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Registered: 06-2006
Location: Castle Belgalor
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Optical Discs & Blu-ray

There are a variety of options when it comes to disc burning but before shopping for blank discs first make sure the optical drive installed on your PC will be able to burn them. At the very least, most relatively new PC's will have what's known as a combo drive, one that can read and write both DVDs and CDs, I have one myself.

More modern PCs will have a DVD Writer that can read and write both DVDs and CDs. Very old models may only have a CD-Rom drive, which means it will only be able to read data from CDs and nothing else, you will not be able burn anything with it. Optical drive are really cheap these days, with DVD writers available for as little as £20 online, so if you do need to upgrade it won't cost you much.

You now need to decide what type of discs to buy. CDs are the cheapest and come in two types. CD-R which can be saved to only ONCE, and CD-RW which are writable many times. The exact capacity of both types of CD varies, but is usually around 650 to 700MB.

A pack of 100 CD-R discs can be found for just under £10, which roughly works out at around 10p per disc, while CD-RWs are more expensive at roughly 50p each. Thanks to their low cost, CD-Rs are great for creating backups of important files, such as documents and photos, as well as storing a large amount of music. However, when it comes to burning video to disc, it's best to make the switch to DVD. I now use DVD-RW for backups of data etc as you can add to the disc new data, programs, pictures etc.

DVDs are a great way to store loads of backup files or home movies, but there are a few more choices to make when buying DVD discs. Like CDs, DVDs are available in both -R (writable) and -RW (re-writable) formats, but you have also to decide whether you buy plus DVD+R and DVD+RW or minus DVD-R and DVD-RW discs.

These two systems essentially do the same thing, and most modern DVD writers can use both. You'll also need to choose whether to buy single or dual layer DVDs. With capacities up to around 4.7GB, a single layer DVD disc can store the same amount of data as around 7 CDs. At 8.5GB, dual-layer DVDs can cram in almost twice as much as a single-layer disc, but you can only write to them ONCE. I always stick to single-layer discs and not really have had the need to use dual-layer discs for my needs.

One downside to DVDs is that they discs are more expensive than CDs. Single layer (4.7GB) DVDs cost around 20p each when bought in bulk, while dual layer (8.5GB) discs are around 40p each. That said though, when you factor in the amount of storage you get for 20p a disc, DVDs are actually very good value.

When buying discs, you'll notice speed ratings such as 4x, 8x and 24x on the packaging. This indicates the maximum speed at which the discs can be written, and your optical drive should have a similar rating to show how quickly it can perform. In order to get the best possible speed, you'll need discs with a speed rating that's just as high as that of the drive, but don't worry if your discs are slower, the drive will slow itself down a little to use them.

There's also a relatively new type of disc known as Blu-ray. I have made a new topic in the Gaming & Home Entertainment about Blu-ray if you need to know more about it. Blu-ray has several advantages over a CD & DVD discs but at a price, so before making any upgrade decisions it's worth making sure you understand what this new format has to offer.

Developed with High Definition (HD) video in mind, Blu-ray discs come in single and dual layer formats, offering a whopping 25GB and 50GB storage respectively. However, it's not just movies that can benefit from Blu-ray discs, and with such huge storage capacity they're also ideal for anyone who wants to back up large amounts of data on a single disc.

Blu-ray discs are, however, much more expensive than both CD and DVD. Write-once Blu-ray discs, called BD-Rs, cost around £5 each for single-layer (25GB) and £18 for dual-layer (50GB). Single-layer re-writable BD-RE discs are £10, and dual-layer ones considerably more at £30 each. So as tempting as they might sound, most backup users would be better off sticking with a couple of cheaper DVD discs for the moment.

If Blu-ray sounds tempting, and especially if you're planning to play high-definition movies using Blu-ray discs, it's vital to make sure you're PC is powerful enough before buying any new equipment. I have used Cyberlinks' website which has an advisor tool which scans your PC and reports back on what is needed to in order to be Blu-ray compatible.


When you arrive at the page, fill in what is needed. Name / email / Country. You can leave the 2 boxes un-checked if you like but I left the first one checked so I can keep up to date with the product update, leave the 3rd party one un-checked. Once done, click on the 'Submit & Download' tab. It's only a very small program and will take seconds to download, even for a dial-up user if you are one.

Link: Blu-ray Advisor Tool

The Wizard3, 17/12/08, 14:49
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