The following sections condense our experience in burning a lot of CDs in various environments.
The process of burning CDs can be smooth and reliable or a complete nightmare. Which it is depends on the entire system you use to burn CDs—processor, memory, operating system, configuration settings, background processes, hard disk type and fragmentation level, source CD-ROM drive and the source CD itself, CD-R(W) drive, firmware revision, application software, and the blank discs themselves. In short, the process of burning CDs is a black art rather than a science.
That’s less true now than it was even a couple of years ago, because systems are faster and CD burners are better. But it still pays to keep in mind that what counts is not just the CD burner or the blanks, but the entire system. Once you have the system working reliably, making even a minor change to one element can break it. For example, we once added an apparently innocuous Windows NT service to our main CD-R burning system. Suddenly, a system that was formerly rock-solid for burning CDs was no longer reliable. Removing the service cured the problem.
On a properly configured system, you can burn hundreds of CDs uneventfully. On a marginal system, even the slightest problem or anomaly can result in a ruined CD blank, called a “coaster.” Making an occasional coaster is less aggravating now that blanks cost $0.50 each instead of $20 each, but it still wastes at least five minutes ...