reliably writing a CD

It seems so simple, you just pop an empty, writeable CD in the drive and put some stuff on it. Using whatever software you have on your PC.

And then you want to read that data on an old PC somewhere.

No luck, chances are it does not work.

Long ago, when Philips was still pushing to replace the vinyl records with CD’s they claimed it to be a wonderful device. It had (still has) error correction, so it was infallible. They actually said that as long as the disk is not broken in two (try that one, most CD’s chatter when you try to break them in two) it would still be playable.

No such luck. Fortunately most modern PC’s read most CD’s just fine. However, I would still make the following recommendations.

  • Always write a CD at a slow speed, x4 or something. Apparently the slower speeds make deeper impressions in the CD, but make the tracks more reliable.
  • When writing a CD, is you want to be able to read it on old CD readers or PC’s, close the CD. It prevents you from adding more content, but a lot of old hardware just cannot handle a CD which is not closed.

As an aside, I cannot understand why so many people want to buy rewritable CD’s. They are a lot more expensive as the write-once variant, and it takes ages to clear them (which you probably do not want to wait for). More unfortunate though, it seems they scratch faster, making them unusable pretty fast, often before you actually get a chance to clear them the first time. In short, and though I don’t like the ecological consequences, I strongly recommend to just write them once, and not even hope you are going to use them with different content.

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