I need a basic understanding of CD format types as some burn, others won't

Posted on 2005-04-24
Last Modified: 2010-08-05
Hello Everyone,

I have a client who has a recent DELL system P4, 1.8GHz, Win XP Home SP2. She was using an earlier, free version of Zip Backup to copy (not backup in the true sense of the word) her data files to CD and it worked fine.

For some reason, she installed Roxio and the problems started. She uninstalled Roxio and purchased the new version of Zip Backup and is now unable to burn to CD, except for one time which she claims to have not done anything different.

My own discs are readable in her drive. Zip Backup tech support has been no help to her.

My "gut" feeling is that the issue lies in the CD format and I remember some where that SP2 caused some problems with CD burning regarding "packets" or something.

I admit to being quite ignorant as to CD format types. For example, I just put a blank CD-R in one of my drives and, using Windows Explorer, I could access the properties showing an empty disc in RAW format. When I place the disc in my other CD-RW (a new Memorex one I just installed along with packaged Nero Express) I get an error message that there is no disc present.

Is there some universal format she might need to apply prior to trying to burn a CD?
She is basically just trying to copy data files from her HD to a CD.

Could someone either give me an understanding of CD-R & CD-RW format types, etc. or give me a link where I might find such information.

I thank you in advance for your time. This is one area in which I am truly lost.

Question by:scoonge10
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    Expert Comment

    LVL 13

    Accepted Solution


    There are two distinct and separate ways of burning a CD, "ISO standard" and "UDF" (UDF is also known as "packet writing").  They are totally different.  I recommend that you avoid and not use UDF at all (in fact, I'd go further and recommend that you don't even install it, but both Roxio and Nero install it by default, although both allow you not to install it if you don't want to).

    I have both Roxio and Nero, and I was formally associated with Adaptec and Roxio for about 4 years.  Both Nero and Roxio come with the ability to do both ISO and UDF burning.  In Nero, the UDF component is called "InCD".  In Roxio, it was originally called "Direct CD", and is now called "Drag-to-Disc".

    The problem with UDF is that what it produces is not an "ISO standard" CD, and in general, you can't read it unless the computer in question has a compatible UDF reader software package installed (and most computers don't).  Further, UDF generally requires using eraseable, rewriteable media (e.g., CD-RW media instead of CD-R).  However, CD-RW media is not stable, and the data tends to "fade" with time (months to 1 or 2 years).  Consequently, CD-RW media should not be used for backups (because the data "fades"), and UDF should not be used (first because it can't be read on most other computers, AND second because it requires CD-RW media), and all the way around, therefore, UDF is just a bad way to go for backup.

    By the way, any time you hear about "formatting" CD media, they are referring to UDF.  UDF requires that the media be preformatted (although sometimes it will do that transparently and automatically), but ISO standard recording works with plain, unformatted media and there is no formatting at all, of any kind, period.

    On top of everything else, the UDF drivers can cause compatability problems as well.  To avoid problems, I'd suggest that you see if you can disable UDF (possibly by right-clicking on the icon in the system tray).  I don't have it installed on this system, so I can't give you exact instructions.  Again, for Roxio, UDF = either "Direct CD" or "Drag to disc".  However, keep in mind that if you disable aor uninstall UDF after having used it, you may be unable to read any UDF discs that you have made.  I'd almost bet that it's UDF that is causing your problems with the Iomega software.

    The reason UDF was created was to shield the user from the complexity of CD burning.  With UDF, the user interface can be that you just "drag" the files or folders to be burned to an icon, and they get burned.  There is no "burning program" to deal with.  But the simplicity comes with a huge price.

    To make an ISO CD, formally open the main burning application (Roxio).  Then you want to select "Data" (for backup, anyway (it may also be able to make audio and video CDs, but that's a different subject)) and proceed to create a data layout (list of files to be burned), then ultimately you will get to a point at which you will "burn" the layout to a CD. I'd love to give you better instructions, but there are quite a few versions of the software, and I don't know what you have, further we probably have different versions.

    There is one other thing here that's worth mentioning, and that is that Windows XP itself has a very crude built-in CD burning capability.  It looks kind of like UDF, but it isn't.  To use it, you "drag and drop" files or folders to the CD burner in "My computer".  What actually happens is that XP makes a copy of those files (or folders) in a special hidden folder on the hard drive, then later you tell it to burn the contents and it does it.  It's not UDF becuase the burning is not done at the time of the "drag and drop", it's done later, when you tell it to burn (and it can be months later), and it's done from the copy that was made at the time of the "drag and drop".  The actual burn is an ISO standard burn, and in fact the software is basically a very, very stripped down version of Roxio's burning software that Microsoft licensed.  There are no options, no flexibility and it's very, very basic, but some people like it and use it.

    Does this help?
    LVL 32

    Expert Comment

    I think Watzman has given a very accurate and detailed explanation. I just want to add a couple of minor points about Roxio:

    If your client has Roxio v5, then the correct way to burn CD's is with the EasyCD option. Avoid the DirectCD (unless you're using a CD-RW disk for short term storage).

    In Roxio v6, EasyCD is called Disk Creator Classic, so use that.

    In Roxio v7, use "Copy files to Disk" under the Data heading.

    In general, always use CD-R disks for reliable data storage (and even then make two copies), and restrict CD-RW usage for when you don't care about long-term storage, and just want to copy files between home and work, e.g.

    Not sure why Roxio would not work on your client's system. Sometimes you need to go to the Roxio web site and install the latest patch to get support for newer model CD drives.

    Author Comment

    Thanks for the great stuff from all three of you. I appreciate the links, davidis99, they look good and I'll dig into them later today.

    I also appreciate the tips on Roxio and CD-Rs from you too, r-k.

    But, I definately need to give the points and props to watzman for such a detailed and really informative answer. Watzman, thank you !! Top shelf job ......


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