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Blank Media Buying Guide

by Staff Writer

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Blank CD in an open optical drive

The right blank media can add versatility to how you use your computer and transfer data between devices. There are several common types of blank media available to fit different devices and purposes. This blank media buying guide will help you understand the different types of blank media and how you can use them with your electronics.

Buying Blank Media:

  1. Optical discs: Optical data discs are any blank media discs that are read by a laser -- like CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs. Recordable blank media discs can be used by CD and DVD burner drives in your computer or in a Blu-ray or DVD recorder. Each category of blank CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs have different standards or versions and may or may not be compatible with a certain device. Your device's user manual will list the types of blank media it can read or record with.

  2. CD-R: The R stands for recordable. These blank CDs can store about 700 MB of data or around 80 minutes of audio. You can burn music, data files or photos to CD-R format discs with a CD or DVD burner on your computer. CD-Rs are a convenient way to store or transport a moderate amount of data. You can burn music CDs, back up important files from your computer or store digital photos on these portable blank media discs. Once you burn data or audio to a CD-R, that data is permanent. CD-R blank media discs cannot be rewritten. If you don't fill a CD-R to capacity, you may still be able to write more data to it later, but burning to a CD-R is otherwise a one-time process.

  3. CD-RW: CD-RWs are similar to CD-Rs, but you can burn a CD-RW many times. The RW stands for rewriteable. The unique materials used to make the surface of the blank disc allow previously burned data to be erased. This means that you can completely rewrite the disc. While manufacturers say that this type of blank media can be rewritten upwards of a thousand times, you may start to see the capacity of your CD-RWs shrink after several rewrites; this is because small areas of the disc start to degrade.

  4. DVD-R and DVD+R: DVD-R was the original standard blank DVD format for DVD burners. DVD-Rs have a capacity of about 4.7 GB, about six times that of CD-Rs. A similar standard, called DVD+R, has features that record more reliably than with DVD-Rs. Nearly any DVD burner will support both of these blank media disc formats. DVD-Rs and DVD+Rs can be used to store data or make DVD copies of home movies using a DVD recorder or DVD burner drive. Not all DVD players will read recordable blank media formats, however.

  5. DVD-RW and DVD+RW: DVD-RW and DVD+RW are the rewriteable versions of recordable DVD blank media. You can usually get several hundred rewrites out of a single blank disc.

  6. Dual-layer DVDs: These dual-layer DVDs literally have twice the capacity of the standard 4.7 GB blank DVDs, and you can find a dual-layer version of any of the previously mentioned DVD disc types. Your DVD burner must specifically be able to support dual-layer blank media discs, and DVDs burners generally burn dual-layer discs much slower than other recordable blank media discs.

  7. BD-R and BD-RE: Blu-ray discs are more recent than CDs and DVDs, and Blu-ray burners are now available for your computer and even as stand-alone Blu-ray recorders. BD-R is the recordable disc format, and it supports a capacity of about 25 GB. Like the other disc types, there's a rewritable format called BD-RE. Dual-layer BD-Rs have a capacity of about 50 GB. Not all blank Blu-ray discs can be used with Blu-ray drives, so be sure to check the version number of the disc and whether your drive is compatible.

  8. Flash drives: A more compact and portable type of blank media for moving data between devices is the USB flash drive. Sometimes called thumb drives, these small media-storage sticks use flash memory, which can be rewritten thousands of times. Simply plug the flash drive into a USB port on your computer or other device and you can transfer several gigabytes of data.

  9. Memory cards: Memory cards are popular blank media for digital cameras and other video equipment. An SD or SDHC memory card can store as much as 32 GB or more of digital files. Smaller electronics may use smaller blank media, like microSD cards. Check your cell phone, camera and other portable devices to see which blank media cards they use.

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