Roast ?EUR(TM)em Good

Published Date
01 - Feb - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Feb - 2006
Roast ’em Good
We've tested eight of the best disc burning software for both Windows as well as Linux

DVD and CD writing software go hand-in-hand with DVD-Writers, which we've also tested this month. If you're planning on getting a DVD-Writer, you'll need software to complement it. Windows XP does come with a CD-Writing wizard, but it cannot burn to DVD (it can't create a VCD or bootable CD either, for that matter).

You're probably aware of Nero Burning ROM-it's packaged with most CD/DVD-Writers here in India. And you're probably not aware of the alternatives. There are several, and here, we present a comparison of six burning software packages-including the well-known Nero, of course. All these are available easily off the Internet.

Some time ago, CD burning software were meant solely for the purpose of recording CDs, but these days, they're coming bundled with additional software such as media players, video encoders, audio rippers, image creators, and more. They also support many data formats (DVD±R/RW, DVD-RAM, dual-layer, ISO, UDF, HFS, etc.) and hardware compatibility is not an issue any more. A burning software can now replace several other software; for instance, you don't need image creators such as WinISO or Alcohol-most CD-Writing software now have a bundled application for the same purpose.

In this test, we've also featured two Linux-based burning software. Open source's baby K3b and NeroLINUX lock heads in the Linux segment. And for Windows XP, we have Disc Master 2, Easy Media Creator 8, Nero 7 Premium, NTI CD&DVD Maker, RecordNow! Deluxe, and CyberLink's Power2Go.

Burning Software For Windows XP

Ahead Nero 7 Premium
Bid adieu to Nero 6, and make way for the new Nero 7 Premium! The new version has "feature-rich" written all over it. For example, it comes with Nero Home, a media manager to manage your entire multimedia collection.

Nero has all the features you can think of! This is a fully loaded software-Burning ROM 7, WaveEditor3, Vision 4, Recode, ShowTime 2, PhotoSnap, CoverDesigner 2 and more figure on the list of features.

There are two aspects to any burning software-its core functionality and the bundled features. We can assure you that Nero doesn't lack in either department. Features such as multi-session, overburning, disc image recording, dual-layer DVD support, and support for burning other media formats such as VCD and video DVD-they're all there. Well, Nero can't write WMA CDs, which is hardly important since most players, at least in India, are mostly designed to play back MP3 discs. But still, Easy Media Creator 8 supports all three types-WAV, MP3 and WMA.

Nero StartSmart is a wizard by Nero that displays all the utilities and burn projects at once

Packages similar to Nero WaveEditor 3 and SoundTrax 2 for audio editing, Nero PhotoSnap for picture editing, and Nero ShowTime are available in other burning software as well. But with Vision 4, Nero has inherently enhanced the capability to handle recording of video files in different formats. You no longer need separate software-it's all bundled in Nero 7 Premium.

Nero also allows video capture from a device such as DV cam to DVD video format and then burning of the file to DVD media with Burning ROM. You can also create images of a CD or DVD, and also mount them on Nero Image Drive, a virtual CD/DVD drive.

Ease Of Use
Installation is easy, and if you don't want to install certain components, you can choose the custom install option. Nero 7's interface is very similar to that of its prior versions-there are only a few minor changes.
The Start Smart Wizard introduces a newbie to the world of disc recording. There's no way you can go wrong if you use the Wizard!

In Nero, all options are always listed, and you're guided at every stage; right-clicking on certain buttons and icons in the main interface displays an explanation. If you need documentation, though, you'll have to visit

Nero has always been resource-hungry. Many people restrain themselves from doing multiple tasks on their machines while Nero is burning a disc. This may, in fact, be good practice if you don't have top-of-the-line hardware. If you have, say, 128 MB of RAM, you could just end up with a cyclic redundancy error if you do many other things while Nero is doing its job.

