11.6 CD Writer Software
By itself, a CD writer is a dumb device, which Windows recognizes as just another CD-ROM drive. Using the drive to burn CDs requires special application software to enable writing. Other than the drive itself, the most important element in obtaining fast, accurate burns is the software you use. Two major types of software are used with CD writers:
Alas, the rapidly dropping price of CD burners has led some vendors to scrimp on the software bundle. Rather than include mainstream full-function packages, they instead supply simple, proprietary individual applets that perform basic functions. Although these applets are generally usable, you'll want one of the mainstream packages to get the most from your drive, so when comparing prices, include the cost of buying both a premastering application and a packet-writing application in the cost comparison. If your drive does come bundled with mainstream applications, always visit the software vendor's web site immediately to check for updates before you use the drive.
In addition to the third-party software that is supplied with the drive, do not overlook proprietary software. Some vendors, notably Plextor, supply a wide range of powerful and useful utilities with their drives. Although these utilities typically run only on that manufacturer's drive, they often provide enhanced capabilities not available in the third-party applications.
One of the most important and frequently overlooked aspects of CD burner software is firmware, which determines the capabilities and compatibility of the drive. Good drives allow user-installable firmware updates. Good makers supply firmware updates as necessary to keep their drives current with changing conditions and standards. For example, a newly introduced disc type may require a different laser power and write scheme than media supported by the existing firmware. If your drive's manufacturer makes the required update available, you can install it yourself and use that new media. If not, you're stuck with an increasingly obsolescent drive that may ultimately become unusable when the media it supports are no longer available. Note that most drives that do not support packet mode cannot be upgraded by a simple firmware update. Packet writing requires specific physical drive capabilities, and drives that do not have those capabilities will never support packet writing.