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Optical disc drive


Optical disc authoring
  • Optical disc
  • Optical disc image
  • Optical disc drive
  • Authoring software
  • Recording technologies
    • Recording modes
    • Packet writing
Optical media types
  • Laserdisc
  • Compact disc (CD): Red Book, 5.1 Music Disc, SACD, PhotoCD, CD-R, CD-ROM, CD-RW, Video CD, SVCD, CD+G, CD-Text, CD-ROM XA, CD-Extra, CD-i Bridge, CD-i
  • MiniDisc
  • Blu-ray Disc (BD): BD-R, BD-RE
  • UDO
  • UMD
  • Holographic data storage
  • 3D optical data storage
  • History of optical storage media
  • Rainbow Books
  • File systems
    • ISO 9660
      • Joliet
      • Rock Ridge
        • Amiga Rock Ridge extensions
      • El Torito
      • Apple ISO9660 Extensions
    • Universal Disk Format
      • Mount Rainier

In computing, an optical disk drive (ODD) is a disk drive that uses laser light or electromagnetic waves near the light spectrum as part of the process of reading and writing data. It is a computer's peripheral device, that stores data on optical discs. Some drives can only read from discs, but commonly drives are both readers and recorders. Recorders are sometimes called burners or writers.

Common media and technology families include CD, DVD, Blu-ray Disc, HD DVD. Standalone, non-computer, optical storage devices also exist, for example popular CD players, DVD players, some DVD recorders, but those are not covered in this article. Optical disc drives are generally used for small-scale archival or data exchange, being slower and more materially expensive per unit than the moulding process used to mass-manufacture pressed discs. But they—along with flash memory—have displaced floppy disk drives and magnetic tape drives in most cases because of the low cost of optical media and the near-ubiquity of optical drives in computers and consumer entertainment hardware.


Laser and optics

The most important part of an optical disc drive is an optical path, placed in a pickup head (PUH),[1] usually consisting of semiconductor laser, a lense for guiding the laser beam, and photodiodes detecting the light reflection from disc's surface.[2]

Initially, in CD laser with wavelength of 780 nm were used, being within infrared range. In DVD a wavelength was reduced to 650 nm (red color), and in both Blu-Ray Disc and HD DVD to 405 nm (blue color).

Two main servomechanisms are used, first one to keep a distance of lens to disc, and ensure a laser beam is focused on a small laser spot on a disc. Second servo moves head along a disc's radius, keeping a beam on a groove, a continuous spiral data path.

On the read only media (ROM), during the manufacturing process the groove made of pits is pressed on a flat surface, called land. Because the depth of the pits is approximately one-quarter to one-sixth of the laser's wavelength, the reflected beam's phase is shifted in relation to the incoming reading beam, causing their mutual destructive interference and reducing the reflected beam's intensity. This is detected by photodiodes that output electrical signals.

A recorder encodes (or burns) data onto a recordable CD-R, DVD-R, DVD+R, BD-R or HD DVD-R disc (called a blank) by selectively heating parts of an organic dye layer with a laser[citation needed]. This changes the reflectivity of the dye, thereby creating marks that can be read like the pits and lands on pressed discs. The process is permanent and the media can be written to only once. While the reading laser is usually not stronger than 5 mW, the writing laser is considerably more powerful. The higher writing speed, the less time a laser has to heat a point on the media, thus its power has to increase proportionally.[citation needed] DVD burner's laser often peaks at about 100 mW in continuous wave, and 225 mW pulsed.

For rewriteable CD-RW, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, DVD-RAM, BD-RE, HD DVD-RW, or HD DVD-RAM media, the laser is used to melt a crystalline metal alloy in the recording layer of the disc. Depending on the amount of power applied, the substance may be allowed to melt back (change the phase back) into crystalline form or left in an amorphous form, enabling marks of varying reflectivity to be created.

Double-sided media may be used, but they are not easily accessed with a standard drive, as they require to be physically reverted to access the data on the other side.

