Burning CDs and DVDs for older drives

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Burning CDs and DVDs for older drives

Postby keenmaster486 » 2019-8-11 @ 20:21

This is such an annoying issue.

I have been trying for the past couple hours to burn a Debian disk for my Thinkpad 600E. This machine I have upgraded with an Ultrabay CD/DVD drive from about 2001.

Previously the only luck I have had burning CDs for older systems has been with my MacBook's SuperDrive, burning at the minimum speed of 10x, and using Verbatim 52x disks. This has worked for nearly everything, but did NOT work for any of the Linux or BSD distros I tried to burn with it. The Thinkpad inevitably runs into read errors and the boot process halts.

Now I have a Thinkpad T420, and I'm trying to use it to do the same thing. I have four different types of disks: Verbatim, Memorex, and TDK 52x CD-R's, and some Verbatim DVD-R's. None of the Debian images I have tried have worked (all burning at the minimum speed of 8x), and I also tried burning a CD image to a DVD to see if that works: nope, still get read errors.

This drive works with ALL other disks I try to burn, if I do them with the MacBook SuperDrive at 10x speed. I installed Windows 2000 from it recently. ONLY the Linux or BSD disks fail to read properly.

Does anyone have tips on how to burn CDs or DVDs for old drives?
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Re: Burning CDs and DVDs for older drives

Postby marvias » 2019-8-11 @ 22:01

You could try 4x cd-rw. I think Verbatim still sells them. Other option would be external USB drive.

edit: also dye color might matter. Verbatim AZO (blue dye) has higher compatibility then Extra Protection (light green dye). Also there are cd-r with gold reflective layer, which have better compatibility with old drives than common discs using silver.
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Re: Burning CDs and DVDs for older drives

Postby SirNickity » 2019-8-12 @ 20:26

Just out of curiosity, are you having any trouble reading those discs back on the burner? Maybe run md5 on the image and the disc to see if they match.

I have a cakebox of Sony CD-Rs that always seemed to work fine, and then I ran into a whole block of them that just suuuuuuuck. I couldn't get a successful burn on any of my drives -- even the Plextors. So that might be it, too -- just luck of the draw.
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Re: Burning CDs and DVDs for older drives

Postby Unknown_K » 2019-8-12 @ 20:56

CDRW are the worst media for old CDROM drives to read.

Try burning CDR at 4x speeds.
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Re: Burning CDs and DVDs for older drives

Postby keenmaster486 » 2019-8-12 @ 21:18

They are not CD-RW, they are CD-R.

I haven't tried reading them back on the burner; maybe I should try that but the burning software does verify after burning and it never gives me any errors.

I am beginning to think those later versions of Debian might simply not work at all on my Thinkpad 600E. I burned a disk with Debian 6, and it worked fine.
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Re: Burning CDs and DVDs for older drives

Postby SirNickity » 2019-8-13 @ 00:18

If it verified the burn, that's essentially the same thing as hashing the image and the disc yourself. Assuming the drive had no trouble reading the disc, and your older drives have no trouble reading other burned discs (aside from your Linux images), I would expect that to be something to do with software. Are you sure they were READ errors during boot?

I've had reasonably good luck with Pentium IIs and on, but Pentium MMX and before are not very well supported by modern Linux kernels, IME. You have to jump through some hoops. A recent Gentoo minimal install disc booted right up on my Asus P2B, PII 350MHz. Compiling from stage3 took a short eternity though.
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Re: Burning CDs and DVDs for older drives

Postby keenmaster486 » 2019-8-13 @ 00:38

I think maybe this particular model of Thinkpad just does not like modern Linux kernels.
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Re: Burning CDs and DVDs for older drives

Postby Zup » 2019-8-13 @ 05:15

I (briefly) had a Thinkpad that seemed to have a faulty optical drive. It started booting but failed when trying to read further along the DVD. To install Linux, I put a distro into USB and used a minimal CD with Plop boot manager to start installing from USB.
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Re: Burning CDs and DVDs for older drives

Postby SirNickity » 2019-8-14 @ 21:05

FWIW, I recently got a G4 Cube and burned various OS X PPC images to discs for it. I was having a heck of a time getting them to install without read failures. Turns out there were two problems... 1) That's when I discovered that spindle of Sony CD-Rs had a bum batch of discs in it. These were failing to validate even on a different laptop I had nearby, so it was definitely a media issue. But also, 2) I had a bad stick of RAM, so tar would periodically fail to extract the contents of an archive during installation because the checksums (or header, or whatever) was coming up bad. Seemed like a disc error, but even when I tried installing from a USB drive, it made no difference. It would either fail to install, or crash shortly after.

So it could be other hardware. Try a memtest. Also, I have to give these old PPC Macs props for being very flexible on what they can boot from. Turns out, pretty much anything with the right image on it.
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Re: Burning CDs and DVDs for older drives

Postby red_avatar » 2019-8-14 @ 23:51

keenmaster486 wrote:This is such an annoying issue.

I have been trying for the past couple hours to burn a Debian disk for my Thinkpad 600E. This machine I have upgraded with an Ultrabay CD/DVD drive from about 2001.

Previously the only luck I have had burning CDs for older systems has been with my MacBook's SuperDrive, burning at the minimum speed of 10x, and using Verbatim 52x disks. This has worked for nearly everything, but did NOT work for any of the Linux or BSD distros I tried to burn with it. The Thinkpad inevitably runs into read errors and the boot process halts.

Now I have a Thinkpad T420, and I'm trying to use it to do the same thing. I have four different types of disks: Verbatim, Memorex, and TDK 52x CD-R's, and some Verbatim DVD-R's. None of the Debian images I have tried have worked (all burning at the minimum speed of 8x), and I also tried burning a CD image to a DVD to see if that works: nope, still get read errors.

This drive works with ALL other disks I try to burn, if I do them with the MacBook SuperDrive at 10x speed. I installed Windows 2000 from it recently. ONLY the Linux or BSD disks fail to read properly.

Does anyone have tips on how to burn CDs or DVDs for old drives?


Burn speed doesn't matter if verification checks out. It only affects the success rate - my external Samsung DVD-R can do 24x but I always lower it to 16x otherwise I get a 50/50 chance verification will fail. I've burned many games and they always work on my 25 year old drives.

And old drives can be very very picky when it comes to the brand of CD-Rs. I remember buying cheaper brands back in the day since prices were very high (before spindles became a thing) and having all sorts of problems. I now use Sony CD-Rs and have few problems.

Another thing to consider: I've had trouble getting bootable CD-Rs to run or they wouldn't boot properly due to BIOS limitations. Have you tried an older Debian version to see if those run into the same problem? Tried a different bootable CD-R? Perhaps get a bootable rescue CD written on the same brand of CD-R to see if that works. Basically: try to figure out at which point it fails. If only Debian fails, the image is likely incompatible with your PC.
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