CDR? CDRW? What's the difference?

Feb 19, 2001

The Bottom Line CD-R media is a versatile way to backup and store your data.

I'm going to address one of the most bundled, and most popular CD burning softwares on the market in this review, because the authoring software helps put into perspective what those differences really are.

Types of Disks
First of all, there are 2 types of blank CDs. There are CD-Recordable and there are CD-Rewritable. CD-Recordable (CD-Rs) are write once, which means that you can only write to them one time. CD-Rewritables (CD-RWs) can usually be writen to more than once.

Types of Software
Secondly, there are two way of writing to a CD. There is CD mastering software, such as Easy CD Creator, Hotburn, and CD Extreme. Then there is packet writing software, such as Direct CD. Adaptec makes Easy CD Creator and Direct CD and usually these are bundled together.

Which type of CD goes with which type of software?
CD-R media is usually used with a mastering software. This type of software allows you to choose the files that you want to add to a cd and then you burn the CD. CD mastering software is also the type of software that you would use for making a duplicate copy of a CD or an audio CD.
CD-RW media is usually used with the packet writing software. Packet writing software formats the CDRW so that you can use it almost like another drive. It allows you to format the disk and read and write from the disk as often as you like. And CD-RW media is usually only used in your computer, unless the other computer you will be accessing the disk from is a CD-RW drive or has packet writing software installed. CD-RW media otherwise needs to have the disk closed in order to use it on another computer, which means that to write to it again, you would need to format the disk and start over again.

What are the advantages of one over the other?
CD-R media is usually cheap. Some will argue that you get what you pay for in terms of what kind of blank media you purchase. I usually buy the cheapest blank media that I can find, because if I am going to ruin the disk by a bad burn, I don't want to be spending a lot on what would become affectionately called a coaster. CD-R media is usually available on a spindle of 25, 50, 100 and is usually cheaper than getting it in Jewel cases.
CD-RW media is usually about $1 a piece. For something that you can use over and over again, this is usually a reasonable rate.

What do I use for what task?
CD-R media is good for disk to disk copying. Making backups of your original CDs, so that if something were to happen to one of them, there wouldn't be much of a loss. It is also the only way to make audio compilation CDs or copies of audio cds. I personally do a backup of all my documents and personal files to a CD-R once a month and then usually throw the previous copy away.
CD-RW media is good for packet writing. CD-RW disks can be used as a giant floppy disk. For projects or large files that will need to be taken to another computer this is often the way to go. You can do all the work on your computer saving it to the CD-RW, finish the disk for use in another computer, and then take the files where you need them to go.

CD-R media can be read in most CD-Rom drives and most Audio CD players manufactured after 1998, because that's when most of the standards were set into place.
CD-RW media is usually only good in your machine. It isn't a good choice for audio, because it usually will not play in an Audio CD player.

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