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What is a Recordable DVD-R?

R. Kayne
R. Kayne

A recordable DVD-R is an optical disc that can be used to permanently store files, music or movies by transferring them from a computer and burning them to disk. A recordable DVD-R looks like a compact disk (CD) but can hold more data and is just one of several types of DVDs, or Digital Versatile Disks, formerly Digital Virtual Disks. The term "recordable DVD-R" is redundant since the "R" stands for recordable, but the term is often used and so will be used here for the reader's convenience, though the correct usage is simply DVD-R.

The dash in "-R" indicates that the disk is formatted according to the "minus" or "dash" standard. Pioneer created this standard in 1997, while a competing recordable format is the DVD+R ("plus") format, available since 2002, created by the DVD+RW Alliance. The plus standard incorporated many improvements over the minus standard that resulted in more reliable recordings. A DVD formatted to the plus standard is less likely to give errors when recording, when playing back at high speeds, or when using multi-session recording.

A stack of DVDs.
A stack of DVDs.

A recordable DVD-R has a capacity of 4.71 Gigabytes (GB), allowing it to store about six times more data than a CD with a 700 Megabyte (MB) capacity. The DVD can hold more data because the pits and lands on the writeable surface that act as digital ones and zeros are smaller on a DVD, allowing more information to be packed in tighter. The smaller pits and lands also required a finer laser beam, which is why CD players could not play DVDs and had to be manufactured specifically to support both types of disks.

DVD and Blu-ray players can playback media content stored on recordable DVD-R disks.
DVD and Blu-ray players can playback media content stored on recordable DVD-R disks.

Virtually all DVD players are compatible with the recordable DVD-R format, but vintage players will not be able to play a DVD+R disk. Even following 2002 some players were only manufactured to support the original standard. Today most players support both standards, indicated by the presence of both a plus and minus within the specifications of the product. Most manuals do recommend specific brands of recordable DVD-R or DVD+R disks, and following these recommendations can result in fewer errors.

A recordable DVD-R disk cannot be erased. If the amount of data burned to disk does not exhaust the disk’s capacity, further recording can be done using multi-sessions until the disk becomes full. However, data already present cannot be changed or overwritten. To do this a DVD-RW or DVD+RW is required. The “RW” stands for “rewriteable” and these disks are commonly more expensive than record-only disks.

Another type of recordable DVD-R is the dual layer (DL) disk. A dual layer DVD utilizes two writing surfaces, doubling capacity. Not all DVD burners support DL technology, so before buying recordable DVD-R DL disks, check the manual. A further consideration is whether you will need the disk to play in other DVD units, including the home entertainment center or a friend’s player. Dual layer disks also cost more than standard DVD-Rs.

Discussion Comments


Thanks for the info, But the only thing that I cannot find,( being an old boy), is that I don't understand the 'running speed' of the DVD - some state 4x, some state 8x, others state 16x. I am recording all my old VCR tapes, and the 8x seem to be OK, but point me in the 'right' direction. Thank you, this a good site, -- Chas

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    • A stack of DVDs.
      A stack of DVDs.
    • DVD and Blu-ray players can playback media content stored on recordable DVD-R disks.
      By: thawats
      DVD and Blu-ray players can playback media content stored on recordable DVD-R disks.