Free Burner Software

CD and DVD creation—gratis!

Have I ever mentioned that I'm cheap? I have a feeling I've mentioned it on a large number of occasions. Because I'm cheap, I value Windows Server 2003's and Windows XP's built-in CD-writing support. As you probably know, both OSs contain a reduced-feature version of Roxio's Easy Media Creator, which lets you create new music or data CDs and copy existing CDs. However, as far as I knew, neither OS would let me make a CD from an ISO 9660-format file—or, for that matter, burn anything on a DVD burner without resorting to costly third-party software. I was happy to find that I was wrong.

As you can probably guess, I love free utilities. Love 'em! I even love the minimalist ones. Imagine how happy I was to find that with a couple Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit tools and other free utilities, I could create both CD and DVD ISO files, and I could burn those ISO files to a CD or DVD.

Burn, Baby, Burn!
The two resource kit tools—CDBurn and DVDBurn—exploit some of Windows 2003's and XP's under-the-hood disc-burning capabilities that the Roxio software doesn't exploit. Given an ISO file, CDBurn or DVDBurn will create a CD or DVD. The basic syntax is simple:

<command> <burner drive letter> <ISO filename path>

Suppose you've downloaded an ISO image of a Longhorn beta in C:\isos\lhbeta7.iso, and you want to burn it to a blank DVD-R on the F drive, your DVD burner. You would use the command

dvdburn F: C:\isos\lhbeta7.iso 

Of course, if you're working with a CD ISO file, you would use CDBurn instead of DVDBurn. Both tools work well, but they tend to complain about problems that don't exist. For example, take a look at the sample run that Figure 1 shows. Notice the error about setting a time stamp, as well as the error about reinserting the disc. The latter error occurred on every CD or DVD burner that I tried, under both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of XP.

If, for some reason, CDBurn doesn't work for you, visit Alex Feinman's ISO Recorder download page ( and download the program. ISO Recorder modifies Windows Explorer so that when you right-click an ISO file, you immediately start a wizard that burns the ISO file to a blank CD. ISO Recorder can also create ISO files from existing CD-ROM discs. The site offers both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Alex also has a command-line tool that does more than CDBurn does, and he's working on a version of ISO Recorder for Windows Vista that supports DVDs.

What About DVD ISO?
To create DVD ISO files, we'll need one more excellent free tool, CDBurnerXP Pro. (You can find it at It's a GUI-driven tool that can create ISO files either from existing DVDs or CDs or from any set of data files. CDBurnerXP Pro can also burn DVDs and CDs from data files or existing ISO images. Furthermore, it can read ISO-like files, such as the proprietary NRG files that Nero Burning ROM creates. The tool also lets you print jewelcase-size disc covers—quite nice for a free tool.

One bit of bad news, however, is that CDBurnerXP Pro can't copy video DVDs, at least in my experience. Using some existing videos from my hard disk, I created a video DVD and played it without trouble on an appliance DVD player. Next, I used CDBurnerXP Pro 3.0 to create an ISO file of that DVD, then burned the ISO file to a second DVD. (This DVD was the same brand as the original disc and, of course, the original disc contained no protected material. Also, I didn't opt for protection when I created the disc.) The resulting DVD looks fine and plays with no problem on Windows Media Player (WMP) when I choose Play, then DVD, VCD or CD Audio. However, I can't find an appliance DVD player that can play it. But stay tuned: Perhaps I'll find a free DVD video-copy program in time for the next column!

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