65. A Primer for Burning CDs
By Mark Alberstat
If you have bought a new computer within the last few years, it probably
came with a CD burner. Once upon a time this piece of equipment,
now-standard, was an expensive luxury as were the blank CDs. However,
like many things related to computers, CD burners and their media grew in
popularity and their price dropped.
The price has dropped so much that computer manufacturer Dell is now
selling computers without a floppy drive, assuming most people will burn
files to a CD when they need to transfer a file or backup their data. A
1.4-megabyte floppy just isn't as attractive a medium as a 700-megabyte
Unfortunately, many people who have burners are not sure how to use them
or what options they have when creating CDs. The complaint I hear most
often is that after putting only a few files on a disk the disk is
reported to be full.
This problem is not actually an error in the cd-burning software you are
using, or in the way you created the disk. The software, more than
likely, did just what you told it to do.
Each time you burn a disk it is called a session. You can leave a session
open or you can finalize it. If you plan to add more information to the
CD at a later date, you have to leave the session open. If you copied
just a few files to the disk and it later claims to be full, the session
was finalized. Although in actuality there may be lots of empty space on
the disk, the burning software has hidden it from the operating system,
thus showing a full disk.
Many disk burning software programs are capable of multi-session CD
burning. This means that the disk is not finalized until you instruct the
software to do that last step. Disks left open in this manner can be
added to later. However, not all readers can read an un-finalized disk.
This is especially true if you are creating a music CD.
If you are continually creating finalized disks but want to create disks
you can later add to you will have to delve into your program's commands
and help file. Most of the popular programs, such as Nero or Roxio, allow
multi-session burning, you just have to make sure that you have this
option selected before you hit the record or burn button.
In general there are two main methods of cd burning. Track-at-once and
Disk-at-once are the terms that some software help files may call the
Track-at-once recording means the laser turns off after each track is
burned to the disk, even if several tracks are being written during a
single recording session. A two-three second gap is placed between each
of the tracks . Most software programs cannot control this gap, as it is
a function of the burner and the software. If you have a burner and
appropriate software that allow for variable-gap recording changing this
between track gap is possible.
Disk-at-once recording means that one or more tracks are put on the cd
without turning off the laser and the session is closed. You cannot use
disk-at-once recording for multi-session recordings.
If you want your CD to act more like a large capacity floppy drive you
will have to use CD-RW, or CD-Rewriteables. These CDs allow you to write
to a cd and later remove the information. For this you will need a burner
that has this ability and disks that are clearly marked CD-RW.
Knowing the difference between an open and closed, or finalized, session
is one of the key pieces to creating good, useable and reliable CDs.
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Originally published 7 August 2005