An advanced optical disk recorder has been developed for very-high-performance data capture, data storage, and data sorting applications that cannot be cost-effectively addressed by alternate magnetic or optical recording systems. The recording approach uses a three-channel, argon laser-based optical system to input/ output user data at rates up to 100 Mbps and store up to 1011 userbits per side of a 14-inch disk. This is achieved at a disk rotation rate under 30 rps and at a corrected read-bit error rate less than 10-9 by the use of an efficient data encoding algorithm, read-while-write verification, and a two-level error detection and correction architecture. The automated disk handling method achieves less than six-second access to the data from 68 on-line disks, with provision made for future interface to an external storage module to achieve automated access to several hundred disks in under 15 seconds. The recorder design provides for a growth in capability to accommodate a.0-300 Mbps user data rate for a concentric data format on the disk or a fixed, continuous rate to 450 Mbps for a spiral format with a single nine-channel write/read head, to simultaneously write to or read from a double-sided disk, and to add a second turntable. Operational reliability and maintainability has been enhanced with respect to earlier recorder designs by providing 1) more convenient access to the optics and the disk-handling mechanisms, 2) optical system alignment control loops, 3) disk write power control loops, and 4) advanced subsystem status monitoring with software-controlled fault isolation.