Double layer (DL) media have two independent data layers separated by a semi-reflective layer. Both layers are accessible from the same side, but require the optics to change the laser's focus. Traditional single layer (SL) writable media are produced with a spiral groove molded in the protective polycarbonate layer (not in the data recording layer), to lead and synchronize the speed of recording head. Double-layered writable media have: a first polycarbonate layer with a (shallow) groove, a first data layer, a semi-reflective layer, a second (spacer) polycarbonate layer with another (deep) groove, and a second data layer. The first groove spiral usually starts on the inner edge and extends outerwards, while the second groove starts on the outer edge and extends inwards.

Some drives support Hewlett-Packard's LightScribe photothermal printing technology for labelling specially coated discs.

Rotational mechanism

Optical drive's rotational mechanism differs considerably from hard disk drive's, in that the latter keep a constant angular velocity, in other words a constant number of revolutions per minute (RPM). With CAV, a higher throughput is generally achievable at an outer disc area, as compared to inner area.

In other hand, optical drives were developed with an assumption of achieving a constant throughput, in CD drives initially equal to 150 KiB/s. It was a feature important for streaming audio data, that always tend to require a constant bit rate. But to ensure no disc capacity is wasted, a head had to transfer data at a maximum linear rate at all times too, without slowing on the outer rim of disc. This had led to optical drives—until recently—operating with a constant linear velocity (CLV). The spiral groove of the disc passed under its head at a constant speed. Of course the implication of CLV, as opposed to CAV, is that disc angular velocity is no longer constant, and spindle motor need to be designed to vary speed between 200 RPM on the outer rim and 500 RPM on the inner rim.

Later CD drives kept the CLV paradigm, but evolved to achieve higher rotational speeds, popularly described in multiples of a base speed. As a result, a 4X drive, for instance, would rotate at 800-2000 RPM, while tranferring data steadily at 600 KiB/s, which is equal to 4 x 150 KiB/s.

For DVD base speed, or "1x speed", is 1.385 MB/s, equal to 1.32 MiB/s, approximately 9 times faster than CD's base speed. For HD DVD drive base speed is 4,57 MB/s, equal to 4,36 MiB/s. For Blu-ray drive base speed is 6,74 MB/s, equal to 6,43 MiB/s.

There are mechanical limits to how quickly a disc can be spun. Beyond a certain rate of rotation, around 10000 RPM, centrifugal stress can cause the disc plastic to creep and possibly shatter. On the outer edge of the CD disc, 10000 RPM limitation roughly equals to 52x speed, but on the inner edge only to 20x. Some drives further lower their maximum read speed to around 40x on the reasoning that blank discs will be clear of structural damage, but that discs inserted for reading may not be. Without higher rotational speeds, increased read performance may be attainable by simultaneously reading more than one point of a data groove [3], but drives with such mechanisms are more expensive, less compatible, and very uncommon.

  Because keeping a constant transfer rate for the whole disc is not so important in most contemporary CD uses, to keep the rotational speed of the disc safely low while maximizing data rate, a pure CLV approach needed to be abandoned. Some drives work in partial CLV (PCLV) scheme, by switching from CLV to CAV only when a rotational limit is reached. But switching to CAV requires considerable changes in hardware design, so instead most drives use the zoned constant linear velocity (Z-CLV) scheme. This divides the disc into several zones, each having its own different constant linear velocity. A Z-CLV recorder rated at "52X", for example, would write at 20X on the innermost zone and then progressively increase the speed in several discrete steps up to 52X at the outer rim.

Loading mechanisms

Current optical drives use either a tray-loading mechanism, where the disc is loaded onto a motorised or manually operated tray, or a slot-loading mechanism, where the disc is slid into a slot and drawn in by motorised rollers. Slot-loading drives have the disadvantage that they cannot usually accept the smaller 80 mm discs or any non-standard sizes; however, the Wii video game console seems to have defeated this problem, for it is able to load standard size DVDs and 80mm GameCube discs in the same slot-loading drive.

A small number of drive models, mostly compact portable units, have a top-loading mechanism where the drive lid is opened upwards and the disc is placed directly onto the spindle.[4]

Some early CD-ROM drives used a mechanism where CDs had to be inserted into special cartridges or caddies, somewhat similar in appearance to a 3.5" floppy diskette. Although the idea behind this—a tougher plastic shell to protect the disc from damage—was sound, it did not gain wide acceptance among disc manufacturers due to the increased cost of production and the concern that the discs would not be compatible with drives that did not use caddies. Unspecialized drives that used the caddy format required "bare" discs to be placed into an openable cartridge before use, making the drives less convenient to use. An exception is the PlayStation Portable, which uses a small DVD disc inside an unopenable caddie. This was partly as a copy protection and damage prevention system.

