What Is a CD-R(Compact Disc Recordable) and How Does It Work [MiniTool Wiki]

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Overview of CD-R


What does CD-R mean? CD-R is the abbreviation of Compact Disc Recordable. The term "recordable" is used since CD-R is usually used to record audio, which can be played by most CD players. What is a CD-R? It is a digital disc storage format. The CD-R disc is a type of disc that can be written once and read many times. Now, continue to read this post from MiniTool to get more information about CD-R.

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Philips and Sony introduced the CD-R in the 1988 specification document - Orange Book. Before the book was released, CDs were read-only audio and could be played on CD players, while multimedia (CD-ROM) could be played on computers' CD-ROM drives. After the book is released, you can create the CD from a desktop computer with a CD burner drive.

The CD-R recording system available in 1990 is similar to the washing machine-sized Meridian CD Publisher, which is based on a two-piece rack-mounted Yamaha PDS recorder and costs $35,000. By 1992, the cost of a typical recorder fell to $10,000-12,000.

In September 1995, Hewlett-Packard launched the 4020i model manufactured by Philips at $995. Starting in the 2010s, devices capable of writing CD-R and other types of writable CDs cost less than $20.


Now, let’s see the information about the speed of CD-R. You can refer to the chart below:

Data writing speed Data writing rate Write time for 80 minute/700 MiB CD-R
150 kB/s 80 minutes
300 kB/s 40 minutes
600 kB/s 20 minutes
1.2 MB/s 10 minutes
12× 1.8 MB/s 7.5 minutes
16× 2.4 MB/s 5 minutes
20× 3.0 MB/s 4 minutes
24× 3.6 MB/s 3.4 minutes
32× 4.8 MB/s 2.5 minutes

These times include only the actual number of optical writes on the CD-R discs. For most disc recording operations, extra time is used for overhead processes, like organizing files and tracks, which increases the theoretical minimum total time required to produce discs.


Now, let’s talk about the lifespan of CO-R. Practical tests have shown that even with normal storage, certain CD-Rs can degrade rapidly. The quality of CD-R discs has a large and direct impact on lifespan. You should not expect that low-quality discs can be used for a long time.

According to research conducted by J. Perdereau, the average life expectancy of CD-R is 10 years. Branding is not a reliable guide to quality, because many brands do not make their discs. Instead, the CD-R discs come from different manufacturers of varying quality. Thus, the actual manufacturer and material components of each batch of discs should be verified for the best results.


If you want to learn about the CD-R capacity, you can keep on your reading. Although some CD-R discs can save 80 minutes (700 MB), they usually save 74 minutes (650 MB) of data. You can save data to CD-R by using data package writing software and compatible CD-R or CD-RW drive.

How Does CD-R Work

The last part is about how CD-R works. CD-R discs are coated with photosensitive organic dyes, allowing you to record information. After the CD-R disc is inserted into the computer, the recording process begins. The laser inside the drive heats the dye to show areas that scatter light like traditional CD pits.

The CD-R drive does not create pits on the CD. Instead, the burner creates a reflective part on the CD, causing the computer's CD-ROM laser to interpret it as a pit. Once the CD-R disc is recorded, you can use the CD in any standard CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW, or DVD drive.

Although the first version of the DVD drive had problems reading CD-R discs, today's drives no longer suffer from any reading problems. Maybe you are interested in this post - [Solved] A Required CD/DVD Drive Device Driver Is Missing.

Final Words

To sum up, this post mainly introduces some information on the CD-R include the definition, history, speed, lifespan as well as the capacity. Hence, you will have a comprehensive and deep understanding of the CD-R.

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