[Burning CD-ROMs and DVDs -also calld Writing, Recording]
CD or DVD writers are great for shifting large files between computers. Blank CD-R media can be bought for 20 pence to £1 each depending on volume and quality while blank DVD-R disks cost around 20 pence each. Storage containers (jewel cases) may also be included. CD-Rs may have multiple sessions but can not be erased. Each CD can hold over 600 MB of files. Each DVD can hold over 4.5 GB (or 4,500 MB) - they are great for large amounts of data and ideal for video projects as the playback of movies on DVD is much more reliable than movies copied to CD. Other information to consider for writing to CD or DVD includes digital photographs, backup software, Internet downloads, music, digital video, PowerPoint presentations, data, etc. However make sure that the information you wish to write is not subject to copyright.
In 2005 the cost of DVD writers has been reduced significantly and they are now widely available. Also available are rewritable CD-RW and DVD-RW drives and blank media. Information on a CD-RW or DVD-RW disk can be rewritten multiple times and files can be erased. These are less popular than CD-R or DVD-R but are useful for large files that are frequently changed. Many CD-ROM writer models support both CD-R and CD-RW - simply choose the appropriate blank media. Some DVD writers or 'SuperDrives' support all of CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, DVD+R and DVD-RW.
Modern computers are easier to use with CD or DVD writers - most good computers now come standard with at least an internal CD writer. External writers are also easy to use on recent Windows computers (Pentium 4) or Mac computers (iMac, iBook, PowerBook, G3, G4 or G5). These computers include Universal Serial Bus (USB) for easy and reliable connection of extra devices such as a scanner, colour printer or CD writer. However for faster burning the Macs and an increasing number of Windows PCs or laptops also include Firewire which is much faster so you can burn a CD a lot quicker. Some of the very latest Windows computers include USB 2.0 (which is a similar speed to Firewire 400) or you can add a USB 2.0 card. Early in 2003 Firewire 800 was released by Apple on selected computers - it is twice as fast as the original Firewire standard (which now may also be shown as Firewire 400).
- faster CD writers may burn a CD in 1-2 minutes using Firewire and/or USB 2 while those with USB (Universal Serial Bus) may take 5-10 minutes
- buy main brands (e.g. Panasonic, Sony, LaCie, Ricoh, HP, Iomega) that are widely supported (preferably with latest drivers available online)
- if your computer does not already include CD writer support choose easy to use and reliable CD writing software (e.g. Easy CD, Nero, Toast)
- use a MULTIPLE SESSION setting if you wish to write more to a CD-R later (but not readable by others)
- check that you FINALIZE the CD writing session if you want other people to be able to read your new CD
- use a felt pen to label any new CD you burn as soon as it has been verified
- it is best to check critical CDs also work in a different computer (before giving them to an important person or posting them to the other side of the world)
- kits are available for making professional CD and jewel case labels
- speeds are usually shown as (? x writable, ? x rewritable, ? x read)
- write at a slower speed if recording was unsuccessful
- try another new blank CD if recording was unsuccessful, alternatively check the settings or preferences (some software will allow you to view the specifications of the blank disk)
- close all other programs while recording CD-ROMs
- optimize your hard drive to allow faster speeds (e.g. use Speed Disk or other software tools for preventative system maintenance)
External models can be shifted from computer to computer. For fixed locations consider internal models - they are cheaper but are best installed by a technically capable person.
- Firewire 800, USB 2.0 or SCSI connections offer greater speed
- DVD RAM models have greater capacity and speed
- DVD writers (~4.5 GB per DVD disk) are available on many Mac models (those with Superdrives) and a growing number of Windows computers. Even notebook computers now include DVD writing options. However remember that the quality of the software to write the DVDs is just as important as the hardware that burns the data on to the DVD!