Disc burning: frequently asked questions

Here are answers to some common questions about using Windows to burn a disc.

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Why are there two different ways to format a disc?

You can choose between the Live File System and Mastered formats when creating a new recordable disc because each of these formats is used for a different purpose. The Live File System is a convenient way to create a disc. When you use a Live File System disc, files are copied to the disc right away. When you use the Mastered format, files are stored in a staging area on your hard disk until you decide to burn the disc.

When you use the Live File System format with rewritable discs, such as CD-RW and DVD-RW, you can also erase individual files from a disc to recover space, which isn't possible with Mastered discs. Alternatively, Mastered discs can be used on a wider-variety of computers, such as those running on earlier or later versions of Windows, those running on a different operating system than Windows, as well as on some other devices such as regular CD, DVD, and Blu‑ray Disc players. For more information, see Which CD or DVD format should I use?

How much hard disk space do I need to burn a disc?

If you're using the Live File System format, you don't need to free any additional space to burn your disc, because each file is written to the disc as you go.

If you are creating a Mastered disc, however, Windows might need to create a complete image, or temporary copy, of the disc before it is burned. A temporary disc image is created if the files and folders that you're burning aren't stored on the same hard disk drive volume as the temporary folder location (typically C:\), if the hard disk drive isn't formatted using the NTFS file system, or if you're burning a very large number of very small files. This temporary disc image can be as large as twice the capacity of the disc you're creating—you might need as much as 1.3 gigabytes (GB) on your hard disk to burn to a CD disc that has a listed disc capacity of 650 MB, or 8.74 gigabytes (GB) to burn a DVD disc that has a listed disc capacity of 4.7 GB, or 46 GB to burn a Blu‑ray Disc that has a listed capacity of 25 GB. (The listed disc capacity and amount of free hard disk space that's required are different. This is because the disc capacity is calculated differently when the disc is used in a computer.)

If you have more than one hard disk drive or partition on your computer, you can specify which location to temporarily store the files you're burning for a Mastered disc. Here's how:

  1. Open Computer by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking Computer.

  2. Right-click your disc burner, and then click Properties.

  3. Click the Recording tab, click the hard disk drive that you want to use from the hard disk drive list, and then click OK.


  • You should set the temporary location to a hard disk drive volume that is formatted using the NTFS file system that also contains the majority of the files and folders you plan to burn.

If I have more than one disc burner, how do I set the default for burning discs in Windows?

  1. Open Computer by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking Computer.

  2. Right-click your disc burner, and then click Properties.

  3. Click the Recording tab, click the disc-burning drive that you want to use as your default when burning discs using Windows, and then click OK.

Do I need to close the disc session or finalize my disc when I'm done burning?

Not necessarily. Closing a disc session makes the disc compatible with other computers and some consumer electronic devices, such as a CD or DVD player. However, not all discs need to be closed. You only need to close CD-R, DVD-R, and DVD+R discs. Rewritable discs (which end in RW) don't need to be closed, but they might not work in regular CD or DVD players either. In addition to this, discs that haven't been closed can still be used in other disc burners. However, they can't be used in most CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, or BD-ROM drives.

Some programs might offer to finalize your disc instead of closing the current session. A disc that has been finalized is complete. You can open files from the disc, but you can't add more files or save changes to existing files on the disc. When you burn a CD or DVD using Windows Explorer, the disc is not finalized. You can add more files later on as long as you have space on the disc. Some CD or DVD players can't play a CD or DVD that hasn't been finalized. This capability varies by the make and model of the CD or DVD player.

Mastered discs don't need to be closed because they are in a closed session already, which makes them compatible with other computers. Therefore, you will never see an option to close a session when burning a Mastered disc.

For more information, see Close or finalize a CD or DVD.

Can I make additional copies of a disc I just burned?

The easiest way to make more than one copy of a disc is to copy all the files you want to burn to a temporary folder on your hard disk, and then burn these files to each disc that you want to create.

How do I make a music or a video disc that will work in a CD, DVD, or Blu‑ray Disc player?

Use a music or video burning program to make playable discs. If you use Windows to copy music files to a disc, they will be copied as files and might not play in most regular CD players. Whether some audio and video files can be played back depends on the types of audio and video files that your CD, DVD, or Blu‑ray Disc player supports, as well as the type of discs it can play back.

How can I view a CD or DVD drive in the navigation pane of Windows Explorer if there’s no disc in the drive?

By default, a CD or DVD drive doesn’t display in the navigation pane (the left pane) of Windows Explorer when a disc isn’t in the drive. To display the disc drive in the navigation pane when there's no disc in the drive, do the following:

  1. Open Computer by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking Computer.

  2. Click Organize, and then click Folder and search options.

  3. In the Folder Options dialog box, click the General tab, select the Show all folders check box, and then click OK.

  4. Click the arrow next to Computer to view the CD or DVD drive in the navigation pane.

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