When selecting a DVD burner, youll want to consider the format that the drive can write and the software thats bundled with the drive. To date, there is no standard format for creating your own DVDs.
Today, there are two competing standards for the DVD format. They are known as the Plus and the Minus formats. DVD+R and DVD+RW are one format. They are called the plus format because of the plus sign. The other format is DVD-R and DVD-RW. These are the minus format.
DVD+R and DVD-R are the write-one-time versions of each format. DVD+RW and DVD-RW are the write and be-able-to-rewrite (RW stands for re-write) versions of each format. DVD+RW and DVD-RW can be written to about a thousand times. This situation is similar to CDs which have +R disks and +RW disks. +R disks can only be written to once at any disk location. +RW can be written to, erased, and rewritten to the same location.
To confuse things more, DVD-R format actually has two subformats, DVD-R(A) and DVD-R(G) where A stands for Authoring and G stands for General.
Dual format drives can be purchased which can write to either format, plus or minus. These drives are referred to as DVD+-RW drives (or sometimes the ugly DVD+R/+RW/-R/-RW). The advantage to purchasing a dual format drive is that regardless of which format emerges as the standard, youll be covered, because your drive wont wind up writing to an obsolete format.
However, with DVD drive prices dropping, I wouldnt worry too much about being left with the wrong format, if you can get a great price on a single-format DVD burner. For example, the HP DVD300I is only a plus format drive, but its $60 less than the dual format Sony 4x DVD±RW. Is the dual format worth the extra $60? Only you can decide.
Currently, it looks like the plus format will win. Its supported by Hewlett Packard and Sony. And, many of the minus format companies are now making dual format drives.
Be sure you purchase the matching format DVD disks for your burner, either plus or minus format. You need to use DVD+R disks for the plus format drive. You need to use DVD-R disks for the minus format drive.
Either format can be used for creating videos, and either format can be used for backing up data. Its generally believed the DVD+ format is slightly better for data backup, while DVD- format might be slightly better for creating videos.
There is also another format called DVD-RAM which is considered the best-of-all for backing up data. DVD-RAM disks are usually inside cartridges that hold 4.7 GB per side. Each disk can be written to hundreds of thousands of times. DVD-RAM disks have an estimated life of 100 years. But, DVD-RAM disks will only read in drives that are specially designed for that format. And, these drives tend to be more expensive. The average home user is probably better off with the DVD plus or minus formats.
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How to Build Your Own PC (http://www.PCGuide.com/byop/) on PCGuide.com
Version 1.0 - Version Date: May 4, 2005
Adapted with permission from a work created by Charlie Palmer.
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