Last month I talked a little about my new Smart and Friendly
Rewritable CD-Recorder (or burner). I indicated that Smart and
Friendly was in financial trouble and my one year warranty might
be worthless. It has now been confirmed that Smart and Friendly
quietly went into bankruptcy and their assets were liquidated
in mid-May. Surprisingly their web site is still up as I write
this. I have seen Smart and Friendly products still on store
shelves. Be aware you buy such products at your own risk as there
is no company support.
This month I want to go into more detail on exactly what is
involved in making (or burning) a data CD. Despite what the CD
burner manufacturers would like you to believe, for other than
creation of a simple CD, CD burning can get quite involved. Making
a mistake along the way can result in creating a CD that is not
usable. Because of this my article will be quite long and so
will be spread out over two months. This month is part 1 of 2
on "Making a Data CD".
Most CD-Recorders come with Adatptec's Easy CD Creator
My comments will be with respect to Easy CD Creator Standard
Edition ver 3.5c (http://www.adaptec.com/support/overview/ecdc3.html)
but in general should apply to other versions. My computer is
a 5 year old Gateway 100 MHz Pentium (upgraded to 233 MHz) with
64 MB of RAM running Windows 98 Second Edition. It is far from
a power house of a computer. My Smart and Friendly 4x4x24x CD-Recorder
requires as a minimum a Pentium 100 MHz with 16 MB of RAM, so
I am well within those parameters. Furthermore my CD-Recorder
comes with an internal buffer of 2 MB. Buffer size can play a
very important role in successful CD burning. For further discussion
on buffer problems see Adaptec: Support: Buffer Underruns
and The Truth About Buffer Underruns at http://www.cdrcentral.com/newsletters/winbufu.html.
Also, some of the terminology in this article may be new to you.
A ready reference is CD-R Glossary at http://www.adaptec.com/tools/glossary/cdrec.html.
Easy CD Creator comes with a Wizard that will walk you through
creating a data CD but it does not give you the flexibility or
understanding of all that is involved. I have found several web
sites that claim to show you step by step how to create a data
CD but again they just gloss the surface. So the following will
be based on my personal experience. So far I have been lucky
and created only one "coaster". For those unfamiliar
with the term, a "coaster" is the result of a CD burning
attempt that for one reason or another failed. The partially
written to CD media is now totally useless for anything other
than a drink coaster. (I did find out recently from my wife that
the shiny surface side also works well under 3 inch diameter
Easy CD Creator comes with a wonderful Help file that has
a lot of great information, but not in the form of a step-by-step
explanation of what to do and what to expect while creating a
CD. Easy CD Creator also comes with a Quick Reference Guide in
PDF (Portable Document Format) but it gives the barest of information
and basically refers you back to the Help file. Hence my reason
for writing this article.
My computer system includes two physical hard drives. The
first is Drive C which is 1 GB in size. The second physical drive
is 8.4 GB and partitioned into 8 sections of approximately 1
GB each and labeled as Drives D through K. The CD-Recorder is
Drive L and my original 4x (quad speed) CD-ROM drive of 1995
vintage is Drive Z. My first attempt at making a data CD was
to copy from Drives I, J, and K data files I new were not replaceable.
The CD burning went fine except for one problem. The data on
the resulting CD was in alphabetical order and there was no way
to tell which drive, specific data came from. I also ran into
the age old problem of trying to determine exactly what is data
and what is not. With some programs it is easy to determine what
is data. If I save this Web Master Wanderings article as a text
file, that is data. But what about my Netscape browser program?
What do I consider data and how do I find the associated file
names? I would want to save my Address Book, my Bookmarks, my
E-mail messages. How about my Preferences? You see the whole
thing gets messy. There is no way to easily define exactly what
is information (data) to save. So with that in mind I decided
to save everything. At least this once I could establish a baseline.
How often I would want to save everything again in the future
is a subjective matter. (For a more complete discussion on what
is considered data and how to back it up checkout a ZDTV article
on Backup Basics at http://www.zdtv.com/zdtv/callforhelp/leospage/story/0,3650,2162034,00.html.)
There are Backup programs that save everything you select
into one big file. But then you need the same program to see
what is in that big file in order to restore a specific file.
I wanted to be able to see the individual files and folders as
read from my old CD-ROM drive. This would give me the highest
degree of compatibility. Since my old CD-ROM drive does not read
CD-RW (rewritable) discs I chose to use CD-R (recordable write
once) discs. The CD-R discs said they were "1x-8x Compatible"
so I would be well within that parameter by using the 4x (600
Kbytes/sec) write speed of my CD-Recorder.
Before even attempting to create a CD it is important to close
everything running in the background on your computer. Creating
a CD uses up a lot of resources and once the burning process
starts it must continue through to completion. If the laser stops
midway through recording because you ran out of buffer space,
you have a brand new "coaster". Close whatever you
can in the System Tray at the right side of your Task Bar by
right clicking on its icon and selecting Exit or Disable. ScreenSavers
and Antivirus programs are prime candidates to disable. Some
people even suggest not moving your mouse during the recording
phase. I always hit the "Ctrl+Alt+Delete" buttons simultaneously
to bring up the "Close Program" dialog box. Then highlight
each program still running and select "End Task". You
should repeat this "Ctrl+Alt+Delete" routine for each
program running until the only thing left is "Explorer"
and "Systray". I also leave my 3-D scroll mouse program
"3dmain" running and it has caused no problems. I have
seen comments in the newsgroups alt.comp.periphs.cdr (news:alt.comp.periphs.cdr)
and comp.publish.cdrom.hardware (news:comp.publish.cdrom.hardware)
from people running 750 and 800 MHz machines saying they have
no problem running other programs while creating CDs. That may
be, but since I don't have a power house computer, I'll take
the safe road and close everything I can.
