Windows XP CD Burning Secrets
Published: September 16, 2003
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to see evolution in action? Consider the floppy
disk, which is now on the endangered species list, a
victim of the larger, stronger, much more useful
recordable CD. A single blank CD holds 650 MB or
more (equivalent to more than 400 floppy disks), and
you can use the CD format to store data and music
for playback on all sorts of devices. Now that
Windows XP includes built-in support for CD burning,
a CD-R or CD-RW drive is an essential part of any
PC, and the venerable floppy disk is passι.
In this column, I share some of my
favorite tips, tricks, and secrets for getting the
most out of your CD burner, including some
not-so-intuitive troubleshooting tips and a
checklist to help you decide when it's time to
switch to a third-party CD burning program.
I assume you've already mastered
the basics of CD burning in Windows XP. If you need
a refresher course on burning data CDs, read Galan
CD Burning Becomes Routine and
Focus On: CD Burning and Windows XP. For
instructions on how to create custom audio CDs from
your Windows Media Player music collection, see
Copy, Burn, and Transfer Music and Video.
Fix a Balky Burner
If you have a compatible CD
burner, you shouldn't need to do anything special to
get it working under Windows XP Home Edition or
Professional. The core code that makes CD recording
possible is enabled automatically when you set up
Windows XP. If you're unable to record a CD, start
the troubleshooting process by checking to ensure
that the feature is properly configured:
||Open My Computer,
right-click the CD Drive icon, and then
||Click the Recording
tab to display the settings shown in Figure
don't see a Recording tab, then
Windows XP doesn't recognize your CD
burner's recording capabilities. Check the
Windows Hardware Compatibility List to
make sure your drive is on the list. If the
drive is listed and you can play CDs, but no
Recording tab is visible, you'll need to
manually edit the Registry using the
instructions in Knowledge Base article,
CD-R Drive or CD-RW Drive Is Not Recognized
as a Recordable Device.
sure the Enable CD recording on this
drive check box is selected. This
setting turns on the built-in CD recording
features included with Windows XP. The only
reason to disable this feature is if you
always prefer to use a third-party program
and want to avoid any possible conflict
between that program and Windows XP.
slower speed. Instead of choosing the
Fastest setting, dial the burning speed
back to 18X or even 8X. Your drive may be
able to keep up with a less demanding pace.
course, don't overlook the obvious. You do
have a blank CD in the drive and the drive
is properly connected, right?
If the drive is configured
correctly but you end up with coasters instead of
readable CDs, check to make sure you've installed
Windows XP Service Pack 1. Problems in the original
release of Windows XP resulted in problems with
certain CD-R drives; these issues were fixed in SP1.
For more information, see Knowledge Base article,
Compact Disc Recorded in Windows XP Is Missing Files
or Folders or Is Unreadable.
Select a drive where you want
Windows XP to store images of files you're getting
ready to burn to CD. If you have multiple drives,
select the one that has the most free space. In the
CD Drive Properties dialog box, choose an
available drive letter. If you have only a single
drive C, of course, that's your only option. But on
a computer with multiple drives, you can
significantly speed up performance by choosing a
drive letter other than your system drive.
Don't underestimate the amount of
disk space you'll need, either. When you drag files
into the CD folder in preparation for burning a CD,
you actually copy them to a temporary folder in your
local profile. Then, when you begin the actual
burning process, Windows creates a separate image
file. If you've selected enough files to fill a CD
to its full capacity, you'll need more than 1 GB of
extra disk space.
Defragmenting the disk where that
image is stored can have a major impact on
performance as well. The burning process can
encounter hiccups if your image file is scattered in
fragments across a nearly-full disk. Defragmenting
regularly lessens the likelihood that you'll
encounter problems. For more information, see
Maintain Your PC and
How to Analyze and Defragment a Disk in Windows XP.
Do Audio CDs Right
When you use Windows Media Player
to create CDs containing your favorite audio tracks,
the default settings automatically add a 2-second
gap between tracks. That's fine if you're making a
mix of hit songs, but the effect is downright
annoying when you're copying live tracks or
movements in a classical piece, where the flow
should be continuous.
Most third-party CD-burning
programs include the capability to eliminate these
gaps, but if you use Windows Media Player 9 Series,
there's a better solution: Download the free
Nero Fast CD-Burning Plug-in. After you install
this free add-in:
group of tunes in Windows Media Player,
click Copy to CD or Device, choose
Nero Fast Burning Plug-in as the device, and
then click Copy.
The plug-in (shown in Figure 2)
lets you choose the fastest speed your drive is
capable of, and the No pause between tracks
option makes short work of the 2-second gaps.
As a bonus, the Nero plug-in burns
audio CDs noticeably faster than Windows Media
Player on its ownwith the plug-in installed, I was
able to burn a CD in a little over 3 minutes,
compared to nearly 14 minutes without.
Know When to Upgrade
Using the built-in CD-writing
features in Windows XP is convenient, but this
no-frills solution isn't enough for some demanding
jobs. If you can answer yes to any of the following
questions, you should begin looking into a more
capable third-party CD-burning program:
you want to create exact duplicates of data
or music CDs?
Windows Media Player forces you to copy the
CD's contents to your hard disk first.
you need to create ISO image files?
As the name suggest, these files are perfect
copies of a CD, which you can store on hard
disk and use to make additional copies of a
CD later. Windows XP can't create or copy
ISO images, although the unauthorized
ISO Recorder Power Toy can add this
capability to Windows XP.
you planning to make bootable CDs? Do you
need to use disc formats other than standard
data and audio formats, such as CD extra or
Super Video CD?
You'll need a program like Roxio's
Easy CD Creator or Ahead Software's
to handle these chores.
you want to use your CD-R or CD-RW drive as
a backup device, with the option to compress
files on the fly and span backups across
multiple CDs? The
6.0 includes a serviceable backup
utility, or you can invest in a dedicated
you want to record onto blank DVD disks
using a recordable DVD drive?
Windows XP can read and play back DVDs, but
it can't record them.
Oh, and one more thinganyone know
what I can do with a few hundred gently used floppy
Expert Zone columnist Ed Bott
is an award-winning computer journalist who's been
working with Microsoft Windows for more than 15
years. His latest Microsoft Press books include
Faster Smarter Microsoft Windows XP and
Microsoft Windows XP Inside Out
(with Carl Siechert and Craig Stinson).