Windows NT 4.0 and Optical Media.
Writing (and to a lesser extent reading) optical media (CDs and DVDs) has always been an operation which several 'experts' have claimed NT 4.0 was incapable of performing. The reality of the situation is in fact the exact opposite. Correctly set up, NT 4.0 (both Workstation and Server) is capable of excellent results. Below are my recommendations and observations on what needs to be done to ensure a successful system.
- The CD or DVD Writer must be compatible with Windows NT 4.0. See Knowledgebase article 141379 - "Using SCSI CD-ROM Recorders with Windows NT" for further details. This article is a little dated, what is said about CD recorders applies equally to DVD recorders. Fortunately, nearly all modern hardware satisfies these requirements.
- Be realistic about the processor speed requirements for 'burning' optical media. A Pentium classic at 133MHz is MOST UNLIKELY to have sufficient computing 'horsepower' to be able to successfully operate a DVD writer at all. (even at 1 spin recording mode)
Some practical benchmarks:
- Pentium III at 700MHz, using correctly configured hardware, can write a DVD at 2 spin, but would be challenged at 4 spin. In CD terms, this equates to stable writing at around a maximum of 18 spin.
- A Pentium classic at 133MHz should be able to manage a CD write at 1 or 2 spin satisfactorily.
- High end hardware (Celeron and P4 2.0GHz + systems) should be capable of driving any optical drive to maximum throughput, subject to limitations brought about by the interconnection bus. (ATAPI or SCSI)
- Ensure that the bus you have the optical drive(s) connected to is properly configured. (Whilst you are at it, check the bus cabling and settings for your Hard Disk Drive(s) is also correct) An example of 'misconfiguration' would be attempting to use D.M.A. access modes with a standard 40 conductor ATAPI cable. Ensure that drive master/slave jumpers are correctly set. See here for a much more detailed rundown on ATAPI and D.M.A. access modes on NT 4.0.
- Use appropriate software:
- Software is often 'bundled' with CD/DVD Writer hardware - a lot of this software may not be suitable for NT4.0 - proceed with caution.
- Many authoring packages and tools require a suitable ASPI access layer be installed on your system to control the ATAPI or SCSI optical drives. You can use the one supplied free of charge from Adaptec. CAUTION: Some users have reported problems with the latest V4.71.x family of ASPI from Adaptec. If you find that V4.71.x doesn't work, or behaves in an erratic manner, try V4.60 it seems to have less hardware compatibility issues. (V4.60 is on the Adaptec site, and other locations on the Internet) Other options are the free Nero ASPI or FrogASPI. I recommend and use the Adaptec solution.
- Some software may attempt to access optical drives using SPTI (SCSI Pass-Through Interface). This programming interface was created by Microsoft to allow direct access to hardware like optical drives. Unfortunately, the implementation in NT 4.0 is very poor and unstable. Attempting to access hardware through SPTI may result in STOP or Dr. Watson errors. If the option is available, use ASPI access instead.
Some Software Recommendations:
- CDRWin by GoldenHawk Technology for the utmost in flexibility in CD/DVD authoring. It takes a fair bit of effort to learn it's full capabilities, and the user interface can be daunting for the feint of heart, but it gives the user the ability to create perfect discs to nearly ANY authoring standard. Unfortunately, it would appear this product is no longer being actively developed - no new releases have occurred for over 18 months.
- Many people use and recommend the Nero Suite by Ahead Software. I don't use this product myself, but from Reports received it appears a good choice. (CAUTION: The Nero authoring Suite requires Internet Explorer V4.0 or later be installed on an NT4.0 system - hence why I won't use it!)
- For 'Packet Writing' (ie: being able to treat a DVD-RW or CD-RW media like a floppy disk) there are several packages from companies such as Roxio and Ahead (Nero). I use and recommend the Nero solution - InCD (Version 4). InCD appears to operate without conflicts alongside CDRWin from Goldenhawk. For obvious reasons it would be unwise to attempt to use both applications on a system simultaneously however.
