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Burning Data DVDs

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This chapter is from the book

Chapter 3: Burning Data DVDs

We'll start with normal DVD (and CD) data recording. This is not DVD authoring per se, but rather simple file transfers.

This hour starts with a hands-on run-through of Windows XP's built-in optical media disc burning module. I'll take you step-by-step through a well-known DVD creation product that's equal to, or at least very similar to, any you're likely to find bundled with a PC DVD recorder. Finally, this hour details the new features of the latest update to the de-facto DVD creation software industry-standard product.

The highlights of this hour include the following:

  • Using Windows XP's My Computer to burn a CD

  • Using bundled software to burn a DVD

  • Taking a quick tour of Roxio's Easy CD & DVD Creator 6

Using Windows XP to Burn Data Files to a CD

My goal in writing this book is to help you create full-featured, interactive, multimedia DVDs. In this hour you'll take the first steps in that direction, beginning with burning data files, first to a CD and then to a DVD.

It might seem a bit mundane simply to use a DVD for normal data storage, but DVDs, with their 4.7 gigabyte (GB) capacity, are excellent data backup media.

If your PC's DVD recorder is of recent vintage, it also can record to CD-R and CD-RW discs.

We'll discuss those discs first because Windows XP's built-in optical disc recording software cannot handle DVDs. Those of you with older versions of Windows might want to skip ahead to the next section, "Using Bundled Software to Burn a DVD, "because Windows Me, 2000, 98, and earlier do not have built-in CD-recording capability.

Task: Burn Data Files to a CD-R or CD-RW Disc

With Windows XP, your PC DVD recorder can behave much like a massive floppy disc drive: You simply copy and paste files to it. If you use a CD-RW (rewritable) disc, you can erase files or update them. Here's how:

  1. You'll need a CD-R or CD-RW disc. Insert a blank, writable CD into your DVD recorder, and the screen in

    pops up. You can select the Open Writable CD Folder option or click Cancel. Click Cancel because you don't need to go to that folder just yet.

  2. Figure 3.1Figure 3.1 The Windows Autoplay feature notes when you've inserted a recordable CD into your DVD drive and asks what you want to do with it.

  3. Open My Computer by double-clicking its icon. Depending on whether you've adjusted any My Computer Views settings, it'll look similar to Figure 3.2. Note that after you've inserted a CD-R or RW disc, the Total Size and Free Space values will be equal. In the case of my CD-RW disc, both those values are 656 megabytes (MB). A typical CD-R disc holds about 702MB.

  4. Figure 3.2Figure 3.2 How My Computer should look after you've inserted a recordable CD into your DVD drive.


    I do not like the default Windows My Computer icon-oriented settings; I much prefer the Details view. To switch to this format, click the Views icon (highlighted in Figure 3.2 at the top of the screen) and select Details from the drop-down list.


    Windows lags behind the DVD technology curve. My Computer demonstrates that.

    Before inserting a CD-R or CD-RW disc into the DVD-R/RW drive, My Computer refers to that drive as DVD-R Drive (F:)—CD Drive. As highlighted in Figure 3.2, after inserting a CD-RW disc, Windows updates the My Computer display by renaming the DVD-R/RW drive CD Drive (F:).

    If you insert a DVD disc into your DVD drive, Windows XP refers to it as a CD. If you try to write to a DVD recordable disc, you'll get an error message similar to the one in Figure 3.3.

    Figure 3.3Figure 3.3 Using My Computer to try to write to a DVD recordable disc leads to this error message. The message should read, My Computer can not write to recordable DVDs.

  5. Select the files you want to add to your recordable CD.

  6. TIP

    To select groups of contiguous files, click the top file and then Shift-click the bottom file. To select scattered files in the same window, click one file and then use Ctrl-click to select each subsequent file. The same process works for folders.

  7. Now you must copy each file, group of files, folder, or group of folders. I like to use right-mouse click shortcuts, so here's how I do it. As illustrated in Figure 3.4, right-click one of the selected files/folders (if you have more than one selected, right-clicking one applies to all those you've selected) and select Copy from the drop-down menu.

  8. Figure 3.4Figure 3.4 Use the right-click window to simplify the file copying process.

  9. Navigate back to the opening My Computer screen (use the Backspace key as a shortcut). Right-click the DVD-recorder drive and select Paste. Depending on the size of the selected files, a pause might occur as Windows creates temporary files.

  10. NOTE

    If you do not care for the right-click approach to Windows file management, feel free to use the menu-driven approach. Here's how: After you've selected some files or folders to copy, the Files and Folders Tasks window in the upper-left corner of My Computer will offer an option labeled Copy the Selected Items. Click that to open the Copy Items dialog box. Select the DVD drive, and then click Copy. When you're ready to burn your files or folders, go to step 6.

  11. When you've copied/pasted all the files and folders you want to transfer to the recordable CD in your DVD drive, double-click its icon. Your screen should look similar to Figure 3.5. Note the highlighted window in the upper-left corner. Click Write These Files to CD.


    Make sure your selected files don't exceed the capacity of your CD disc, which is usually about 650MB–700MB. You're on your own in this regard because Windows does not display your total file size as you add files and folders to the queue for later writing to the CD.

    Figure 3.5Figure 3.5 Use the CD Writing Tasks window to copy selected files and folders to your recordable CD.

  13. The CD Writing Wizard shown in Figure 3.6 opens. Name your CD, click Next, and watch as Windows burns the files to your CD. When it's done, your CD will eject.

  14. Pop the CD back in to make sure all went well. It should have the name you gave it in the CD Writing Wizard.

  15. Figure 3.6Figure 3.6 The CD Writing Wizard simplifies the final CD recording steps.

Getting Burned

In 1994, I was the principal writer for the now defunct CD-ROM World Magazine. (Multimedia World Magazine bought it out in 1995, and PC World absorbed Multimedia World shortly thereafter.)

CD-ROM World's parent company organized a trade show that fall, and I was one of the presenters. One of my sessions covered the then breakthrough technology of recordable CDs. Knowing how finicky they could be, I gave the trade show computer supplier detailed specs for my demonstration PC.

They almost got it right; the only minor deviation from my specs was a slightly different model video card that created an irresolvable conflict that killed my demo. I still could go through all the steps to prepare the data for recording to the CD-R drive, but when it came to actually burning a disc, the CD-R drive refused to function.

I let the audience know well in advance that it was not going to work. Many in attendance had had similar experiences, though, and I noted a sea of sympathetic expressions.

These days, bugaboos still abound; they just take on different forms. For instance, you might run into conflicts over competing DVD recordable standards—dash-R, plus-R, and DVD-RAM. It's always something.

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