I selected Yamaha's CRW4260 CD-Rewritable (CD-RW) disk drive as one of my favorite hardware products. This model writes CD-Recordable (CD-R) disks at 4X, records CD-RWs at 2X, and reads CD-ROMs at 6X. I installed this CD-RW drive in early 1998, and although faster models are now available, speed is not important for my purposes. I installed this drive because it gave me more options and flexibility than I had in the past. Sure, 1998 was the year when the size of our standard hard drives jumped to 10GB and manufacturers reasonably priced faster processors and video cards. But ultimately, new CPUs or video cards function similarly to their corresponding products of 2 or 3 years ago.
I chose a SCSI interface for this drive, and I have not had problems with buffer overruns, which plagued early IDE devices. The drive's quality appears to be as good as any on the market today. (I must say, however, that manufacturers built my old 2X and 4X CD-ROM drives more solidly than anything now available. They used castings for the body rather than the thin sheet metal I see on the new drives. However, the 2X CD-ROM drive cost more than the latest price of the CRW4260.)
The CD-RW drive has become a useful addition to my network, and it has changed the way I use my computers. The best way to illustrate my point is to detail how I use this product.
I used to make copies of important CD-ROMs by backing up to a tape drive, often copying the contents of the CD-ROM to a hard disk as an intermediate step. Now I can make a backup copy with just a few clicks of the mouse. Of course, I would use a CD-R disk for this purpose, not a CD-RW disk.
As I work on software development projects (mainly databases), I find that having snapshots of the project at certain milestones is useful. A CD-R disk provides a fixed, unchangeable record of the project on a certain date
Every few months I can make a CD-R disk of files (e.g., email, correspondence, newsgroup files, and spreadsheets), and then I can clean up my hard disks. Unlike a tape backup, these files are immediately available if I need them.
I use several computers for testing. Working with software such as PowerQuest's Drive Image, I can quickly restore a system to its base configuration. I simply use a set of boot disks and a CD-R disk containing the drive image.
I could add more to this list, but you have your own ideas about how to use a CD-RW drive. I want to point out that I chose this drive over a Zip drive because CD-ROMs have greater capacity and almost all computers can read them. And as write-once media, the CD-R disks offer the permanent archiving capability that Zip, Jaz, and SparQ drives lack.
I strongly recommend that if you want a CD-RW drive, check out the CRW4260. It doesn't cost much more than a CD-R drive, and it gives you more flexibility. Software programs such as Adaptec's DirectCD let you treat the CD recorder as another drive, so backing up files requires only a drag-and-drop operation. For building more complex CD-ROMs, or for making backup copies of audio CDs, I use Adaptec's Easy CD Creator. Both of these programs run under Windows NT and Windows 98.
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