When you run Nero, the memory usage shoots up by a hundred megabytes or more; refer to the table for details. This is one area where Nero must improve-there happen to be software in this test that use a minimum of resources.

CyberLink Power2Go
CyberLink's Power2Go supports all types of media formats. On the regular features front, it has everything to give Nero and CyberLink tough competition.

Power2Go claims support for Blu-Ray, as does Nero. But here, the support is more prominent: the interface sports three tabs-CD, DVD, and Blu-ray! It also supports creation of WMA music CDs and DVDs in addition to MP3 and WAV (the latter not on DVD), a feature not common to the other applications, except Easy Media Creator. As for the other necessary features, they're all there. The only notable package that comes bundled is the audio ripping tool.

Ease Of Use
We thought CyberLink would extend their typical PowerDVD skinning to Power2Go-that, thankfully, is not the case! CyberLink has adopted a simple design, which reduces the load on system memory.

The various burning formats such as data, audio and video were well sorted, and a newbie can use this software with ease. There's a neat 'Utilities' section that features disc image burning, audio ripping, and the audio converter. However, it does not provide configuration options-such as setting the drive's write speed and allowing multi-session-when burning a disc image.

Image burning and Audio Ripping tools in CyberLink are located under Disc utilities

Power2Go does not tax the system like Nero does. The memory usage and CPU usage were surprisingly moderate, allowing a user to run other applications such as a movie player while burning media. Along with Disc Master 2, Power2Go was the best when it came to the time taken to burn a CD with 690 MB of data.


InterVideo Disc Master 2
InterVideo's Disc Master 2 is a very mediocre application with respect to the interface and content. As a saving grace, it doesn't burden the system too much.

This application lacks the ability to create video discs and MP3 DVDs, which we believe is a mandatory feature for burning software. Creation of a disc image is also not possible; Disc Master 2 is the only application in this comparison that didn't feature this tool. On the brighter side, it has many necessary features, such as image burning, creation of bootable CDs and DVDs, and dual-layer support. It also supported multi-session and overburning.

Ease Of Use
A straightforward interface lists all the necessary tasks related to burning on the left pane.

Disc Master sports a very simple and easy to use interface that anybody can understand

The right half is the drag-and-drop interface, which includes the file browser and the area to where you drag and drop the files to be burnt. A Wizard is conspicuously absent in the interface, but strictly speaking, Disc Master 2 doesn't need one.
Memory usage was under 30 MB during the burn process, and Disc Master 2 (along with Power2Go) clocked the fastest time for burning a data disc.

How We Tested 
The Test Machine
The PC on which we tested the CD/DVD burning software was powered by an AMD 64 3000 (socket 754) on an MSI K8T Neo motherboard with 1 GB of Corsair DDR 400 RAM.
The operating system we used was Windows XP (32-bit) with Service Pack 2. Anti-virus software (Norton AntiVirus 2005) was also installed to give the test machine a realistic environment-that of a regular personal computer. The LiteOn Super AllWrite DVD-Writer (model SHM-165P6S) was used as the media writing device.
Other hardware included an nVidia GeForce FX 5950 (256 MB) card and a Seagate Barracuda hard disk.
We tested the Linux-based software on custom-installed Fedora Core 3 using the same machine as above. No anti-virus software was installed on the Linux machine.
Both software-K3b and NeroLINUX-operated in the GNOME environment of Fedora. The test machine was made to dual boot Windows XP and Fedora Core 3.

We separated disc burning-related features from additional utilities such as media players. This ensured that priority was given to the purpose for which the software is implemented. A higher weightage was given to features than additional packages.
Of course, a software that had extra utilities in addition to exceptional recording/burning features would win over the rest.

Ease Of Use
Ease of use is one of the most important criteria when considering burning software, and considerable consideration was given to this aspect. The installation of Windows-based software was easy in all cases, and one cannot really differentiate between software based on the installation Wizards.
The story is quite different when installing Linux-based software. The installation patterns of the Linux software were different from each other. Software that installed from package managers such as RPM and DPKG was scored over those that installed from a tarball (.tar.gz, .tar.bz2). Other parameters considered were the user interface, Wizards for burning etc., and the file browser.

