Question Pondering optical media value/usefulness these days

mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
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I always keep a stock of DVD single layer (4GB) and CD blank media as they're incredibly cheap to put a small amount of data on, and rewriteables are handy for quick jobs. When I decided to get a BR drive for my PC, I thought I may as well spend a bit more and get a BR writer drive as it might come in handy. While the BR read function has come in handy, I'm wondering if there was any point in the BR writer function.

So once upon a time optical media was my typical choice for backups, and that only really changed once I developed a stack of still-usable HDDs from various sources (upgrading my own kit, or from customers), so backing up to HDD is a lot more guaranteed a method than optical media and it's easier to handle and it's quicker.

Also, once upon a time optical was my preference for OS install media: It's read-only (so is good from a security perspective), and for the longest time there wasn't any OS whose install image weighed more than 4GB, until pork-tastic Windows 10 19x or 20x came along, then after seeing how much quicker it was to install from USB (I bought a few retail Win10 licences and so I had official USB install media), and also because Windows 10 got too big for a 4GB disk I more or less had to change to USB sticks.

Coming back to my BR writer drive, there's also the fact that in the era of DVD, once you got beyond say 2006, everyone had a DVD drive on their computer so they could at least read the data off DVD optical media, but BR hasn't taken off at all for PCs; I've seen a few BR drives in the wild, but mostly it went straight from being DVD-RW as the standard to no drive at all.

So if I use BR media for say backup, I have to commit to having a BR drive in the long term, but it still means that only I can read these discs and only on my PC at home (unless I go out of my way to own a BR USB drive, I assume they exist), so in terms of access to data it's not 100% ideal.

The cost of >DVD single layer media is not great either. Prices with my usual supplier are as follows:

DVD single layer per disc: £0.24
BR 25GB per disc: £0.77
DVD dual-layer 8GB per disc: £1.33
BR 50GB per disc: £3.85

A 32GB USB 3.0 flash drive I bought recently is £3.22 with that supplier. The 64GB variant is only £5.08.

The only arguments I can think of for getting say some 25GB BR discs is:
a) backup (in a "not putting all my eggs in one basket in terms of media type" sense)
or
b) if the amount of data was near the 25GB mark and wasn't likely to change much, one amusing idea was to have my entire music collection on one BR disc and have it downstairs by the BR player (assuming it can handle recordable BRs, I know it can handle MP3 files on CD/DVD). Though come to think of it, my BR player has a USB port on the front...

I don't think either argument is particularly compelling. What scenario is plausible here? I know my backup system to HDDs works, there's not some horrible flaw ready to bite me in the ass there. When I start thinking things like "what about EMP?" things get a bit absurd and surely I'd have to consider what would likely happen to the equipment I'd need to read either type of backup media, let alone the backup itself, and I think I shot down the second argument straight away as USB would be far better for easily being able to add to later without throwing out a 77p disc every time.

Thoughts?
 

Charlie98

Diamond Member
Nov 6, 2011
6,290
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91
Also, once upon a time optical was my preference for OS install media: It's read-only (so is good from a security perspective), and for the longest time there wasn't any OS whose install image weighed more than 4GB, until pork-tastic Windows 10 19x or 20x came along, then after seeing how much quicker it was to install from USB (I bought a few retail Win10 licences and so I had official USB install media), and also because Windows 10 got too big for a 4GB disk I more or less had to change to USB sticks.
That's my point of view... I still prefer a CD/DVD in my possession, particularly for OS's and expensive programs like QuickBooks and Office. I don't have to rely on a sketchy download to reinstall it, and I still have the original source.

I bought a BR player... but never even considered a BR burner... even I, Mr Legacy, have abandoned recordable optical media, I really think it's sun has set, and particularly now with cheap USB drives, and even SSD portable drives.
 

OlyAR15

Senior member
Oct 23, 2014
869
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Using optical media is a stupid way to install an OS. It was never my preferred method. I still remember years ago when we had to re-install Windows regularly, that installing from a disc was incredibly stupid. Being read-only is a problem, not a feature. I remember having to copy the contents of the disk to the HD, slipstream the latest SP, then burning a copy onto another disc in order to prevent having to download hours of patches and service packs after re-installing the OS.

