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Blu-ray, DVD & Video Accessories: Learn Before You Burn

When it comes to enjoying music and watching movies most of us know the differences between CDs, DVDs, and Blu-rays. When it comes to burning digital media onto blank discs, however, we can easily get a little lost in the details.

If you're looking to use blank discs to back up your family photos, create your own vacation movies, or burn your own music album, here's a brief look at everything you need to know about buying and burning blank CDs, DVDs, and Blu-rays.

Types of Blank Media Discs

The most significant difference between CDs, DVDs, and Blu-rays is capacity. DVDs can store more data than CDs, and Blu-rays can store more data than DVDs. The highest-capacity CDs offer about 700MB of space. Single-layer DVDs offer about 4.7GB of space, while dual-layer DVDs offer around 8.5GB. Blu-ray discs generally offer up to 25GB of storage capacity, while dual-layer Blu-ray discs offer up to 50GB.

Recordable vs. Rewriteable

There's also a significant difference between recordable and rewritable formats.  Recordable discs (CD-R, DVD-R, BD-R) can only be burned once. Rewriteable discs (CD-RW, DVD-RW, BD-RE), on the other hand, can be written over again and again.

If you're creating a CD, DVD, or Blu-ray with important data, a recordable disc is a great option, since there's no risk of it being accidentally overwritten. Recordable discs are often cheaper than rewriteable discs as well. That being said, if you're constantly transferring data from one location or device to another then a single rewriteable disc may be more cost-effective (and less wasteful) than a stack of rewriteable discs.

Things to Know Before You Buy Blank Discs 

Before you buy blank Blu-ray discs, DVDs, or CDs make sure you know what types of discs your burner supports. Not all DVD burners work with Blu-ray discs, for instance.

You'll also want to ask yourself what your ultimate purpose is. Do you want to burn videos to a disc for playback on the family Blu-ray player?  If the answer is yes, keep in mind that, while most Blu-ray players can play both Blu-ray discs and DVDs, DVD players cannot play Blu-ray discs.

You'll also want to check your DVD/Blu-ray player's owner's manual for any format restrictions. For instance, some players may support playback from DVD-R or BD-R discs but not from DVD-RW or BD-RW discs.

Software for Burning Blu-ray, DVD, and CD discs

If you want to save files to a disc, create your own videos on DVD or Blu-ray, or rip tracks off a music CD and create your own custom playlist, you'll need burning software. Not all software titles perform the same tasks or offer the same functionality, so make sure you know what you need before you choose software. Generally, burning software gives you the ability to convert media files to different formats, burn them to discs, generate track listings, and even create DVD/Blu-ray menus.