Windows

Use Windows 7 mastered optical disc format for backwards compatibility

Greg Shultz shows you how to find and use the Master optical disc format in Windows 7 to make discs readable by legacy systems.

Recently, I was having a discussion with a reader who saw and enjoyed my Windows 98 Plus gallery and told me that he still had a functioning Windows 98 system that he used often for running old games and other old software. As we were talking, he mentioned that he wished that he could burn files to an optical disc on his new Windows 7 system that he could then use in his Windows 98 system. I was confused and asked him to clarify what he meant.

He explained that, as he understood it, Windows 7 formatted optical discs so that you could use them like you would a floppy disk or a USB flash drive and that this new format was not backwards compatible, so Windows 98 couldn't read such a disc.

I then remembered that this fellow mentioned that he had just recently moved up to Windows 7 from Windows XP and so was unaware that Windows 7 could format CDs and DVDs using two different optical disc formats - Live File System, which makes optical discs work like a floppy disk or a USB flash drive, and Mastered, which makes optical discs work like they did in the Windows 98 days.

After I explained it to him, I realized that there may be other folks out there who have recently moved to Windows 7 and may be confused by Windows 7's optical disc formatting options.

In this issue of the Windows Desktop Report, I'll show you how to find and use the mastered optical disc format in Windows 7. (If you want to learn more about Windows 7's Live File System disc format, check out my post, Augment your data storage options with Windows 7 Live File System format.

This blog post is also available as a slideshow in a TechRepublic Photo Gallery.

The Mastered disc format

As I mentioned, the Live File System optical disc format allows you to use your CDs or DVDs like you would a floppy disk or a USB flash drive - you can copy and erase files over and over again. However, the Live File System optical disc format is only readable by Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP systems.

So, if you want to create an optical disc that you can use to transfer data files to older versions of the Windows operating system or even to another operating system, you have to use the Mastered optical disc format. (If you want to burn music or pictures and use the disc in regular CD, DVD, or Blu‑ray Disc players that can play MP3 files and show digital pictures, you'll want to use the Mastered optical disc format.)

The Mastered format works just like burning CDs in Windows XP. In other words, you copy a file or a group of files to the optical disc all at once. Once you do, the disc is closed and you cannot copy more files to the disc nor can you delete the existing files.

Creating a Mastered disc

When you insert a blank optical disc into a CD-R or DVD-R drive, you'll see the AutoPlay dialog box as shown in Figure A. As you can see, by default, Windows 7 assumes that you will be formatting a data disc. To continue, you can press [Enter] or click the Burn Files To Disc button.

Figure A

The default option in the AutoPlay dialog box is set to format a data disc.
When you see the Burn a Disc dialog box, you'll select the With a CD/DVD player option, as shown in Figure B. As you can see in the description, this is the Mastered disc format. By default, Windows 7 places the current date in the Disc Title, but you can change it if you prefer.

Figure B

When you see the Burn a Disc dialog box, select the Mastered disc format, which is titled With a CD/DVD player.
As soon as you click Next, the disc is prepped for the Mastered disc format and a drive window will appear. You'll see the Drag files to this folder to add them to the disc message at the top of the file pane, as shown in Figure C. At this point, you can begin dragging and dropping files to the drive.

Figure C

When the folder window appears, you'll see a message that informs you that the disc is ready for use as a storage media.
After you drag a group of files to the drive, you'll see a message in the notification area telling you that you have files waiting to be burned to disc, as shown in Figure D. To begin the burn operation, just click the Burn to Disc button on the toolbar.

Figure D

You'll need to click the Burn To Disc Button to start the actual copy operation.
You'll then see the Burn To Disc wizard, as shown in Figure E, and will again have the opportunity to fill in the Disc Title text box. By default, Windows sets the recording speed to the fastest speed available. Of course, higher recording speeds get the job done faster but can result in errors. Therefore, if you do encounter problems with the burn operation, you might experiment with lower speeds. If this will be a onetime burn operation, you can save yourself some time if you select the Close the wizard after the files have been written check box. To continue, click Next.

Figure E

The Burn to Disc wizard will finish out the operation.
When you do, you'll see a progress bar as the files are being written to the disc, as shown in Figure F.

Figure F

The progress bar will keep you apprised of the status of the burn operation.

When the burn is finished, the disc will eject and the entire operation will be complete. If you left the Close the wizard after the files have been written check box blank, then you'll see the last screen in the wizard. To complete the operation, click the Finish button.

What's your take?

Have you used the Mastered format for optical discs? If not, will you begin to use it?

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

18 comments
satyamveer
satyamveer

Is there an option for multi and non multisession for burning cd and dvd in win 7 as well as Xp.I want to burn a finalized cd on the default cd burning in win7 and Xp.

satyamveer
satyamveer

on choosing the second option of cd burning in win 7,i can add files later on.Is it correct?i assumed once burn i can not add any files to burn on the mastered cd

Realvdude
Realvdude

Other than audio discs, which require the disc to be closed, MS does not support closing a disc that is not full. Quite often I want to make sure that what I put on a disc cannot be altered; though everything I have read says there is no native way to close a disc. I have found a utility to do this, but it is pretty clunky. Other than this, Windows 7 handles the task just fine. Greg or anyone else, any easy (few clicks) way to accomplish this?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

depending on the model of burner and media I'm using. The burner in my Dell desktop doesn't recognize some brands of DVD+R media as acceptable. My work-around is to start by using the drive like a USB stick. After moving the files to the drive, right-click the drive icon and select 'Close Session'. This will usually make the CD or DVD readable on legacy systems. Your system may behave differently; always test the readability on your target systems before deleting the original data.

