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How To Burn A DVD

Burning a DVD is a relatively simple process once the necessary software is installed.

Most laptop computers are capable of burning DVDs. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Most laptop computers are capable of burning DVDs.

How to Burn a DVD

DVD stands for Digital Video Disc and has also become one of the preferred storage devices for data, images and home videos. But sometimes DVD technology can be just as confusing as it is convenient.

There are many reasons why one might want to burn a DVD. Perhaps to back up your digital photos, transfer old home videos from VHS tapes, or even make a copy of a commercial disc for private use. Whatever the reason, a DVD burner, burnable DVDs and DVD burning software will be necessary.

Choosing DVDs

To start, obtain blank, recordable DVDs. These are available from any big-box retailer, as well as many online vendors. The most common types of burnable DVDs are DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R and DVD+RW.

R discs, once recorded, can't be re-recorded. The RW designation means discs can be edited after they've been burned. The difference between the - and + designations is one only technophiles will be interested in. The one to choose depends on the type of DVD burner or player; some support only one type of disc. However, most new burners are dual-format, meaning they can burn either type.

Choosing a DVD Burner

For most new computer buyers, choosing a DVD burner won't be an issue since most computers now come with a DVD burner installed. However, if it's an older computer or a stripped down model lacking a DVD burner, one will need to be purchased. (Remember, a CD-burning drive cannot burn DVDs.)

Before buying a DVD burner, consider whether an internal or external burner is needed. An internal burner is a nice option if wanting to avoid a lot of peripherals cluttering up the desk, but installation can be a challenge. An external burner is usually easy to set up (most connect via USB or FireWire) and has the added benefit of being transportable.

Though one may be anxious to get to the ripping and burning, researching a DVD burner is a must. Check out the many forums devoted to DVD burning around the Web, such as cdfreaks.com. Asking friends and family members about their experiences with DVD burners is also a good way to narrow down the options.

Choosing DVD-burning Software

Most computers with DVD-burners built-in will have DVD-burning software pre-installed. Also, most external DVD burners come with DVD burning software as part of the package. You may want to choose different burning software, depending on your needs. There is a bewildering array of DVD burning software available. Start by checking out lists of popular DVD recording software and reviews of burning software at sites like PC World. Fortunately, most companies offer a trial version of their burning software take a few weeks to try different programs and see which one works best for you. If a person doesn't want to spend money on software, they can check out software sites such as CNETs Download.com to find open-source and freeware programs.

Burning a Data or Multimedia DVD

Burning a data DVD is a simple process. The DVD is simply being used to make an exact copy of data files, such as document files, digital pictures or mp3s. Accessing the copied information is as easy as popping the data DVD into any computers DVD drive. The advantage of DVDs over CDs is that DVDs hold about seven times more information on one disc.

Most new computers (especially ones that come with DVD burners) have DVD burning software pre-installed. Burning a data DVD is simply a matter of inserting a blank DVD into the burner, opening the DVD burning software and following the prompts. For example, on computers running Windows Vista, use Windows Media Center to easily burn data DVDs.

Built-in software can also make multimedia DVDs. For example, one may want to burn a multimedia slideshow for a birthday or anniversary celebration. Both Windows (Windows Movie Maker) and Macs (iMovie) come with software which allow you to edit and merge photographs and home videos and add soundtracks, captions and other special effects

Copying a Commercial DVD

Copying a commercial DVD is a little more complicated, largely because most commercial DVDs are protected with DRM (digital rights management) technology. This technology encodes the data on commercially produced DVDs to make it more difficult to copy. A second challenge is that most commercial DVDs contain more data than will fit on a standard 4.7 gigabyte DVD-R.

Fortunately, there is a great deal of software available to decrypt and compress commercial DVD data so it can be copied onto a blank DVD. For example, Roxio Toast is a very popular ripping and compression program for Macs, though there are dozens of options. Again, take the time to seek out reviews, opinions on Internet discussion boards, and opinions from friends and family before choosing software will make the DVD burning experience much smoother.

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