From the March 2000 issue of Startups

See Dee. See Dee rom. See Dee read. See Dee write. See Dee rewrite. You can take one CD-ROM . . . or 700 floppy disks. One CD-ROM . . . or seven regular Zip disks. Now that CD-R and CD-RW drives have dropped well into the sub-$300 range, you can harness the power of 650MB per disk from the comfort of your office chair. CDs aren't just for Barry Manilow anymore.

For storing, backing up and transferring data, feeling the burn is the way to go. Everybody and their ferret has a CD-ROM drive, but not everybody has a Zip drive. CD-RW disks give you the use-over-and-over feature of a Zip disk, with a lot more storage space. You'll have to pay slightly more for a CD-RW drive and about $5 per CD-RW disk rather than $1 or $2 for a CD-R disk, which can be written on only once. At least CD-RWs are stylishly flexible: You can mix and match your R and RW media with the same CD-RW drive.

If you don't want to twiddle your thumbs with a qualified service technician or do it yourself, external drives can be had for slightly more moolah than internal ones. Generally the higher the X numbers (i.e., 4x write, 2x rewrite), the less time you'll spend waiting for a CD to burn. The technology has become more reliable, although the occasional coaster, mini-Frisbee, or plastic doughnut sometimes still happens. For ultimate speed, look for a SCSI drive; otherwise, internal IDE drives are the cheapest and most common.

HP CD-Writer Plus 8200I

The "i" in HP's CD-Writer Plus 8200i stands for "internal." Install it yourself if you're comfortable, or leave it up to a tech. Either way, you'll get speedy 4x write, 4x rewrite and 24x read speeds with an EIDE interface. HP's Fast Format gets a disk ready to burn in just five minutes. (The actual burn time depends on how much data is being burned and the speed of the CD-R drive.) The comprehensive software bundle includes Adaptec DirectCD, Easy CD Creator, HP Simple Trax 2.0 and Disaster Recovery. One CD-R and one CD-RW come included to get you started.

Manufacturer: Hewlett-Packard

Model: CD-Writer Plus 8200I

Street price: $230

Phone: (800) 826-4111

Web site:http://www.hp.com

Imitation CD-R Super Recorder 8x20

If you have an absolute need for speed, the CD-R Super Recorder 8x20 from Imation breaks the 4X write barrier with 8X capability. Its internal SCSI interface one-ups the slower EIDE connections of the other drives in this column. What you don't get is rewritable CDs. It's a matter of taste. The extensive software bundle includes Adaptec Easy CD Creator, Direct CD, CD Copier Deluxe, Plextor CD Res-Q and Sonic Foundry Sound Forge XP. Certified 8X CD-R disks ($2 each) are recommended to take full advantage of the fast writing speed.

Manufacturer: Imation

Model: CD-R Super Recorder 8x20

Street price: $250

Phone: (888) 466-3456

Web site:http://www.imation.com

Ricoh Mediamaster MP7040A

The lowest-priced of our internal IDE CD-RW drives is the $160 Ricoh MediaMaster MP7040A. At $70 less than the Hewlett-Packard, the Ricoh also features 4X write and 4X rewrite speeds through an EIDE connection. The 20X read speed is just slightly lower than HP's 24X, but the difference is fairly negligible. The software bundle contains CeQuadrat Win OnCD, PacketCD, just!audio and Seagate Backup Exec. One CD-R disk and one CD-RW disk are included for your burning enjoyment.

Manufacturer: Ricoh

Model: MediaMaster MP7040A CD-RW

Street price: $160

Phone: (800) 225-1899

Web site:http://www.ricohcpg.com

Sony SPRESSA USB CRX100E/X

A healthy alternative to EIDE and SCSI is USB. Sony's Spressa USB CRX100E/X sports 4x write, 2x rewrite and 6x read. If you have an iMac or your computer is USB-equipped, no cards or cover removal are necessary--just plug and go. You'll pay a little more for the privilege. The Hewlett-Packard offers comparable speeds for nearly $100 less, but the Sony offers fast installation and low hassle. Discribe for Macintosh, HotBurn for Windows and CD Stomper Pro labeling software are included.

Manufacturer: Sony

Model: Spressa USB CRX100E/X

Street price: $320

Phone: (800) 352-7669

Web site:http://www.sony.com

EXP Portable CRW-726

Sometimes you have to sacrifice speed for portability and convenience. If you need to take it all with you, the external EXP CRW-726 Drive plugs in through a parallel port for burning on the go. The parallel port is convenient but slow. With a relatively poky 2X write, 2X rewrite and 6X read, you'd want this drive only if you have to take it with you, use it with more than one computer, or if you own a laptop. A parallel port drive might also be the ticket if you want to avoid installing an internal drive or struggling with an external SCSI drive interface. It's bundled with Adaptec Easy CD Creator and Direct CD. The EXP Portable weighs in at just over 3 pounds.

Manufacturer: EXP Computer

Model: EXP Portable CRW-726

Street price: $300

Phone: (800) EXP-NYCA

Web site:http://www.expnet.com