What Is a DVD-RW Drive?

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Understanding the different drives on your computer is important if want to know what you can do with your hardware. Before devices that could "burn" (write information onto) discs were commercially available, the subject was clear, but as technology has progressed, more options for the optical drive in your computer or laptop appeared. In addition to CD-ROM drives, there are others including DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW and DVD+RW. Any of these might be included with your laptop or computer. The most common type found in modern computers is the DVD-RW drive.


DVD-RW Drives Are Optical Drives

An optical drive is one that uses a laser to read information from optical discs such as CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray Discs. The disc rotates rapidly when inserted into the drive, and a laser beam reads the information from the disc. The DVD-RW drive in a computer is a common type of optical drive that can read and write information from and to a DVD-RW disc.

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Optical drives are different from hard disk drives, which are common types of internal storage used by computers and laptops. The data in hard disk drives is stored on spinning magnetic discs that are fixed in the unit rather than being removable as with optical discs. Solid state drives perform a function similar to hard disk drives, but they accomplish the task without the need for moving parts.



The "DVD" part of the term DVD-RW means "digital versatile disc." DVDs ordinarily hold around 4.7GB of data, in contrast to CDs (compact discs) that hold around 700MB. DVDs are often used to store video files, but they can be used to hold any type of information. As you may expect, you need a DVD drive to read information from a DVD, but DVD drives can also read information from CDs.

The Differences

The differences between DVD-ROM, DVD-R and DVD-RW drives and discs are revealed by the suffix that follows the DVD.


ROM stands for "read-only memory," so DVD-ROM discs can't have any additional information burned onto them, and a DVD-ROM drive can't write information onto any type of disc.

R stands for "recordable," so DVD-R discs can have information recorded on them, but they can only have this done once. A DVD-R drive can only record onto DVD-R discs (not DVD-RW ones), and these aren't common.

RW stands for "rewritable." These discs can be written onto multiple times, erasing the original information in the same way you might replace information on a hard drive. You can erase and rewrite the information up to 1,000 times. A DVD-RW drive can write onto DVD-RW discs and often onto DVD-R discs as well.


Pluses and Minuses

DVD+RW discs and drives are different from DVD-RW discs, with the plus sign and minus sign indicating the difference. DVD+RW can be written faster and supports dragging and dropping files. The important thing to note is that if you have a DVD-RW drive, you can't write onto a DVD+RW disc and vice versa. Some drives are marked with ±, which means they can write in both formats.

What Is a DVD-RW Drive?

A DVD-RW drive is a drive that enables your computer to read DVDs or CDs, write information onto DVD-RW discs (and possibly DVD-R discs), as well as rewrite new information onto DVD-RW discs that already have information on them.