Build own PC -Installing The CD/DVD Writer Drives

About CD-ROM/DVD Drives

CD-ROM drives are an essential part of any PC.  With almost 100% of software being distributed on CD-ROM, it is almost impossible to get by without one.  However, with the introduction of DVD-ROM drives, users can get all the benefit of a CD-ROM drive and watch DVD movies by upgrading to this new standard. 

In addition, CD and DVD Recorders (CDR/DVDR drives for short) have also become more and more popular among PC users.  With a CD or DVD Recorder, you can create your own custom audio CD’s, make back-ups of your existing CD collection and archive or back-up important data from your hard drive; and just like the DVD-ROM drive, a CD-Recorder will be able to function as a CD-ROM drive as well.  With the advent of DVDR technology, now you can even make backup copies of your favorites movies without losing the original digital quality!

A good strategy here is to install two devices - a high speed (56x) CD-Rom for working with applications that come on CD and a DVD-Rom (combination CD/CDRW/DVD/DVDRW).  This arrangement provides a lot of flexibility - especially when you need to copy data from one CD to another.  High speed CD-ROM’S are very inexpensive today and well worth the extra cost.

Things to Know
When choosing a new CD/DVD-ROM, CD/DVD-R or CD/DVD-RW drive, speed is crucial.  All of these drives are rated using the same standard, a number before an “X”. For example, a fast CD-ROM drive might be labeled as a “56X” which means it is a 56-speed drive.  A DVD-ROM drive is usually slower, but what you lose in some speed you gain in the ability to read DVD-ROM’s and play DVD Movie discs; a typical DVD-ROM drive might be labeled as a 32X. It is highly recommended to get a DVD-ROM drive of some sort because many games come in two versions; a multiple CD set or a single DVD for quick installation.

DVD-R’s, at the time of this writing, have top speeds of around 16X dual-layered and single-layered alike. Dual layer DVD means that the information is written on two layers instead of one. Because of this the DVD can hold 7.95 gigabyte of data instead of 4.37 gigabyte. At the moment the dual layer media is very expensive. Dual layer discs are also called DVD-9.

CD and DVD Recorders are a little trickier. These drives come in two flavors: R and RW.  R refers to the standard Recorder; these drives let you write/record your own CD’s or DVD’s on blank R media.  R media costs about $0.10 per disc and can be written to only once.  The other type of Recorder is called an RW, which stands for ReWritable.  These drives have the ability to write on both R media and special RW media, which as the name implies, can be written to and erased many times.  RW media is fairly expensive, about 15-20 times the cost of regular R media.  Most of the better, brand name models of Recorders are now being offered almost exclusively in RW format; the reason is simple: An RW drive can write on both types of blank media (R and RW) so it makes the drive more flexible. 

Also, because of the similarities between CD and DVD technologies, manufactures are moving to blend these into one device.  Due to this, we recommend that you look for a combination drive that supports all of the different formats.  Although they can be costly, as of this writing the prices were falling rapidly and there are a lot of good deals to be had.

It is also good to know that CD-Recorders can also read CD’s just as any normal CD-ROM can. If you have a CD-Recorder drive and don’t feel like spending extra money, don’t bother with a normal CD-ROM drive. The only real benefit of having multiple CD-R/CD-ROM drives is the ability to copy CD’s on the fly.

Just like CD-R drives can read CDs just as well as any CD-ROM drive, a DVD-R drive can read DVD’s just as well as any DVD-ROM drive. Only get a DVD-R and DVD-ROM drive if you need both, otherwise save the cash. If you do get a DVD-R, you’ll want at least 8X, if not 12X speed.

Good brands include Plextor, Kano, Lite-On, BenQ, TDK and Pacific Digital. You will want most of these features for sure:

·     Disk-at-Once(DAO)
·     Packet Write
·     Session-At-Once (SAO)
·     Track-at-Once (TAO)

And at least ¾ of these formats supported:

·     CD Extra
·     CD ROM Mode-1
·     CD Text
·     CD-DA
·     CD-I Ready
·     CD-ROM XA
·     CD-ROM/XA Mode-2 Form-1
·     Photo-CD
·     UDF
·     Video-CD (MPEG-1)

The final thing to keep in mind when choosing a drive is the drive’s interface.  Most home PC’s are based on the IDE/EIDE interface - this means you want to get an IDE/EIDE drive.  (The alternative to IDE/EIDE is called a SCSI or FireWire interface.  If you decide to purchase a SCSI drive, you will need to make sure you have a SCSI interface card already installed, or buy one with the drive.) 

In the end, the choice really depends on what you want to be able to do with your drive.  We recommend checking reviews in major PC magazines for an idea of what’s available and which drive is right for you.

Setting Jumpers
Correctly setting jumpers is critical for your new drive to function properly.  If you look at the back end of the drive, the jumper positions are usually labeled (if they are not, check your drive’s manual) the three possible jumper positions will be: Master, Slave and Cable Select.  These are sometimes abbreviated as “MS”, “SL”, and “CS” respectively.  Sometimes you will also have a setting called “Single”. 

To determine the correct setting for your new drive, we have to examine how it will be attached.  Each IDE connector on your motherboard represents an IDE “channel” and can be attached to up to two drives via a data cable.  If there is just one drive attached to an IDE channel, that drive should be set to “Master” (Or “Single” if your drive has this option).  If you attach a second drive to the same channel (meaning, it is attached to another connector on the SAME data cable), you would set this drive to “Slave”.

It is perfectly OK to have just one “Master” drive on each IDE channel; it is also fine to have both a “Master” & “Slave” on one channel and nothing on the other.  The important thing to keep in mind is to always maintain the “Master-Slave” relationship.  Another thing to keep in mind is when both a hard drive and a CD/DVD drive are on the same channel, the hard drive should be set to be the Master and the CD/DVD drive the slave.  It is also advisable, but not mandatory, that if you have just one hard drive and just one CD/DVD drive in your system, you put them on separate channels for better performance.  For more information on setting jumpers, check your motherboard manual and your drive’s installation manual.

BIOS Configuration
Configuring the BIOS is usually very simple.  Almost all modern motherboards have BIOS that will auto-detect the drives on your system.  To bring up the BIOS screen, you will need to boot your computer and watch for a message that says something like “hold down DEL to enter setup”.  Hold down the key and the BIOS will come up.  Once you see the screen, select the “auto-detect hard drive” function.  Your BIOS should detect all the drives on your PC; don’t worry if it does not mention the CD-ROM drive, some older BIOS’s don’t.  Once this is done, choose to save new settings and exit.  As always, check your motherboard’s manual as you do this step for more details about your particular PC’s BIOS.  After you reboot your PC, watch the screen.  Most PC’s will display a list of the drives attached to the system before Windows starts; you should see your new drive listed here.

Software Configuration
Windows should find your new drive automatically; after Windows starts, double-click on “My Computer” and you should see your new drive.  Now you can follow the instructions in your drive’s manual for details on installing drivers and any applications software that came with the drive.

Important Tips
The most common problem area of installing a CD/DVD drive is incorrect jumper settings.  Incorrect settings will cause the drive to not be recognized and may even cause some of your other drives to “disappear”.  Always double-check your jumper settings.  Also make sure, if you are you’re using the special UDMA cable (see hard drive chapter) the right connectors are plugged into your motherboard, master drive and slave drive.

Lastly, a word about R and RW media - as with all things, not every type of media is equal in quality.  We recommend purchasing name brand media with a proven track record - although you may pay a bit more, the extra cost is well worth the security of knowing your data is safe!

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