n "x" speed

Let us say I have a 32X CD-ROM and I am copying a file into a HDD of speed 5400 RPM. What exactly is the speed used for data transfer?

Also what is this 8x thing in the DVD specs? Why is the number low when compared to 32X and 48X CD-ROMs?
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1X for CDs = 150K/sec
1X for DVDs = 1200K/sec
DVDs have more data packed on a track, so their transfer rates are higher.

8X DVD transfer = 9600K/sec theoretical
32X CDROM transfer = 4800K/sec theoretical

Your hard drive has a much higher data transfer rate, typically around 40MB/sec, so it doesn't enter into the equation when figuring out data transfer speed.  Actual rates will vary, because the location on the disc may have more or less data, and CLV and CAV play a part: http://www.pcguide.com/ref/cd/perfRated-c.html
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