Optical Drives


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Optical drives is a collective term for CD drives, DVD drives, CD RW burners and DVD burners. All of these devices read information from an optical disk which is different from the magnetic media like floppy disks which were state of the art 10 years ago.

The reason for the move to optical is the storage capacity. Floppy disk stored 1.44Mb (Megabytes). CD can store 700 Mb and DVD up to 4.7GB (4700MB). Just think with the size of today's software, if Windows XP just fits onto one CD then how many floppy disks it would take to download it?

The advantage of the floppy though was that you could write to it as well as read from it. The first versions of the CD and DVD drives were read only, so you couldn't write anything to the optical disks, however new technology meant the introduction of the CD burner allowing read and write and then even more recently the DVD burner.

CD Drives

Don't bother! Spend your money on a CD-RW (RW for read/write). Why limit yourself to read only unless you are on a really tight budget.

CD-RW Drives

I would regard this as almost essential for your PC they are great for backup, remember you can burn 700Mb onto each disk and the disks are getting cheaper and cheaper. These work out at under 30c each

. As mentioned above, some form of CD reader is essential for getting software onto your computer although it is possible to download software over the internet if you have big enough bandwidth.

The CD-RW to the right has a

CD Write Speed: 52x
CD Rewrite Speed: 24x
CD Read Speed: 52x

and all for under $30

200 CD-Rs come in packs like this for under $35


$45 Will buy you this Internal dual format DVD±RW


As well as being the read only versions of the DVD drive out there, a number of formats have appeared for read/writeable DVDs. You'll see DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RAM, DVD+RW, DVD-RW and DVD±RW as rival brands compete with each other. Oh dear. What should we do, it's like the old VHS vs Betamax video recorder wars of the early 1980s. I would advise a number of things. Chances are one standard is going to win, so you could wait until then, a year or so down the line by then the prices might be a bit more appealing too.
If you are only going to use them in your own DVD drive then it doesn't matter if they are incompatible with everyone elses. There are many multi-format drives out there. Chances are at least one of the formats on a multiformat drive will prevail.



Optical drive speeds are usually given in a cryptic format like 52x-24x-52x What this means is that the drive will write at 52 times the speed a normal music CD is read. it will rewrite (ie overwrite what was already written on a rewriteable CD which can be erased and reused)at 24 times speed and it will read at 52 times speed. This means that it should be able to burn a CD-R in under 2 minutes. The larger the numbers the better the drive.

External USB2 52x24x52x CDRW & 16x DVD ROM


Internal IDE vs External

Each of the drives types discussed can fit either in one of the 5.25" bays on your PC or you can attach it externally. There are two reasons you may wish to do this. If you have run out of 5.25" bays on your PC you can connect it by USB or if you want to burn stuff from you PC in work. Neither of these in my opinion justify the extra cost of an external drive.


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