Mastering Your CDs


Q: My client created a backup of data files using a CD, but when we tested the disc on another computer, we were unable to read the disc. Is there a secret trick to creating CDs that can be read by other computers?


A: Burning CDs in Windows can be a confusing proposition. Windows provides the ability to burn discs using one of two available formats: Live File System and Mastered. Assuming your computer has a writable CD drive, to burn a disc using either format in Windows 7, Vista or XP, insert a writable disc (CD-R, CD-RW, DVD or Blu-ray) into your computer’s disc drive, and close the drive. The AutoPlay dialog box will appear, offering several options, depending on your computer and the software installed. (If the AutoPlay dialog box does not open automatically, follow the instructions for launching your disc-burning program; these instructions will vary depending upon the computer and software you have). Select Burn files to disc using Windows to display the Burn a Disc dialog box. Click the Show formatting options dropdown arrow and check either the Live File System or the Mastered radio button as shown.


Click Next to display an empty disc folder. Then drag the files you want to write to the CD to the empty disc folder and click the Burn to disc button located at the top of the folder. In the dialog box that follows, click Burn files to data disc.


Each format has advantages and disadvantages as follows:


Mastered CDs. Mastered is the superior format for compatibility with other computers because it creates discs with special formatting and extra coding that is compatible with most Windows-based computers and many other operating systems. The disadvantage is that, to create a Mastered CD, you must collect the files you want copied and burn them in bulk, instead of adding files to the CD one (or a few) at a time.


Live File System. Live File System allows you to create a reusable CD that behaves like a USB thumb drive, allowing you to add files from the CD as needed, and without having to burn the entire CD. The disadvantage of Live File System is that it is less compatible than the Mastered format and its compatibility varies based on the version of Live File System. A summary of the four versions of Live File System and their compatibility follows:


Therefore, Mastered CDs offer better compatibility, while Live File System CDs offer better file convenience for adding and deleting files. Using the Mastered format to create backups will ensure greater compatibility for restoring your backup to another computer.


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