DVD-Rs are a good format for backing up data files and for distributing data and software. Because files on a DVD-R cannot be changed once burned (and therefore cannot be deleted or affected by viruses or hard drive breakdown) I recommend that people periodically burn a DVD-R of their data files as a “snapshot” in time — of their business, accounting or personal data. I also recommend DVD-Rs as a secondary backup media (after the all-important online backup to an external hard drive) for data, especially photo and music libraries that have historical files which do not change often.
To burn DVD-Rs or CD-Rs, first you need an optical drive that is capable of burning data onto blank disks. You can tell by looking at the faceplate of the drive, or looking in your system properties; the acronyms for drives that can burn are “DVD-RW” “DVD-R” or “CD-RW” The RW stands for ReWriteable, the R alone stands for Recordable.
If the drive is only capable of reading, it will be labeled “DVD-ROM” or “CD-ROM” The ROM stands for Read Only Memory. Occasionally you will see a label like “DVD-ROM/CD-RW” which means it will read DVDs only, but is capable of reading and writing CDs, this is sometimes called a “combo” drive.
Blu-Ray is another case, you can have a drive that is a “BD-ROM” for reading Blu-Ray disks only. A “BD-R” or “BD-RW” drive can write Blu-Ray. A Blu-Ray BD-R or BD-RW drive will also be able to read and write DVD-R and CD-R formats.
Second, you need blank disks of the correct type for your drive. There are a variety of disks available:
DVD-R DL: DVD recordable Dual Layer, a high capacity 7.9 GB DVD disk that is write-once
DVD-RW: DVD ReWritable, an eraseable disk format that otherwise can be used as a standard DVD. DVD-RW disks occasionally have problems being read by DVD video players. 4.3 GB capacity
ReWriteable disks had a market when the blank disks cost several dollars each, which made it worth the time to erase a disk to reuse it. Now that the disks are pennies each, few people bother to erase and rewrite.
DVD+R: DVD “plus” recordable write-once media (cannot be erased) 4.3 GB capacity
DVD-R: DVD “minus” recordable write-once media (cannot be erased) 4.3 GB capacity
Somewhat bizzarely, the early DVD Recordable drive market fractured into two opposing camps that used slightly different recording methods and media, which came to be known as DVD+R (or DVD Plus R) versus DVD-R (or DVD Minus R). Drives from the manufacturers would only work with their particular flavor of blank disk. Fortunately, reasonableness won out, and all manufacturers produce drives that are compatible with both the -R and +R formats, so the distinction between the two is academic for all but those who have early machines.
CD-RW: A CD ReWriteable format that can be erased and written over CD-RW disks occasionally have problems being read by CD audio players 700 – 800 MB capacity
CD-R: CD Recordable write once format 700 – 800 MB capacity
Other formats that most people don’t need to worry about: HD-DVD, Double Sided DVD, DVD-RAM, MiniDVD
Most modern machines come with the ability to burn data CDs and DVDs, and the software is included with the operating system. In most cases burning a data disk is as simple as plugging the blank disk into the machine and following the operating system’s prompts.
Windows Media Center: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-vista/burn-a-cd-or-dvd-in-windows-media-center
Windows iTunes http://support.apple.com/kb/PH1659
Windows DVD Maker: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-vista/burn-a-dvd-video-disc
If you don’t have DVD burning software, or need additional features, there is a wide variety of commercial and free software. One special case, Macintosh OS does not support Blu-Ray format, so to burn Blu-Ray disks, you have to have third party Blu-Ray support. The standard is Roxio Toast Titanium with its Blu-Ray plug in. http://www.roxio.com/enu/products/toast/titanium/overview.html
Free Windows burning software http://download.cnet.com/1770-20_4-0.html?query=burn%20dvd&rpp=10&searchtype=downloads&filter=licenseName%3D%22Free%22%7Cplatform%3DWindows&filterName=licenseName%3DFree%7Cplatform%3DWindows