Chances are pretty good you probably have some blank CD-R discs. Maybe you bought a 100-pack spindle, only used maybe 20 or 30 of them, and the rest sit in the spindle, unloved and unused.
You bought them, you you might as well use them.
Before I list what you can do with those discs, it’s a good idea to check them first to make sure they’re still usable. Even a spindle of discs that’s been sitting for less than a year can go bad. It’s easy to inspect your discs. Look for bubbles under the plastic, discolorations on the data side and flaking on the inner ring and outer right of the data side. If you see any of that, chances are that disc as well as the rest of the spindle needs to be tossed.
Assuming the CD-Rs you have are good, here are 5 things you can do with them.
1. Photo backup
A photo shot on an 8MP digital camera has a size of around 2 to 3MB. Assuming the greater data size, you can fit 233 photos on a 700MB CD-R.
2. Laptop driver set backup
I know of no driver set for a laptop that’s over 700MB, so a CD-R is good for this. Using a Dell laptop for example, you can go to support.dell.com, punch in your Express Service Code (this is on the sticker on the bottom of your Dell laptop), download all the drivers and burn them to disc just in case you ever need to reinstall the OS on it.
If you own multiple laptops, you could probably fit the driver sets for 5 different laptops on a single CD-R.
3. ISO driver backups for your hardware peripherals
When you buy a PC peripheral, such as a keyboard, printer or mouse, it almost always comes with a driver CD. The total data on that disc is probably not more than 100MB at the most. You can use ImgBurn to rip the discs to an ISO file, then burn all those ISOs to CD-R.
Where this comes in handy is if you build a PC and want the drivers for everything on one disc. Assuming 100MB for each driver disc, that means you can fit 7 driver disc’s worth of data on a single CD-R. Should you ever need to rebuild that computer, everything you need is on that disc. You could even stuff in the installation programs for ImgBurn and the ISO mounting software of your choice on disc so you don’t have to go digging around for that either when you need it after reinstalling the OS.
4. Font backup
A standard exclamation of anguish whenever anyone rebuilds a Windows PC:
"Ack! Forgot to backup the fonts!"
This happens to the best of us.
Even if you have a ridiculous amount of fonts installed, chances are good they’ll all fit on to a CD-R. Just burn everything in the C:\WINDOWS\FONTS folder to disc, and it’s a done deal.
5. Make music discs
There are tens of thousands of cars out there with CD players but no AUX port for things like an iPod or smartphone to plug into for music playback. CDs are obviously well-suited for making music discs because that’s what cars were designed to load and play.
For some people it’s been so long since they’ve made a music CD that they forgot how to do it.
I find one of the best ways is to use the freely available ImgBurn software. It’s not as simple as doing it with Windows Media Player, but I find using ImgBurn is a more reliable means of creating audio discs that work correctly – especially with older console players.
Insert a blank CD-R in your optical drive.
Switch over to "Write" mode by clicking Mode then Write:
Click Tools then Create CUE File:
Drag and drop the audio files you want burned to the disc:
…then click OK. You’ll be prompted to save your CUE file. Save it somewhere and remember the location.
Back in ImgBurn, click File and then Browse for a source file:
Locate the CUE file you just saved a moment ago and load that.
Click the huge icon below to burn your disc:
You’ll notice as the burn is taking place that ImgBurn will specifically be writing audio tracks to disc:
After the burn is complete, close ImgBurn, eject the disc, reinsert, then test to make sure it works. After that, test in a console player and everything should be good to go.
The PCMech.com weekly newsletter has been running strong for over 8 years. Sign up to get tech news, updates and exclusive content - right in your inbox. Also get (several) free gifts.