DVD burners were a costly component for desktop PCs just a couple of years ago. Today, you can get a DVD burner for about what you’d pay for a movie on DVD, and as prices have dropped, consumers have discovered that there’s more to DVD burners than just movies. If your desktop PC is still limited by a rewritable CD drive, it’s time to think about adding the extra storage and versatility a DVD burner delivers.
Consumers are so used to DVD movies that many mistakenly assume that DVD is short for Digtial Video Disc. The actual name of the format is Digital Versatile Disc, and the technology is very similar to CDs.
Price drops have made DVD burners more affordable than ever, and new DVD burners are much faster than models sold just two years ago.
DVD-R can be written once, DVD-RW can be erased and rewritten many times. DVD burners supporting DVD-RAM can rewrite sections of the disc, but these discs probably won’t work in your DVD player.
A DVD burner can turn your home movies into a near-professional DVD with chapters and menus, if you have the right software. Remember that it’s illegal to copy DVDs that have CSS protection.
DVDs can hold up to 10 times more information than a CD. Dual-layer DVD burners can record up to 8.5GB on a DVD.
High-definition DVD burners are available, but they are expensive and no one knows whether the Blu-ray or HD DVD formats will survive. It’s better to wait it out with a standard DVD burner until the new technology matures.
One of two competing high-definition DVD formats. Blu-ray discs can hold 25GB of information on a single layer or 50GB of information on dual layers.
The fastest speed at which a DVD burner can record, indicated by a number followed by an x. The higher the number, the faster the DVD burner can record, with 20x speed at the high end for current DVD burners.
Content Scrambling System is a form of copy protection used to protect copyrighted material on DVD. Bypassing CSS to create copies of commercial DVDs is a violation of the law.
Digital Versatile Discs are storage media that hold digital information read by a laser.
An optical drive that can read an burn DVDs. DVD burners support several types of burning, including write-one DVD-R, rewritable DVD-RW, and partially rewritable DVD-RAM.
A DVD burner that can record to two surfaces on a DVD, doubling its storage capacity.
A DVD burner that connects to a PC through a USB, FireWire, or Ethernet port.
A measurement of digital storage space equal to 1,024 megabytes.
One of two competing high-definition DVD formats. HD-DVDs can hold 15GB of information on a single layer.
A DVD burner that connects directly to the processor boards of a PC, either through a parallel or serial ATI port. Internal DVD burners are faster than USB external drives.
A device, such as a DVD burner, that reads data with a laser.
Universal Serial Bus is the standard for connecting peripherals, such as keyboards and DVD burners, to a PC. The cable passes data and power between the devices.
A DVD burner is an optical drive that uses a laser to read and record CDs and DVDs. DVD burners are superior to CD burners because of the amount of information a DVD can hold. While a CD is limited to around 80MB of data, a standard DVD can hold 4GB and a dual-layer DVD stores up to 8.5GB. This extra space makes a DVD burner an essential tool for creating permanent backups of essential files and programs. You can use a DVD burner to make discs that will play on your DVD player too.
While DVD burners cannot match the 64x recording speeds of CD burners, some new models support burning at speeds of up to 20x, which is a major improvement over the 4x speeds common just a couple of years ago.
The speed of a DVD burner is limited by the connection method. Internal DVD burners that connect to your desktop PC via parallel or serial ATI ports are much faster than external USB DVD burners, since USB is limited in the amount of data it can carry. When choosing a DVD burner, pay careful attention to the system requirements to make sure it will work with your PC. External USB DVD burners typically have lower requirements than internal DVD burners.
Unsure about which connection type you have? Most PCs have both, but check first. A USB connection looks like a 1/2”x3/4” flat piece of metal with a slot at its tip that connects to the receiving port. Both parallel and serial ATI ports are easy to identify; those have connection points that look like a bunch of pins, which connect to a matching set of pin holes on your computer’s port.
There are three main formats for discs created by DVD burners. DVD-R discs can be written once and will play in almost any brand of DVD player. DVD-RW discs can be erased and rewritten, or “read/write”. These discs require a compatible DVD player or DVD burner to play.
These DVD burners can rewrite sections of a DVD, essentially using the DVD burner as an additional hard drive. These DVDs are useful for file backup and temporary storage, but they won’t play on most DVD players.
DVD burners are not movie-production suites. They give you the ability to create DVDs, but you’ll need software to edit your movies and create menus and chapters. Some DVD burners may include demo versions of movie-editing and disc authoring software, but these have fewer features than the full versions.
A number of DVD burners include the LightScribe feature, which allows you to burn a label directly onto a compatible DVD. These DVD burners make it easy to label and organize your DVDs. LightScribe is a very cool feature, but be informed that the technology only uses black and white imagery – so don’t expect to replicate the full creative color effects you get on “professional” DVD graphics.
You cannot copy commercial movies with a DVD burner without first breaking the CSS encryption on a protected disc. Although fair use allows a customer to create a single backup copy of purchased movies, music, and software, the courts have held that bypassing CSS—even for a single backup—is breaking the law.
You can use a DVD burner to create DVDs of your home movies and copyright-free movies that you buy or download. These will play on your DVD player and free up space on your hard drive. If you’re planning to do a lot of work with video, be aware that you’ll need a powerful processor, extra RAM, and lots of hard drive space. Uncompressed video files are huge and slow the performance of all but the most powerful desktop PCs.
All DVD burners support CD-R and CD-RW technologies, so you can use them to create audio and video CDs. Newer DVD burners support incredibly fast CD burn speeds, so long as compatible blank CDs are used.
One of the best uses of a DVD burner is to create backups of your operating system, software, and essential files. If you use your desktop PC for work, or if you have an extensive collection of music, video or other files, you should be creating archival backups periodically to protect against viruses or a catastrophic system failure.
A dual-layer DVD burner will take those gigabytes of precious data and save them on a stack of DVDs that takes up little space. Software is available to help your DVD burner organize and manage this task.
If you’re a multimedia author, graphic designer, or 3-D modeler, a DVD burner is an easy way to make finished projects portable. A DVD burner can also be used to create an electronic media kit or business presentation for clients.
The first Blu-ray DVD burners appeared on U.S. shores in 2007, and HD DVD burners are quickly becoming available. Blu-ray discs hold 25GB of information (50GB for dual-layer discs) and HD DVDs hold 15GB of data. These new DVD burners are the priciest models on the market. These DVD burners can create standard DVDs, but the Blu-ray and HD discs require a compatible DVD player to run.
No one knows which of the two formats will become the standard, but only one of them is likely to survive. The best advice is to wait out the format war and choose a standard DVD burner now. As prices drop on high-definition DVD burners in the future, you’ll pay less for both drives than you would for a high-definition DVD burner today.