Before you can copy files to a CD or DVD, the disc must first be prepared using a process called formatting. There are several ways to format a CD or DVD disc. Your choice of format determines which computers and other devices will be able to read the disc.

  1. Insert a disc into your computer's CD or DVD drive.

  2. In the dialog box that appears, click Burn files to disc.

  3. In the Burn a disc dialog box, type a name for your new disc.

  4. Click Show formatting options, and then click one of the following formatting options:

    • Live File System

    • Mastered

  5. Click Next to prepare the disc.

    Now you can copy files to your disc using whichever method you selected.

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Choosing the right formatting option for the job

When you format a CD or DVD, you can choose either the Live File System or Mastered format. Use the following information to help you determine which formatting option you should choose.

Live File System discs:

  • Enable you to copy files immediately to disc by dragging them.

  • Are convenient if you want to keep a disc in the burn drive and occasionally copy a few files at a time.

  • Are convenient because there is no lengthy recording step, such as with Mastered discs. Each file is written to the disc as you drag it to the disc folder.

  • Let you delete individual files or reformat the disc to create additional disc space when you use a rewriteable disc such as a CD-RW, DVD-RW, or DVD-RAM.

  • Might have to be closed before they can be used in other computers.

  • Are only compatible with Windows XP and later versions of Windows.


  • To see additional formatting options for Live File System discs, in the Burn a disc dialog box, click Change version. This will open the Select a Live File System Version dialog box, where you can choose a different formatting version for compatibility with different kinds of computers. For more information about these options, see Which CD or DVD format should I use?

Mastered discs:

  • Enable you to drag files to the disc and then burn all the files to disc at once.

  • Are convenient if you need to burn a large collection of files, such as a music CD.

  • Are compatible with older computers and devices like CD players and DVD players.

  • Require a large amount of hard disk space to burn (as much as the capacity of the disc you are burning).

Choosing the right disc for the job

There are many kinds of writable discs, and not all discs can be formatted in the same way. Refer to the following table for details on disc formatting.

This type of disc Can be formatted
This type of disc


Can be formatted

Only once. Information can't be deleted from this type of disc.

This type of disc


Can be formatted

Many times. If the disc has been formatted at least once, you can use the Quick Format option to format it more quickly on subsequent formats. For more information, see Erase a CD or DVD.

This type of disc


Can be formatted

Many times. You can use the Quick Format option to format it quickly the very first time it is used, or on any subsequent format. For more information, see Erase a CD or DVD.