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Understanding CD-R & CD-RW

Hugh Bennett

Author’s Notes

Physical, Logical and File System Standards

What is the Orange Book?
What are the different sections of CD-R and CD-RW discs?
What is a Multisession CD-R or CD-RW disc?
What is the difference between fixation and finalization?
What are the different writing modes?
What is ISO 9660?
What is The Universal Disc Format (UDF)?
What is a hybrid disc?
What is Running OPC?

Recording Hardware

What types of devices write CD-R and CD-RW discs?
Are there audio CD recorders available that connect to stereo systems?
What do the numbers describing a CD-R or CD-R/RW recorder mean?
What types of CD-R and CD-R/RW recorder configurations are available?
What is buffer underrun?
How can buffer underrun be prevented?
What is buffer underrun protection?

Recording Software

Is special software needed to use CD-R and CD-R/RW recorders?
What is the storage capacity of CD-R and CD-RW discs formatted for packet writing?
Are CD-RW discs created using packet writing software from different publishers compatible with each other?
What is Mount Rainier? 
What is required to read and write Mount Rainier CD-RW discs?

Recording Speed

How long does it take to write a CD-R or CD-RW disc?
What is the difference between low and high speed CD-RW discs?
Can CD-R and CD-RW discs written at different speeds be read back at any speed?
Do some CD-R recording speeds produce better results than others?
Can any CD-R disc be recorded at any speed?
Is there any way to prevent a recorder from writing a CD-R disc at too high a speed?

Physical Compatibility

What types of devices read CD-R discs?
What types of devices read CD-RW discs?
What is MultiRead?
What is MultiPlay?
Why can’t all DVD devices read CD-R and CD-RW discs?

Disc Size and Capacity

What are the physical sizes of CD-R and CD-RW discs?
What about business card CD-R and CD-RW discs?
What capacities of blank CD-R and CD-RW discs are available?
What about 34, 90 and 99 minute CD-R discs?
How much information can actually be stored on CD-R and CD-RW discs?
What is the difference between 74 and 80 minute discs?
Are there any compatibility issues when using 80 minute instead of 74 minute discs?
What is overburning?

Audio Recording

What is the Red Book?
What types of audio CDs can CD-R and CD-R/RW recorders write?
What types of material can be used as sources for audio CD recording?
What is MultiAudio?
Can consumer compact disc audio recorders write to any CD-R or CD-RW media or are special discs required?
Does using lower CD-R recording speeds and lower capacity media produce better sounding discs?

Digital Pictures on CD

What are the differences between Photo CD and Kodak Picture CD?
What hardware is required to view images on Photo CD and Kodak Picture CD discs?
Can DVD-Video players display digital still images written on CD-R and CD-RW discs?
What is MultiPhoto/Video?

Duplication, Replication and Publishing

What alternatives are available to copy CDs?
What is CD publishing?
Can CD-R and CD-RW discs be protected against copying?

Disc Labeling

What alternatives are available to label CD-R and CD-RW discs?

Disc Handling, Storage and Disposal

What is the best way to handle and store a CD-R or CD-RW disc?
Should fingerprints and dust be cleaned off a CD-R or CD-RW disc?
What is the best way to clean a CD-R or CD-RW disc?
Can scratched and damaged CD-R and CD-RW discs be restored?
Is it possible to recover data from damaged CD-R and CD-RW discs?
What is the best way to destroy unwanted CD-R and CD-RW discs?
Can unwanted CD-R and CD-RW discs be recycled?

Disc Longevity

How many times can a CD-RW disc be rewritten?
What is the shelf life of unrecorded CD-R and CD-RW discs?
How long will data recorded on CD-R and CD-RW discs remain readable?

Disc Testing and Verification

Is it necessary to verify a CD-R or CD-RW disc after recording?
How can the quality of a written CD-R or CD-RW disc be assessed?

Disc Construction and Manufacturing

What is the construction of a CD-R disc?
How are CD-R discs made?
Why are the recording surfaces of various kinds of CD-R discs different colors?
What are the differences between the dyes – cyanine, phthalocyanine and azo?
What is the construction of a CD-RW disc?
How are CD-RW discs made?
Are there any meaningful differences among blank discs produced by different manufacturers?

Appendix A – Further Reading and Resources

White Papers
Print Directories
Exhibitions and Trade Shows
General Information Internet Newsgroups
Industry Associations and Organizations
Licensing and Standards Organizations

Appendix B – Industry and Product Contacts

Market Research and Consulting Firms
Duplication and Publishing Systems
Disc Labels and Printers
Disc Manufacturers/Brands
Recorder Manufacturers/Brands
Recording Software Publishers
Jukeboxes and Network Storage
Disc Quality Analysis and Testing
Disc Repair, Restoration and Data Recovery
Disc Destruction and Recycling

Understanding CD-R & CD-RW

Hugh Bennett

Information contained in this document has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. The author does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of such information. Responsibility for the use of the contents shall remain with the user and not with the author.

Copyright © Optical Storage Technology Association (OSTA) / Hugh Bennett, 2002. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced, distributed or stored in any form by any means without express written permission of the author. Framing, inlining or similar techniques are strictly prohibited.

Trademark Notice
All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

About the Author

Hugh Bennett is president of Forget Me Not Information Systems Inc., an optical storage reseller, systems integrator and industry consultant based in London, Ontario, Canada. Hugh is a contributing editor and columnist for EMedia and TapeDisc Business magazines, chairman of the Canadian Advisory Committee for ISO/IEC JTC1/SC23 and the author of numerous white papers, studies and educational campaigns.

About OSTA

The Optical Storage Technology Association (OSTA) was incorporated as an international trade association in 1992 to promote the use of writable optical technologies and products. The organization’s membership includes manufacturers and resellers from three continents, representing more than 85 percent of worldwide writable optical product shipments, working together to educate consumers and shape the future of the optical storage industry. Included among OSTA’s many accomplishments are its groundbreaking CD-R compatibility efforts, development of the Universal Disc Format (UDF) as well as the MultiRead, MultiPlay, MultiAudio and MultiPhoto/Video (MPV) specifications.

Contact: Hugh Bennett