What should I look for in a CD-R/RW drive?

Question

I am thinking of buying a cd-rom read/write. How do I know if I can use a SCSI or an IDE type? ( I am sure it is clear I don't know what I am talking about)How do I know what my computer can use? Is their one you would recommned? One of my main reasons for considering a cd-rom read/writeis to use it as a back up system. What is your opinion of thisI am thinking of buying a cd-rom read/write. How do I know if I can use a SCSI or an IDE type? Is their one you would recommend? One of my main reasons for considering a cd-rom read/write is to use it as a back up system. What is your opinion of this usage?

-AJ

Answer

This question was answered on January 5, 2000. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

Just for clarification CD-ROM stands for Compact Disk – Read Only Memory, which means it can only read or playback CDs The device that you are inquiring about is actually called a CD-R or CD-RW which stands for CD – Recordable or CD-Read/Write or Rewritable These drives allow for both the reading and creating (writing) of CDs The main difference between CD-R and CD-RW is that CD-RW drives allow you to write to the disk multiple times much like we do with floppy disks CD-R drives will only allow you to write to the disk once The cost difference between a drive that only supports CD-R and one that does both is negligible, so be sure that the drive that you choose has the capability to do both As to the question of the interface (SCSI or IDE) in most cases the IDE drive will be more cost effective unless you already have a SCSI card SCSI drives typically are more expensive but are higher performing (speed) which is more suited to professional uses where saving a little extra time is worth the extra expense These drives are rated by their speed so you will likely see descriptions such as 6X/4X/20X The first number (6X) refers to its CD-R record speed, the second (4X) the CD-RW record speed and the third (20X) its playback speed The higher these numbers are the faster the drive will record and playback I would recommend a 4X/4X/20X or higher.

The most popular uses of a CD-R/RW drive is for creating music disks and for archiving or transferring large amounts of data As far as using one for a “back-up” system on a regular basis, you will probably find that it is a little too cumbersome for daily or weekly back-ups It is also limited to 650MB per disk so with todays hard drives averaging 10 to 20 GB it is not a very effective tool as a true back-up device If all you care about is small amounts of data, a ZIP drive (100MB) is more suited to that type of backing up

A new device that is in its infancy that may someday prove to be an effective backup device is something called DVD-RAM This format is based on the DVD (Digital Versatile Disk) standard and will allow multiple writes to a disk The capacity is currently around 5.2 GB (the equivalent of about 8 CDs) and is rumored to go as high as 17GB per disk in the future These drives are very expensive and so is the media at the moment, but the prices are bound to come down as it gains market acceptance

The type of disks that you buy will determine what you can do with the drive If you are interested in making a copy of a program or making your own music CDs than purchase CD-R disks (about $1 each in bulk) If you want to be able to overwrite the data repeatedly than you will need to purchase CD-RW disks (between $2-$5 each)

One thing that you should be aware of when it comes to making your own CDs is that not all CD-ROM drives can read CD-R and CD-RW disks Typically older CD-ROM drives and some audio CD players can have problems recognizing the media which means it can’t be read or played in that device

I have gotten the most use out of my CD-R/RW drive by making music disks for my kids They have dozens of CDs but only like one or two songs on each of them, so I have consolidated these songs on a couple of CDs and created personalized “Greatest Hits” CD’s for each of them In addition to having 17 or 18 of their favorite songs on one CD, I can easily recreate them in the future when they scratch, ruin or lose them (which they will!) because the originals are tucked safely away.

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Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on January 5, 2000