>> Last Updated on
DVD & Blu-Ray Discs Today
Nowadays, optical media disks like CD and DVD are becoming obsolete. In fact, there are good chances that Blu-Ray is likely the last optical media of it's kind. However, you might still need a disc writer on your home computer, especially if you work in the film, games or music industry.
Even today, all movies are still published on DVD and Blu-Rays after their theater release. For the music industry, compact discs continue to be the standard for musical releases, despite the numerous digital alternatives, like streaming. Therefore, it makes sense that is it also a convenient way to distribution your own home movies, music or game.
- Optical discs are a good option for independent creators, because they inexpensive and quick to make. They are also much less expensive than their next replacement, the USB key.
- They ensures confidentiality from the open web, such as for festival releases, etc.
- They can be very useful to quickly free up hard drive space on your computer, especially when using high-capacity blu-Rays. Beware that optical discs are not meant for permanent archival. They are only a temporary solution of about 5 years. Surprised? Check out the section below on optical media archival .
The Future of Optical Drives
You may also still have software, operating systems, music albums, a collection of movies or old archives that are still on CD, DVD or blu-Ray. In that case, you'll want to be able to read those disks on your home computer and eventually transfer them onto hard drives as well. In truth, the cost an all-in-one reader/burner isn't that much more than a reader alone, so you may as well go for a drive that will have as much use as possible. A disc burner is the name of the device that 'burns-in' the data onto optical disk (like a printer or a writer), using a laser.
These days, newer and thinner laptops now don't even come with any optical media readers. And more recent operating systems, softwares and games can now be bought digitally. Most of them offer the option to buy either physically, directly from the web, or on a USB key or SD card. USB keys can also be useful as a replacement for bootable media and recovery disks, which were formerly exclusively only on CD and DVD. Recovery disks serve to recover your computer in case of an emergency problem, when your computer isn't booting because of a software conflict or malware.
Optical Media Types
As the first type of optical disk media, compact disks (CD-R) usually contain around 650Mb to 700Mb and are now used mostly for distributing music. Re-writable compact disks (CD-RW) have the same specifications and capacity as standard CD, but can be re-written multiple times, as opposed to their standard counterpart. They have a lifespan of about 5-10 years, depending on the quality, and the data slowly dissipate with time as the die degrades. Store bought media have a slightly higher lifetime, closer to 10 years, but not unlimited, so you'll want to re-transfer them at some point.
Available Format Variations
- CD-R / CD-RW
- 650Mb / 700Mb
Recommended Burning Speed for CDs:
The recommended best practice is to burn a compact disc at 4X (at 5 Mbit/s). This ensure the best quality, reliability and long-term durability of your data. One thing you may not know is that the burning speed, doesn't only affect the turning speed of the disc. It also influences the amount of redundancy of data, written onto the CD . This applies only to mainstream consumer disc writers, but it is important to consider for durable storage. You should make sure that the discs are also compatible with slow burning, such as 4X, as it is not always the case.
The maximum speed for burning a compact discs on a mainstream burner is 52X. Beyond that point, it is physically impossible to hold the disc together, because the it wobbles and shatters completely. A burning speed of 52X writes a disc in about 2 minutes. Check out this video from the 'slow mo guys' showing what would happen to a CD past 52X.
CD Shattering at 170,000FPS! - The Slow Mo Guys
Gav and Dan present the SLOWEST EVER episode of the slow mo guys by spinning a disc at 23,000RPM and filming it shatter at a whopping 170,000 frames per second.
Digital Video Discs (DVD) are the second generation of optical media. They have been specifically made to distribute HD quality movies (720), but they may soon be used for higher quality audio. However, DVD have now been outclassed by blu-Rays to support higher resolutions and 3D mediums, such as 1080 and 4k TVs. Most DVDs have a capacity of 4.5 Gb (4.38), but there is also a double-layer version containing 9Gb of data, for which you need a reader/writer that is able to support it.
There are also two types of DVDs: the DVD-R and the DVD+R, which looks the same, but have different ways of writing data. Most companies now make media that is compatible with both ways of writing. It is still important, however, to make sure that your drive will support both disc writing modes. This hybrid writing is often called DVD?RW or DVD+/-RW. DVDs also come in their Re-Writable form, that can be re-writtern multiple times (within limits). The DVD-RW and DVD drives usually also support burning on all types of CDs. The maximum speed is 16X and it writes a DVD in about 6 minutes. It is recommended to burn at half the maximum speed supported by the disc, for best reliability.
