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This chapter is from the book

Burn a CD/DVD

Most modern Macs come with drives that can burn CD-ROMs, and many can also burn DVDs. If you have such a drive, you can take advantage of the modern physical method for transferring documents from one computer to another: writable optical discs.

Before You Begin

Move, Copy, or Delete a Document or Folder

See Also

Add a Newly Installed Hard Disk to the System

Burn a Custom Audio CD


Key Term - Burn—To write documents to an optical disc (a CD-R, CD-RW, or DVD-R).

Floppy disks used to be the medium of choice for storing or transferring data. With the advent of the iMac, however, floppy drives vanished from the Mac in favor of transferring files over the Internet. Although this provided much of the same functionality as floppies did (without the 1.44-megabyte size limitation), many people still had a need for a way to store large documents, as well as to create better media for installing software. Writable CD and DVD drives, with their versatility and inexpensive media, have stepped into that niche in the computing world.

Mac OS X makes the process of burning a CD or DVD straightforward. You insert a blank disc, move documents to that disc in the Finder, and then drag the disc's icon to the Trash to burn the documents onto it.

Figure 3.8Figure 3.8


Key Terms

CD-R—Writable compact disc. A CD-R can be burned once, and after that its contents cannot be changed. A CD-R or CD-RW can hold 650 or 700 megabytes of data, depending on the format.

CD-RW—Rewritable compact disc. A CD-RW can be burned multiple times, usually up to a few dozen times.

DVD-R—Writable digital versatile disc. A DVD can hold 4.7 gigabytes of data and generally costs significantly more than a writable CD. Data on a DVD is heavily compressed, making the format much more complex than that of a CD. Some DVD formats, such as DVD+RW and DVD-RW, can be written to more than once.

  1. Insert a Blank CD or DVD

  2. Most Macs have an optical drive with a tray you must eject before you can insert a disc. Press the Eject key on the keyboard, place the blank disc in the tray, and press Eject again to close the drive.

    Some Macs, such as the PowerBook G4s and the later colored iMacs, have slot-loading drives. On these Macs, simply insert the disc into the slot and wait until the drive pulls the disc in.

  3. Enter a Volume Name and Click OK

  4. Mac OS X automatically tries to mount the disc. When it finds that the disc is blank, the operating system will present you with a dialog box that asks for a name for the disc. Type any descriptive name you like; after the disc is burned, this is the name that will appear under the disc's icon when it's mounted.

    For CD-R discs, you can choose whether the disc is intended for documents or for music. To create a disc for music files, select Open iTunes from the Action drop-down list. You can then use iTunes to burn a music CD that can be played in any CD player, or an MP3 CD that can be played on modern MP3 CD players. To create a disc for documents, choose Open Finder (the default) from the Action drop-down list. If you mistakenly choose the wrong application, just eject the disc and insert it again.


    If you change your mind about the volume name you gave the disc, you can change the name by renaming the disc—just as you would rename a folder, by clicking its name and typing a new one—anytime until you burn the disc.

  5. Move Items to the Disc

  6. You can now fill the disc with documents. The disc appears on the Desktop, like any other mounted volume, and you can drag items to it as you would any other disk. Organize items in folders the way you want them to appear each time you or anyone else inserts the disc; if you try to put more data on the disc than it can hold, you will get an error message.

    In this example, I opened the Finder and created a new folder called Photos into which I placed many of my latest vacation photos. You can create subfolders within this main folder if you want.

    When the items are arranged as you want them to be, drag the folder from the Finder window and drop it on the disc icon on the Desktop. A green plus sign next to the mouse pointer tells you that you're copying the files to the disc rather than moving them.


    ake sure that you have enough space on your startup disk to allow the system to create a disk image of all the data you put on the blank disc—up to 700MB for a CD or 4.7GB for a DVD. Mac OS X creates copies of the documents to be burned, in a special temporary location, and will eject the disc if not enough free hard disk space is available.

  7. Burn the Disc

  8. When you're happy with the contents of the disc, it's time to burn it. In the Finder, click the Burn symbol next to the disc's icon in the sidebar; alternately, drag the disc's icon from the Desktop to the Trash can icon (which becomes a Burn symbol while you're dragging the disc).

  9. Confirm the Burn

  10. A dialog box prompts whether you want to eject the disc (discarding all the changes you've made) or burn it. Click the Burn button.

    The disc will now be burned; this process can take several minutes, including the verification process after the burn is complete (which you can skip if you want by clicking the Stop button that appears in the Burn progress dialog box). After the burn is complete, the disc is mounted in the Finder (or in iTunes, if it's a music CD), and can be accessed like any other CD-ROM or DVD.

    Some software, such as open-source operating systems like Linux and FreeBSD, can be installed from CD images that you download free. Before you can install the software, however, you must create an actual CD-ROM using the disc image you have downloaded. Similarly, you can make a duplicate of an installation CD (for safekeeping) by creating a disk image of the CD-ROM.

    Use the Disk Utility application (found in your Utilities folder) to create a new disk image. Insert the CD, then choose Images, New, Image from <disc name>. Disk Utility then creates a .iso disk image file from the disc's contents.

    Choose Images, Burn to select a .iso disk image file to burn onto a new CD. Be sure to have a blank CD handy!


While you have a writable disc mounted, if you have Fast User Switching enabled (see Switch to Another User), other users who are logged in at the same time as you won't be able to access the optical drive or the disc in it. You must either burn or eject the disc before other users can use the drive. (If you don't have Fast User Switching enabled, other users won't be able to be logged in at the same time you are.)

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