11.7 Installing and Configuring a CD Writer

In general, installing and configuring a CD writer requires the same steps detailed in the preceding chapter for CD-ROM drives. There are, however, some considerations peculiar to CD writers:

  • For ATAPI writers, it is good practice to put the CD writer on a different channel from the source device(s). On a typical PC with a hard drive, a CD-ROM drive, and the CD writer, make the hard drive Primary Master (PM), the CD-ROM drive Primary Slave (PS), and the CD writer Secondary Master (SM). This allows you to record CDs directly from CD-ROM or from an image stored on your hard drive. If the PC has a second hard drive, set that drive to Secondary Slave (SS), and do not attempt to record CDs from it. If the PC has an ATAPI tape drive, set it to SS. Attempting to record from a source located on the same IDE channel as the writer generally works properly with recent systems and high-quality CD writers, but often leads to problems on older, slower systems and with inexpensive or older-model CD writers.

  • If you have IDE bus mastering (DMA) drivers installed, remove them from the channel to which the writer connects, unless the drive manufacturer specifically recommends using DMA for its drive. We have frequently encountered problems with ATAPI writers on DMA-enabled channels, even when the writer was recognized by Windows as a DMA-capable device. Conversely, make sure DMA is enabled if your CD writer manual recommends doing so. Many CD writers faster than 16X require DMA mode for proper operation. If you are installing a CD writer that requires DMA mode and it shares a channel with another device, make sure the second device also supports DMA and is configured to use DMA. If the second device operates in PIO mode, that forces the channel to operate in PIO mode, which may render the CD writer unreliable or nonfunctional.

  • SCSI writers coexist well on a host adapter shared with low-demand devices or those that will not be used while a CD is being burned, but you may have problems if you connect the burner to the same SCSI bus that supports hard drives. We have several SCSI systems with hard drives and CD writers connected to the same SCSI bus, and have never encountered a problem with that configuration. But we have received enough reports from readers who have had problems putting a hard drive and writer on the same SCSI channel that we believe this may sometimes be an issue. It's OK for a writer to share with scanners, tape drives, Zip drives, and similar devices. But if you encounter problems sharing the channel between your hard drive and writer, install a second inexpensive SCSI host adapter to support the writer and other non-hard disk SCSI peripherals.

  • When you install a SCSI burner, never depend on the SCSI drivers supplied with the operating system. The bundled drivers are fine for hard disks and low-demand peripherals, but often have bugs and missing features that cause problems with CD writers. Download the latest drivers and ASPI files for your SCSI host adapter from the manufacturer's site.

  • Writing CD-R discs?and more so writing CD-RW discs?generates considerable heat. Mounting the CD writer above other drives permits the heat to dissipate. If possible, mount the CD writer in a drive bay with unoccupied bays above and below it (particularly above it). If you frequently burn two or more CDs in quick sequence, install a drive cooler. PC Power & Cooling (http://www.pcpowercooling.com/) makes the best ones.

  • Some CD writer manufacturers recommend specific registry tweaks or configuration changes to the operating system to support their drives optimally. Although we would never discourage anyone from following the manufacturer's advice, our experience is that these changes have little benefit on high-end (fast CPU, lots of memory, SCSI, Windows NT) systems, but are worth implementing on low-end (slow CPU, minimal memory, ATAPI, Windows 9X) systems.