How To Buy CD-R Media

Buying CD-R media today is no longer the daunting task it used to be. You can find CD-Recordable disks just about anywhere, even at your local convenience stores. They have become, by and large, inexpensive and reliable. Here are some tips to get the best value when you make your purchases:

  1. Buy what works for you. Try to buy in small quantities the first time you buy a brand. Even the best, most expensive CD-Rs are worthless to you if they won't play in your drive or player. Buy in lots of 5 or 10 or 25 for your first purchase. Burn and test. If the media work in all your players - home, car, portable, computer - then go back and take advantage of the bargain bundle. Brand name media might be more reliable, or they may not be in your particular CD player. The cheap brand may actually work better for you.
  2. Buy from reputable sources. This may sound obvious, but I have seen way too many people, even IT professionals, who just can't resist the ultimate bargain. If a price is too good to be true, then there may be something wrong with the media. Shop locally if there are good sources in your area. As a second choice, shop via the Internet.

  3. Do some comparison-shopping. CD-Rs can be bought for incredibly low prices these days. You can even get "free" CD-Rs when rebates are involved. Your cost is only tax and postage. CD-Rs are often loss leaders that stores sell at cost, or even a loss, to get you into the store, where they hope you will buy more than just a package of CD-Rs. Watch your local newspapers, free magazines and flyers. Pick up sales brochures at local stores. Chances are very good that you will find real bargains. Don't wait until you desperately need media. You will miss the best prices.
  4. Does the speed matter? Yes and no. A CD-R that is rated 52X should record faster than one that is 16X, but your experience may be different. If you have an older burner or software that cannot burn faster than 16X, don't pay a premium for 52X media. Do go ahead and get faster media if the price is the same.
  5. Does the label surface matter? Absolutely, but for reasons you may not suspect. Most of us mark our media by just writing on the top of the CD with a felt tip pen. And that is just fine. But keep in mind that the laser in your CD burner is on the bottom and aims upward to burn information into the metallic coating on the top. You can survive a minor scratch in the clear plastic on the bottom of a CD. You are unlikely to be able to read a CD-R that gets damaged on the top. Be careful when applying adhesive CD-R labels. Some cheap types bubble or peel over time, especially when exposed to heat and light, and when they do, they damage the top surface. Goodbye CD-R. Use good quality labels if you want your recordings to last, especially in environments that are hot. Another problem I experienced was using a CD holder on my sun visor. Commercial CDs were unaffected, but CD-Rs were destroyed by the exposure to strong sunlight. The top surface turned dark, and the CD-Rs started to skip. I applied labels, and the labels peeled in the heat. Either don't use a visor holder for CD-Rs or use printable media. Printable CD-Rs have a white coating that you can print on. That coating blocks light, so these CD-Rs are not subject to the same damage from sunlight.
  6. And a final consideration is whether to buy CD-Rs in jewel cases or on a spindle. I buy spindles and jewel cases separately and keep plenty of both around. Most CD-Rs I burn end up in CD wallets, so they don't need a jewel case. Others I give or send to someone else in a jewel case. Somehow, when I bought CD-Rs already in the jewel cases, I always ended up with too many or too few jewel cases. 

These are the basics. Avoid getting ripped off mail-ordering a huge quantity of CD-Rs at a low price, only to discover that you can't turn them into anything except coasters.  If you want to learn more about CD media, visit the CD-Recordable FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). It is getting a bit dated, but it has just about everything you could ever want to know about CD-Rs.


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