For Windows-based software, the page file usage was considered as memory consumption, while Fedora indicated RAM and swap file usage separately.
The idle state in both cases is the record of the memory consumed when no application is running (except for the normal process and services running on an operating system). The CD/DVD burning application was made to run with Task Manager (Windows XP) or System Monitor (Fedora Core 3) in the backdrop. The peak memory usage during the recording/burning was record as the burn state consumption. The difference in the value of the two states gives (approximately) the memory consumed by the CD/DVD burning application.
The time taken to burn a 690 MB data CD and a 550 MB disc image (ISO) were also noted as performance parameters.
NewTech InfoSystems
NTI CD&DVD Maker 7
NTI CD&DVD Maker has always been known for its ease of use. The last time we did a review and comparison of burning software, NTI gave stiff competition to the then winner Nero 6 Ultra in the ease of use and features departments. Does it still stand up to the competition?

The interface of NTI CD&DVD Maker sports Mac OS-like skin and it was difficult to locate the Image burn task

It is hard to pinpoint a missing feature here. In the table you'll notice that CD&DVD Maker 7 gives Nero and Easy Media Creator a tough challenge. The only area it missed out on was in the ability to create a Music DVD. WMA music CDs are supported in CD&DVD Maker, though.

CD&DVD Maker is sparse in the additional package department; it bundled only the important applications-the AVI to MPEG converter, audio ripper, audio editor, and a few others.
Ease Of Use
The interface bears a strong resemblance to Mac software. It is well supported by a simple Wizard that guides you through all the steps necessary to burn your desired project. The only area where we had to work around a little bit with the interface was to burn a disc image. Otherwise, the interface is pretty straightforward, and so is the installation.

CD&DVD Maker 7 did not impress us performance-wise. It taxes the system memory (albeit a little less than Nero does).

Site: cdmaker_v7_full.asp

Sonic/Roxio Easy Media Creator 8
The dark horse in our comparison was Roxio's Easy Media Creator 8. Roxio has been bought over by Sonic Solutions, and the effect is showing up in this suite.

If you thought Nero was a complete solution, you might feel sorry for not having known about Easy Media Creator 8. But you can't be blamed; Sonic Solutions and Roxio do not provide a demo or a trial pack. All other manufacturers do.

What would you call a software that has all the features you'd want? We call it Easy Media Creator 8! This software is not only feature rich but also provides loads of additional packages. The only two areas we got a chance to type in "absent" in our comparison chart were Blu-Ray support and UPnP streaming… but do you really need these as of now?
Ease Of Use
The installation Wizard is almost identical to that of Nero 7-you'll need to choose custom installation if you want to control the applications this mammoth product will add to your system.

In Roxio Easy Media Creator 8, used disc space is shown as a shaded region on a disc symbol at the lower left corner

The interface is fully backed by a Wizard that is integrated with the main application; it is not a separate dialog box guiding you through the various stages of a burn project. The left pane displays various categories under which different burn projects are classified. On the lower left corner, a disc icon shows the used disc space as a pie chart, and the estimated remaining space is displayed next to it.

The application consumes about 100 MB of system memory when loading, and then settles down to 80-odd MB. But try burning a CD, and you'll see memory usage drop-sometimes it doesn't consume any! Even if Easy Media Creator uses virtual memory for its burning, it would probably just take a few extra seconds to burn a media-and you'll have free RAM to run other applications simultaneously.

Site: index.jhtml

Sonic/Roxio RecordNow! Deluxe 7
Looking for a software that is strictly meant for burning CDs and DVDs, and that doesn't load your system with packages you may never use? Sonic Solutions' RecordNow! Deluxe 7 is the answer: all it does is burn!
Most burning features are supported in RecordNow! Deluxe. But it lacks a little on the DVD burn features available in its cousin, Easy Media Creator 8. Other important features such as overburning, multi-session and image burning are supported.