Upon opening Easy CD Creator the Wizard Welcome Window pops
up. Cancel it. You should have the Data CD Layout tab selected
and see a Windows Explorer type arrangement except there are
four window panes. The two upper panes are basically Windows
Explorer. The two lower panes will act like Windows Explorer
and this is where you create your Data CD Layout by dragging
files and folders from the upper right pane and dropping them
in the lower left pane. It is important to remember that any
changes you make in the lower panes in no way affect the files
and folders in the upper panes. The data on your hard drive remains
In the lower left pane you will see a CD icon with a number
like 000707_1305. That number is meaningless and will change
to a new number if you select "New CD Layout" from
the dropdown menu under File at the top left. We will change
that in a moment.
Some of my drive partitions do not have enough content to
fill up 650 MB on one CD-R media disc. So I elected to put the
content of two drive partitions on the same CD-R disc. The way
to do this is to create a folder by right clicking in the lower
left pane, selecting "New", and "Folder".
Next right click on the "New Folder" and select "Rename".
Now call it something meaningful. In my case I called it "J
Drive [Clipart]". I did the same for my second folder and
called it "K Drive [Web dl]". (The dl stands for downloads.}
Now that we have our folders selected let's change the CD icon
number to something meaningful. Right click on the number and
select "Rename". I called mine "JK_BU_080300"
where BU stands for backup and 080300 is the date August 3, 2000.
Next I highlighted my Drive J in the upper left pane which
showed it's contents in the upper right pane. I then highlighted
and dragged the files I wanted from the upper right pane and
dropped them on to the Drive J folder in the lower left pane.
I did the same for Drive K. As you drag and drop files Easy CD
Creator shows you with a sliding scale along the bottom how close
to the 650 MB limit you are getting. It even tells you in numbers
your "Estimated Disc Free Space".
Okay now that we have the new CD basically laid out, go to
the top left and in the File dropdown menu select "CD_Layout
Properties". Under the General tab you will see the "Volume
Label" you have given your new CD. This is another place
where you can change the name. The General tab verifies that
the type of CD you are creating is a "Data CD". Under
the Data Settings tab the "File System" should be "Joliet".
Joliet is a standard created by Microsoft that works for Win95/98
and Win NT. Joliet supports long file names limited to 64 characters
and is useful for backups to CD-R because the disc is still readable
as ISO-9660 (another standard) which uses the 8+3 filename convention
of MS-DOS. Thus the CD can be read in MS-DOS.
Click the "Properties" button next to the Joliet
name and verify that "Use original file date" and "Mode
2: CDROMXA" is selected. "Mode 2: CD-ROM XA" means
we are making a multisession CD-ROM. Thus we will be able to
add additional data to the disc in another recording session
at a later time if the disc is not filled in the first session.
Under "Optimization" on the Data Settings tab make
sure "Preserve normal file ordering" and "Single
data track only" have been selected. Under Additional options
the "Automatically import previous session" box is
also checked but will not affect us since this is a new CD we
are creating. You can ignore the Audio Settings tab. Finally
the File Types tab should have "Add all files" selected.
Click OK to close the "CD_Layout Properties" window.
Next from the File dropdown menu select "Validate Layout".
This is where you can get several dialog boxes if everything
you have selected to copy to the CD is not proper. One that I
got several times was "The file (xxxxxxxx.xxx) is in a directory
that exceeds the maximum depth of directories (8). This may cause
problems reading the CD in some operating systems. Do you wish
to continue?" I pressed the "Yes" button. Later
after the CD was written I tested it and found my old CD ROM
drive had no problem reading the data. Another dialog box that
popped up during validating the layout was "The following
file must be renamed to be compatible with the naming conventions
of your CD file system." It then gave the file location
and file name with a suggested changed name which I could further
modify. The dialog box then proceeded to say for valid names
"File Names must be at most 64 characters long. The file
name can use any characters valid in a windows long file name
and can include multiple periods". I received this dialog
box for files associated with long song titles in the Real Jukebox
program and long URL titles in my "Favorites" list
of Internet Explorer 5. Netscape does not have this problem as
the "Favorites" (or "Bookmarks" as Netscape
calls them) are saved as one file called "bookmark.htm".
I had no problem with copying files from my Drives J and K as
these programs were not on those drives.
We are now finished with the preparation, so now is a good
time to save the CD Layout. We could have saved the layout earlier
but then it would need to be resaved again now. From the File
dropdown menu select "Save As..." and in the resulting
Window select a hard drive location and appropriate name. For
my Drives J and K layout I called it "DrivesJK3Aug00".
The default location seems to be "My Documents" which
is in the root directory of the C drive but you can save it to
whatever location you like. The file will have a ".cl3"
Next month we will go through what happens during the actual
Note: Web Master Wanderings
articles contain links to external web sites. Web addresses are
constantly changing. There is no guarantee that the information
links provided in this article will remain unbroken or up-to-date
beyond the date that this article is originally published.