Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How To Build Your Own CD and DVD Duplicator

re-blogged from:  discread.com/cd-duplication/how-to-build-your-own-cd-and-dvd-duplicator/


For business or home users who need to make multiple copies of CDs and DVDs, having a dedicated CD DVD duplicator is a powerful solution. A dedicated CD and DVD duplicator is reliable, fast, easy to use, and easy to maintain. It also produces more universally readable media than other methods.
Copying one CD or DVD at a time is no problem for today’s fast machines and reliable burners. But if, for example, a user needs to get a parts list on CD to their top 10 wholesalers every month, or needs to distribute 50 copies of a sales-training video on DVD, then one-at-a-time is not the way to go. Besides being tedious, it can tie up one or more PCs–something many businesses cannot afford.

Two Types of Duplicator Towers

Duplicator towers are typically built using one of two methods: Either as a PC-based system, or using a specially built piece of hardware called a duplication controller.

Here’s a quick view of their relative benefits:

PC-Based:

  • Can be used for other tasks (though not when duplicating)
  • Easily expandable
  • Good use for an older PC
  • Wide choice of duplication software

Duplication Controller-Based:

  • Fewer parts: no motherboard, memory, or OS needed!
  • Simplicity of construction and operation
  • Designed for optimal data throughput for fewer copy errors
  • Compact size

While I’ll discuss both options, this article will focus on the more flexible PC-based approach. I’ll show you how to build a PC with multiple burners that is optimized for channelized data transfer between the disk and burners to avoid buffer underrun–the most common cause of copying failure. Before we start building, let’s examine this important issue.

Why Bad Things Happen to Good Copies

The process of burning CDs and DVDs is not without problems. At the top of the trouble list is compatibility, or a lack thereof. The industry has adopted a large and growing number of disk formats and media types. This means that a disc that plays just fine on one machine may not work at all on another.

Also, problems inherent with the burning process can render a disk unreadable on some players. Anyone who has burned copies of their favorite music CD has probably had the experience of seeing “disc not found” or a similar error message when later trying to play the disc in their car or portable CD player. These defective disc are also known as “frisbees” – good only for throwing or possibly skeet shooting to vent some frustration.

Here’s a breakdown of the current leading CD and DVD formats. Including non-recordable formats, I count a total of 10 that you need to at least consider:

Non-recordable Disk Formats

CD-Audio:CD disc with audio tracks in the CDDA (Compact Disc Digital Audio) format, which is the standard for recording music tracks on a compact disc.

DVD-Audio: An audio-only storage format similar to CD-Audio that can also contain music videos, graphics and other information

DVD-ROM: (Digital Versatile Disc-Read Only Memory): A read-only DVD disc used for storing data, menus, audio and video. Most DVD-ROM drives will play DVD-Video movies, but home DVD players cannot play DVD-ROMs.

Recordable Disk Formats

CD-R: The most popular format for writing discs, CD-R normally holds up to 700MB of information, but larger, less compatible discs are available up to 1GB. The discs are inexpensive and can be used to share data with any PC equipped with a CD-ROM drive.

DVD-R: DVD-R is similar to CD-R in that you can write to the discs only once. But it has much more storage capacity (up to 4.7GB of data). These discs are normally used for burning high-quality video to be played on a DVD player.

DVD+R: Similar to above, but is a competing format..

CD-RW: Unlike the CD-R format, the CD-RW format can be written to and erased multiple times. CD-RW drives read and write to either CD-R or CD-RW discs, but many older CD-ROM drives can’t read CD-RWs.

DVD-RW: Like CD-RW, DVD-RW is a rewritable format and a rival to DVD+RW. The discs are designed to be used like a video tape and video can be recorded and erased and played back in a DVD player. The drive can also create CD-RW and CD-R discs…

DVD+RW: Similar to above, but is a competing format.

DVD-RAM: This special format comes both with and without a cartridge that contains a DVD disc. Think of it as a removable floppy disc with storage space up to 9.4GB. These discs can only be played in special DVD-RAM drives or special set-top player/recorders. With the best error correction and longer life than any of the other optical formats, it’s ideal for storing and archiving data.

There are other reasons why burning can fail, too. The most notorious is a condition called “buffer underrun.” It occurs when the buffer supplying data to the burner is emptied before all the data requested can be written. It happens either when data is interrupted or can’t be supplied fast enough to the writing device. If the PC’s software and hardware fail to prevent this situation, the disc is rendered useless. The good news is that there are several ways–using both hardware and software–to avoid buffer underrun.

Now let’s start building our duplication tower. As I mentioned earlier, there are two main ways to go: PC-based, or duplication controller-based. Let’s look at the PC solution first.

PC plus Software Solution

In general, I recommend IDE devices. If you have been building PCs for a while, SCSI might seem like an obvious choice for attaching multiple media devices. In fact, SCSI is used in building monster duplicating systems where data-bus control is critical. (For example, Nero software has built and tested duplication towers connecting 32 burners via SCSI.)

