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Back up data to a CD or DVD using Windows

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 5/4/2010

With Windows, you can back up data to a CD or DVD using a variety of programs and options.

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    Burning CDs and DVDs

    If you have a CD or DVD burner, you can use that hardware to easily create a backup of data stored on your hard disk. Creating a backup is as simple as dragging and dropping the files to an application that allows it. As mentioned earlier though, if you’re burning to a CD, you have to remember that you can’t copy more than 700-800 MB of data. This makes creating a CD a little more complicated than creating a DVD because you have to keep track of the amount of data you’re planning to copy. This usually isn’t such a huge issue with DVDs though, because even the least expensive DVDs hold over 4 GB of data. For the most part, when you insert a blank CD or DVD you have four options:

    * Open writable CD folder using Windows Explorer

    * Burn a CD (using Windows Media Player)

    * Create a CD (using iTunes)

    * Take no action

    You may have more options, or less, depending on what programs you have on your computer. You may not be prompted with any choices, though, because you have an older operating system, you chose at some point to always open a specific program when you insert a blank CD, or your system is buggy. If that’s the case, you’ll need to select the program from the Programs menu choices or browse to your CD burner’s drive in My Computer in XP or Computer in Vista.

    Because there are so many options, the actual process of burning a CD will differ depending on what program you choose. If you choose a third-party program like Nero for instance, you’ll have to work through the program’s interface to add data to burn. However, it is my experience that most programs use a drag-and-drop procedure. With third-party software, most keep track of the data you’re adding too, which will help you know when you’ve collected enough data for the CD or DVD. Once you’ve collected the data, simply use the interface options to burn the media.

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    Using Vista

    In Vista, to burn a Data CD or DVD:

    1. Insert a blank CD or DVD into the drive.

    2. When prompted, choose a program for burning the media. You can choose from a variety of options depending on the media inserted and the programs you have installed on your PC. Here are a few:

    Burn a DVD data disc using Windows Media Player

    Burn an Audio CD using Windows Media Player

    Burn files to disk using Windows

    Burn a DVD video disc using Windows DVD Maker

    3. Follow the prompts to create the CD or DVD.

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    Advantages of this Method of Back Up

    Although I have a Windows Home Server and it is configured to back up on a schedule, I still create my own manual backups to CDs and DVDs. If the Home Server ever fails I have a backup. I also have an option to recover a single file easily by simply copying it off the back up CD or DVD. Finally, CDs and DVDs offer a way to efficiently store data off site or take it along. All in all, I prefer these manual backups to automated ones, although I do use both.