ATTENTION: Ahead Software have announced that support for NT 4.0 was discontinued on 31 December 2005. The latest (and therefore last supported) release of InCD at this date was InCD V4.3.05. This version appears to function well.
- Another option for 'Packet Writing' is a product developed by Alter called DVDWriteNow. This product is fully supported on Windows NT 4.0.
- Nero's tools (Freeware - HIGHLY Recommended, available for download here) are excellent for confirming that your system is correctly configured and functioning as it should. The tools include benchmarking capabilities to let you assess the system overall performance. Unfortunately (again) NT4.0 is no longer supported in their latest software offerings. The last versions which will work on NT4.0 are:
- NeroCDSpeed V22.214.171.124 (not archived - use V126.96.36.199)
- NeroDVDSpeed V0.5.3
- NeroInfoTool V4.0.3
- NeroDriveSpeed V3.0
- DISCInfo (Freeware - DVD-IDE-SCSI-CD Information Program) by Hijacker is extremely useful for determining what capabilities and region code restrictions your optical drives may have.
- If you need to verify what you are writing to optical media is an accurate copy of the source material I HIGHLY Recommend CD Check by Mitja Perko. Free licensing is offered for home / personal use. This package works brilliantly on NT 4.0 and you'll find it has a lot of other uses beside checking CDs and DVDs.
- If you have a corrupted or damaged optical media ISOBuster by Smart Projects is an excellent tool to use in data recovery. V2.5 is the last version of this package that works on NT 4.0 (To obtain full functionality on this package you must purchase a software license from Smart Projects - valid for ALL IsoBuster V2.x versions)
- Be aware of your system limitations whilst it is writing to the media. Use task manager to examine your CPU utilisation whilst conducting a normal disc authoring session. Anything more than 40 to 50% CPU loading indicates you may experience problems or unreliable writing. A correctly configured system using D.M.A. access will have very low CPU utilisation. (Typically < 10%)
- Most authoring software gives you the ability to write optical media in either ISO9660 (commonly referred to as 'CD File System - CDFS') or in UDF. (Universal Data Format - This is the recognised defacto standard for data placed onto DVD) Be aware the NT 4.0 DOES NOT come with native support for UDF and cannot read media written in this format. Several manufacturers have 'UDF Reader' packages available for NT 4.0 which add a file system driver to allow access to UDF media. I would advise adding such software. Roxio and Software Architects make suitable programmes for NT 4.0. Unfortunately, Ahead Software (Nero) recently dropped support for NT 4.0 from their stand alone InCD UDF Reader product. You now have to install the full InCD Version 4 product to gain UDF reading capability.
- A DVD written using the CD File System (CDFS) may not be able to be correctly read or dealt with until NT 4.0 is advanced to at least Service Pack 5. The CDFS driver was patched by this Service Pack to allow for optical media larger than 700MB. On today's systems, this really isn't an issue. All NT 4.0 systems should be revised to Service Pack 6a and have all the necessary Security Rollups and hotfixes applied as a matter of course. (Unless you have a very good reason for not pursuing this) See here for a detailed explanation of the current status of NT 4.0 revisions.
My Own Observations and Experiences:
I have been using the GoldenHawk CDRWin package since July 2000, utilising a variety of SCSI and ATAPI CD and DVD writers. (Bonus: GoldenHawk supply a suitable licensed ASPI with their software if you don't have ASPI installed on the machine)
NEVER ONCE have I created a 'drink coaster'. (Well, with the exception of those occasions where I did something dumb and caused it to happen - like pressing the cancel button in the middle of recording! In some instances, using re-writable media, I did so on purpose to see how the system reacted to such events!)
For 'packet writing' I use Ahead (Nero) InCD. The Ahead (Nero) InCD Version 4 UDF file system driver is used to read UDF media. (This is added to the system automatically when the InCD full product is installed) It appears to function flawlessly, and does not conflict with GoldenHawk CDRWin.