But IDE devices offer several advantages over SCSI. While SCSI may provide better control of more peripheral devices, IDE invariably wins out in price, availability, and ease in configuration. One serious limitation of IDE for this application is the limit of two devices sharing one channel with a Master/Slave relationship. To build a system with multiple IDE burners, you must use multiple IDE controllers, which use up valuable PCI slot real estate. Still, since IDE parts are so widely available and proven, I prefer IDE for systems with six or fewer burners. I only use SCSI for larger systems where cost is less of an issue.

Here’s my parts list and considerations for a PC-based duplication tower:

  • Motherboard: I recommend Pentium III / 400 MHz or better with at least 128 MB of RAM. (With requirements this modest, consider retooling an older PC as a duplication tower.) Remember that the number of IDE devices you can add depends on the number of IDE ports that are available. For example, many popular IDE controller cards support only two IDE ports. Depending on how many burners will be installed, you may need to obtain additional PCI slots.
  • Hard Disk Drive: You’ll need a 40 GB hard disk if the system will be used for copying CDs only, but a 120 GB drive for duplicating DVDs. Either way, partition at least OS and data partitions. Then, for the most expedient transfer to your line of burners, keep individual files or disc images on a data partition. The newer 7200-RPM drives are best for copying DVDs and achieving higher write speeds, though they’re not necessary for CD duplication. Also, remember to defrag your disk often; it’s one way to avoid burning errors (and see more tips below).
  • IDE Controllers: As already mentioned, you’ll need additional IDE controller cards to attach IDE burners. Each card supports two channels, and each channel will support one master device and one slave. I prefer adding additional controllers when possible, then configuring all burners as master devices; this achieves top speeds while still avoiding buffer underrun. SIIG’s IDE controllers, such as the model SC-PE4B12 are know to work well for duplicating applications. Sadly, Promise IDE cards have had issues with duplication software, so I’d avoid them for this application. A word about cables: For best performance, use 80-wire IDE cables for all primary connections between the IDE controller and the DVD/CD burners or ROMs. These newer IDE cables have 80 wires–twice as many as the older cables–but still connect to 40-pin headers. Also, 80-wire cables produce faster, more accurate data transfers, which, in turn, support faster devices. Plus, the cost difference between 40- and 80-wire cables is minimal.
  • Case: Look for a sturdy case with ample bays on the front. If you are building for four or more burners, choose a full tower for space. Some case manufacturers offer a “duplication tower” case that’s ideal for this application; these cases include front-accessible bays with good airflow. Also, consider adding extra cooling if your duplication tower will be used in a production setting. Remember, these boxes are called “burners” because they actually use a laser to burn the disk. That creates a lot more heat than a normal PC. Finally, avoid running the system “open” or with case covers or sides off, even when testing. With the covers removed, air will not flow through the case as designed, and the system could overheat. Burners generate a good deal of heat, and they depend on fresh air being pulled through and around them to keep them cool. Proper air circulation is critical.
  • Power Supply: You’ll need a high-quality power supply to meet the demands of your system. A minimal system with a couple of burners will require at least 250 watts. Larger systems with additional fans would be safer with at least 300 watts, even more.
  • Monitor, keyboard, and mouse: Standard equipment is adequate, as there are no special requirements here.
  • CD/DVD ROM: As your source, this should be reliable and at least as fast as your target burner’s speed. That way, it will help to avoid buffer underrun on occasions where you might copy directly from CD/DVD ROM to CD/DVD Burners. It is more efficient to burn from a disk image, so–other than to make the occasional one-to-one copy–CD/DVD ROMs are typically used only to load data onto a drive partition. For my tower, I chose Lite-On IT’s Model SOHD-1673S 16x DVD ROM drive for both price and reliability.
  • CD/DVD Burners: I recommend that, whenever possible, you use drives of the same make and model number. While a burner is not strictly necessary, you will enjoy a distinct advantage by using drives of just one type. This will guarantee the same buffer sizes and buffering strategy. All the burners I’ve seen from major manufacturers perform well and are reliable, and I’ve seen little difference among them. Also, some burners, including the Lite-On SOHW-812S Dual DVD+RW Writer, have a 2 MB cache and employ buffer handling to prevent a buffer underrun condition. (Lite-On calls its buffer-handling feature Smart Burn.)
  • Application Software: My pick is Nero’s latest, Nero 6 Reloaded, which is available as part of Nero’s Ultra Edition. Like most commercial copy software, Nero creates a hard-disk image of the CD or DVD you will be copying. It then buffers the data while it initiates the writing process to your line of burners. This is carefully orchestrated so the data arrives at the burner on time to avoid buffer underrun. Nero also recognizes the various buffering strategies of the burners and configures itself accordingly. Nero is an obvious choice for software; the vendor has a long-standing reputation as the leader in the field, and it performs significant testing with multiple burners. Also, with Nero 6, users get support for up to four target burners and can purchase a software key to turn on support for more.
  • Operating System: I chose Windows XP Home Edition since no special features or networking are required. For optimal performance on the duplication software, configure Windows for the maximum size for PageFile under System Performance. Also, avoid using WinME and Win95 to run your duplication towers, as these two OSes are known to have difficulty handling the duplication processes, buffering, and multiple controllers required for making disc copies.

See the rest of the article including assembly tips here


If you want to choose another option over building dvd duplicators consider visiting vinpower digital. Vinpower can provide quality solutions for dvd duplication.

~ another great source of information!

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