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Not all writeable DVD media is the same, and sometimes it's difficult to know what the differences are.
For example, some DVD media manufacturers merely resell another manufacturer's discs in new wrapping and labels, making it hard to tell what exactly you are buying. You can find out, however. Although most people don't realize it, blank DVD media has pre-recorded information on it that describes the disc's manufacturer, its allowed write speeds and a number of other useful bits of metadata. The challenge is how to get that information in the first place. DVD Identifier is a freeware tool written to help read and analyze the media information present on blank DVDs. It supports all varieties of writeable and rewriteable DVD media: DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, dual-layer DVD+-R/W media, DVD-RAM and Sony's Blu-ray format (also known as BD-R/-RE). The programmer, Kris Schoofs, is also working on support for the as-yet-unfinished HD-DVD standard (this is still very experimental work).
When you launch DVD Identifier it iterates through all available DVD drives in the system and lists them in a drop-down selector. Select a drive, and that drive's read/write capabilities are marked in a chart below it. If you insert a writeable/re-writeable disc in the drive and press "Identify," the program attempts to retrieve and display all of the available metadata for that media. Some of the retrieved data includes the following:
- Disc and Book Type: This relates to the type of media (DVD+R, DVD-R, DVD-RW and so on).
- Manufacturer Name: The name of the media manufacturer is where things can get interesting, especially if you insert store-branded media. When I inserted an Imation-brand DVD-R disc, the program reported Ritek (Advanced Media Inc. Ritek USA) as the actual manufacturer.
- Manufacturer ID: This is the part number for the particular media, which you can use to search against information in various online databases about the media. The program uses the data to link to the Videohelp.com Web site, which allows you to determine how outwardly compatible a particular manufacturer's media is. This is very useful if you're making buying decisions based on whether it plays well in a variety of drives and standalone players or what its estimated media lifetime is. (Note that this information is compiled by third-party feedback, not independent evaluation, and so it may be biased.)
- Blank Disc Capacity: This category relates to the size of the media in sectors and gigabytes.
- Formatted Capacity (DVD-RAM only): This shows you the size of the media after a low-level format.
- Recording Speeds: Here you'll find supported recording speeds for this particular piece of media.
The program can also return extended information about the capabilities of the current drive (such as its read and write functions and raw performance) and the Media Code block of the currently read media, which is a dump of the raw data used to compile the information listed here.
Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!