You can read more about the differences between DVD-R and DVD+R on pc.net.
DVD Burning Speeds
- 16 X = 6 minutes
- 8 X = 12 minutes (recommended)
- 4 X = 20 minutes
- 1 X = 1 hour
- DVD+R / DVD-R (4.5 Gb)
- DVD+R DL / DVD-R DL (9 Gb)
- All optical media have a lifespan for data-retention of 5 to 10 years. Make sure to renew them beforehand.
- Do not write with a water-based or magnetic-based felt pen because it will smear all over when spinning (and heating). Magnetic pens further risk dirtying the laser lenses in the drive.
- Do not use a ball-pen to mark on a Disc, as the pressure will be visible from the underside, and will make the disc unreadable.
- Don't put water or on an optical disc you're about to insert in a drive! You risk refracting the laser and damaging your drive, in addition to failing the write.
Blu-Rays have a capacity of 25Gb for a single layer disc and 50Gb for a dual-layer. There is now a BD-R called XL or TL, that has a third layer, allowing a capacity up to 100Gb. Blue-Ray discs are mostly used for distributing fullHD 3D movies and 4K films, because they exceed by far the capacity of DVDs. Blue Ray drives also usually have compatibility with both DVDs and CDs. The cost of a blu-ray burner drive is not much more that the cost of a CD reader, so if you are to buy an optical drive, you should go with a blu-ray burner. The maximum drive speed is 16X and they burns blu-ray media in about 8 minutes.
BD-R (25Gb) Burning Speeds
- 16X = 6 min
- 8X = 12 min
- 4x = 24 min (Recommended)
- BD-R (25Gb)
- BD-R DL (50Gb)
- BD-R XL/TL (100Gb)
- BD-R Quadruple Layer (128Gb)
- BD-RE (rewriteable)
- BR-R LT
More on future formats on wikipedia.com
Using optical media for backups and archival used to be commonplace, but few know that it was only ever meant as a temporary measure. Something you may not be aware of is that all optical media, such as CD, DVD and blu-ray have a limited lifespan. After about 5-10 years, the data on the disc slowly disappears from the disk as the die used for data retention dissipates or degrated. Factors such as storing conditions, exposition to sunlight, quality of the disc and speed of burning, all affect the longevity. To understand why this happen, we have to take a look at how data us written on optical discs. The concept is that a laser heats up tiny packets of die to store information in concentric circles of data.
This means than any optical backup has to be re-transferred every couple of years onto a fresh medium to avoid losing data. This is both time-consuming, expensive and wasteful, but it used to be convenient because of the smaller size of hard drives at the time. If you don't you transfer them, you will slowly lose data on the disc, making it eventually unreadable or blank.
Now archiving on optical media makes sense, when it is to create a capture in time, of quickly edited content. For example, it can be useful if you'd like to capture the state of a system, at certain point during a project, in order to be able to go back to previous states. It can allow you to physically sort digital data, and ignore longevity because it is always gradually being replaced by more current versions. This way, it can serve as a record of data, at specific points or in distinct parts, such as for film collections.
Today, you can purchase very inexpensive ultra-high capacity drives, which will store your data for about the same cost-per-gigabyte. So, optical storage is slowly being replaced by those hard drives and tape-drives for many reasons, but mostly longevity. However, don't forget to make backups copies of your hard disks to avoid losing your data if the disk fails. This does mean you actually need two drives, but it is certainly worth the price of your data, or even just a manufacturer recovery operation. Now,
We recommend going with an internal blu-Ray burner as opposed to an external one, for reliability, speed and convenience, for a desktop computer. However, if you're looking to buy a laptop, it might be better to skip a disk drive altogether to reduce the size and thickness of the computer. Alternatively, go with an external optical drive if you absolutely need to read optical disks on your laptop. If you have a large collection of optical media, you should consider starting to transfer them to hard drives. This will future-proof them because blu-Ray drives are most likely the last generation of optical media.
Go to the 'computer hardware' table of contents:
Tell us what you think, we welcome your comments! Did we miss something?
Join the Wombats
Opt-in our occasionnal newsletter to be the first to be informed of our new tutorials series, original content updates, special offers and important announcements! It’s free and spam-free, plus you can unsubscribe at any time.