WARNING - Package Compatibility: You may encounter a certain amount of 'incompatibility' problems between various brand UDF packet writing programmes. Ordinarily, a media written by ANY programme is readable by any other programme, but due to file system inconsistencies between products it may not be possible to perform any functions that require writing to the media (file delete, add, rename etc...) using a product other than the one used to create the UDF media originally. I have seen situations where the mere act of putting a re-writable media into a system using a different packet writing programme has resulted in the media being accessed by the UDF programme, assessed as corrupt and being 'altered' to correct this supposed corruption, resulting in a truly 'scrambled' media that can't be read anywhere ! To avoid this situation, I usually advise that your 'packet-written' media be placed in a 'read-only' drive (ie: DO NOT put a UDF CD in a CD/DVD Writer, DO NOT put a UDF DVD in a DVD Writer) on any system other than one configured identically to the machine used to first create the disc.
WARNING - Media Quality: Packet writing software assumes that a UDF formatted media is in good order and correctly formatted. If the media is dirty, of questionable quality, or the formatting incorrect, the writing process may fail. Depending upon precisely at what point during writing that a failure occurs, some packet writing programmes can be quite ungracious in dealing with the situation, and may not only lose the file being dealt with at the time, but may also corrupt the overall file structure on the media rendering it totally unreadable. Always ensure that a UDF formatted media being used for packet-writing is in good order and clean. If you do encounter such events, ISOBuster may be able to assist in recovering undamaged files from the media.
If you only need to read a UDF media (not write to it) then you only need a UDF Reader file system driver. Several companies produce such products. (See my suggested sources above) I have tested the Adaptec (now Roxio) solution. It functions well, but has a few limitations that I have discovered:
- Doing a 'Properties' using Explorer on the drive with a UDF formatted media loaded will result in the disk capacity being correctly reported, unless the total space occupied exceeds 2.19GB - in which case the space used is reported as 2.19GB only. (Workaround: If you do a 'Select All' then 'Properties' on the content of the media, the correct total size is then displayed)
- If a single file on the UDF media exceeds 1.0GB in size it cannot be read back correctly. This is ONLY a fault of the UDF file driver, the file WILL be correctly written (and verified as such) by CDRWin. (Workaround: Use CDFS/ISO9660 for media with single files that exceed 1.0GB in size)
- These remarks refer to Version 1.08 of the Adaptec UDF file system driver. The problems may not be apparent in later versions by Roxio. I am unable to confirm this information. I have heard reports of later Roxio versions of this driver failing to function correctly or causing STOP (Blue Screen of Death) errors on NT4 systems.
All of the above information primarily deals with using optical media for computer data storage. Although creating other forms of media (eg: CD Digital Audio and DVD Video discs) is possible, that is not my primary focus. My experiences to date suggest that all forms of data stored on CD can be easily created, with an understanding of the data formats and the use of appropriate tools.
DVD forms, particularly commercial video (movies etc.), are more problematic because of copy control measures put in place by the disc manufacturers. DVD Video playback on NT 4.0 is difficult to achieve at best. Some persons have reported success in this area, but in my opinion, it is not worth the effort, especially in light of the low costs involved in purchasing a separate stand alone consumer DVD player for such activities. NT 4.0 is capable of excellent results when playing back lower bandwidth video sources, such as those commonly encountered on the internet. See here for a discussion of what is required. These lower bandwidth video forms (eg: XVid) can of course be stored on a CD or DVD media perfectly.
This page is very much a 'work in progress'. If you know of useful software or tweaks dealing with CD/DVD writing and reading, please contact the author via the email link on the index of this site.
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This site is maintained by ZCM Services, Australia. Whilst every care is taken in the preparation of this information, I accept no responsibility for errors or omissions. Use the information presented on this site AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Last Update April 7, 2010 at 8:44 PMAEST.