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Thread: CD/DVD drive for retro usage

  1. Default CD/DVD drive for retro usage

    I am opening this topic to discuss optical drives for usage in vintage desktop computers. This topic will discuss vintage and non-vintage cd/dvd and blu ray disc drivers from the aspect of retro usage. There is two main concerns with optical media, when the retro usage is in the focus:

    1. Having slow reading (spinning) speed to avoid old original pressed disks to be exploded.

    2. Having slow burning speed to be able to produce disks for other vintage computers and audio cd players.

    I would like if this topic would be about discussing practicular disc drives from the aspects of the above.
    For those who dont have long experience with this type of media (younger users, for example) i give some technical explanation, why this is needed.

    Older audio CD players, and older 1x-2x CD drives for PC (such as Sony cd drives with ISA controller card) will not be able to read the burned medium, if it is being written by high speed. High speed is relative, but usually they will start to produce glitching sounds above 4x writing, and will not see the discs above that at all. (In some cases, vintage CD drives will not see a burned medium at all!).

    When the case is the opposite, such as, using vintage CD (up to the middle of 1990s) in modern drives, the CD is in danger from exploding. Overwhelming majority of the modern CD/DVD/BluRay drives will spin the CD at 40x or 52x speed, which will cause small cracks to be formed in the middle of the cd surface, which later grows, and the explosion is inevitable.
    To avoid this phenomon to happen, a drive is required that spins the disk on lower speeds, such as, on 8x or below.

    There are no solutions for this.

    There are some programs for Windows that can change the optical drive read speed, these settings are however not permanent, and only will work under windows until the next reboot. Even when using these softwares, the most of the disc drives will still use they maximum speed when the discs are inserted, and only throttling down afterwards, therefore doing the damage for the media.

    The only solution is to get a proper drive, vintage drives are hard to come by, but the modern suitable ones are also hard to find.

    In the case of writing a medium that can be readed in vintage disc drives - even if you want, for example, 2x write speeds, the drive will not burn your cd at that speed. Either it will revert to 24x speed, or it will seemingly write it with 2x speed, but the actual data will be burned by the head at 24x or 40x aniway secretly.

    In this topic, i will explain how certain optical drive models operate, and i will rate them how much usable they are for these purposes.
    If you want to contribute, you can investigate and test your optical drive as well.

  2. Default

    (Lenovo / DELL) PLDS DH-16AES


    Type: PC SATA

    This is a sata drive, therefore its not optimal to be used as a vintage reader.
    When inserting a CD, initially its very gentle, and only spins the disk at 4x speeds. However, If you actually start accessing the files, then it starts to increase the speed up to 40x, (3,5 mbyte/second) which is dangerously high for those old cd-s.
    Its unable to write CD-s at low speed.
    -CD-RW write speed is minimum 10x
    -CD-RW written by this is NOT readable in vintage drives.
    -CD write minimum speed and readability: unknown.
    -DVD write speed: 16x
    -DVD readability: unknown.
    -DVD+RW write speed: 4x
    -DVD+RW written with this drive is NOT accessible on old dvd drives/video players.

    tldr: Medium burned with this disc drive is only accessible on the newest devices, no devices made pre-2010 will have compatibility with the media burned with this (not to mention pre-2000 devices!)
    Other issues: inability to write at lower speeds, it refuses to write CD-RW on 8x and reverts to 10x.

  3. Default

    hp dvdrw GUD1N
    Results: Minimally usable for retro

    This is a laptop sata drive, therefore its not optimale to be used directly in a retro drive.
    When inserting medium, the spinning speed is very high, the speed is becoming even more intense, when reading the actual contents of the disc.
    -CD-RW write speed: untested
    -CD write minimum speed and readability: unknown.
    -DVD write speed: 8x
    -DVD+RW speed: 4x
    -DVD readibility: unknown
    -DVD-RW readibility: the dvd+rw discs burned with this drive are readable on old DVD apparatus. However, the disc maybe needed to be inserted multiple times, and only at the second/third attempt will be succesfull to read such media on older devices.
    The drive sometimes offers lower speed writes for DVD-s, it can do 2,4x write for DVD+RW.

    tldr: documentation says its a 24x cd reader, but it actually spins it like a forma1 race car, AVOID putting a retro disc inside this drive!

