Continuing on from last weeks article related to the uses of compression techniques used within music files, this week I’m going to shed some light on an area that will allow you to put this technology to good use. It’s all very well being able to download hundreds of un-copyrighted music files from the Internet and play them on your computer but it’s another thing altogether when it becomes possible to be able to put these tracks onto your own CD so that they can be played anywhere whether it be on your home hi-fi or on the move in your car.

Not only this but by using a CD writer you are able to do a number of other useful tasks such as create a backup of all the important files from your computer or create backups of expensive CD’s such as Microsoft Office in case you lose the original.

Until recently this sort of technology was a little bit too expensive and difficult to use for the home user but this has all changed now that good quality CD-writers are currently shipping for around £80 or so including easy to use software such as Ahead Nero or Adaptec Easy CD.

The process used to create a CD is quite straightforward; firstly you have to ensure that you are using special CD-writable disks which typically cost around 30 pence each and pop one into the drive, select which files you want to put onto the disk and then a specialist piece of software such as the two titles will burn the files or tracks onto the disk. A standard CD can store 650 Megabytes of data or 74 minutes of audio on it which on an entry level drive would take around 12 minutes or so to complete.

Obviously there are a number of models and specifications of CD writers to choose from on the market and so now that I’ve whet your appetite we’ll discuss what to look for in your new drive.

1) Internal or External – There are two distinctly different flavours of CD-Writer; those that are kept inside the computer and those that connect via a cable to the back of the machine. The pros and cons or each one are numerous but I’d say that if you have a standard desktop PC (not a laptop) then you’re better off getting an Internal drive for reliability and affordability although you may require someone to install the drive into your computer for you.
2) Price – One of the most obvious factors; I would be very hesitant on spending more that around £150 on a new internal CD writer unless you can really warrant spending the extra cash on such a drive.
3) Features of the CD-Drive – Standard CD-writers can only write to a disk once and then it can only be read from after that - however the majority of new writers have the ability to re-write to special disks so that you can delete information stored on a disk and re-write over it much like a cassette tape. Since these drives are pretty standard now you should ensure that it has this feature.
Another new feature is ‘Burnproof technology’ that ensures that the CD is correctly written time after time. Drives without this technology are sometimes prone to misburns which will cause the CD you were writing to become unusable. It isn’t a necessary feature but if you can find a drive with this ability at a good price then it would be worth looking at.
4) Speed of drive; The speed rating of the drive not only determines how quickly the CD-writer can pull data off of the compact disc but also how fast it can put data onto the disc when writing. A typical speed rating for a CD-drive is 42x16x12 which means that the drive can read at “42 speed” which is 42 times the speed used by a standard hi-fi compact disc player, it can write a disc at “16 speed” and re-write over the data currently on the disc at “12 speed”
5) Included software; CD Writers require special software in order to function and you should ensure that this is included in the box when you purchase the drive or the CD writer would be essentially useless.

Apart from the points listed above, ensure that the drive is made by a name that can trust and that it’s backed up with good after sales support and I don’t think that you can go too wrong when making your new purchase.

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