In the additional package department, RecordNow! provided only basic, useful and frequently-used apps such as a CD label creator, audio ripping, and a Photo Slide Show disc wizard.

Ease Of Use
We found the interface very compact and not very informative. It looks more like audio player software; the tabs on the base open up a hideable menu that reveals all the burn-related features. The tab classifies the various burn tasks into audio, video, data, etc. You can choose to drag and drop the files you want to burn using Windows Explorer, since the file browser is as compact as the interface.

The interface of Sonic RecordNow! is so compact that it looks more like an MP3 playback software like Jet Audio rather than a burning software

The interface is intuitive - drag MP3 tracks onto the disc symbol on the interface, and it will automatically open the MP3 CD creator. You can also choose to change the volume levels of the sound tracks you add.

Jargon Buster 
ISO9660 (CDFS): The most commonly used file system for CD and DVD is ISO9600. It has certain limitations that led to the development of new file systems. The limitations of this file system were short file names and eight-level-deep file structures, which means that you can create only seven sub-folders under a root. The newer file systems resolve this issue.
We cannot totally do away with CDFS, since you'll need it to view the contents of a CD in DOS-mode or older Mac, Sun or Linux systems. However, there are extensions to ISO to deal with its limitations. These are Rock Ridge and Joliet.

Rock Ridge: The Rock Ridge Interchange Protocol (RRIP) assigns an extension to the ISO9660 standard for CD-ROM that not only lifts the ISO9660 restrictions, but also allows *nix-style symbolic links and special files to be stored on a CD. The volume descriptors are not affected by this extension, so it is cross-platform.

Joliet: Developed by Microsoft, this is an extension to ISO9660 that allows Unicode characters in file names. It also allows long file names just like Rock Ridge, but the limitation is that only Linux and FreeBSD among the POSIX systems can recognise Joliet CDs.

Hybrid CD: In order to eliminate cross-platform issues when dealing with CD-ROM/RW content, the Hybrid class was designed. It is a mixture of three file systems on a single disc-ISO9660/RR, Joliet and HFS. Such CDs are accessible under DOS, *nix, Macintosh, and Windows 9x/NT. It also allows more than one session on a disc, which means that a recordable CD can be used more than once-provided there's remaining space, and that the disc wasn't closed in the previous burn session.

HFS: HFS is a file system developed by Apple computers for computers running Macintosh operating systems. It was originally designed for floppy disks and hard disks, but it can now also be found on CD-ROMs. It permits file names up to 31 characters, and supports metadata (information about data content) on a CD. It is a well-documented file system, and so many workarounds are available to access HFS-based CDs on other modern operating systems.

UDF: Universal Disk Format (UDF) is a relatively newer file system for CD and DVD that is developed and managed by the Optical Storage Technology Association (OSTA), aimed at creating a platform-independent media format. It is based on the ISO 13346
(EMCA-167) standard, and it is considered the successor to the ISO 9660 (CDFS) format. UDF supports advanced features along with Long and Unicode file names, deep directory trees, large (64-bit) file sizes, access control list, and named streams.
However, Windows XP's inbuilt CD-burning feature does not support some UDF features such as named streams and access control list features.
UDF is required by DVDs to contain MPEG audio/video streams. It is also used by CD-RW in the packet writing process, which ensures efficiency in terms of disk space required and time.

TAO: Track-At-Once (TAO) is a method of disc writing by which the laser writes data on a disc track-by-track. The laser of the device goes on and off between these tracks. If an audio disc is written using TAO, it will introduce rather long gaps (3 or 4 seconds) between audio tracks, which cannot be reduced by the burning software.

