How to Shop for Blank CDs

by Josh Fredman
    Traditional CDs only hold about 700MB of data, while Blu-ray DVDs can hold 25GB.

    Traditional CDs only hold about 700MB of data, while Blu-ray DVDs can hold 25GB.

    Zedcor Wholly Owned/ Images

    CDs and DVDs, called “optical media,” have become a ubiquitous storage medium. They’re cheap and reliable, and they hold large amounts of data, making them a good choice for everything from movies to data backup. Shopping for blank optical media takes some homework. They may all look alike, but those shiny little discs have many different formats and capabilities. If you want to buy blank optical media of your own, you need a device capable of recording on them. That means that at least one of your CD or DVD players must also be a CD or DVD recorder.

    Step 1

    Determine whether you need CDs or DVDs. DVDs have a much higher storage capacity and require more sophisticated equipment to play and record than CDs. Virtually all DVD players support CDs, but many CD players do not support DVD use. For storing documents, small libraries of photos or a traditional album of music, a CD will work fine. For storing movies, large libraries of music or large amounts of high-quality photos, go with a DVD -- assuming you have a DVD player.

    Step 2

    Identify how you will use the blank discs. If you want to record albums of music that you can play in any CD player, motion pictures that will work in any DVD player, or if you want to record a disc only once and have the contents remain there permanently, then go with a one-time “recordable” disc. This is denoted by the letter “R,” such as “CD-R” or “DVD-R.” If you want to be able to record multiple times on the same disc, or if you plan to only use the discs in computer optical drives, choose the more versatile “rewritable” option. This is denoted by an “RW,” such as “CD-RW” or “DVD-RW.”

    Step 3

    Inspect your disc players or their user manuals to see what kind of disc formats they support. This is particularly important with DVDs. For example, the terms “DVD-RW” with a minus sign and “DVD+RW” with a plus sign refer to two different formats, and many players support only one or the other. A third format is “DVD-RAM.” If your players specify just one format, make sure you purchase discs in that format. If your players specify both the plus and minus signs, or if they use the word “multi,” then you can generally assume that discs of any format will work.

    Step 4

    Find out whether you need special Blu-ray DVDs. Blu-ray discs differ from traditional DVDs. They can hold much more data than a typical DVD, which allows them to hold HD movies. Blu-ray DVD players can play traditional DVDs and CDs, but the traditional DVD players will not accommodate Blu-ray.

    Step 5

    Visit any electronics shop or go online to purchase your discs once you determine the kind of disc you need. You will probably find many different product options, with few indications of how they differ from one another other than the package design. Optical discs do vary in quality -- they’re not all perfectly identical. However, the technology has become mature enough that pretty much every recognizable name brand will give you solid performance. Some generic brands have good quality too, but less consistently. This means that if you go with a generic brand you will have a slightly higher risk of getting defective discs. If the price difference isn’t that much, choose a name brand.


    • Blank discs also indicate their recording speeds, which tells you how fast you can burn information onto them. Compare these figures with the recording speeds on your optical recorder, then try to get discs whose top speeds fall in the same general neighborhood. This way you can get the most out of your recorder’s capabilities without paying for extra speed capability on the discs that you won’t be able to use.

    About the Author

    Josh Fredman is a freelance pen-for-hire and Web developer living in Seattle. He attended the University of Washington, studying engineering, and worked in logistics, health care and newspapers before deciding to go to work for himself.

    Photo Credits

    • Zedcor Wholly Owned/ Images