CD-R Versus CD-RW

Here is a quick compare between CD-R and CD-RW discs.


CD-R (Compact Disc-Recordable) media can only be written to once though the entire disc does not have to be entirely written in a single session. The technical specification for the CD-R, originally called CD Write-Once (CD-WO), was first published in 1988 by Philips and Sony in the so-called "Orange Book", the informal name for their "Recordable CD Standard" publication.

The biggest drawback of CD-R is that you can't reuse a disc - it can only be written to once. However, CD-R does have a higher level of compatibility with standard CD readers compared to CD-RW which is not capable of playing on many readers.


CD-RW (Compact Disc-Rewritable) came onto the market in 1997 after many years of development. Unlike CD-R media, CD-RW media can be written to multiple times but must be erased or blanked before each reuse. They also require a more sensitive laser optics. CD-RWs cannot be read in some CD-ROM drives built prior to 1997.

The CD-RW specification was published by Philips and Sony in 1996, as an extension to the original Orange Book. It specifies the use of phase change technology and the Universal Disc Format (UDF) to create a disc that can be rewritten in one pass.

Disc Recording Technologies

CD-R and CD-RW discs are recorded using a layer of dye, either green or gold. Their reflectivity is lower than a production CD, which uses a layer of aluminum rather than dye, making them trickier to play. Recordable CDs are also less tolerant of extreme temperatures and sunlight, and more susceptible to physical damage.

It is not possible to record on a pressed disc - might as well throw out all those old AOL CDs you've been stockpiling.


CD-RW media is more expensive than CD-R and doesn't work in all players. CD-Rewritable drives are able to write both CD-R and CD-RW discs.