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DVD-writing mini-FAQ for blondes

This mini-FAQ was created, because simple I did not found any reliable resource on the Internet, which describes the mastering of error-free and long-lasting discs.

Although the FAQ was made with fully non-profit purpose, in case if you found useful it, please consider of 'supporting' it. Info: tarjan(a)uw.hu


Magyarul/In Hungarian · Angolul/In English ·

Which brands to use?

Separate our data into two main groups. The first group should contain the important, personal files (documents, photos etc.). The second one is the less important files, such as music, films and so on.

For archiving the first group, use Ricoh DVD+R, JVC DVD+R Archival Grade, as well Verbatim DVD-R Archival Grade discs, two-two pieces from each. All of these discs were made in Japan. Ricoh and JVC are manufacturing them in their own factory, Verbatim buying his top quality discs from Mitsubishi. Beside the Japanese manufacturing, pluses for these discs:
- Ricoh: one of the main developers of DVD+R, so we buy the discs from ’first hand’
- JVC: beside the ’+’ technology has a special scratch proof surface
- Verbatim: unfortunately do not (?) have ’+’ version, but applies double layer along with the scratchproof surface

For archiving the second group, use the discs of the well-known brands (for example Fuji, Maxell). These mostly made by Ritek in Taiwan, and their price/quality rate is quite fair.


Which software to choose?

If we have serious backup-jobs, not only film or music archiving, it is impossible to bypass Nero Burning ROM, which is regarded a too complex application by most people. But it handles all file systems, can make multi-session discs, able to make mirrored backups, writing speed is adjustable and it is verifying the written data.

If our possibilities limited only for choosing from freeware programs, I recommend CDBurnerXP. Opposite of its name, not only runs on XP, and not only capable of writing CDs. This is also supports the UDF file-system, mirrored-backup as well verifying.

Otherwise, any commercial or freeware program is suits as well, if fulfils the above mentioned three main criteria.

Which file-system to use?

The 1.02 version of UDF. The Universal Disk Format was developed directly for DVDs (although works fine with CDs too). It has more 'advanced' versions, such as 1.5, 2.0, 2.01, 2.5 and 2.6. The last two is used for BlueRay disks. 1.5, 2.0 and 2.01 has no remarkable advantages from the viewpoint of data backup.

1.02 supports the very long file-names, possible of using of very large files, able to make mirrored-backup on both DVD-R(W) and DVD+R(W) disks. In addition, it is compatible even with Windows 98, as it is a 1996 standard. It is also the default file-system of standalone DVD-players.

What about the file-names?

We can use quite long file-names with the UDF file-system. File-names maximum can be 255 bits long, pathnames up to 1023 bits. This means, that if we are using the basic ASCII char-set (it is the English alphabet in a way), file-names can be 255 characters long, pathnames up to 1023 chars. In case of special characters (for example, national characters), the appropriate values are 127 chars and 511 characters.

I strongly recommend the use of lower-case ASCII characters, connected the separate words with underscore. With this method, we can create quite informative and the same time 'all operating systems' compatible file-names.

Just an example: 'example_picture_from budapest_hungary_2010_08_07_001.jpg'. This means: a photo from Hungary, Budapest, which was made in 2010. August 07. This is the first photo, which was made there and then ('001').


Which file-extensions should we use for data archiving?

It is really recommended to stored compressed our longer files. At this point, we can divide into two parts the compressed data. First bunch is the already compressed files, which are automatically uncompressed by the application, when we open or edit it (and of course, re-compressed when saved). The another group is made with special compressing utilies, such as the .ZIP and .RAR files.

The file-types and their suggested file-formats from the viewpoint of archiving:
- documents: Microsoft Office 2007 (.docx, .xlsx, .pptx stb) or OpenOffice (.odt, .ods, .odp)
- photos: JPEG format, after red-eye and another corrections resized to 1 megapixel, and saved on 95% quality
- another longer files: .ZIP or .RAR archive. ZIP is more widespread, and RAR compress a bit better and offers more options. We can use the 'maximum compression' function, in case of modern computers it does not influences the speed greatly.
- smaller files (for example .htm, .txt): it is suggested to store them without any compression, as due to the 'header' of compression program, the archived file size can be more than the original's.
Before start burning..

