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What are the Different Types of DVD?

Hillary Flynn
Updated May 16, 2024
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A digital video disc (DVD), also known as a digital versatile disc, is an optical disc that stores data and video. Optical discs are circular discs that are read and translated by lasers. There are several types and formats, but most DVDs fall into one of three main categories: read-only, writable, and erasable. It is important to understand the difference between the formats because they are not interchangeable, and each type will only be compatible with specific disc drives.

Read-only memory discs are the type of discs that are purchased with media already on them. Movie discs fall under this category. The data and videos on these discs cannot be erased and no data can be added, therefore they are referred to as a non-writable DVD.

The first type of writable DVD was called a random access memory (RAM) disc, but these are no longer compatible with most computers. Now, most computers with writable, or recordable, drives require a DVD-R. This type of disc allows the user to record, or write, information to the DVD. However, information can only be written to the disc one time, and once full the disc becomes read only. This type is the least expensive and most compatible with different drives.

DVD-RWs are another type of DVD. Like the recordable discs, this type is also writable, but it has one more feature. These rewritable discs can be erased and written or recorded as many times as one desires. However, this is an all or nothing option. Partial pieces of information cannot be selected for erasing. The entire disc must be deleted before the user can add new data or media.

DVD+R and DVD+RW are very similar to the DVD-Rs and DVD-RWs. The difference between the -R and the +R is that the +R allows a drag-and-drop files feature and works a bit faster when writing files. The biggest difference between the -RW and the +RW is that the -RW is written in a single layer, whereas the +RW is written in multi-layers. This adds more capacity.

When selecting a DVD format, one should first check to see which formats are compatible with the disc drive intended for use with the DVD. The most expensive types are the discs that are rewritable. If the intent isn't to use the same disc repeatedly, it would be best to get the cheaper write-once format. If one's computer does not have the drive required for the favored format, a new drive can always be swapped out or added.

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Hillary Flynn
By Hillary Flynn , Writer
Hillary Flynn's insatiable curiosity led her to join the EasyTechJunkie team, where she contributes well-researched articles on various topics. In addition to her work with EasyTechJunkie, Hillary manages an electronic publishing business that allows her to develop her skills in technical writing, graphic design, and business development. With a passion for satirical writing and traveling to historical places, Hillary brings a distinctive voice to her content.

Discussion Comments

By anon999834 — On Mar 26, 2018

Your write-ups are good, however currently buying DVDs on the internet is "tricky" since the buyer must beware of all the many region codes and Blu-ray codes. In some cases, they're not easy to find on the outside box or package. You may want to provide us with any tips on being able to identify these labels, since of course, you cannot open the box, package, etc.; You're only viewing it. Please note not the DVD. In the example, if you see A, B, C, does that mean the DVD is Blu-ray free or its production company? Still in the process of troubleshooting this issue. Also, some of the DVD sellers are not providing complete information in the "write-ups," which adds to the confusion. Please keep providing the good articles and I enjoy reading and learning. Thank you for the fine job!

By jlmk — On Feb 09, 2011

Thank you for explaining these differences. I always get a bit confused when I'm in the store, looking at all of the different DVD options. I never knew what to buy, because I never understood the differences.

Hopefully I haven't wasted too much money on discs I don't need.

By heath925 — On Feb 08, 2011

I think it's a good idea to use DVD-RWs if you plan on using the disc only temporarily. I didn't realize this was an option before. I am always making recordings that I will only be using for a short time. It would have saved me a lot of money, had I just purchased the DVD-RWs in the first place. The way I've been doing it has wasted so many DVDs.

By anon137034 — On Dec 26, 2010

Thanks, that's basically what I needed to know. However, you don't mention other formats my HP/Qompac booklet rules out for Recovery Disks, and, I expect, can't use for anything: They all have 'DL' after the usual letters.

Hillary Flynn

Hillary Flynn


Hillary Flynn's insatiable curiosity led her to join the EasyTechJunkie team, where she contributes well-researched...
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