Windows XP / Beginners

Picking CD-RW or DVD-/+RW drives

If you don't have a CD or DVD writer, it's time you picked one up. DVD writing is a bit more complicated because of some conflicting standards, but these days almost all DVD burners support all the common formats. (See 0,1759,1592823,00.asp for a good overview.)

If you're looking at buying a CD or DVD writer, keep these points in mind:

  • DVDs hold six times as much data as CDs. Minimum. When you compare prices, keep that in mind - and also the fact that blank DVDs are considerably more expensive than blank CDs.
  • DVD writers are much slower than CD writers, so it's going to take a long time to write all that data!
  • CDs are almost universal: When you burn a CD, you can probably use it in just about any computer, and any modern CD player will play music on a burned CD. DVDs are a little more finicky. It may take a while to figure out just what kind of DVD you need to burn in order to get the right kind of DVD for a specific player.
  • External CD and DVD writers (that is, writers that sit outside your main computer) with USB cables are almost always easy to install, and work with very few hassles. (See the "Installing New Hardware" section at the end of this tutorial.) Given a choice, always go USB.

Don't take the speed ratings such as 64x, 8x, or 16x as gospel. They represent the maximum rotation speed of the drive in various modes (reading, writing, rewriting) compared to "1x" - the speed that audio CD players use - but there are no real standards in the industry, and what you see may not be what was promised.

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