Writing Data CDs

Now that you know how to write an audio CD, writing data CDs is just as easy. To write a data CD, you must first know what file system to use. As I mentioned earlier, the two major file systems are ISO9660 and Joliet. The advantage of Joliet is that it allows for long filenames. This file system is developed by Microsoft, and is supported under all versions of Windows and DOS 7.0, and under most distributions of Linux. The Joliet file system can be read under UNIX and Macs as well, but only the short filename is shown. The other type of file system is ISO9660. The advantage is that it is an international standard supported under all operating systems, including Mac and Unix. The disadvantage is, of course, that it doesn’t allow long filenames (ISO Level 2 allows for long filenames and is supported under Windows, but not in DOS). However, from a practical standpoint, Joliet is pretty much a universal standard, considering that the Wintel monopoly controls over 85% of the computer market.

After deciding the file format to use, you can start to compile a list of files you want to write. As was the case with copying audio tracks from another CD, if you are attempting to copy data files from another CD, it is probably best to first transfer them to the hard drive to avoid the dreaded buffer underrun problem. Once all the files you want to copy are located on a hard drive (usually I place all the files I want to copy in a special directory), you may drag and drop those files into the lower pane, which will start to create a new data CD Layout for you (remember to click on the Data CD tab in Easy CD Creator to change the software into Data burning mode).

Once the new layout is created, you may start writing the CD. By default, the file format used is Joliet, which is fine for the most part. However, if you need to use ISO9660, you will have to change the file format via the File menu, under CD Layout Properties, in the Data Settings tab. Once the proper file format is chosen, you can now click on the Record button to begin recording.

One caveat to be aware of when burning Data CDs is the number of files you are writing. Unlike a normal hard drive to hard drive copy, some CDR drives will tend to slow down and even crash when the number of files being written to a CD is large, on the scale of six or seven thousand. The cause of the problem resides with the fact that in between files, the CDR’s laser must be turned off temporarily. To avoid this on/off process, you will need to precompile your files into a disc image (an ISO, or CIF). Then, you will tell Easy CD Creator to burn the image file on to the CD. The difference is that when an image file is burned, the laser is kept on from beginning to end. It works much like Disc-At-once. But keep in mind that once a disc image is burned to a CD, the CD is closed, which means no other files can be added to the CD. To create a disc image, do the following:

  1. First compile the list of files to be burned as usual.
  2. Now, instead of choosing record, click on the File Menu and choose Create Disc Image.
  3. Finally, choose a location to store the file and have it saved. The default image file format is a CIF file, which is Easy CD Creator’s proprietary file format. Another popular standard is an ISO format. The differences between the two formats are not important at this level.

Once a disc image is created, you can now burn the image to CD. To do that, click on the File Menu and choose Create CD from Disc Image. Choose the image file you wish to burn, and begin the process.

The last topic to cover, before we move on to writing Mixed Mode CDs (CDs with both audio and data tracks), is how to write multiple data sessions to a CD and how to “erase” files from the CD. First, let’s talk about “erasing” files, since it naturally flows into importing previous write sessions. So how do you erase a file? After all, CDR, by definition, is a write once medium. The answer is that you are not actually erasing the file. What you are actually doing is erasing the file entry from the table of contents. Thus, even though the file is still on the disc, the computer won’t see it. To erase a file, follow these procedures:

  1. Put the disc into the drive and start Easy CD Creator.
  2. Choose to Import a disc session via the Disc Menu.
  3. The CDR drive will now begin to analyze your disc for the existence of other sessions. Once it finds them, it will list all the sessions. Pick the one you wish to import.
  4. Once you have selected a session to modify, you may now delete any of the files you see listed. You may also choose to add new files to the disc by dragging and dropping them into the appropriate folder in the lower pane of the Easy CD Creator. Note that this is also the procedure for writing multiple times to a CDR.
  5. After finishing your modifications, choose to record the CD again (even if all you did was to erase a few files). Easy CD Creator will write any additional file to the CD (or not, if you just deleted files), and then update the table of contents to reflect the changes made.
  6. At this point, you are done.

One thing I have mentioned before in the article, which I will say again here, is that you have a limit as to how many sessions you can record on to a CD. This is because that each session takes up roughly 9 megabytes of space. So on a 650 MB disc, you can have a maximum of 72 sessions, assuming you don’t write anything else to the disc (We will discuss the Lead-In factor in more detail in the advanced guide).

Part III: Mix It Up

The last concept to talk about is writing CDs that contain both audio and data. I’ve previously referred to this as a Mix Mode CD. While correct, there is actually a larger umbrella term that means a CD with both audio and data. That term is Enhanced CD. There are then three different implementations of enhanced CD-Mixed Mode CD, Hidden Track, and CD Plus (also known as CD Extra). The Mixed Mode CD (Also known as CDXA) will write the Data on track 1, and all the other audio stuff on to the proceeding tracks. CD Plus will put the audio first, and then the data. I will refrain from discussing the hidden track method in this article, for it involves getting into technical details not appropriate at this level. If you are interested, feel free to read the Advanced Guide for CD Burning. In the following paragraph I will explain how to write an Enhanced CD using CD Plus format.

Create a new CD layout:

  • Go into CD Layout properties in the File Menu
  • Click on the Data Settings tab
  • Make sure the file system is ISO9660, and then check the box labeled CD Extra
  • Now go back into layout and place whatever audio and data files you need using the appropriate tabs and burn

See, wasn’t that a piece of cake. Now you are fully equipped to have fun with your CDR.

Page 1: Basics of CD Burning
Page 2: Compiling music CDs
Page 3: This page: Writing data CDs

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