There are many accessories of a PC which may not seem as significant as others, but the importance of which is realized when they are needed, and they certainly are needed very often! One of these is the optical disc drive, which is available in many shapes and sizes in the market. However, to identify which one will suit your needs the best, it is best to know a few nitty-gritties. To begin with, the most universally accepted format of optical drives is the rewritable DVD drive.

Format compatibility: Fortunately, the latest breed of optical drives do not have the issue of compatibility, as all the models typically support the reading and writing of the most popular formats. Earlier, there used to be a problem of clashing and incompatible disc formats, in the form of DVD-RW and DVD+RW (as well as their write-once variants, DVD-R & DVD+R, respectively). Also, earlier, drives supporting the DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD-RAM formats were called multi drives, while these, days, models support all five DVD write formats, and are known as super multi drives.


Write once DVD: Since write-once DVD-R and DVD+R media are having an extremely reflective backing, they are the best match of the lot with set-top DVD players, even though there are a few players that are more sensitive to the disc’s reflectivity. A point to consider here is that write speeds have progressed over the past 4-5 years, and will continue to do so, so there’s really no point in playing the wait and watch game, as the best would always be just around the corner.

Double layer DVD+R and dual layer DVD-R: The write speeds for this kind of media is currently considerably lower than the write-once DVD, as has always been the case. True, there are some drives that give higher speeds, but the difference in performance is only visible if the media is from a certain manufacturer(s).

Single layer write-once DVD: This is usually the best choice for burning video DVDs that one wants to see on the set top DVD player, or for that matter archiving any kind of data. One can but discs from practically anywhere, obviating the situation that there is not availability of the media. Also, it is less expensive than dual layer discs. Quite obviously, it gets even more economical when purchased in spindles.

Rewritable DVD: These formats comprise DVD-RW, DVD+RW and DVD RAM, and are useful if one wants to execute regular backups, which one continuously adds data to the disc. DVD RAMs are the least compatible of all these, but the fantastic error correction and high rewrite rating ensures its spot in bring the ideal choice for data backups.

Internal v/s external drives: Internal optical drivers, whether they implement the outdated IDE connectors or the new Serial ATA, or SATA, for short, connections, are certainly more economical compared to external models. Coming to external models, they usually implement either Firewire or USB 2.0 interface, while some drive manufacturers offer both connectors on the same drive.

Software bundles

All drives that are created for retail are accompanied by video DVD authoring software, which allows the user to create menus and encode analog video to MPEG-2, so that the DVD that is finally created can be played on a standard DVD set-top player. Also, all drives can create data DVDs with the bundled packet writing and mastering software. So, it’s best to purchase a drive that has software relevant to one’s usage. A point of caution here goes against drives that are sold for extremely low prices without any bundled software, since it is more often than not intended to be sold as a bare OEM drive, so it may also not have any warranty, and can land one in a soup at any point in time.

An ideal solution

All said and done, what one basically needs is a DVD burner that supports both + and – formats, i.e., DVD+R and DVD-R as well as DVD+RW and DVD-RW. All DVD burners are capable of writing in both single layer as well as dual layer formats, with each of them supporting 4.7 GB and 8.5 GB data respectively. True, there are also Blue Ray disc writers, but there are some serious compatibility issues owing to the fact that it’s a very new technology and is not used everywhere.


Write-once DVD speeds: Although DVD burning optical drives have come a long way, there is still room for evolution, which is why it is necessary that one should always check the single layer and double layer write speeds and choose the one that’s the highest. Of course, checking out reviews is better, and so is going for a known manufacturer.

Rewritable DVD speed: DVD-RW and DVD+RW are almost equally compatible with a majority of the DVD drives and DVD players available today. However, DVD-RW takes longer to format comared to DVD+RW. Also, the DVD-RAM supports up to 100,000 rewrites, which is about a 100 times more than DVD-RW and +RW, which feature just about 1000 rewrites each. That being said, the awesome correction capabilities (mentioned earlier) also make it a great format for recording data.

Inteface: It’s best to go for a SATA internal drive if one has a new PC, even though one won’t see a performance boost, but the benefit is that more efficient SATA cables can help improve the air flow in the system. However, if one is buying an external drive, it’s preferable to choose one with an interface compatible with the one installed on the PC or laptop. For better flexibility, going for an external optical drive that supports both FireWire and USB 2.0 is great.