Burnin' Desire

CD-RW drives

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.

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This article was originally published in the March 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Burnin' Desire.

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