Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
CD-R and CD-RW Burning
101 - part 2
The September Orphans’ SIG generated a
discussion about the techniques to burn a CD-R or CD-RW. Or, more precisely,
why the burner didn’t burn. Further to that discussion, here is an assortment
of tips and techniques. [continued from last month]
You may be faced with a real problem if
you decide to delete and replace your current burning software (either
with the same program or with another). It may also occur if you attempt
to upgrade existing software to a newer version (whether you follow the
simpler “install over” routine or the “delete and install”). This problem
arises from low-level software drivers — called the ASPI layer — that are
most often supplied by Adaptec. Discussion of ASPI in depth is deliberately
avoided here; you can have a look at www.adaptec.com if you want to pursue
it. Without laying out all the permutations, apparently these files are
sometimes (I don’t know why) not totally removed or not upgraded (although
this is nominally part of the upgrade routine) properly. The resultant
mixture of old plus new plus corrupted drivers produces a predictable result.
Worse, all the system reports and upgrade logs may say that everything
is working correctly. The user forums offer only bleak hope of successful
repair for the inexperienced. Detailing the procedures would consume another
essay. Unless you know what — specifically — to look for as filenames and
delete them (varies with each installation) then the only realistic solution
for non-techies is to restart from scratch.
It is best to have a dedicated partition
to hold the data (or songs, or whatever); at the very least, defrag the
partition that holds the data before burning. This is a must for older
systems and a helper even if your system does have buffer-underrun protection.
The burning software will create a temp file (similar in concept to Windows
swap file) to arrange the data to correspond with its way of doing business.
Make sure that there is sufficient unused space on the partition to allow
this to operate efficiently.
In the face of repeated problems (“coasters”)
you could crate an image file and then burn the image to the blank. The
image file creates a file format that has already performed the translation
of “computer file format” to the “CD-R media format” (you may see the terms
ISO9660 or Joliet). This eliminates a processor-intensive step in the burning
process. While more time-consuming, its less demanding system requirements
might prevent wasting media.
Nero offers (don’t know for Easy CD Creator)
the option to ‘Test (No burning)’. This is certainly a worthwhile choice
to see if everything is setup properly.
Dust and fingerprints are the most common
enemies. Avoid getting anything on the writing side of any media. Visually
inspect the surface before loading the media into the tray. If there is
foreign debris use canned air and not your breath to remove the particles.
Why? You do not want to replace dust particles with saliva particles. If
you need to remove fingerprints do not use solvent-based cleaners and wipe
from the centre to the periphery in a straight line: not circularly. I
personally am leery of CD burner cleaning kits. Seems overboard — much
like floppy drive head cleaning disks that often created more problems
than they solved. While a burner can always fail, in my personal experience
they don’t become dirty very frequently: unless, perhaps, they are under
your home’s central vacuum exhaust.
I think that I may have stated during the
SIG that the best assessment — albeit brutal — of CD-RW is: “The question
to ask is not if it will fail but when.” Initially, I admit, I saved data
to CD-RW media. But, single-use media (CD-R blanks) was a lot more expensive
than today and the media reuse was attractive. Today, I find it easier
to remain exclusively with CD-R. There is a newer format, titled Mt. Rainier,
that will incorporate packet writing capability into the OS and make CD-RW
more convenient (but not necessarily more reliable) by allowing formatting
on the fly. There are a few of the latest drives (40X or 48X) that claim
they support it; however, it is not directly supported by any version of
Windows (including Win XP) to date — and is therefore untestable. To implement
it, in addition to operating system and burning software support, it requires
both hardware and firmware revisions; it is much more than a software upgrade.
This would, I believe (perhaps, hope?) create one theoretical advantage:
inter-readability; that is, Nero could read Roxio and vice-versa (and,
incidentally, all media created under any other Mt. Rainier compliant packet
writing software) since the OS would perform the formatting operation.
Have to wait and see, I guess. Historically at least, version 1.0 of anything
was often less than stellar.
I have no idea why the following sometimes
worked (on Win 9x/Me systems — maybe it would on Win 2K/XP but have had
no need to use it). Sometimes a reboot — following a failed burn — is enough
to kick-start it. This failure usually seemed to follow the intense activity
required to define the archive for burning (selecting all the files and
folders etc and defragging). Maybe, the system resources needed refreshing;
maybe, it allowed Windows to reset something, I don’t know; maybe, it was
an illusion; but, sometimes it worked. In fact, as a preventive measure,
I once (half-jokingly) suggested that a problematic machine should be rebooted
just before commencing every burn. That is, get the files for the archive
assembled, defrag if necessary and then reboot. Do nothing except initiate
the burn process. Surprise, it worked... and continues to succeed to this
day! Is it really necessary? I don’t know but I don’t really want to challenge
If you are installing a burner into a system
that has seen moderate use (in contrast to a new system), you may save
yourself a few coasters if you were to reinstall the operating system and
applications right now (rationale in the next paragraph)!
Given Windows’ (particularly the 9x and
Me versions) propensity to somehow progressively corrupt itself with the
passage of time, I recommend that you seriously consider a system backup
immediately following the system setup. That is, install the operating
system, the burner drivers and burning software and your principal software
applications and utilities. Before you run anything, “freeze it in time”
by Ghosting, Drive Imaging or whatever you have available. While there
is always a chance of a pristine installation not working, much more frequently
a system slowly deteriorates as the Registry is burdened with the detritus
of installed and removed software and the system has endured a few blue
screens of death. When it finally fails (and rest assured, it shall) you
will save a lot of time by merely restoring a known good configuration
in a fraction of the time that re-installing everything from scratch would
require. This approach will prove quicker, I assure you, than trying to
patch, replace or repair.
I hope that you can glean something from
this article to assist you. One final thought (particularly in Windows
9x and Me): if you have problems installing the burner during a new Windows
install consider trying to install the burner after the OS is functioning
correctly. To avoid its detection by the hardware Setup Wizard you must,
of course, remove the power and data cables from the device until the Windows
installation is complete. If your hardware is newer that the OS then Windows
wouldn’t have the ability to recognize the hardware and supply drivers
anyway. Even if there are drivers embedded in Windows, sometimes better
compatibility results from the manufacturer’s latest offering. A small
detail, but, hey, sometimes it works! Windows 2000 users (and I assume
Windows XP) have an option within the install routine to specify that they
possess specific drivers for hardware that is not in Windows database.
In this case, leaving the burner attached will allow this process to proceed.
A useful tutorial
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Ottawa Personal Computer
Users' Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street, Ottawa,
ON K2G 1S6
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OPCUG or its members.