Sometimes you need to burn a CD or DVD to share files with others, make backups or transfer information between machines. Although we now prefer to use USB sticks and network transfers for these purposes, Windows 10 still makes it easy to write (“burn”) a CD-R or DVD-R disc. How to use.
First: The basics
Before we begin, we assume that you have an optical media device that can write to the type of disc you choose. It can be an internal device or one that connects to your computer via USB. We also assume that you have all the necessary drivers installed. Fortunately, Windows 10 works with most CD-R / W and DVD-R / W drives automatically via Plug and Play, so you do not even need to install a driver.
You also need some blank CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R or DVD-RW discs that work with your device. And 4.7 GB DVDs (or 8.5 GB dual-layer DVDs) hold dramatically more data than CDs, which can usually only hold about 700 MB. Here is what makes the difference between the writable and rewritable versions of the media.
- CD-R, DVD-R: These disc types only allow data to be written to the disc. They cannot be physically erased, although Windows can ignore “erased” files on the disc if you select a Live File System (see “How to burn a CD or DVD with a Live File System” below).
- CD-RW, DVD-RW: These types of discs allow data to be written to and deleted from the disc, even if they can only be deleted a certain number of times (usually around 1,000), which varies depending on the media mark.
When selecting media, pay attention to device compatibility: Most recordable DVD drives can also write CD-Rs, but CD-Rs cannot write DVD-R discs. You cannot read DVDs on a CD-ROM drive.
Choose how Windows writes the disc
Let’s start. Log in to your Windows machine and insert a blank recordable CD or DVD into your optical drive. As soon as you insert it, a window titled “Burn a Disc” will appear. This dialog box asks you how you want Windows to handle writing the disc. Here are the options and what they mean.
- As a USB stick: This allows you to write and delete files to the disc directly using a live file system without having to complete or “master” the disc. If you use a writable CD-R or DVD-R disc and delete a file, the file will no longer appear in Windows, but it will still fit on the disc. However, if you use a rewritable disc, you can delete files as you go without having to wipe the entire disc at once. A disadvantage is that disks created in this way are not compatible with machines older than Windows XP.
- With a CD / DVD player: This is a more traditional method of “mastering” records. When you copy files to the device, they are temporarily copied to a cache on your hard disk first, then they are written to the disc at once when you select “Burn” in File Explorer. On the plus side, disks created in this way are more compatible with older versions of Windows.
Once you have decided on the writing method, select it. Then enter a disc title and click “Next”.
What happens next depends on which option you choose. We handle each one separately below.
How to burn a CD or DVD using a Live File System (“Like a USB Flash Drive”)
If you chose to use your disc “Like a USB memory” in the last menu, you do not need to write extra steps to your CD or DVD media. A File Explorer window to your optical disc drive opens, and to write to it, all you need to do is copy files directly to the drive in File Explorer. You can drag and drop files into the window or copy and paste them there.
As mentioned above, you can delete files using this method, but if you are using a CD-R or DVD-R disc, delete them only logically. The “deleted” data is still physically burned on the disc, but it becomes inaccessible. So for example, say you have 700 MB of free space and you copy 10 MB of data to the disc. Now you have 690 MB for free. If you delete 10 MB of data, you still have only 690 MB of free space.
On the other hand, if you use a rewritable disk format, Windows manages to delete the files on the fly, and you can restore disk storage space from deleting files.
As soon as you want to eject the disc, Windows will finish before the unit spits out the disc. After that, you are free to insert it again and write to it again or read it in another machine.
RELATED: How to copy or move files and folders on Windows 10
How to burn a mastered CD or DVD (“with a CD / DVD player”)
If you choose to use your disc “with a CD / DVD player” in the last menu, your optical disc drive will open in a File Explorer window. In the window you will see a heading marked “Files ready to be written to the disc.”
When you drag and drop (or copy and paste) files into this window, they will appear in this window, which is essentially an intermediate storage area for a final master disk. The files are not physically written to the disc itself until you choose to burn the disc in File Explorer.
When you have finished copying everything you want to write to the disc, select “Drive Tools” from the toolbar menu in the File Explorer window, then select “Finish Burning.”
(You can also right-click the optical drive icon in File Explorer and select “Burn to Disc.”)
A “Burn To Disc” wizard appears. Enter a title for the disc, then select the recording speed. It is usually safe to choose the highest possible speed. Then click “Next”.
Then you will see a progress bar and an estimated time to completion when the files are written to the disc.
When the process is complete, the disc is automatically ejected from your optical media device and the wizard asks you if you want to burn the same files to another disc. If so, check the box next to “Yes, burn these files to another disc” and then click “Next”. You will go through the same process again.
If you are done burning discs at the moment, just click “Finish”.
Then your recently burned CD or DVD is ready to use.
Keep in mind that science has shown that recordable CDs and DVDs are not an archival medium, which means that there is a high risk that low-quality optical media can lose your data just by sitting on a shelf for several years. As a result, we do not recommend using them for long-term backups – consider an external hard drive or cloud service instead. But optical discs they can be good in a pinch as long as you understand the risks.
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