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Which is the best CD-burning software?

By Tom Cumming


In this world there are two types of CD-burning software:

CD-*mastering* software: creates CDs in exactly the same format as CDs you would buy in a shop, and so are the most universal. This type of CD burning is the most reliable but you cannot edit these CDs: if you have used a re-writeable disk, you have to erase everything and re-burn.

Packet-writing software: this software runs in the backgroud and allows you to drag-and-drop files on and off of CD-RW discs just like you would with a floppy disk. This sounds very convenient but in fact there are a few problems:
(1) the software uses up some of your system resources, slowing your machine down slightly;
(2) the discs have to be formatted in a special way, which can take quite a long time;
(3) the discs cannot be read on other PCs without a special UDF (universal disc format) reader program;
(4) not all packet-writing software are compatible with each other;
(5) there are huge space overheads: with packet-writing you may only be able to fit 550Mb of data onto what is supposed to be a 650Mb disc.

Most CD-burning packages come with an example of both of these types of software.

There are three main competitors in the world of CD-burning software market:

1) Windows XP (but not any other version of Windows) comes with built-in mastering facilities, which for many is perfectly adequate and see no need for a seperate program.
2) Roxio (previously known as Adaptec) sell a mastering program called Easy CD Creator, and a packet-writing program, that comes with it, called DirectCD.
3) Ahead software sell a mastering program called Nero Burning ROM (also just known as Nero) and a packet-writing program called InCD.
There are other products but I am not going to mention these, not least because I've never used them, but also because most of them have been discontinued.

The three main competitors could not be much more different in their approach.

The built-in facilities in Windows XP are:

- Easy to use (integrated with the Windows desktop);
- Very basic;
- Cannot do anything fancy, such as bootable CDs.
- Has no packet-writing, just mastering.
- Does not allow direct CD-to-CD copying, so you have to copy it all to your hard drive and back onto another CD which is a bit of a pain.
- Free if you already have Windows XP, so must win in the value-for-money stakes.
- Ideal for the beginner or occasional user but most experienced users prefer something more sophisticated.

Easy CD Creator is considered to be:

-Easy to use (has its own drag-and-drop interface);
-Well documented;
-Good for beginners;


-A bit thin on advanced features

The packet-writing software, DirectCD, that comes with it is not bad: personally I found it a little unstable, but it does have the unique advantage over InCD that it works from the command line as well as in the Windows interface. This may or may not matter to you depending on how you use your computer.

Nero - Burning ROM is considered to be:

-Very, very sophisticated;
-Contains just about every feature you could ever imagine;
-Very dependable: has a distinctive feeling of quality about it;


-It is not as easy to use as Easy CD Creator: some parts of the user interface seem a little strange at first;
-The documentation is not very good: it is very detailed and techincal but omits a lot of the basics the beginner might need.
-The help file is not very well translated from it's original German: it is just-about understandable but you may have to read it several times before it makes sense. For example,

"By opening the property page File Options you can switch between Mode 1 and Mode2/XA. The mode settings can be found in the upper right corner of this page. If these settings appear dimmed/disabled, then these settings can't be modified right now. This might for example be the case if you have created an ISO CD Mode 1 and want to continue it using Mode 2. A CD which has been recorded with different ISO or sector formats might be unreadable!"

It is not indecipherable but it does not "read" very nicely somehow.

A lot of people start off with Easy CD Creator or the built-in Windows XP facilities, and move over to Nero later once they've "outgrown" their original software. There is no reason, by the way, if you have Windows XP, not to buy a separate product if you wish: it will still work and so will the Windows built-in facilities, provided it is certified by Microsoft as compliant (look for the "designed for Windows XP" sticker on the box.)

Copyright © 2001-2006 © Copyright Karl Davis.

No part of this site may be reproduced in any format.All documents author acknowledged are copyright retained by the author.

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