Before start burning, prepare our computer. Do the followings:
- turn off every energy-saving options (CPU, winchester, monitor),
- turn off the screensaver,
- make defragmentation regularly,
- set the priority of DVD-writing software to 'above normal' or 'high' (it is possible with third party utilies, such as Cacheman),
- restart the computer before writing every DVDs, make 10-20 minutes pause between writing of DVDs,
- only the DVD-writing program should be run solely,
- it is also useful to clock down the CPU speed for example the half of maximum, as DVD-writing does not consuming high processor speeds (such a program is Notebook Hardware Control)
On what speed is recommended to burn my DVDs?

In case, when we are archiving our own data (pictures, documents) always choose the possible minimum speed for writing. It has numerous reasons. We can avoid the speed changes during the writing process and emptying the puffer of the burning software. In a sentence, we will get more reliable writing quality, which is compensating the longer waiting times. Beside these, it is also better for the discs as well the mechanical parts of the drive.

When burning second class data (films, music – anything, which we can get again from Internet) use the half of the maximum speed or the speed under the maximum value.

For verifying, also slow down the speed of the drive with an utility, such as the Nero DriveSpeed, for example to 4x. This will also longing the life of our discs.

Minus or plus discs to use?

The 'minus' discs are earlier, so very old drives only capable to read that discs.

The speed and price of the two rivals are similar. 'Plus' disks are using improved technology, so in theory they are better. As for practice, there is no major difference between them

To be sure, for storing our personal data, use ’plus’ discs (except the Verbatim disc mentioned in the first paragraph)

With which method backup my data?

The most convenient and time-efficient method is mirroring. This means the following in the case of a concrete directory:
- when creating a new file on the winchester, it will be created on the same directory of DVD as well
- if modifying a file, then the old version of file (virtually) will be deleted from the disc, and a new file will be created (the modified file)
- deleting a file from the hard disk will cause the (again virtually) deletion of the file from the DVD

Nero will do these things automatically after the setting up, CDBurnerXP must be forced the update manually.

Which strategy to use for the most efficient backup?

The 'reversible mirrored' backup method is the most efficient from the viewpoint of time consumption and machine wear and also considering the maximum data safety.

Let's see what is it about! For example, we have the mentioned six discs (Ricoh 1-2, JVC 1-2, Verbatim 1-2). On every Sunday save the data with the previously mentioned mirrored backup.

We will get the following scheme according to the discs:
- 1. week: Ricoh 1. disc: 100% backup
- 2. week: JVC 1. disc: 100% backup, Ricoh 1.: 99%
- 3. week: Verbatim 1. disc: 100% backup, JVC 1.: 99%, Ricoh 1.: 98%
- 4. week: Ricoh 2. disc: 100% backup, Verbatim 1.: 99%, JVC 1.: 98%, Ricoh 1.: 97%
and so on...

Beside efficiency, this method also have a great advantage: if we made a mistake, does not problem to 'reverse' it, as we have an earlier backup version.
How to store my DVDs?

The most important question, how important the data on the DVD. So divide into minimum three groups our disks.

Discs containing personal data, store in ordinary (non-slim) plastic case. As the surface of the DVD does not touch anything, it will not be scratched, and will not be made any chemical reaction. Furthermore, due to the airy case, it will not be the warm bed any fungus

Second class data (such as install, utility and film DVDs) can be stored in plastic cake. The obsolescence of install and utility DVDs are very fast, so we have no care about their data protection too much (who cares today a Windows 95 CD?). But from install DVDs always make the lawful one safety copy! And films anytime can be downloaded from Internet again. Tip: we can separate the discs with small plastic spools.

The discs, we are carrying between home and workplace, store in slim case. Also recommended to use slim case, when sending the DVDs by post.

Another things are trivial I think. Avoid the too low or too high temperature and vapour, direct sunlight and thermal sources.