DAO: In Disc-At-One, one or more tracks are written continuously one after the other; the laser remains on till the process is complete. This method is ideal for burning audio discs, and most CD recording software use it by default when a user wants to create an audio CD. It is also an ideal option for burning disc images such as *.ISO.

CRC (Cyclic Redundancy Check): A CRC error happens when a data check at the destination does not match the original data. This error is commonly seen when writing CDs and DVDs. You'll also see it in downloaded files and corrupt zipped files.
When data is transferred between a source and a destination, a CRC value is given to a block of data. If something goes wrong with the transfer, the CRC sent at the source will not match with that at the destination. When this happens, the OS returns a CRC error.
RecordNow!, too, was very low on resources right from the opening of the application to the end of the burn process. The time taken to record disc images and data were average. The readings we obtained were just the values we expected from an application with such a modest interface.
Site: index.jhtml

So What Software To Buy?
Deciding the winner meant choosing between Nero 7 Premium and Sonic/Roxio Easy Media Creator 8. The other products in close competition were NTI CD&DVD Maker 7 and CyberLink's Power2Go. The latter is a better choice for its simplicity, and it has almost all the features that CD&DVD Maker has. RecordNow! and InterVideo's Disc Master were left behind in the race.

Our winner by a very small margin of 1.5 points is Easy Media Creator 8. That doesn't mean Nero users should switch right away! The winner scores over Nero for its features and performance alone; Nero has a few extra bundled utilities, and most importantly, it is much easier to use.

Easy Media Creator wins in the performance department by a mammoth margin, and we've said earlier, you can run other applications without the fear of ending up with a corrupt disc.

Burning Software For Linux
Most power users of Linux distributions are aware of and use the command-based CD burning utility. Newbies to Linux are not aware of this feature, and even if they are, not many know how to use it.

The command is "cdrecord", and you can do a "man cdrecord" to figure out how to use it. We've covered how to use this command in the Tips & Tricks section in this issue.

For now, we look at how two of the best CD/DVD burning software fare.

Many software are available on the Internet for burning CDs and DVDs, but they either fail with dependencies during installation, or they use the inbuilt cdrecord and mkisofs commands (the GUI front-ends). Therefore, we take a look at the popular K3b and the challenger, NeroLINUX.

Ahead Software
Nero is a very popular software for Windows. Ahead also introduced a version for Linux some time ago, but that didn't gain as much popularity as was expected.

NeroLinux-burn - The interface of NeroLINUX is mediocre as compared to both Nero-Windows and K3b

This could have been because it is a licensed software that you needed to buy for using on a free operating system! However, you were allowed to download and install the trial version, which has no feature limitations. The same is the case with the latest version of Nero for Linux, NeroLINUX

If you've used Nero on Windows and happily installed the Linux version, it'll come as sad news that NeroLINUX is not as feature-rich as its Windows counterpart. It can't even burn an audio CD. It can write data CDs and DVDs, CD/DVD images, and create bootable CDs and DVDs. Additional burn features include multi-session, overburning, and drag-and-drop. It can also create images of CDs and DVDs.

Ease Of Use
Installing applications on a Linux box is not straightforward, and lately, with all the changes that Linux has undergone, it has become all the more difficult. Considering this, Nero has made life easier, especially for those new to Linux.

Nero has compiled the software in two popular packages - DPKG for Debian (also Knoppix and Ubuntu) users, and RPM for Red Hat/Fedora (SuSe, Mandrake, and many more based on these).

Installing NeroLINUX is easy. All you need to know is the command, and of course, the serial key; remember, this is a licensed software, not freeware. The latest trial version will work till the end of January. Ahead might extend this period or come up with a newer package!

We downloaded the RPM package, which is 10 MB large. Open the Konsole or Gnome terminal to run the following command:

#rpm -ivh nerolinux-

You may have to switch to root user if you are not logged in as one. You may need to reboot the machine to finish the installation. On logging back in, you'll see that Nero comes under Hat (Start Menu button, RedHat) > Sound and Video > NeroLINUX.

