In lesson 2 we’ll cover both CD, DVD and Blu-ray drives, both readers and recordable drives, what features and specs to look for when shopping, and how much you can expect to pay when building your own pc.
CD and DVD drives are the primary way to install operating systems like Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, programs and games onto a computer. They allow large amounts of data to be stored on a portable disk and read back in any computer. A Blu-ray drive is also an option.
- CD disks can store around 700MB of information.
- DVD disks can store up to 9GB of data. This is almost 13 times as much.
- Blu-ray disks can store up to 50GB of data. This is more than 5 times that of DVD.
- A CD is read at 150KB per second
- DVD is read at 1.3MB per second
- and Blu-ray at 4.5MB per second
These are considered standard, 1x speeds. CD, DVD and Blu-ray drives are capable of reading each disk at a much higher rate.
- CDs can be read at up to 52x speed or 8MB per second
- DVDs can be read at up to 16x speed or 20MB per second
- and Blu-ray disks at up to 10x speed or 45MB per second
The increased speed decreases the time it takes to copy the contents of a disk, or to install software onto your computer.
When checking a drive’s read speeds, look for ROM next to CD, DVD and Blu-ray. The multiplier will tell you the drive’s read speed for each type of disc.
Creating CD, DVD and Blu-ray discs
A recordable drive allows you to create your own CD, DVD and Blu-ray disks. You can make a custom music CD, your own DVD or Blu-ray movies. Then you can make copies of the CD, DVD and Blu-ray disks. Or, use the recordable drive to make backups of any of the files on your computer. These drives are referred to as recorders, burners or writers.
CD, DVD and Blu-ray disc can be written to just as fast, or faster, than they can be read from.
- CDs at 52x
- DVDs at 22x
- Blu-ray at 12x
This isn’t always advisable however. When you use the maximum speed a disc can be written and then take that disc to a CD, DVD or Blu-ray player, the player will have trouble reading the maximum speed disc. This can result in skips or not being able to play the disc at all. Try recording your discs at around half speed. It will take a little bit longer, but the reward is not having to burn the disk a second time. Burning at lower speeds will also extend the life of your burner.
When checking a drive’s writing speeds look for -R next to CD, DVD and Blu-ray. The multiplier will tell you the writing speed for each type of disc.
Most recorders also have the ability to re-write a disc. This means erasing what is on a disc and then re-writing to it. This requires special re-writable discs.
- Re-writable CDs are called CD-RW
- Re-writable DVDs are shown as DVD+ or -RW, more on the + or – in a moment
- and re-writable Blu-ray is shown as BD-RE
The burning speed for these re-writable discs are lower than write once blank discs. The burning speeds are: 32x for CD-RWs, 8x for DVD- or +RWs and 2x for BD-RE.
Two DVD Standards
For DVD recorders and re-writers there are 2 competing standards known as DVD+R and DVD-R. Add a W for re-writers. DVDs created in one standard will only play on devices that support them. For this reason, the best choice for future compatibility is to look for a recordable drive that supports both formats. These drives are called DVD+-R. For re-writable burners look for DVD+-RW.
These compatibility issues between the + and – discs are mostly seen in DVD movies that are burned. When you burn a movie, in either format, check to make sure it plays correctly in the DVD player you will be using. Remember to burn your movies at a lower speed than your DVD burner and discs are capable of. Again, this takes a little longer, but you don’t want to be the person who invites friends over to watch a movie you’ve burned, only to have the movie start breaking up an hour into watching it.
DVDs come in 2 capacities. DVD-5 which can hold 4.5GB of data, or just over 2 hours of video, and DVD-9 with a capacity of 9GB and can hold over 4 hours of video. Most of the blank DVDs you will find in stores are DVD-5 and can be written to by any standard DVD burner. If you want to also write to DVD-9 blank discs, look for Dual Layer or DL support in your DVD burner.
Blu-ray discs also come in 2 capacities. BD-R which can hold 25GB of data and BD-R DL with a capacity of 50GB. Most blank Bluray discs you see in stores are BD-R and can be written to by any Bluray burner. If you want to also write to BD-R DL blank discs, look for Dual Layer or DL support in your Bluray burner.
Like hard drives, these CD/DVD/Bluray drives connect to the same hard drive controllers on the motherboard. Look to get a CD/DVD/Bluray drive that connects to a SATA controller on the motherboard.
For more on motherboard controllers see the hard drive or motherboard internal component lessons.
The Cost of drives
The standard DVD burner is the way to go. It reads, writes and re-writes CDs and DVDs of all types and is very cheap at around $20.
If you want to also watch Blu-ray movies and burn Blu-ray discs, you will spend between $70 and $150 for a Blu-ray burner.
Keep in mind that Blu-ray burners can write DVDs as well, but not CDs.
If you just want to watch Blu-ray movies on your computer, you can get a Blu-ray player for between $50 and $100. The higher cost Blu-ray players will often have DVD and CD writing abilities.
The cost of blank discs
- Blank write once CDs are around 30 cents each. Re-writable CDs are around 35 cents each.
- Blank write once DVD + and – Rs are around 28 cents each. Re-writable DVDs are around $1 each.
- Blank DVD+R Dual Layer discs are around $1 each.
- Blank write once Blu-ray discs are around $1 each. Blu-ray re-writable discs are between $4 and $7 each.
- Blank Blu-ray Dual Layer discs are around $5 each
When you purchase your recordable drive look for:
- DVD read speed of at least 16x and a CD read speed of 40x and up.
- Writing speeds of at least 24x for DVD disks and at least 32x for CD disks.
- A drive that support both the DVD+R and DVD-R formats, known as DVD+-R and also supports DVD+R DL or Dual Layer.
- and Prefer SATA support instead of IDE.
If you are purchasing a Blu-ray burner, look for Blu-ray read and write speeds of at least 12x.
In the installation lessons we’ll go over how to install your DVD or Blu-ray drive into the case.
DVD and Blu-ray Drive Warranties
DVD and Blu-ray drives are generally very reliable and will last for many years.
The drives usually come with a 1 to 3 year warranty.
Whether you buy a DVD or Blu-ray drive there is no shortage of choices when building your own pc. Below are several sites that will help you find the lowest price from a reputable merchant.