DVD Basics: What You Should Know about Using DVDs

DVDs have become a standard way of storing and shipping all kinds of digital content, not just movies. Here is what you need to know about using DVDs.

1. How should I take care of my DVDs?

 Since DVDs are read by a laser and most players and drives have correction capability, a small scratch or blemish may not affect the ability of a DVD to play or be read. However, it might. Most of us have had to deal with a movie DVD that constantly freezes or skips at the same spot. It is frustrating. Even more frustrating is not being able to read a DVD or CD with important data on it. Handle your DVD carefully, try not to touch the surface, and always store them in a protected case or cover. 

2. Can I fix a DVD that isn't working? 

If you have trouble with a DVD or a CD, the first step is to wipe it carefully with a soft cotton cloth. You can use a little water if needed, but dry it thoroughly with a dry cloth before using it. If that doesn’t work you can try a disc cleaning solution or a disc repair/cleaner. Some people claim automobile wax works as well as anything - but be sure to use it as described. (Let the wax dry to a powder and then buff it off thoroughly with a clean, soft, cotton cloth.)

Disc utility programs like Opti-Drive Control may be able scan defective discs and provide information about them, including functionality.

3. Does my DVD player or drive need to be cleaned?

Probably not. The movement of the spinning disc typically keeps the lens in the drive clean and fairly dust free. There is usually no required regular maintenance on DVD drives or components. There are CD and DVD drive cleaning discs available that claim to provide positive benefits and extend the life of a drive or player.

The laser of a disc drive can be knocked out of alignment if it receives a significant shock (like being dropped). However, this is uncommon and there is no requirement for periodic alignments. 

4. What are Region Codes for DVDs? 

Region codes are placed on commercially produced DVDs (i.e. movies), then the region code on the DVD must match the region code in the firmware of the drive or player for the DVD to play. That means a DVD you buy in Europe will not work on the DVD player you bought in the United States. Consumers should be aware of how region codes can affect them when buying DVDs or DVD players internationally.

While some consumer and trade groups have argued heavily for discontinuing region codes, they are still common on DVDs you purchase with produced content (like movies). 

5. What is with the different blank DVD Formats? 

Early in the days of DVDs and DVD burners, not all manufacturers of DVD drives used the same method for burning DVDs. Some use a technology that required DVD -R blank DVDs, and others used a technology that required DVD +R blank DVDs. You had to use the proper DVD format that your particular drive or recorder required. Once the disc was “finalized” then either format would play on most DVD players. While a few technophiles claimed some advantage by the R- or R+ format, both formats work well and neither seems to have any great benefit over the other.

Format has become less of an issue over time as burning and recording technology has become more standardized. Most newer model drives and recorders can use any format of blank DVD.

If the disc is –RW or +RW format, it means the disc is re-writable. You can add and remove content and reuse it over and over again. Discs without the W are one time recordable. You can only burn or record the disc one time.

6. How much data do DVDs hold?

 A standard DVD (also known as DVD-5) can hold 4.7 Gbytes of data. That is about 2 hours of HD video. Dual layer DVDs (DVD-9) can hold almost twice the data at 8.7 Gbytes. Dual layer DVDs can be played or read on virtually every DVD drive or player, and most of the DVDs we use with movies or games are dual layer DVDs. However, it takes dual layer drives and discs to burn dual layer DVDs. 

7. What is the advantage of DVDs over VHS tapes? 

The biggest advantage is quality. The quality of recording and reproduction in the digital format of DVDs is much higher than analog tapes. Plus, DVDs will last longer. The other great advantage is size. You can store a hundred DVDs in the same space it takes to store just a handful of VHS tapes. 

8. Can I make my own DVDs? 

Absolutely. Most computers now come with drives capable of burning (writing data to) DVDs. You can also buy component DVD recorders that record DVDs using a video signal (like cable or satellite, or from video cameras or VCRs).



Updated 6/3/2011 by SuperMediaStore Staff