The essential information on optical CD / DVD / Blu-ray drives and their media (discs)
Note that an optical disc is spelt with a c not a k as in disk, which is used in the terms hard disk drive and floppy disk drive.
Install CD / DVD / Blu-ray drives / writers
For information on how to install a CD/DVD/Blu-ray drive/writer visit the Build Your own PC section of this website.
Installing CD/DVD/Blu-ray optical drives –
CD / DVD / Blu-ray drives: problems and solutions
Click CD/DVD optical drive problems to go to the searchable section of this website that deals with them. Enter your problem as a suitable search query to find out if your problem or one close enough to it has been dealt with.
This page – Foreword
Page 2 – How to identify the make and model of a CD/DVD drive and the disc formats that it supports
Page 3 – Bundled burning software, manufacturer’s user manual and drive firmware
Page 4 – Cleaning discs and drives, reading, writing, re-writing speeds, DVD regions and codes
Page 5 – CD/DVD/Blu-ray disc-burning applications and disc formats
Page 6 – Blu-ray data-transfer standards – SATA for internal and USB for external drives
Page 7 – CD/DVD disc formats
Page 8 – Labelling (US: labeling) recorded CD/DVDs: Manual methods and using LightScribe
Page 9 – CD/DVD/Blu-ray disc copy protection
USB flash drives have mostly replaced CD / DVD / Blu-ray drives as the preferred device for saving files to, but discs of quality (I use discs made by Verbatim) are still very useful as an alternative for that purpose since, if stored well, they are less likely to fail than flash drives and will hold their data for much longer.
The research that is available suggests that USB flash drives can only hold the same stored data for approximately a decade, whereas optical discs, depending on their type can store data for many decades. Most of the major manufacturers claim that DVD+/-R discs, for example, can hold their data for longer than a century compared to DVD+/-RW and DVD-RAM discs that can hold their data for around 30 years – three times as long as a flash drive.
The internal and external optical disc drives used in desktop PCs and laptop PCs are currently of two types – DVD writers that can read all the different DVD formats and write to all or most of the CD- and DVD-disc formats, which use the IDE/ATAPI or the SATA connection interfaces and SATA Blu-ray writers that can read and write to all or most of the CD, DVD and Blu-ray disc formats.
For example, here are the disc formats supported by the ASUS SBW-S1 Pro Blu-ray writer/player, priced at 148.00 in July 2016:
Playback disc types: BD-R, BD-R DL, BD-RE, BD-RE DL, CD-R, CD-ROM, CD-RW, DVD, DVD+R, DVD+R DL, DVD+RW, DVD-R, DVD-R DL, DVD-ROM, DVD-RW.
Recording disc types: BD-R, BD-R DL, BD-RE, BD-RE DL, CD-R, DVD+R, DVD+R DL, DVD+RW, DVD-R, DVD-R DL, DVD-RW
DL stands for Double Layer, which doubles the storage capacity. Triple Layer and Quadruple Layer Blu-ray discs are available, but only a BDXL drive supports them. An example of such a drive is the LG 16X Blu-ray M-Disc CD DVD BDXL BD Blu-ray Burner Drive – “WRITE AND READ QUAD/BDXL, TRIPLE, DOUBLE LAYER BD-R DISCS” – priced at around £95 in July 2016.
Optical drives can be installed within a desktop or laptop PC and can be bought as portable or non-portable external drives. The prices of both types varies greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer. I search amazon.co.uk to get an idea of the price ranges of the drives and their discs and to read the purchaser reviews and then if I want to buy a particular make and model look around for the best online offer. The same goes for the discs.
Blu-ray writers still cost about four or five or more times the cost of a DVD writer of the same type (in July 2016), so will only be provided by higher-end desktop and laptop PCs. You can currently buy a good-quality Sony, Samsung, Plextor, LiteOn, Asus, LG Blu-ray internal drives from between £50 and £150, but there is no need to spend more than £20 for DVD drive, with most of them costing between £8 and £15.
External DVD writers cost about twice the price of internal drives. In July 2016, there was no need to spend more than £60 for a quality internal of external Blu-ray writer.
Record-once and re-recordable Blu-ray discs (BD-RE and BD-R) are cheap, but are around twice as expensive as cheap, equivalent CD and DVD discs.