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Which CD Writer is right for me?

This is a very common question and the following write-up will help you a little in figuring out which cd-rom writer is the right writer for you.

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CD-R and CD-RW

CD-R/CD-RW (Compact Disk-Recorder / ReWriter)

A CD-Recorder ("CD Writer") is a drive that will allow you to record information to a CDR disc (Compact Disk Recordable). The recorded information can be a mixture of data, digital audio, and/or video. A CDR disc will hold a maximum of 700 megabytes of data or 80 minutes of digital audio or video. In cases of mixing formats, the amount of information is proportional to each other.  Therefore, 350 megabytes of data used on a disc means that you have 40 minutes of digital audio or video left.  CDR discs can be used on almost any CD-ROM drive, CD Audio player, and CD-I Video player.   A CDR disc can be written to only once and can not be deleted once it has been recorded. There are ways of writing information in increments,also known as multi-session; however, many CD-ROM drives do not support multi-session CDs.

Unlike CDR drives, CDRW (Compact Disc ReWriter) drives can use both CDR and CDRW discs. (Compact Disc ReWritable).  The same rules apply to CDRW discs as they do in CDR discs except they can be erased and written to more than once.   In general, the amount of "rewrites" that you can do on a CDRW disc is 1000 times.

There are differences in the recording speed of a CDR and CDRW disc.  The speeds will be related to a multiple factor of speed. (Example: 1X, 2X, 3X, 4X, 32X, 42X).  In simple terms, this is merely just a multiplication of a transfer speed of 150 kilobytes/per second(150KB/s) by the number shown in the example.  Therefore, a 4X CDR writer is writing at a speed of 4 times 150 kilobytes per second(150KB/s); concluding to 600 kilobytes/per second.(600KB/s).  The larger the multiplier number, the faster the reading and writing abilities are on the drive.  On CDR drives, you will see a reading speed and a writing speed (Example: 6X reading speed and 2X writing speed).  On CDRW drives, you will have both reading and writing speeds, as well as rewriting speeds.   (Example:  24X reading speed, 4X writing speed, and 2X rewriting speed).   Almost always, the reading speed will greatly exceed the writing and rewriting speeds.  On average, a 4X writer will take approximately 15 minutes to write a full CD.

CDR and CDRW drives are available from various manufacturers including:

Acer Iomega Samsung
BTC Lite-On Sony
Creative Labs Mitsumi TDK
Goldstar (LG Electronics) Pacific Digital Teac
HP (Hewlett Packard) Phillips Toshiba
Imation Plextor Yamaha

THE HARDWARE
CDR/CDRW drives are manufactured in both internal and external versions.  An internal drive will be housed in a vacant 5.25 inch bay inside your computer case, use an IDE or SCSI interface, and draw power from the computer's power supply.  External versions are made with many different types of connections available to connect the drive.  Some of these drives require use of an external power source that draws power from a standard wall outlet.  Some of the popular connectors are USB, Firewire, and SCSI.   Because of the extra casing, components and technology used in external drives, external CDR/CDRW drives tend to be more expensive than internal drives.

SCSI drives require a SCSI interface card in order for the drive to function.   SCSI drives are more stable and a little faster than IDE; however, they do require extra hardware and are more challenging to install.  Compared to SCSI, IDE drives are much simpler to install and require only an ordinary IDE cable; therefore, IDE drives generally preferred over SCSI drives.  In general, SCSI CDR/CDRW drives are used in small to large businesses that require mass duplication with fast performance.  SCSI CDR/CDRW drives work on all bands of SCSI cards, but will only transfer at the speed for which they were designed (Example:  A SCSI2 10MB/s drive will work on a 40MB/s Ultra Wide SCSI card, but will only transfer at 10MB/s).  Macintosh computers mostly use SCSI drives; however, some newer models use USB to interface with the Mac.

THE SOFTWARE
Software is what makes the magic happen on a CDR/CDRW drive.  Software allows you to layout the contents of what is going to be recorded on the CD.  As popularity of CDR and CDRW drives has increased, the choices for recording software has branched into a variety of packages; each one focusing on different tasks.  As an example, Roxio's EZ-CD Creator will allow a person to create a data, audio, and video CD, as well as, provide a user the ability to design the inserts that go on the plastic covers of CD's (AKA: Jewel Cases).  In addition, EZ-CD Creator also includes a module which will allow a person to manipulate sound recorded from a computer.  Other types of software specialize in the video portion of the recording process; some include features such as a video and sound editor.  Choosing the right software should be based on the intended primary use of the CDRW.  If a person is primarily going to be creating audio CD's, perhaps the best solution would be to use a software that includes a variety of modules pertaining to sound.  Some CDR/CDRW drives come with prepackaged software;   however, many do not.  Those drives that are prepackaged and include software are usually more expensive.

Typically, many individuals use writers/re-writers to create audio CDs and backups.  In the creation of audio CDs, audio can be extracted from other CD's or downloaded from authorized internet resources and recorded to a CDR or CDRW to create your personal greatest hits compilation.  Computer sound files that have been recorded into the Microsoft WAV format can be recorded to CD as digital audio tracks, which can then be played on many audio CD players.  Another common sound format available is the MP3 format (MPEG-1 Layer 3).  The MP3 format is a digital sound format which has been compressed to usually around 12 times its original size.  A WAV file that normally would be 12 megabytes in size, in MP3 format would be 1 megabyte.  In general, when audio is compressed, quality decreases tremendously.  MP3 format is extremely popular because it is compressed audio but loses very minimal quality.  This format exists only as data and requires software in order to process it.  MP3 recordings CANNOT be recorded as digital audio on a CD.  It must be converted to WAV before it can be recorded as digital audio on a CD.  This means that you cannot listen to MP3 files on a regular audio CD player unless you have a more progressive CD player that recognizes the MP3 file format.

CDR/CDRW discs are also good for hard drive backup of simple or large files.  A CDR disc is a good source for backup only if the files are never changed.  For files that are subject to change, a CDRW disc would be a better selection.  With some software packages, a CDRW disc can be treated as a hard drive.  This allows a person to write to the CDRW disc anytime they want to without having to make a layout of the CD.  However, this function will usually only allow that specific software to read the CD.

Video CDs are great presentation tools.  Most DVD players can play Video CDs (VCD).  In order to properly create a video CD, you must be sure to use the correct type of software to layout the CD.  A great use of  a video CD would be to present a product to prospective buyers or customers.  You can create a menu in which an introduction to a product would occur on the initial view and then choices could be selected that would lead to a different track on the CD that would explain more about the product in detail.  This is called an Interactive Video.  The motion video that is recorded on to a VCD must be in a certain format, just like audio CDs.  The most commonly used video format used in creating a VCD is MPEG.  There are two major types of MPEG formats, MPEG-1 and MPEG-2.  The sizes of MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 vary drastically.  MPEG-2 being the best, DVD quality, but the largest.  Using MPEG-2 format on a 700MB CD will only record 15 minutes of video,  while MPEG-1 might reach an hour.

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Some of the popular brands in the CD Writer/Re-writer market are:

Acer Iomega Samsung
BTC Lite-On Sony
Creative Labs Mitsumi TDK
Goldstar (LG Electronics) Pacific Digital Teac
HP (Hewlett Packard) Phillips Toshiba
Imation Plextor Yamaha

Some of the common terms used in conjunction with CD Writers are:

CDR, Recorder, CD/R burner, CD writer, burn, CD-ROM rewritable, CD burners, CD-ROM, CDRW, re-writable, CD-RW, record, PC, MAC, recorder, internal, external, IDE, SCSI, USB, FireWire, PCMCIA, Roxio

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