Nearly every CD and DVD writer can perform packet writing -- treating the disc as a rewriteable file system akin to a floppy drive or hard drive.
Packet writing is accomplished with software programs such as Ahead Nero's InCD, Adaptec's DirectCD or Microsoft's UdfReader. The discs are written using the Universal Disk Format (UDF) file system for cross-compatibility, so the discs can be taken to another system and read there without needing the installed software. (The discs will need the ability to read a UDF volume, but most versions of Windows can do this out of the box.)
A freeware version of this technology is DVD Write Now. Now in its 1.5.10 revision, DVD Write Now allows any rewriteable disc to be treated like a removable drive. The freeware supports all revisions of UDF from 1.00 through 2.01, and all types of rewriteable media: CD, DVD, DVD-RAM and even CDs formatted with the MRW (Mount Rainier) file system.
Once installed, DVD Write Now integrates directly with the Windows shell, making most of the program's operations transparent. To format a rewriteable disc, insert the disc, right-click on the drive icon and select Format; from there you'll be taken to the DVD Write Now Formatter Wizard.
Copying files to or from the disc is equally transparent -- just drag-and-drop or perform other file operations as you normally would. The only caveat is that when you eject a disk, you need to do so by right-clicking the drive icon and selecting Eject so the drive can finalize any pending writes and eject cleanly.
What separates DVD Write Now from other programs of its kind is that it has been written with an eye for dealing with other applications that also perform UDF-based packet writing. Although in theory a UDF disc should be readable by any application that "knows" the UDF standard, this isn't always the case. Many of these programs generate UDF discs that, until the disc is closed, cannot be read from or written to reliably by another program.
Note: All disk-formatting/erasing tools require admin permissions to work correctly. If you're running Windows Vista, you'll probably want to launch an administratively escalated version of Windows Explorer to do that. (You can do this by typing "explorer" into the Start menu's Search bar, then right-clicking on Windows Explorer and selecting "Run as administrator.")
About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Insight, (formerly the Windows Power Users Newsletter), a blog site devoted to hints, tips, tricks and news for users and administrators of Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Vista. He has more than 12 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.
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