Choosing the Best DVD Burner

This guide will tell you all you need to know when selecting the best DVD burner for your computer.

DVD writers or ‘burners’ are a convenient and easy means of backing up files, pictures, video, MP3’s etc and your PC would be sadly lacking without one.

When choosing the best DVD burner for your computer, whether as a replacement or for a new build or maybe as a second drive to make copying discs easier, it can be a daunting task.

There are lots of models on offer from a plethora of manufacturers and our aim is to make the task of choosing straightforward and easy.

Both internal and external drives will be discussed along with the more recent Lightscribe capable DVD burners and you will find elsewhere on this site a description of Blu-ray burner models.

External optical drive models are available using the USB interface to make it even easier to add a DVD burner without even having to open your PC case, or maybe as an ‘add on’ for an older laptop for instance.


Like the hard disk drive counterpart, internal optical drives are now available in both the older IDE/PATA (Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment) and the new SATA (Serial ATA) interface formats.

Check your motherboard to see if it supports the SATA interface and if it does then this is the option to go for.

SATA has no real benefit for speed of operation when using with an optical drive but it does provide a far neater wiring solution with the much thinner and easier to install cables used.

Most new motherboards will have enough SATA sockets to allow connection of multiple hard disk drives and DVD burners.

Either way you will need to connect two cables, one for power and one for data.

Multiple Drives

Your motherboard will be capable of supporting two optical drives should you wish, which will enable you to copy discs directly from one drive to the other without having to ‘burn’ an image copy to the hard disk drive first, before replacing the disk you are copying with a blank disc to receive the image copy from the hard drive.

A DVD ROM drive, which is extremely cheap to buy, can be used for the host drive thereby only requiring the purchase of one DVD burner drive to allow direct disc to disc copying.

Internal or External DVD Drives?

Installation of an internal DVD drive requires you to open up your PC case and delve within the workings of your computer.

An external drive however can be easily connected via USB or Firewire ports and will be operational immediately.

The downside to this is that portable external drives are slower at burning disks than their internal optical drive counterparts.

The upside? Well apart from the simplicity of connection, they are also portable and can be switched between laptops and desktop PCs etc with ease.

Some are powered directly from a USB port; some will require a separate power adaptor.

Don’t forget though, the external drive will be yet another piece of equipment to clutter up your desk!


Most of the optical drives on offer today will offer DVD+R and DVD-R writing formats with DVD-R being the more compatible format, i.e. your standard DVD player will recognise it.

There are also the DVD+RW and DVD-RW formats which enable you to record data to the disc over and over again just like your old VHS tapes, although these are more suitable for backup and storage due to the possible incompatibility issues.

Dual Layer Format

Dual layer DVDs and DVD burners are also available which increases the DVD disc capacity from the original single layer 4.7GB to a whooping 8.5GB per disc.

Lots more room for those backups, in actual fact you can also get double sided dual layer discs allowing you to store a massive 17GB of data!


Reading and writing speeds are probably the most important factor to consider for most users.

Well, with the current drives on offer today there really is in fact not much to worry about, all will be plenty fast enough for most users!

Different formats vary slightly in their read and write speeds and a drive will be slowest when burning to a disc.

A typical DVD ROM (Read Only Memory) read speed will be 16x, a DVD –R or DVD +R will have a read speed of 16x and write speed of 16x and DVD-RW and DVD+RW will have 16x read speed and write speeds of 6x and 8x respectively.

Typical CD read speeds are around 48x.

High speed drives will let you burn your own CDs and DVDs quicker but other than that you will not notice any speed benefits during playback.

Audio Interface

Your DVD burner / DVD ROM will have an analogue or digital audio output which can be connected directly to the motherboard sound card or motherboard integrated sound analogue or digital inputs.

This direct connection is not absolutely necessary as the audio signal is also presented in digital format on the SATA or IDE interface connector and can be extracted by your PC directly from this interface without the need for a separate audio lead.


Your DVD burner will usually come with some bundled software such as Nero or Roxio Creator allowing you to be able to burn discs in various formats but Windows XP and Windows Vista have their own burning capabilities although not as extensive as the bundled software.

Some drives come Lightscribe enabled and will come with the relevant software as discussed below to allow you to produce basic labelling of the top surface of the disc.


Some drives offer Lightscribe support which basically means the drive is capable of printing a black and white label on to the top surface of suitable Lightscribe compatible media.

The drive will come complete with the software required to enable you to design your label before using your Lightscribe DVD burner to create the desired design on the flip side of the disc.


How long will discs continue to hold their information?

This depends upon a lot of factors mainly down to how you treat the disc and the manufacture of the disc.

Typically it should be fine if treated correctly for up to 30 years or more but don’t go putting all your backup data on just one backup disc now will you?, always have a backup backup!

We hope this guide has given you enough information to choose the best DVD Burner for you.

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