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Tips from Tonna for your PC
Re-Writeable CD Drives
by Tonna Kutner

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Q:  What about those writing CD drives I hear about.  Are those good for backing up? 

A:  They have the fancy name of re-writeable CD drive or CD-RW for short.   They have impressive features.  A CD-RW holds about 650 megabytes of information.  Compared with a Zip drives that hold 100 or 250 megabytes, a CD holds a lot more.  CDs have an advantage in that they can be read on most CD drives and most computers have one, so it’s easy to make a transfer. 

These re-writeable drives offer a lot of possibilities for creating disks, here are just a few:

  • archive disks (information cannot be changed)

  • copying complete CDs

  • create your own custom music CDs with just the songs you want

  • data backup

  • picture storage

All these many possibilities lead inevitably to a certain amount of complexity.  To start with, there are two kinds of disks: CD-R and CD-RW.  The CD-R records one time only.  It can record again if there’s room, but once it’s full, there’s no deleting or re-writing.  CD-RWs can record and re-write again over the same space.  The CD-R is more “stable” which means that it is more likely to be perfectly readable at some point in the future than a CD-RW disk.  Both disks are inexpensive - $1-2 for CD-R and $2-4 for CD-RW.  The CD-R formats quickly; the CD-RW can take 15-35 minutes to format.

Each kind of disk can have different formats for data or music.  You get the picture that there are a lot choices and that makes it a bit hard to find your way to do the things that you want to do.  The CD-RW drives tend to be a bit fussy and require some patience and occasionally rebooting your machine to make the drive happy.

As far as using a CD-RW drive for backup goes, I would definitely use a tape backup for a business or network setup as it is more reliable and can be automated to run at night.  The hardest part of backup is actually doing it, so the more automatic the process, the more likely the backup will be done.  For a home system, small business, or as an auxiliary backup, a CD-RW drive is a good choice, but you need to make sure you know exactly how to backup the files you need.  Use 3-5 disks and rotate them so you always have several backups.  Get plenty of disks, multiple copies are the best solution to the “stability” problems. 

If you’re in the market for a new PC, definitely get a CD-RW drive built in.  They’re not that much more than a regular CD drive.  If you’re not in the market for a new machine, and all these copying possibilities intrigue you, you can get an internal or external model for your existing PC.  There are several different speeds shown in this kind of format: 12x8x32.  The first number is the “record” speed on the drive.  The middle number is the “re-write” speed.  The last number is the “read” speed. 

If you have a computer question you would like answered in this space, send it to tonna@computer-lynx.com.

For past columns of Tips from Tonna, check out the web site: www.computer-lynx.com.

Tonna Kutner, Computer LYNX, works with companies to list and develop their web sites.  Phone (206) 575-3979 or email tonna@computer-lynx.com. Visit Tonna’s website at www.computer-lynx.com.

Printed in "Verve" February  2001. Copyright Tonna Kutner

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