Choosing a CD-R, CD-RW or CD Writer

August 17th, 2006 | Optical Drives
Samsung / 52x32x52x CD-RW /  Beige CD-RW Drive with Software
Samsung 52X CDRW Drive

CDs are as old as computers and are a time tested technology. There are so many CDs that in fact it is almost impossible to do without some kind of CD drive.

If you would like to find out more about DVD, DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW and DVD+RW go to the DVD section.


CD-Roms were the first kind of drive to appear in computers, after floppy discs that is. CD drives can read from data CDs and can play audio CDs, as well as other CD formats like VCD.

The speed of a CD drive is written as something like “32X”. The original CD drives had a speed of “1X” which is the same speed as an audio CD plays.

This means that a full data CD will take about 74 minutes to copy from the CD drive at “1X”. If a drive goes at “2X”, this means it goes twice as fast as so the speed to copy everything would be only 37 minutes, half the time. A “40X” will take about 2 minutes to read.

All CDs you get software on are of this kind.

These kinds of drives are old hat and most new computers come with some kind of DVD drive, sometimes a combo drive where there is a CD and DVD in one. This kind can read both CDs and DVDs.

Norcent CD Burner / 52x24x52x CD-RW /  USB 2.0
Norcent External 52×24x52 USB 2.0 CDRW Drive

CDR - Writable CD

The technology increased and eventually CDs could be written to.

Originally the reflective surface of the CD had to be printed in a factory. Later a technique was found where a kind of dye could be used. When this dye is hit by a laser at the appropriate intensity it causes a change, allowing data to be recorded on it. The dye is of course not as reflective as metal, so better ability to read discs was needed too.

The speed at which the CD drive can write is measured in the same way as it is when reading, so a “40X” can write a full CD in about 2 minutes.

CDRW - Re-writable CD

Not long after the CDR came the CDRW. This technology allowed the disc to be written to again and again, in much the way that a hard drive can be written to.

These kind of discs could be fomatted with a file system that could keep track of empty disc space and where files are.

The CDRW technology gave CDs a lot of flexibility, where before only optical disks could be used for transporting large amounts of data on disk. There speeds were originally very slow, but have come up to par on new drives.

My opinion

At home I have a LiteOn 48X CD writer.

I find that the speed is more than enough. CDs can offer enough space for my backups, and I don’t have many DVDs.

Although DVDs are popular now, their primary use is movies. I am not a movie fanatic, but I have a standalone DVD player in my living room for when I rent movies.

I will not get a DVD writer for at least another 2 or more years. When I exchange data with my friends it’s mostly on CDs. CD blanks are also very cheap, which means you can just use as many as you need for your purposes.

DVD prices are dropping quickly though, and I would recommend a DVD writer, you can check some great deals on these nowadays.

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