BOOT CAMP 252 (19/11/02)




Last week, in part one of the Boot Camp guide to CD and DVD recording we managed to avoid using too much jargon, sadly when it comes to the nitty-gritty of actually making discs you will need to familiarise yourself with a few basic terms. This week we’ll also be looking at CD-writer software, but first a short lesson in DIY CD technospeak.


There are basically three ways of recording data on a recordable or rewritable (CD-R/CD-RW) disc and that’s ‘Disc At Once’ (DAO), ‘Track At Once’ (TAO) and ‘Packet Writing’.


Disc At Once means the disc is recorded in one session, it’s mainly used for copying or making backups of discs and it’s a way of ensuring maximum compatibility with other CD devices. However, it’s vitally important that there are no interruptions whilst the disc is being recorded or ‘burned’. Any gaps or pauses, however brief, will render the disc unreadable, so it’s a good idea to exit all programs, disconnect form the Internet and generally leave the PC alone whilst a disc is being recorded.  


Track At Once recording is used for ‘multi-session’ recording, such as making an audio CD compilation of tracks from several albums. It’s also handy for backing up files and folders on your PC over a period of time. TAO recording is very flexible and the disc can be read by the CD-Writer on which it is being made but it has to be ‘closed’ or ‘finalised’ before it can be read on another PC or a CD player. 


Packet writing is a variant of TAO recording, and overcomes problems with the way data has to be organised into uniform blocks or tracks in TAO recording. Packet writing allows files of any size to be recorded onto the disc, making more efficient use of the space available and it allows data on rewritable (CD-RW) discs to be selectively erased, effectively turning a CD-R/RW into a giant 650Mb floppy disc. The downside is reduced compatibility, it is less reliable -- if a writing session fails all of the previously recorded data on the disc may be lost -- and the relevant software used to format the disc has to be running on the PC in order to read and write data.  


In addition to the three main recording methods there are various ways of organising or formatting the data on the disc. In practice you only really need to be aware of three of them, known as ISO 9660, Joliet and UDF


ISO 9660 is the original data-recording format for CD-ROMs, it’s an international standard, recognised by all CD and CD-ROM drives, software and operating systems. All fine and dandy, the only trouble is it was created back in 1988 and has one serious limitation; it cannot handle long file names. The names of files in the original DOS and early Windows filing systems are limited in length to eight characters plus a three-character extension, separated by a full stop (known as the ‘8.3’ format). Support for long file names was introduced with Windows 95 but the original ISO 9660 filing system couldn’t cope, so additional ‘levels’ were developed that would recognise files names up to 255 characters in length.


Meanwhile, Microsoft set about developing its own long file name modification for the ISO 9660 format, called Joliet. This allows for filenames up to 64 characters (including spaces).


UDF or the Universal Disc Format (also known as ISO/IEC 13346) is the most recent development in recordable CD filing systems and should eventually replace the ageing ISO and Joliet formats. It is used when recording CD-R/RW discs in packet writing mode and is the standard filing system for DVD data recording.


Normally you won’t need to worry about which filing system to use, most CD-writer software is configured automatically according to the disc and type of recording you are making. The only time it is likely to be an issue is if you try to copy a file with a filename longer than 64 characters, in which case you may be prompted to rename it, skip it or change to a different recording method.


One other term you may come across, particularly if you are shopping around for a CD-writer or PC with a built-in writer is ‘Burn-proof’. This slightly unfortunate turn of phrase is often confused with ‘burning’ the jargon term for recording a CD on a PC. ‘Burn’ is actually a contraction of ‘Buffer-Underrun’, which happens when the PC can’t supply data quickly enough to the CD-writer. To overcome this most recent CD-writers have a memory module that acts as a ‘buffer’, to ensure a steady flow of data onto the disc. If the buffer runs out of data, because the PC’s hard disc drive is busy with another task the buffer underrun will occur and the recording will be ruined. As a general rule of thumb the larger the buffer memory a CD-writer has the less chance there is of it happening.



Almost all CD writers come with a suite of software and in most cases this will be Roxio’s Easy CD Creator, some packages may also include Roxio’s Direct CD, for UDF packet writing ( Between them these programs do most things very well and if you’re new to CD writing it’s worth sticking with them.


Roxio’s main rival is Nero, from Ahead Software ( Nero Burning is also bundled with a lot of CD writers and again it’s a well thought out package, with a packet writing utility in later versions; it’s easy to use and generally very reliable.


There are also lots of specialist programs on the market, for copying or ‘cloning’ CDs, making audio and MP3 compilations. You’ll find a most of them listed at: (

cdrom/cd_cd-writer_software.shtml). Incidentally, Windows XP has CD writer support built in, using a customised version of Roxio’s Easy CD Creator.


Next week – Making backups





Also known as ‘closing’ – process of recording a CD’s table of contents or TOC, which will allow it to be read (or played) on any PC or CD audio player.



International standards organisation – body responsible for creating technical standards, recognised by more than 140 countries



Adding data to a recordable CD, prior to the disc being closed or finalised



If you are using Windows 95 (OSR2) or Windows 98 onwards with a CD writer you should change your computer ‘type’ from Desktop PC to Network Server. This will increase the size of the file system cache memory, which can help to prevent buffer underruns when recording in Disc At Once mode. To make the change right click on My Computer, select Properties, to open System Properties, select the Performance Tab then File System and make the change on the ‘Typical Role…’ drop down menu.


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