CD Burning with Windows XP: Not Perfect Yet

Like most business computer users, I often exchange documents with coworkers or business associates. These documents might be simple Microsoft Word files, complex Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, or large spreadsheets. And 90 percent of the time, I use email to exchange these documents, but sometimes, email isn't appropriate.

In the past, I would have simply copied the documents to a 3.5" disk and dropped the disk in the mail, but nowadays, even simple documents sometimes exceed a 3.5" disk's storage capacity. Unfortunately, not all users have an Iomega Zip drive, an LS-120 drive (a drive that supports a special floppy disk which can store up to 120MB), or any of the other common high-capacity removable media devices; however, almost everybody has a CD-ROM drive, so the CD-R has become, for me, the new 3.5" disk. Even my notebook computer has a CD-RW drive, so I always carry a supply of CD-R disks when I travel.

Windows XP makes saving data to a CD-ROM simple because of the built-in support for CD burning. I simply select the items I want to burn, right-click, and select Send to CD. But, there's a fly in the ointment. My primary desktop system at home, which runs XP, has two CD-RW drives. The problem is that XP supports CD burning on only one drive—the first drive it recognizes as a CD-R or CD-RW. My desktop system's two CD-RW drives are on separate buses—one drive is on an IDE chain and the other is on a SCSI controller. Although rated slower, the SCSI drive is actually faster and more reliable than the IDE drive, so I primarily use the SCSI drive. Unfortunately, the method by which XP enumerates the CD-ROM drives is hard-coded, so I can't make the OS default to burning CDs on the SCSI drive.

According to Microsoft, the enumeration order is:
Onboard IIDE: primary master
Onboard IDE: primary slave
Onboard IDE: secondary master
Onboard IDE: secondary slave
SCSI devices (including add-on IDE controllers)

The only way to change the enumeration order of your drive is to move it to a higher position on the above list, but SCSI always comes last.

To confuse the situation even more, you can open the properties of the CD-RW drive, click the Recording tab, and select the "Enable CD recording on this drive" check box. Although the system appears to accept the configuration change, the change fails silently. I can't find an OS workaround for this problem, and the problem doesn't stop my CD-burning software (Ahead Software's Nero 5.5) from working properly with all the drives, but the combination of the undocumented support for only one burner and the silent failure of the configuration interface is a problem that Microsoft needs to address.

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