Computer interfaces

Most internal drives for personal computers, servers and workstations are designed to fit in a standard 5.25" drive bay and connect to their host via an ATA or SATA interface. External drives usually have USB or FireWire interfaces. Some portable versions for laptop use power themselves off batteries or off their interface bus.

Drives with SCSI interface exist, but are less common and tend to be more expensive, because of the cost of their interface chipsets and more complex SCSI connectors.


Most optical drives are backwards compatible with their ancestors up to CD, although this is not required by standards.

Compared to a CD's 1.2 mm layer of polycarbonate, a DVD's laser beam only has to penetrate 0.6 mm in order to reach the recording surface. This allows a DVD drive to focus the beam on a smaller spot size and to read smaller pits. However, this means that DVD lens has to support a different focus for CD media.

CD-R and CD-RW media have much lower reflectivity than CD-ROM media. This caused some very early CD-ROM drives to be incompatible with such media. For the same reason, the current shorter-wavelength lasers (650 nm, 405 nm) cannot reliably read CD-R and CD-RW media. So DVD—and newer—drives usually have an additional separate CD-dedicated 780 nm laser.[clarify]

Audio CD player Read Read [1] Read [2] None None None None None None None None None
CD-ROM drive Read Read [1] Read [2] None None None None None None None None None
CD-R recorder Read Write Read None None None None None None None None None
CD-RW recorder Read Write Write None None None None None None None None None
DVD-ROM drive Read Read [3] Read [3] Read Read [4] Read [4] Read [4] Read [4] Read [5] None None None
DVD-R recorder Read Write Write Read Write Read [6] Read [7] Read [6] Read [5] None None None
DVD-RW recorder Read Write Write Read Write Read [7] Write [8] Read [6] Read [5] None None None
DVD+R recorder Read Write Write Read Read [6] Write Read [6] Read [9] Read [5] None None None
DVD+RW recorder Read Write Write Read Read [6] Write Read [6] Write Read [5] None None None
DVD±RW recorder Read Write Write Read Write Write Write Write Read [5] None None None
DVD±RW/DVD+R DL recorder Read Write Write Read Write [10] Write Write [10] Write Write None None None
BD-ROM Read Read Read Read Read Read Read Read Read Read Read Read
BD-R recorder Read [11] Write [11] Write [11] Read Write Write Write Write Write Read Write Read
BD-RE recorder Read [11] Write [11] Write [11] Read Write Write Write Write Write Read Write Write
  • 1. ^  Some types of CD-R media with less-reflective dyes may cause problems.
  • 2. ^  May not work in non MultiRead-compliant drives.
  • 3. ^  May not work in some early-model DVD-ROM drives.
  • 4. ^  A large-scale compatibility test conducted by in July 2003 found DVD-R discs playable by 96.74%, DVD+R by 87.32%, DVD-RW by 87.68% and DVD+RW by 86.96% of consumer DVD players and DVD-ROM drives.
  • 5. ^  Read compatibility with existing DVD drives and recorders was found by EMediaLive in November 2004 to vary greatly with the brand of DVD+R DL media used.
  • 6. ^  Need information on read compatibility.
  • 7. ^  May not work in non DVD Multi-compliant drives.
  • 8. ^  Recorder firmware may blacklist or otherwise refuse to record to some brands of DVD-RW media.
  • 9. ^  Need information on read compatibility.
  • 10. ^  As of April 2005, all DVD+R DL recorders on the market are Super Multi-capable.
  • 11. ^  As of October 2006, recently released BD drives are able to read and write CD media.

Recording performance

Optical recorder drives are often marked with three different speed ratings. In these cases, the first speed is for write-once (R) operations, second for re-write (RW or RE) operations, and one for read-only (ROM) operations. For example a 12x/10x/32x CD drive is capable of writing to CD-R disks at 12x speed (1.76 MB/s), write to CD-RW discs at 10x speed (1.46 MB/s), and read from any CD discs at 32x speed (4.69 MB/s).