The interface is very similar to Nero Burning ROM, with a few changes. On the lower half are vertically arranged tabs that can be used for changing the settings. The interface is best described as modest.

NeroLINUX is a whole ten seconds faster than its Windows counterpart in burning both data CDs and disc images. It is also a little faster than K3b. But it taxes the system RAM pretty much to the same level as does the Windows version.

Site: nerolinux-prog.html K3b 0.12.10
K3b is open source. It's an application suited for the KDE environment, but it works well on GNOME as well. It is the top-seeded CD/DVD writing tool with plenty of features, provided your system is capable of handling it. That means that to have utilities such as the video encoder, your OS should have the library files to support the DVD and AVI/MPEG-4 formats.

Download Burning Software PDF file

K3b lets you burn data CDs and DVDs, MP3, and audio CDs. It can burn video CDs as well. We liked the options K3b provides for erasing CD-RWs: you can choose to perform a Fast erase or a Full erase, and best of all, you can just erase the last recorded session!

A tiny rectangular box stays on to top of other applications indicating the progress of disc writing in K3b

Other nifty features are the audio ripping tool and the disc image loader. You can use the disc image loader to load and view the contents of an ISO file. The same can be done by use of commands, but the GUI and K3b makes the task very simple. Need to rip a DVD movie to the AVI format? The ripping tool for DVD is just a front-end, so you'll have to download and install the necessary source object files (*.so) to get rid of dependencies, if any. Thereafter, the task is pretty simple.

Ease Of Use
When it comes to installation, K3b will give a new Linux user a horrid time! The installer comes as a tarball, which means an archived and compressed (.tar.gz or .tar.bz2) set of files from which you need to configure and install the application. Just be prepared to do some reading, and eventually, learning! The advantage of a tarball is that it can be installed on any Linux distribution.

To install K3b, first uncompress and untar the downloaded file with one of these commands, depending on the type of file:
#tar -zxvf <filename>.tar.gz
#tar -jxvf <filename>.tar.bz2

Now change your directory to the directory where the files are uncompressed and untarred (the above command does both these functions) and run the configure script, which is ./ Always read the readme file before jumping to the configuration process.

If the configuration runs with out any errors, you might have a successful installation.

The entire installation process takes a long time, but the outcome is software best configured for your system hardware, which can't be achieved by ready-made installers.

The interface looks good, and has a Wizard at the start of the application, displaying different burn projects.

An easy file browser is in the upper half of the interface, and the details of the burn project are below it. K3b displays a tiny icon in the corner of the screen showing burn progress.

The feel of K3b is undoubtedly better than that of NeroLINUX, and is even better than that of some of the Windows software.

K3b consumes less system memory than NeroLINUX, but takes a few extra seconds to complete a burn project.

An audio converter is avaiable in k3b and so is DVD ripper only if dependencies are cleared

There isn't a major difference in the performance levels of the two packages.System resource usage is within prescribed limits. Neither application malfunctioned in our tests - this indicates they are stable releases.


Nero Or K3b?
K3b wins the race hands down-it's way ahead in terms of features! We don't understand why Ahead is distributing a paid version of Nero for Linux with such few features.The only factor in favour of Nero is ease of installation. But K3b also has distribution-specific installer packages, so eventually, there's not much point using NeroLINUX. Hats off to and the open source community for their efforts!

In Conclusion
We hope we've alerted you to the fact that Nero is not the be-all and end-all of burning software. We've also tried to get across the point that you can do a lot more with burning software than just burn. Memory usage is an important point-software that takes up less memory while burning is preferable, since you probably tend to do other things while a CD or DVD is burning.You'll probably see Blu-ray and HD-DVD featuring prominently in our tests next time round.

In combination with the DVD-Writers shootout in this issue, we hope we've informed you of all you need in order to create perfect DVDs. So go ahead-organise, compile, burn!

Team DigitTeam Digit

All of us are better than one of us.