That is the biggest problem with having your programs on optical media. Unless it's a dead program and not being updated, you will have an old version of your program. It's far better these days, when you can simply download the latest (or at least a more recent) version of Windows via their Media Creation Kit onto a USB drive and use that to install the OS. Same for all the other programs that you install. No, the optical drive is going the way of the floppy, and for good reason.
 

Tech Junky

Golden Member
Jan 27, 2022
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614
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I ditched optical media a long time ago in favor of HDD's in an enclosure before USB drives came down in price and up in speed.

I've got a SanDisk Pro Extreme 256GB recently for ~$54 that's seen by PC's as an internal drive and can be booted from for any OS. This isn't what I bought it for but as a speedy bootable install media. It pushes 400MB/s+ which is on par with any SATA SSD in terms of speed with the convenience of USB.

On the flip side I also picked up a cheap SanDisk 32GB under $10 that hits 150MB/s for OS images. I've accumulated NVME drives though too and use a Plugable enclosure on those for 1GB/s transfers for bulkier files since my drives are 1TB.

Using an ISO for bootable media works well whether you extract it and push it to USB w/ Rufus or keep it compressed with Ventoy and drop it onto the USB drive. ISO's are also compact and easy enough to mount for VM's if you want to spin up an OS to play around with.

Discs juss make for waste and they're slow as hell to burn / read in comparison to a USB drive. I even use a MicroSD on my car when updating its software for newer features that have been release and the SD I'm using hits ~90MB/s which is about the same speed as the on board PATA drive built into the system. I upgrade that spinner though to mSATA because it was getting up in years and I wanted a snappier response when accessing things.

With 20gbps USB being released recently it boosts the speeds even more with the right enclosure for moving things around. For things in the house though I built a NAS running Raid 10 and can hit 400MB/s across the network using 5GE Ethernet between devices to move large volume data as needed.

Plugging stuff in is just a PITA at this point unless you need physical access and speed.
 

VirtualLarry

No Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
54,515
8,647
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I still use mine for the (admittedly rare) customer system OS backup. (back using Macrium imaging to portable HDD, then later burn split image files to disc(s)).
 

Tech Junky

Golden Member
Jan 27, 2022
1,795
614
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customer system OS backup.
That's cost effective since you're handing them over to the customer but, personal use or not turning them over when complete makes sense to save time w/ USB media.

OS drives though are usually excessively provisioned and cluttered w/ junk that doesn't need to be saved. For imaging though I'll make a copy usually using clonezilla and then compress it either in Linux or 7Z to knock down the free space for long term storage.

At lest with Linux I can just dump a partition using rsync into a folder or with clonezilla work with partitions individually to make copies either by sector or compressed .img files. The other option is just to make a copy of the disk <> disk usually just go into gparted and shrink the free space to make it smaller than any target disk size to make cloning it back easier.

If I want to run really lean getting a running Linux system down under 20GB isn't too hard. Windows on the other hand is always excessive at 60GB+
 

Insert_Nickname

Diamond Member
May 6, 2012
4,820
1,492
136
Optical media only makes sense for archiving unchanging data today. Bluray is still the cheapest long lasting way to do that. But for that purpose it's unbeatable. In that regard, being read only* is a feature, not a bug.

Besides, what PC even has an internal optical drive anymore? Everything is external today.

*BD-RE does exist. Combined with packet writing, it sorta-kinda can work as a USB drive. If slow.
 

mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
15,666
5,869
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Thanks for the replies, the general mood seems to be that the usage scenarios for optical media are niche at best.

I'm thinking about the two scenarios I put down and thinking more about the backup scenario, though I think the question I'm about to ask I should maybe start a new thread with.
 

kschendel

Member
Aug 1, 2018
178
101
116
I built a DVD drive (read/write) into my work computer when I put it together in 2018. I think I've used it four, five times?

I'd want an optical drive around, if only for playing some old movies or TV shows occasionally. I'd probably stick to an external USB enclosure.
 

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