For most tasks, the disc burning functions built into Windows usually cover all of our basic needs. Personally though, I might want to really get access to under-the-hood settings and fine tune my output. For instance, when I want to burn an ISO for a disc that will go into a finicky drive, I want to be able to not only adjust the burning speed, but also choose additional settings for disc-at-once or session-at-once modes.
With discs going out of style in this day and age, it might seem old hat to look at some utilities that handle the medium, whether it be CD-Rs, DVD-Rs or even BD-Rs. Still, I like to use such tools anyway, particularly when thumb drives aren't handy or aren't necessarily a viable option, such as sneaker-netting files between pre-USB 2.0 boxes or installing legacy operating systems. Here are a few disc tools that I find helpful and useful in achieving these goals.
For a burning app that does well as an all-in-one studio without weighing in too heavily in disk space consumption, InfraRecorder is a solid offering for Windows. It's fast, with a simple UI that isn't clogged with ads. Best of all, it is open source and completely free for download. There is even a portable version that can be had over at portableapps.com. It's great for toting on a thumb drive.
Although the name might imply that the software is for Windows XP, CDBurnerXP is an excellent utility for all supported versions of Windows, and it has a lot in common with InfraRecorder from a feature standpoint. It does edge out a bit over InfraRecorder in the audio disc department, with an ability to automatically adjust gain and volume levels before burning to disc. However, I do tend to prefer InfraRecorder's interface for video discs over this tool.
3. Express Burn
Brought to you by the good guys at NCH Software, Express Burn feels much like a Nero suite, minus all the crapware that gets force installed as well. At least any such extras are strictly optional with all NCH Software products. Express Burn requires no configuration and works nicely as a DVD/BD video disc authoring tool that even can do basic menus and chapter selections for you. Also, despite the fact that this program typically costs money, NCH Software does offer this as free software for home use only.
If you are looking for a utility that is literally the be all and end all of image burning software, ImgBurn is an interesting tool worth using. This software supports a plethora of file formats, ranging from the infamous MDF/MDS format all the way to straight up BIN/CUE images. This tool was designed from the ground up to be focused exclusively on image creation and burning, throwing out anything that isn't intended for that purpose. It will even conduct pre-operation checks to ensure no underlying system processes will stand in the way of a good quality rip and burn.
For an extremely barebones product that rips CD and DVD discs to ISO files quickly and efficiently, you can't go wrong with LC ISO Creator by Lucersoft. The EXE file is only 50 kilobytes in size and the interface literally is as simple as clicking one button, setting a save location, and watching the progress indicator fill up. I like using this tool with discs that have strange formatting conditions, since it will read a disc bit for bit without fail.
An avid technology writer and an IT guru, Matthew is here to help bring the best in software, hardware and the web to the collective consciousness of TechRepublic's readership. In addition to writing for TechRepublic, Matthew currently works as a Customer Success Professional for Ultimate Software in Santa Ana, California.