  4. Default

    LG GCE8400B 40x 12x 40x

    Type: PC IDE

    You may think, this drive is old, and its ideal for a retro build, but it isnt. In reality, its not that old.... and the 40x speed is dangerously high. The drive is hacked together to support the 40x read speed somehow, but you can tell from the noise that the assembly of this drive is just barely a hack. The drive spins the cd dangerously fast, even while spinning up the disk.
    The drive even spins the rewriteable discs on 40x, which is very absurd.

    Write tests are not yet carried out due to k3b was crashing on that machine for some reason

    In theory, the drive supports CD-RW speed up to 12x, and it can do 8x CD-RW writing.
    The disks written by this drive are mostly readable on vintage disc drives, but not on first generation PC CD drives.

    Its not yet known to me if this drive supports single digit writing speeds on CD-R-s.
    No DVD support.

  5. Default

    NEC 1300A

    Type: PC IDE

    The NEC1300A is a 17 year old DVD writer. In theory, it supports writing CD-s up to 16x, but 8x and 4x speed is also choosable, which i currently cant confirm, as the drive unexpectedly died at me. The NEC1300A supports writing DVD-s at 8x on paper, in reality, it can only do 2x-2,4x writing. The DVD-s burned with it are readable on regular DVD drives, and on older DVD players as well.

    The drive refuses to burn 80% of modern dvd brands. After updating the firmware, it can do maybe half of them, but the speed will be always limited to 2x or 2,4x. I have never seen ANY dvd it was able to write faster than 2,4x, in fact the speed will be almost always 2x.

    -CD-RW rewrite speed is 8x, the CD-RW-s burned with this drive are not that much readable on older CD/DVD drives, sometimes even the newer ones will cough from it.
    -DVD-RW/DVD+RW support is present, but will probably not be compatible with most of the discs available on the market.

    -40x CD reading speed. This drive is totally not suitable for usage in retro machines, this speed is too big, and will explode old original game CD-s.

    If you can force it to write CD-s on 4x, then your hardware will maybe be able to read it, but do not expect much, as the discs burned with this writer are usually hard to read.

    DESIGN FAILURE: The drive dies on its own. You dont have to do anything with it, a few years on the shelf, and the drive will refuse to detect any cd or dvd even if previously it was working flawlessly.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    Dutchess County, New York, USA


    I have quite a few CD-ROM drive (read only mostly) plus a few DVD drives all for Pentium 1 - Pentium 3 laptops. Many are in NOS modules for Chicony (ODM) MP-series laptops or Alphatop (ODM) G753 - G736 line of Green laptops from the 1980's. I believe Alphatop was taken over by ECS at some point. I may also have a few R/W DVD drives if I dig around extra hard looking for them. These all should use the laptop style interface connector and most of the CD read only drives will be 4x or 8x. Don't know if these will be of any use for your purposes.
    Crazy old guy with a basement full of Pentium 1 laptops and parts

  7. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by DeltaDon View Post
    Don't know if these will be of any use for your purposes.
    Currently i am just documenting what to expect from each of the drives, in the aspect in the case of targeting vintage usage. Maybe this is useful info for someone when searching for a drive. If you want to join, feel free to write a little analisis (like the above short tests) from them.

  8. #8


    I've been using fast CD drives to spin old discs for decades, literally never seen one crack much less explode

  9. #9


    Quote Originally Posted by maxtherabbit View Post
    I've been using fast CD drives to spin old discs for decades, literally never seen one crack much less explode
    Double Ditto...

    This is a total non-issue for me, too.
    PM me if you're looking for 3" or 5" floppy disks. EMail For everything else, Take Another Step

  10. Default

    NEC ND-6500A
    Results: Minimally usable for retro

    The NEC ND-6500A is a laptop DVD writer. Its an early drive, but it supports - and + discs as well. It was mostly used in Pentium4 based laptops.

    -CD-RW write speed and realibility: unknown

    -CD write minimum speed and readability: The device can burn CD-s on 4X speed. The maximum speed of burning is 24x. 16x, 10x, 8x speeds are also selectable and supported. I dont have information of the CD readibility burnt with this medium on older cd drives. Due to the 4x cd writing speed, its minimally usable for retro purposes.

    -DVD write speed: up to 8x in theory (probably 4x in reality).

    -DVD readability: DVD+RW written 4x in this medium will not be readable in older DVD players. If the dvd+rw is written by 2,4x the older desktop DVD players will read it (for the second or third attempt of reinserting the DVD). Once the RW is being fetched, in old drives, the speed will be tragic, and read errors can occur.

    -CD read speed: Its only 24x! However, as this is a laptop drive, the 24x speed feels like 36x. The drive is noisy, shakie,


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