Choosing Optical Medium – DVD and CD

Optical media that is currently available include CD-R, CD-RW,  DVD +/- R, DVD ±R DL,  DVD +/- RW, and a variety of available  recordable and recordable/erasable Blu-ray discs.  Although versions of CD and DVD are offered in a variety of sizes, in this blog, we’ll be looking at the 5” discs.  Each disc format is best suited for specific tasks:

CD-R and CD-RW: CD-R and CD-RW are the recordable and the recordable/rewritable versions of recordable CD media.  Over the years, the capacities of CD-R blanks have grown from 540 MB to 700 MB.  CD Media is  ideal for recording audio CDs, for storing image files, slideshows, data or presentations, or video files that don’t require more than 700 megabytes.   Movies and television shows are sometimes available in highly compressed formats that enable the recording of the entire movie onto one or two CD discs.
Although 700 MB no longer seems like a large amount of data, the Recordable/Rewritable media is still available and provides the ability to erase a disc and to record over the newly cleaned media.  The low price of CD-R blank media has limited the demand for CD-RW media – the cost of a new CD-R blank may, in many cases, be less than the value of an employee’s time erasing  a rewritable   CD-RW disc.

DVD +/-R and RW: DVDs can store up to 4.7 GB of data, while Double Layer DVDs can store up to 8.5 GB.  DVD media is available in +R and –R (and in +RW and –RW rewritable versions).   Although the distinction between +R and –R was somewhat important in the early days of recordable DVDs, most drives capable of recording to DVD media are able to write to either format, and most DVD players are capable of reading either format.  (If you’re considering buying a DVD or Blu-ray player, check the box for compatibility).
DVD media are used to record and store many different types of files.  Movies can be recorded onto recordable DVD discs  and played using DVD players or computers with software that supports DVD movies.  Double Layer DVDs can be used for burning video or movie files that use more than the standard 4.7 GB on a movie DVD.  DVDs are also good for storing critical files or for disaster recovery.  Bootable DVDs can be used to launch an operating system or to begin the processes of disaster recovery.  DVDs are also valuable for storing or distributing data files.
The cost per megabyte for DVD media is considerably less than the cost per megabyte of CDs.  If you plan to record less than 700 MB of data, a CD is probably a good choice.  For larger amounts of data – up to 8.5 GB, a DVD +/- R disc (or a double layer disc) would probably be best.
In Part Two of this blog, we’ll look at Blu-ray media, and summarize the key points you should consider when choosing which medium to use for each task.

Mark Brownstein is a technology journalist and technology consultant who specializes in explaining and interpreting new technologies, and clarifying how to integrate these new products into current systems. He has been Editor-In-Chief at computer technology and networking publications, has held significant editorial positions at major technology magazines, and is a frequent contributor to various technology magazines. He has written seven books. He is Microsoft Certified, and spends much of his time testing hardware and software products, running his own networks, and learning the best ways to get computer systems running and to keep them running.

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