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CD and DVD formats can be confusing

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By The Staff

Have you gone shopping for CDs and DVDs and viewed all sorts of formats? The question is which one to buy.

First, let me talk about CD RW and DVD RW. These allow you to read, write, erase, and write again. This sounds great, but there is a problem since they do not act like an external or jump drive.

In the case of the two drives mentioned, you can delete files, save new data, and leave others on the drive, which is very convenient; however, the RW disks require you to erase the entire disk before entering new information. This is time consuming and that is why I do not use RW disks, plus the read only disks are now so inexpensive.

Data CDs are used to store files and folders such as those on your hard drive. Although these CDs can be played in computers that have a CD-ROM or CD-recorder, they cannot be played in your car or home stereo. Audio CDs are used to record music from tracks and audio files such as WAV or MP3 files. These CDs can be played on your car or home stereo.

Now, let’s look at DVDs – there are DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD-RAM, DVD+R, DVD+RW and DVD+R DL. Confused? I was too!

Although there are six formats, they can be broken down into two major camps. These camps consist of the – (dash) camp and the + (plus) camp.

The – (dash) formats for recordable DVDs are the only formats authorized and supported by the DVD Forum which is a collaboration of top CE (consumer electronics) companies that serve as the governing body of DVD standards. Any device that sports the DVD logo has undergone extensive testing by the DVD forum to ensure that it meets the specific standards set forth.

DVD-R is considered to be one of the most compatible formats with pre-existing DVD players. A DVD-R should be read by about 85 perecent of the DVD players not specifically designed for DVD-R playback. Just about all of the newer DVD players offer compatibility for the DVD-R disc.

DVD-R DL is the dual layer counterpart to DVD-R. DVD-R DL discs have an overall capacity of 8.5GB on one side, which is double that of the single layer version. It is possible to achieve the same capacity on single layer media, but only if both sides of the disc are used.

Not all computers or external CD/DVD drives can burn a dual layer DVD, so check the specifications of your burner.

The + (plus) DVD recordable formats are not authorized or supported by the DVD Forum, which means that it has no power to govern the standards for these formats. However, many supporters of the + (plus) formats are members of the DVD Forum.

Even though these formats do not undergo the same testing as the formats supported by the DVD Forum, they are still well tested by the manufacturers and outside research groups. Today, the vast majority of recorders available can record both +R/RW and -R/RW discs.

It’s doubtful that this is a format war where there will be a winner since both camps have done very well for several years. If, for some reason, you’re forced to pick one over the other, let your existing playback hardware dictate which one you buy. Test different discs on them and go with whichever one is most compatible with what you already own.

Jack Kraft is president and founder of The Villages Macintosh Users Group and a board member of The Villages Computer Club. If you consider exploring the world of Macintosh e-mail him at jack@doctormac.cc, or call 352-750-2684.