The technology for burning CD’s has been perfected. Both Windows Media Player and Apple’s iTunes can flawlessly rip and burn CD’s. However, we do recommend that you not do anything strenuous on your computer, such as playing a video game while you are ripping or burning. Personal computers are not even close to being “fault tolerant” and it is easy for things to go wrong when they are taxed. Just because your computer will let you do eight things at once doesn’t mean that all eight things will work properly.
The only fly in the ointment with CD burning is if you have an older CD player. They don’t know what an MP3 is, so you will have to buy a new one. Current CD players will handle the disks you make, so you can buy any one made since 2003 or so.
Burning DVDs is another story. If you download DVDs from Usenet, you will find that the data comes in several different formats. This is because people who rip DVDs use a variety of software. 99.99% of the time, the DVD will be posted in a RAR archive, but inside the RAR you may find an ISO file, an IMG file, or a set of several files which are the actual tracks from the DVD. ISO files are the best. The software that came with your DVD burner can probably burn the ISO file directly to a blank DVD. However, make sure that you are not telling the software to copy the ISO as a file, as if you were making a back-up copy. Your DVD player won’t know what to do with it. You want to “author” a DVD, rather than “copy”, “archive”, or “back up” a file onto it.
If you have a set of files that look like this:
…your burning software can also burn them directly. You may see a list like this when you try to play the DVD on your DVD player. It isn’t obvious which one you should press the play button on, so keep trying different ones until it starts playing. Some DVD players will refuse to play a disk if there is no AUDIO_TS folder. So, if you are arranging the files in your burning software, make an empty AUDIO_TS folder, and a VIDEO_TS folder in which you should put all the files.
Another thing to look for is video format. If you want to download a DVD, burn it, and then play it on your American DVD player and TV, you need to make sure that the DVD is in NTSC format. If it is in PAL format, you will be able to play it on your computer but not in your living room. Click here for the list of video formats by country. A cool thing to have is a region-free, multi-format DVD player. Also, most computers can output video to a TV, so if you have a laptop, you can bring it into the living room, hook it up via the S-Video port, and watch any video that your computer can play on your big-screen TV.
DVDs also have region codes. However, this is not an issue with disks that you burn because your burner will have the same region code for your area. The only time it will be a problem is if you want to burn a disk and then send it to your mom in the old country. Consult this chart to see if she will be able to play it.
Before you buy some blank DVDs, look on your DVD burner and memorize what it says there. You want to buy the right kind of disks, and there will probably be several different formats at the store. Be careful opening the package so that you can re-seal it and take it back for an exchange if it turns out to be the wrong format.
Just because your DVD burner says “DVD+R” on it doesn’t mean it can burn a DVD+R disk. If your burner is old, you might have to download a firmware upgrade to get it to work. If so, go to the web site of the company that made your computer or burner and search on your computer’s or burner’s model number and ‘firmware.’
Older DVD players will not be able to play the DVDs that you burn, so you may need to buy a new one. Get the newest model you can find, and take a DVD that you made to the store and see if the display model can play it. Give the player a couple of chances to play the disk. Like most electronics these days, the DVD player is more of a computer than anything else. Often, rebooting it by turning it off and on will make the difference. You may also want to do a Google search with the player’s model number to see what people are saying about it.
Don’t be surprised if some of the things you take for granted with DVDs don’t work on the disks that you make. You may not be able to do simple things like pausing or turning the time display off and on with the remote. That’s life on the cutting-edge of technology. In a couple of years, burning DVDs will go as smoothly as burning CD’s does today.