehe — nice hearing from you again though, RadSil 🙂

  13. sang-heon says:

    As above instruction, I turned orange screw 20 or 30 degree clockwise direction and My saturn work very well on Cd-rw!
    But After several month, I found this tweak seems to consume more electric power than reading cd-r only and shorten life of My saturn’s PSU.(but in my case,When my saturn started to fail to read CD-RW,even turnning more degree clockwise direction is no use,I replaced large size capacitor(maybe cap 100Uf 200V) to Rubycon’s on the PSU for repairing,and it never fail to read cd-rw still now.

  14. sang-heon says:

    in addition to my previous post,You can check faulty of saturn PSU with any cheapest multimeter.
    Set multimeter to DC voltage mode and place black lead(negative polarity) on PSU’s bottom pin or next pin(that marked GND in white letter)
    then place red lead(positive polarity) on any pin marked +3.3v,+5v,+9v or two +5v in white letter orderly other than marked GND which must be touched with black lead.
    You must get almost the same voltage Measurement with marked voltage value on psu.