This article was first published on 2007-08-02. Due to the age of this article, it is included here for archive purposes only.


May it be for backup, that new iDVD project you created, or an album of photos you want to share with your friends, you will find yourself wanting to burn a DVD or a CD at some point on your Mac. This article will go through the basics of burning a disc with the files you want, or making a copy of another disc you have.

DVDs and CDs come in several formats:
CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD+RW DL, etc just to name a few.

An easy way of interpreting this confusing code is to use the following system:

  1. CD or DVD in the name obviously indicates what kind of disc it is.
  2. “R” – “Recordable” indicates that the disc can only be written over once. “RW” – “Rewritable” indicates that it can be written over multiple times.
  3. The “ – “ or the “ + “ indicates different formats. Different disc burners support different formats, so don’t buy the wrong format! We’ll get into what format your disc burner supports in a moment.
  4. DL means “Dual Layer”. These discs have higher capacity (8.5 GB) instead of 4.7GB.

Important Note: Most DVD or CD players that you use with your TV or car can only play the CD-R and DVD-R formats. So if you’re planning on distributing your discs to these machines, only use CD-R and DVD-R for maximum compatibility.

So which kind of DVD or CD do I use?


Your disc burner will support CD-R, and most probably DVD-R. To check to see if you can burn to other formats:

Go to Finder.
Go through the folders:
Applications –> Utilities
Open System Profiler.

On the left hand column, click on Disc Burning. The formats of discs you can burn to will be shown under “CD-Write” and “DVD-Write”.

Okay! Now that we know what DVDs or CDs we are using (I like to go with DVD-R and CD-R as they are compatible with almost everything), we can start burning!

Burning the DVDs / CDs

Your Mac has intuitively spread out DVD burning across several applications. iDVD for instance allows you to burn video DVDs after you edit them with iDVD. iPhoto lets you burn your stored photos from within the program. The same goes for music with iTunes.

Covering all of these different ways of burning a DVD is out of scope of this guide. However, the options are available within the iDVD / iPhoto / iTunes menus, and should be straightforward to find. Just look for the yellow and black "burn" symbol.

We will however cover the following kinds of burning:

  • Burning Files to the Blank Disc.
  • Copying the contents of a disc to a blank disc.

A: Burning Files to the Blank Disc:

  1. Open Finder as your active application (meaning it’s open on top of everything else).   ← IMPORTANT!
  2. Pop in your blank CD / DVD into your disc drive.
  3. A dialogue box should pop up: Insert Disk Dialog
  4. Click “Ok”.
  5. “Untitled DVD” will appear on the bottom left of your Finder window.
  6. Drag whatever you want to burn to “Untitled DVD”.
  7. Now click on that nuclear looking sign, assign a disc name, and click burn!

B: Copying a Disc Onto Another.

Suppose you have a DVD of your friend’s birthday party, or a music CD from your musician friend, and you’d like to make a copy. How do you do that?

  1. Pop in the CD you want to copy.
  2. Go to Applications -> Utilities -> Disk Utility. Disk Utility
  3. You will see something like the above.
  4. Select your disc.
  5. Click “New Image”, which is located on the row of icons on the top.
  6. Give the file a name you will recognize. Select DVD/CD Master under “Image Format”. Note where it will be saved, and now click Save.
  7. After the file finishes saving, you should see the file pop up in Disk Utility, under where “Mac Drivers” is in my screenshot.
  8. Feel free to take out the CD, and put in the blank one. If a dialogue box pops up, just click “Ignore”. Disk Utility Again
  9. Select your file (“disk1s0.cdr” for me), and click Burn.
  10. Click “Burn” again in the next dialogue box.
  11. You’re done! Don’t forget to delete the file (“disk1s0.cdr “for me) from where you saved it.
  12. Enjoy your newly burned CD / DVD.

Did this guide help you get over the hump of burning CDs and DVDs? There are several ways of burning. Do you have any tips or questions to share? Let us know in the Comments section below.