After almost exactly three years of loyal servitude, my PS3 up and stopped reading Blu-ray discs recently. DVDs and CDs still read perfectly fine, despite the content (movies, music, games, etc.) but nothing off a BD would register a blip on the system's awareness, by and large.
Every now and then it would tell me what disc was in, I'd try to load it up, the system would choke, barf error codes at me, and collapse in on itself back to the Home screen or reboot entirely. None of these outcomes are optimal.
So what's an enterprising lad to do with a $500 console that's 24 full moons outside of warranty? Well, I priced getting it fixed, easily $150 and up for Sony to probably just send me a refurb unit and lose all my save data (well, only those irritating-as-hell files that are read-only and can't be manually backed up, and you can't restore HDD backup data to a different system), or around $100 for someone at a local shop to do it for me. Having cracked the case on every other box in the PlayStation console family for vaguely similar issues, I figured it was worth poking around inside. It's not like I was invalidating my warranty or anything.
If you're in a similar situation and want to replace your laser — something that any evolved chimp with a half hour to kill could do, myself included — there are two critical bits of info you need to gather:
1. Do you have a cyclops PS3? More recent PS3s have two lenses in the housing, one that is just for BDs and another that reads DVDs and CDs to cut down on wear on either one. However, launch units (everything up to the redesigned 80GB with only two USB ports, I believe) only have a single lens, which is more prone to wear out faster. Single lens model number is KES-400, and the dual lens is KES-410. Both are generally available on Amazon or eBay for around $75 including shipping.
2. Is it just the lens, or does the entire disc loading deck and laser mechanism need replaced? If the laser won't move back and forth on the track or you're having trouble getting discs into or out of your PS3, you probably need a new deck. Slightly different from the models mentioned in #1, the single lens (older) deck is the KEM-400, the dual lens deck being KEM-410. These can cost a little more, but you're getting more parts, too.
Now that you know what you need, get cracking. There are video tutorials all over YouTube demonstrating how to open up your PS3, and it really only involves about a dozen screws total to get to the laser. It's well constructed with easy-open ribbon cables and power connectors you snap in or pop off. Gone are the days of needing to be able to solder to fix your own console (well, depending on what needs fixed).
The lens ordered off Amazon arrived in about three days with standard shipping, only took me about 15-20 minutes to do the actual lens swap. With an ounce of intuition and a handful of tutorials to follow (see above), you too can make this lifesaving repair (well, console life anyway) and get back to your movies and games. Mine's been a champ since I tightened the last screw and hasn't given me any problems since. I have heard that the older lenses are getting harder to find, so if you're on the fence, jump now and give it a shot. Easy fix, saved quite a bit of money, and I got to keep all my data. Wins all around!