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Guide to Burning CDs

There are two types of recordable CD Media CD-R (CD-Recordable) and CD-RW (CD-Rewritable. While prerecorded CDs are pressed from a mold, recordable compact discs are actually burned with a laser, which is why the process of recording to CDs is known as burning. CD-R disks can only be recorded once. Once you create a CD using a CD-R disc you cannot add, delete or modify. CD-RWs can be erased and rewritten to, but you cannot add information without erasing the contents first.

The Basics of Burning

If you have a new PC with Windows and a CD/DVD burner (optical drive that records CD-R/CD-RW), burning CDs is incredibly easy. It’s simply a matter of performing “save as” or “drag and drop” file operations like you would save files to a floppy or the hard drive. Using Windows XP or Vista, when you first insert a blank CD into your CD recorder drive, Windows opens a dialog box asking you if you want to open a writable CD folder. With the folder open, you can drag and drop files and/or directories into it. Windows makes a copy of these files in a special staging area until it is time to burn the CD, and displays a list of the contents waiting to be recorded.

You can use Windows built-in CD recording features, including the CD making capability of Windows Media Player, or you can use an after-market CD creating software product (such as Roxio CD Creator).  Using either (Windows, Media Player, or CD burning software) makes creating your own CDs is an easy process, even though the technology behind the screen is a quite complex process. Most of the time, just follow the prompts and in a few moments, out pops your finished CD.

CD Choice

First decide what you want to burn and what kind of disc you want to use. Since CD-R discs can only be recorded once, we recommend you use them for making music CDs, sharing videos and large files, and archiving your files - in other words, for disc you burn once and use. A CD-R disc can be played in most CD-ROM/DVD drives as well as most home and car audio players, and DVD players.

The other kind of recordable CDs are CD-RW.  You can erase and record CD-RW discs up to 1,000 times. This makes them great for backing up files that you continually update or want to change. A CD-RW disc can be played in CD-RW drives and multi-read drives, but aren’t use readily readable beyond your PC (though there are some CD & DVD players that can read them). Standard CD-ROM drives and many home and car audio, and DVD players cannot read them (check your product documentation to be sure).

CD Burning Tips

To make this an even easier process, and better assure perfect results, try the following tips:

  1. Check your hard disk for errors and defragment it regularly. This will improve your drive's performance, and help your drive send data to the CD burner at the best possible speed and avoid buffer underruns (underruns result in useless CD - also known as coasters).
  2. Free up enough hard drive space for the files you want to burn to the CD. Generally, you’re going to have to copy the files to your hard drive before burning - so be sure you have a few GB to spare, since a typical CD require about 750MB.
  3. It’s a good idea to shut down all programs but the ones you need to finish your task.  This depends on your PC - newer PC with multiple GB of RAM, and Windows Vista have less problem with prioritizing software to feed your CD burner, but it is still a good idea to give your CD burning software all the available RAM and processor resources.
  4. If you discover you’re having problems burning discs and getting errors, try recording at a speed that’s slower than what your drive and media are certified for. This may slow down the burning operation a little, but is more likely to produce reliable CDs.
  5. After you finish burning your CD, it’s a great idea to use a label kit to design and organize your library.  Printing labels and jewelcase inserts is easy on most printers, and can produce very professional looking results.  If you have a LightScribe drive and are using LightScribe media, you can label the CD itself.
  6. Keep in mind that CD technology has changed dramatically in just the last couple of years.  Replacing a CD burner is something you can expect every 2 years, to stay up to date with the latest capabilities.  Today's burners, not only burn CDs and DVDs, but also Blu-ray discs as well!  A burner with LightScribe capability also makes your discs look just like those that come from Microsoft!

Further Information

For further information, just read your optical drive user manual, your Windows help section for step-by-step instructions. If you’re working with a Mac or an older computer Windows 95/98/2000/ME you'll have to use special CD burning software. Once you have CD burning software, creating your own CDs is an easy process. Simply follow the drive manufacturer’s and software instructions.

Tags: CD Drive, Optical Drive, CD Burner