In the late 1990s, buffer underruns became a very common problem as high-speed CD recorders began to appear in home and office computers, which—for a variety of reasons—often could not muster the I/O performance to keep the data stream to the recorder steadily fed. The recorder, should it run short, would be forced to halt the recording process, leaving a truncated track that usually renders the disc useless.

In response, manufacturers of CD recorders began shipping drives with "buffer underrun protection" (under various trade names, such as Sanyo's "BURN-Proof", Ricoh's "JustLink" and Yamaha's "Lossless Link"). These can suspend and resume the recording process in such a way that the gap the stoppage produces can be dealt with by the error-correcting logic built into CD players and CD-ROM drives. The first of these drives were rated at 12X and 16X.

Recording schemes

See also: Optical disc recording technologies

CD recording on personal computers was originally a batch-oriented task in that it required specialised authoring software to create an "image" of the data to record, and to record it to disc in the one session. This was acceptable for archival purposes, but limited the general convenience of CD-R and CD-RW discs as a removable storage medium.

Packet writing is a scheme in which the recorder writes incrementally to disc in short bursts, or packets. Sequential packet writing fills the disc with packets from bottom up. To make it readable in CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives, the disc can be closed at any time by writing a final table-of-contents to the start of the disc; thereafter, the disc cannot be packet-written any further. Packet writing, together with support from the operating system and a file system like UDF, can be used to mimic random write-access as in media like flash memory and magnetic disks.

Fixed-length packet writing (on CD-RW and DVD-RW media) divides up the disc into padded, fixed-size packets. The padding reduces the capacity of the disc, but allows the recorder to start and stop recording on an individual packet without affecting its neighbours. These resemble the block-writeable access offered by magnetic media closely enough that many conventional file systems will work as-is. Such discs, however, are not readable in most CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives or on most operating systems without additional third-party drivers.

The DVD+RW disc format goes further by embedding more accurate timing hints in the data groove of the disc and allowing individual data blocks to be replaced without affecting backwards compatibility (a feature dubbed "lossless linking"). The format itself was designed to deal with discontinuous recording because it was expected to be widely used in digital video recorders. Many such DVRs use variable-rate video compression schemes which require them to record in short bursts; some allow simultaneous playback and recording by alternating quickly between recording to the tail of the disc whilst reading from elsewhere.

Mount Rainier aims to make packet-written CD-RW and DVD+RW discs as convenient to use as that of removable magnetic media by having the firmware format new discs in the background and manage media defects (by automatically mapping parts of the disc which have been worn out by erase cycles to reserve space elsewhere on the disc). As of February 2007, support for Mount Rainier is natively supported in Windows Vista. All previous versions of Windows require a third-party solution, as does Mac OS X.

Recorder Unique Identifier

Due to pressure from the music industry, as represented by the IFPI and RIAA, Philips developed the Recorder Identification Code (RID) to allow a media to be uniquely associated with the recorder that have written it. This standard is contained in the Rainbow Books. The RID-Code is the opposite[clarify] of the Source Identification Code (SID), an eight character supplier code that's placed on every CD-ROM.

The RID-Code consists of a supplier code (i.e. "PHI" for Philips), a model number and the unique ID of the recorder.

See also

  • Computer hardware
  • technologies
    • general articles CD, DVD,
    • computer read-only CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, BD-ROM
    • write-once recordable CD-R, DVD-R, DVD+R, BD-R
    • rewritable CD-RW, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, DVD-RAM, BD-RE
  • CDDA, CD ripping, Cue sheets
  • CD shattering
  • Optical disc authoring
    • List of optical disc authoring software
    • ISO image
    • Overburning
  • MultiLevel Recording
  • Phase-change Dual
  • Receiver (radio)

Notes and references

  1. ^ Taylor, Jim H.; Johnson, Mark R. & Crawford, Charles G. (2006), , McGraw-Hill Professional, pp. 7-8, ISBN 0071423966,
  2. ^ Stan, Sorin G. (1998), , Springer, pp. 13, ISBN 079238167X,
  3. ^ Page, M., , pp. 2, . Retrieved on 2007-10-08
  4. ^ , TEAC, . Retrieved on 2007-10-08
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Optical_disc_drive". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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