blktxdom2004
blktxdom2004

When I got my laptop, I did a bit of experimenting with the copying of files. I am not new to this, yet having a reminder of this helps to refresh my memory. The subject title said that I am not dumb...and NO ONE IS DUMB - Except Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and Adolf Hitler. People with Alzheimer's, Dementia, and other memory-debilitating illnesses could benefit from this...and as I mentioned earlier: This info is a good refresher.

essex133
essex133

I can't believe that there is any computer user out there who COULDN'T understand the Windows 7 "How do you want to burn a disc" dialogue box - because the two options offered couldn't be simpler to understand! As the article AND the dialogue box explains, the Live File system only works on Windows XP and later, whilst the Mastered disc can be read by most computers. What could be simpler to understand?!!! But as Rob C says, why on earth would anyone still want to burn optical discs, when flash drives are so cheap and a lot easier to carry around? The only things I ever burn optical discs nowadays are operating system installation discs or emergency boot discs - purely so that I don't accidentally format a drive they are on and lose them! LOL

Rob C
Rob C

"Surely, you can't be serious" Are there people out there doing that ? WHY Are they trying to save a few cents ? Just because MS encourages you, does not mean it is right. If your data is important enough for back up, then do generational backups to empty CDs. Don't be messing about, rewriting to CDs that have important data on them.

JCitizen
JCitizen

used by disc burner programs to make video and audio CD/DVDs compatible with older players.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I get the feeling that someday not to long from now, young people will be unfamiliar with the concept of "burning a CD-ROM" much like they are now unfamiliar with vinyl records. Are you burning CD-ROMs less often these days?

spdragoo
spdragoo

Unless you're using a CD/DVD-RW type disc, the only way to "alter" what's on the disc is to but a brand-new file on the disc that has an [b]identical[/b] name & location in the directory structure as the original. In other words, the only way to "overwrite" a file called "MyData.docx" located in the "Data\Mine" directory on your DVD-ROM would be to create a brand-new file on your PC with the [b]same[/b] name, put different data in the file, then tell your PC to burn it to the "Data\Mine" directory of your CD/DVD-ROM. Now, if you mean that you don't want anyone [b]adding[/b] additional data to the disc, I don't know if Windows 7 has that capability or not. However, there are plenty of other programs out there you can use that will provide that feature for you, as well as other features. Nero comes to mind, for example.

domiles
domiles

I can not afford new stuff, I over a thousand CD R/W's and use them for back ups because they are here and all ready paid for. But the biggest reason is that I can reuse them and not have them dumped in a and fill. Flash drives die more quickly, even if I could afford to buy them. I use the 4 gig flash drives I have for small stuff to transfer from computer to computer. The holders for the CD's stack and are easier for me to store, flash drives vanish for hours at a time because I have no good storage space for them. Those are my reasons. Laugh all you want.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Because optical disks are cheaper. Because you can label an optical disk, so you can tell what's on it without loading it. Because it's harder to overwrite archived data. Because it's less volatile. Because they're harder to lose. Because it's easier to store a stack of DVDs than a handful of flash drives. Not all data is going to be carried around. If I want to keep backup copies of data in multiple places, I'm going to use DVD, for the reasons stated above. I'm burning three right now at work, of older data that isn't needed online but may be needed for future reference.

Rob C
Rob C

I was not saying 'Do not backup data to CDs DVDs' I was saying just use the old proven safe burning method which appears to be called 'Mastered' MS should not even be offering that first option - 'Like a USB flash drive' If anyone is using that method for backing up important files, AND are returning to the disc to add / edit / etc the disc, they are fools.

JCitizen
JCitizen

So that no matter which member of a family plays a disc, the player will work. Old or new - there are still dinosaurs out there! I don't own Win7 but I do need this information for Win7 clients. Thanks!

essex133
essex133

1000 CD R/W's versus a 32gb Flash drive? I know which I'd rather store! You can buy 32gb flash drives for as little as GBP 15 nowadays and each one holds the equivalent of 49 x 650MB cd's. And 500gb portable hard drives cost about GBP 50 and hold the equivalent of approx 787 cd's or 106 DVD's! And to my way of thinking never having to worry about the filing nightmare associated with having dozens and dozens of CD's or DVD's makes life soooo much easier. But I do take Domiles point about old optical discs filling up land fill sites....

spdragoo
spdragoo

I do the same thing: flash drives are for large files that I'm taking to a friend or family member's PC to avoid waiting to download them from email, and that I don't need to store forever on; data CDs/DVDs are for "permanent" storage (i.e. file backup), where either the files are extremely important or would be difficult to recover if I lost them.

essex133
essex133

Palmetto, sorry, I was only thinking of personal use when I made my comments. I agree that in a work environment, optical discs are probably a safer bet than flash drives.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

What if it that 32 gig is split up between various departments in small chunks? Do you want to give that flash drive or portable drive to a department that wants only its archived data and take the risk they'll overwrite it or the data of other departments? What if some of that data is confidential? Would you want personnel data on the same storage as last year's approve purchase orders? Incidentally, it takes only seven or eight DVDs for that 32 gig. Burning DVDs may not fit the way you use a computer; that doesn't mean there isn't still a place for them or articles about them.

Editor's Picks