Do CD-RW drives have a limited number of burns?
March 13, 2004 10:46 AM   Subscribe

Do CD-RW drives have a limited number of burns? A couple of computer science majors at my old school told me this and I didn't really beleive it. However, my HP CD-RW has stopped writing discs (but still reads fine). I've had it since the summer of 2000 but granted it's 4 years old, I haven't really pushed it hard. I use it to read CD-ROMS and play music CDs occasionally, and have probably burned a couple-dozen music CDs. Is it kaput, in need of cleaning, or what?
posted by tomorama to Technology (12 answers total)
Many CD-RW drives seem to have a limited, but not fixed number of burns. I have seen this more often in drives that get heavy use, though.

I would try updating windows, checking for new drivers, etc. before looking at it physically. If it's reading fine cleaning it won't help.

If there is a physical problem with the drive, it's going to be cheaper to replace it than to fix it, and you'll end up with a much faster drive.
posted by Coffeemate at 11:38 AM on March 13, 2004

My opinion is: it's 4 years old! My current PC is about that age (I'm upgrading this month though). Things that I don't use much have failed with age just as often as things I use all the time. For instance, I never use the floppy drive, but my girlfriend wanted to save to the floppy a while back and found it was no longer working. Definitely not overused, just old.
posted by crazy finger at 11:55 AM on March 13, 2004

It does read fine, and seems to attempt to write. I start my burn program, everything goes as it's supposed to, I get the prompt that the burn process was succesfull, but the CD is still blank. When I turn over the CD and look at it, it's obvious that no actual burning took place.
posted by tomorama at 11:56 AM on March 13, 2004

Sorry to ask the obvious; have you tried different media?
posted by punilux at 12:40 PM on March 13, 2004

i used a lacie 2x burner for almost 6 years with problems only from various OS's it was attached to. Burned LOTS of cd's.

media/software would be my guess.

i had a similar problem years far back i don't even remember what the problem was....didn't win2000 have some burning problems?
posted by th3ph17 at 1:34 PM on March 13, 2004

The time you're going to spend diagnosing this problem could probably pay for a brand new CD-RW drive that would be faster anyway. My suggestion: haunt Fatwallet's Hot Deals forum. There are breakdowns of each major office supply chain store's weekly ads, and they often include free or nearly free (after rebate) CD-RW drives.
posted by MegoSteve at 1:47 PM on March 13, 2004

From the sound of things, your drive may be suffering from a bad write laser. If you've burned disks from your Win2k machine before, and haven't altered your drivers/system settings, it may well be a mechanical failure.

There's a thread on the Hydrogen Audio forums which explains drive expiration rates in better detail.
posted by Smart Dalek at 2:02 PM on March 13, 2004

If you're using Roxio's CD Creator make sure you get whatever updates you can. I had a problem similar to yours at work a while ago - brand new computer with a brand new CD burner and it reacted just how you described - pop the cdr in, looks like it's burning - though finished quickly, and obviously burned nothing. I downloaded something from Roxio and had no problems after that. Sorry I don't have any specifics for you such as burner brand or what update it was exactly, but I know this is what I did to fix the problem.
posted by soplerfo at 2:20 PM on March 13, 2004

For burning I have used Nero Burning ROM for many years without a problem. I tried using Windows XP's cd burning capabilities but got the same results. And yes, I also tried using different brands of CD-R discs, without success.
posted by tomorama at 5:03 PM on March 13, 2004

Hey Tom. I was told the same thing when I purchased my first burner, but I never reached the limit. It seems as though there must be some truth to the story.
posted by danwalker at 7:08 PM on March 13, 2004

Yep. Burners do go bad, especially the higher-speed ones (8x and above). The write laser puts out a pretty serious amount of juice and the thing eventually just burns out. As said above, it's not a fixed number of burns, it just burns out eventually. I say replace it -- burners are cheap these days, so it's probably not worth the time and trouble worrying about it. You can even get DVD burners for well under $100 now.
posted by zsazsa at 9:31 PM on March 13, 2004

Mean Time Between Failures, or MTBF, is a standard engineering term outlining the expected life of a product, element, or structure. The MTBF for a CD drive, whether reader or writer, is based on powered-on hours -- not hours of writing. Also, MTBF is a statistical measure, not a prediction.
posted by dhartung at 10:12 PM on March 13, 2004

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