CD Burner won't write at maximum recording speed?

Dennis Faas's picture

Ben M. from The Land Down Under (Australia) recently told me about a problem he's been having with his 40x CD burner.

In a nutshell, Ben can't get the writer to record at maximum speed and asked me for some troubleshooting suggestions. Ben writes:

" Dennis, I religiously read Infopackets 3 times a week! Thank you.

As a computer technician, I find your newsletter a valuable troubleshooting resource. Unfortunately, I'm having a problem that has got me stumped and was wondering if you had any suggestions?

I recently purchased a new computer (Celeron 1.7GHz) with 256MB RAM, 40GB hard drive, with Windows XP Home Edition with Service Pack 1 (including all available updates) installed. Everything was going fine until I went to use my CD Burner. It's a 40x writer, but takes 25 minutes to burn a full CD using maximum speed?!

The strange thing is that I have an LG 24x10x40 CD burner in another machine (a Windows 98 PC), which writes an entire CD in only 3 minutes. I have tried everything I can think of and have come to the conclusion that it must be something in Windows XP which is preventing the burner from working at maximum speed.

I also tried replacing the burner with another (same model / brand) -- but that didn't help. I also tried changing the buffer size for CDFS (CD File System) but to no avail.

I've tried using Nero Burning ROM and Roxio Easy CD Creator (latest versions, including latest patches) ... plus, I've disabled the [internal] Windows XP CD burning feature ... thinking that it may be responsible for conflicting with other CD burning software: but *nothing* I do seems to help!

I've also set my CD ROM drive on a separate I/O [input / output] channel, used ATA 33 and 66 IDE cables, checked for an updated motherboard BIOS (none available) -- but am at a loss. I also tried installing the latest IDE Controller Drivers for my motherboard but that didn't work either.

Oddly enough, both Roxio Easy CD and Nero assert that my burner's write speed is only 16x, instead of giving me an option for 40x write speed.

I'm using 1x - 40x Acer and Verbatim brand-name CD media. The drives spin up as they should but then die off (wind down) with the busy lights only flicking on every few seconds rather than the furious flickering I'm accustomed to with my 24x writer. As a last resort, I've tried all of the above in a completely different PC running XP Pro: and yet, the same thing happens.

This is driving my completely insane! Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! "

My response:

Before I delve into my answer: please understand that my solution may not be the "most correct". In fact, much of what I'm about to reveal focuses on a process of elimination that anyone can follow as a guide to obtaining maximum speed with their CD burner.

With that said, here are my suggestions if you are unable to burn at maximum speed:

  1. At the top of the list, try to burn a CD using another recordable brand. One brand you might want to try is Sony: their compact discs are one of the most respected (and expensive) labels on the market. You can also try discs with different dye color: I've always had the best luck with the light-blue (silvery) colored discs. Always make sure that the medium is capable of the burner's maximum record speed;
  2. RTFM: Read the Freakin' Manual. Double-check that you didn't overlook something which may be preventing the burner from writing at maximum speed. I owned a 16x burner once which required DMA mode* for high-speed burning. Please be aware that all devices sharing the same cable must support DMA mode for this method to work (if it is a requirement); Side note: The word DMA stands for Direct Memory Access and is simply a method used to transfer information from a peripheral such as a hard drive (or CD burner).
  3. Verify that the correct interface cable is being used. All new hard drives today use UDMA (Ultra DMA) modes and require 80-pin [IDE] cables. The same rule may apply to some of the new burners on the market (typically, a 40-pin cable is used). I personally haven't seen any burners which require an 80-pin connection, but you can read the manual to verify this fact;
  4. Place the CD burner on it's own I/O channel. This will reduce the likelihood of a hardware conflict and will help to keep the flow of data constant (IE: one device sharing a single I/O cable instead of two).
  5. Install the latest ASPI layer (software required for most CD burning applications). Many sites on the Internet recommend using Force ASPI. Here's a link I found floating on Google:
  6. Use the burner software that came with the writer / or at least ensure that the burning software you prefer to use supports your new burner's write speeds (check the software vendor's web site for updates). One other thing worth mentioning is to ensure that the burning software used is compatible with the operating system (in this case, Windows XP).
  7. Check to see if the CD burner has an updated BIOS / firmware. Visit the manufacturer's web site: the BIOS update (if available) may resolve your problem.

If none of that seems to help:

Try disabling the buffer under-run protection and burn a CD to see if it makes a difference. If the burn fails, it is most likely because the computer or hard drive inside the computer cannot keep up to the burner's maximum burn speed.

You can also try using the CD burner in another machine. Follow the outline above to rule out whether or not it is your operating system (IE: Windows XP) or your system which may be experiencing an compatibility issue.

If the original operating system is Windows XP, test the burner on another machine using a different version of Windows. Windows XP has notoriously poor hardware support for both new and old devices.

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