The Perfect Burn

CD burning is a popular past time for many people. Whether you are backing up your data, making compilations of pictures, or making a presentation for work, problems can sometimes come up in burning that are easily avoidable. Here are some tips, tricks, and tweaks to keep your burning experience painless.

System resources

While many cd burners have suitable buffer amounts that should allow you to multitask while burning, this is not recommended. Extra draws on the system resources can reduce the chance for a successful burn, as well as causing errors in otherwise perfect CDs.

If you are running Windows 9x or ME, it might be best if you reboot before beginning a burn. Many times the system will not release memory that was in use by processes that you have used while the computer was on, and can cut severely into available system resources. 70% or higher is recommended before beginning a burn. To check system resources:

Windows 2000/XP
1. Hit the keys Ctrl+Alt+Del . This will bring up your task manager.
2. Click on the “Performance” tab
3. There will be a graph and percentage indication of how much of your system resources are currently in use.


Windows 9x/ME
1. Right click on the “My Computer” icon
2. Click on Properties
3. Go to the “Performance” Tab
4. The memory available will be listed as a percentage and labeled as System Resources.


Compatible Media

Between figuring out the differences between CD-R and CD-RW , music and data disks, and deciding on whether to buy the designer covers, many people overlook the specifics of what brand they are buying. Just like there are quite a few differences in CD burners, media is not all created equal.

A good CD burner will handle nearly all types and qualities of blank CD without complaint, but to increase the amount of successful burns, look to see what media is recommended by the manufacturer. They will often have a list in the documentation or on the website of the product, detailing what brands have been tested successfully with their burner.

Pre-burn preparations

All the high quality media and expensive burners won’t help you if the data is not properly set up for a burn. Here’s a round down for each type of CD burn.

For Music CDs
* Make sure the file is not currently playing
* Check to see if the file format is compatible with your burning software (mp3, wma, and wav are all commonly supported formats)
* Try to use high quality music files (96kps or higher samples)
* Keep audio input devices turned off/disconnected. Microphones and other devices can sometimes be picked up during a music burn, resulting in pops, clicks, and static.
* Don’t record at the highest speed available for your burner. This can substantially decrease the quality of the music. Burning at about half of your available speed is a good compromise.

For Data CDs
* Make sure that the file is not currently open or in use by the system
* Check the structure of the files that you are copying. Thousands of small files can often result in unsuccessful burns, as well as folder directory structures that are layers and layers deep (i.e. a folder within a folder within a folder, etc)
* Data is easier to burn at higher speeds than music (the error correct is not as apparent in data, but causes audible noise in music), but for larger files, it is normally best to run it slightly slower than top speed.

For CD Copy
* Examine the source media for scratches, smudges, and other marks on the surface of the CD. Make sure that it is as clean as possible.
* If you are having difficulties in burning directly from CD to CD, look for options in the software that will allow you to make an image (or ISO). 750-800 MB is often required for this operation (though it varies depending on the amount of data on the disk), and 1 gig or higher is recommended.
* Burning software often asks you to test your drive prior to a burn. Keep in mind this is the source drive, and not your cd burner, that needs testing.

System quirks, tweaks, and troubleshooting tips

Technology is as maddening as it is helpful, and the realm of CD burning is no different. When your burns won’t go right no matter what you do, here are a few suggestions to help out, divided by interface.

All Interfaces
* Anti-virus software can sometimes scan the data being transferred, interfering with the burn. Disable it temporarily during the burn (although you might want to scan the files prior) to stop that.
* Check and see if the burner can read a regular CD before you count it off as a faulty drive. If the regular CD can be read, try a different type of burn, or a different kind of media.

Internal Burners
* Move your burner to the IDE channel separate from the source hard drive. If your hard drive is on the primary channel, move the burner to secondary, or vice versa.
* Switching from PIO mode to DMA on the IDE controller that the drive is on. For Windows 2000/XP, right click on My Computer/Properties/Hardware tab, then click the “Device manager button”. To bring up Device Manager in Windows 9x/ME, right click on My Computer/Properties , then click on the “Device Manager” tab. Look for a listing for your IDE controller, then right-click and go into Properties on the appropriate controller. Click on the “Advanced Settings” tab, then choose DMA if available from the drop down box.

External Burners
* Connect the drive directly to the port, instead of through a hub or other intermediary device. This will ensure that little data is lost in the transfer.
* Make sure your drivers are up to date by checking the manufacturers website, as well as checking Windows updates.

While there are many software specific, and drive specific variables to factor in to your burning process, following a few of these suggestions could save you hours of wasted time, and heaps of wasted disks.

~ Tiffany Garden