How does a DVD burner work? While the specifics vary slightly from system to system depending on the hardware and software involved, DVD burners share a few basic characteristics that enable DVD duplication of your content.
DVD Burner Basics
The basic operation of a DVD burner is really quite simple: a laser burns digital data onto a disc, using 1s and 0s in the form of bumps and flat areas that DVD drives can read. All you need to burn a data disc is a blank disc, a DVD burner and data. That disc can be read by computers with DVD drives, allowing you to share your files in the same way you would with a USB thumb drive.
While many DVD drives burn almost every type of DVD media, don't assume that any drive can burn any type of disc, or that any disc can be read by any machine. There's a fair amount of alphabet soup in DVD media, and each format is compatible with some, but not all, computers. Some drives are restricted to DVD-R or DVD+R media, while others can use DVD-RW, DVD+RW or all of the above. Check your owner's manual to find out which media your computer supports. If you're burning DVDs for someone else, DVD-R is usually the safest choice, but find out if it will work before you burn.
Creating Data DVDs
If you simply want to create data DVDs to back up your Windows computer, you can simply right click on a file or folder and send it to your DVD-burner drive. Once you have all the files you want to burn in your queue, you simply insert a blank disc and follow the prompts to create a DVD.
You can use the disc-burning wizard to create multiple copies of the same disc, or follow the prompts to erase the files from the queue when your burning is complete. Creating a data or backup DVD is simple and doesn't require any resources beyond a DVD burner, a blank disc and an operating system. If this is for personal use, you don't need to worry as much about DVD media, since your computer will be able to read any disc that you burn.
To create copies of a DVD, you may need special software. Copying a DVD isn't as easy as dragging the data from one drive and copying it onto another; you have to make sure you get all the hidden files and data to successfully copy the DVD. If you attempt to do it without the right software, you won't get all the files and your DVD duplication won't work.
If you want to copy DVDs, you also need to make sure the DVD isn't copy-protected. Most commercial DVDs, such as DVDs containing movies, possess copyright protection to prevent users from copying and distributing them. It's illegal to copy these DVDs or sell software in the United States that circumvents this copyright protection. However, if you want to duplicate DVDs of home videos or other open-license content, software from Nero or Roxio provides the tools you need to duplicate them.
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So you just bought a new CD or DVD drive. You got to the store and realized, "Hey, the internal ones are all cheaper than the external ones. Now, if I could just figure out how to put it in..." Actually, putting in an optical drive (this is what CD and DVD drives are called, since they use a laser) is really simple. You just have to know what you're doing.
There are a number of ways to back up DVD's and I've had various levels of success with trial and error on all of them. The bottom line for me was - how can I make it fairly easy? I already spend money on the original DVD and now I just want a working backup - how can I do this for free?