Computer users are frequently told to make additional, or backup, copies of their work and put their important files on a medium other than their computer. The media used to record files and data is ever-changing based on advances in technology, but the recordable compact disc is considered one of the easiest and safest ways to store data. In addition to recording data, a recordable compact disc can also contain music, which can be played back on nearly any home stereo.
Recordable compact discs come in two main types, Compact Disc Recordable, known as CD-R, and Compact Disc Rewritable, known as CD-RW. The difference is how many times the disc can be used, with the CD-R formatted discs having a one-time use for recording, while CD-RW discs can be recorded upon, erased and re-used many times. Some computer CD drives and home stereos do not play CD-RW formatted discs, and it is for this reason the recordable compact disc of choice for many people is the CD-R.
To record or “write” data to a recordable compact disc, the user's computer must be equipped with special hardware known as a compact disc recorder drive, or CD-R drive. While at one time this technology was an expensive item that had to be purchased separately from a computer, CD-R drives are now a standard feature on most personal computers. In addition to the hardware, the user's computer must be equipped with a software program to tell the compact disc drive what to do. This software is widely available both as a purchased program or free of cost, with the latter referred to as freeware.
Recordable compact discs are physically dissimilar from CDs that have had information printed upon them commercially. Their bottom, or the side which contains the information, is often green-gold in color as opposed to the silvery blue found on commercial CDs. Recordable CDs are often less able to tolerate extreme temperatures and physical trauma, but both store-bought CDs and recordable CDs are considered to work the same and endure for the same amount of time. Because of the process used to record them, it is impossible to record over standard store-bought CDs at home. Increasingly, recordable compact discs are being equipped with decorative features to make the physical media more attractive to users. Examples of these features include manufacturing the discs so they are brightly colored or have decorative designs printed on them, or allowing the user to print out separate decorative labels.
Recordable compact discs have seen their fair share of controversy, since they can be used to record and play music. With the advent of Internet-based file-sharing programs, the illegal download of copyrighted music has skyrocketed. Some individuals may choose to use recordable compact discs to hold this data, leading to an outcry from the recording industry and artists whose music is being stolen, or “pirated.” Because many individuals use the recordable compact discs for legitimate reasons, the sale and use of CD-Rs remains legal.