Optical Drives + Media FAQ. Critique please?
Hi. I've been invited to write an optical drive FAQ for hardforum.com, the forum @ HardOCP. It's given below, tell me what you guys think!
Optical Drive Flashing + Media FAQ
Flashing your optical drive
Nearly all computers in the world have an optical drive. These are the bog-standard CD-ROM drives, as well as the slightly more exotic CD-RW and DVD+-R/RW drives. There are also the esoteric MO and DAT drives, but they are outside the scope of this discussion.
Here,I'll run through the features of CD-R/RW and DVD-+R/RW drive firmware.
Just like a motherboard BIOS, there is a flashable memory section on all optical drives. This flash memory performs a variety of functions:
a) Includes the firmware of the drive, which itself specifies the capabilities of the drive,including:
- Media lookup table, for specifying reading and burning strategies with various recordable media.
- Specifying which hardware features of the drive to enable, eg. Mt Rainier and Smart-Burn.
- Specifies the maximum reading and writing speed of the drive.
b)The flash memory also has some unused space, which can be used to add further features to the drive as and when they are developed.
Why flash your drive?
Once an optical drive is developed, the drive manufacturer may add new features to the drive, such as Mount Rainier compatibility and additional media compatibility. At this time, they will release a new version of the drive firmware,along with a short explanation of what the new firmware will do. If this explanation seems to be solving a problem you are experiencing, it is recommended that you FLASH your drive with this firmware.
Also, in a few cases, most famously with Lite-On, you can flash your drive to a higher maximum write speed. This occurs, because for economies of scale, Lite-On manufactures ONE series of drives, and differentiates them into different write speeds just by applying different firmware! So it becomes easy for us to increase the writing speed of the drive (if possible), just by flashing the firmware.
For a list of upgradeable Lite-On drives, go to:
For a list of Lite-On firmwares in the binary format, go to:
How to Flash Your Drive:
Normally, whenever the drive manufacturer updates the firmware for a particular drive, they release a self-executable file on their website, along with a short description of the updates this gives. Then, if these updates are said to resolve any problems you might be having, you should download the flasher, execute it in Windows, and reboot the computer.
However, flashing in Windows can sometimes lead to errors, due to the fact that at any given time, there will be a multitude of other processes in the background, which may cause an error during the flash. This can lead to your drive being trashed. While this is an absolute worst case scenario, it has been known to happen!
The good news is that there is another program, called MTKFlash, which can be used to flash your drive in pure DOS mode. This works only with the binary (.bin) version of your firmware. These binaries are available at various sites, including:
An excellent guide to using and downloading MTKFlash:
Beware that MTKFlash only works with drives that have MediaTek chipsets.The following link will tell you which drives use Mediatek chipsets:
Similar to MTKFLash is a useful program called MTKWinflash, which,along with a description and usage guide is available from:
This can be used in Windows, and in the Direct IDE mode can even recover dead (badly flashed) drives!
The Lite-On drive owners can also use an excellent new program called LTNFlash. There is an entire page dedicated to it :
Basically, it can do the following:
LtnFlash lets owners of Lite-ON made optical drives (except the LTD-163 and their CD-ROM drives) backup or flash their firmware right from Windows. It is the first tool able to create firmware backups from Windows. It is also the only way to make backups of the firmwares in external Lite-ON drives. It is not a complete replacement for mtkflash though since LtnFlash doesn't work for drives that weren't made by Lite-ON. Since version 1.1.0, LtnFlash is also able to Enable/Disable/Reset the region counter on Lite-ON DVD Drives.
Often one of the most overlooked facets of CD/DVD burning is the media in use. People often go and buy generic 0.1c media, and then complain of data corruption and loss! The truth of the matter is that media DOES matter, and can often make the difference between your data lasting for 5 years and 5 days!
By popular agreement, the best CD-R media was made by Kodak. But this was before they announced that they were leaving the market in March 2001. As a result, they are really difficult to obtain, and really expensive too.
But Japanese manufacturer, Taiyo Yuden, has stepped up to the plate, and they make excellent CDRs. The error rates on these discs from just about any burner are very low.Other well regarded manufacturers include Ritek, Mitsui, Moser Baer India and Mitsubishi/Verbatim.
Errors on CDR/RW discs are measured in terms of C1 and C2 errors. For a detailed explanation of what they are and how they are measured:
We can measure errors on the drive using Nero CDSpeed,which comes along with the Nero Burning ROM suite.
Lite-On users can use KProbe, which is available at:
Discussion about KProbe:
Another error measurement software app: CDDoctor
Media compatibility threads:
Sites to visit:
(best place for hacked RPC-1 DVD-ROM/R/RW firmware, and custom firmwares!)
(Excellent tutorials and articles.Highly recommended.)
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