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Recordable DVD FAQ

This is an FAQ for people who need answers about playing home-made DVDs. It was written in 2002 and updated in 2004 and July, 2010.

I got a home-made DVD from somebody and it won't play. What's the deal?
There are four types of home-made DVDs, and not all players are compatible with all types. The four types are DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW and DVD+RW. Any given living-room DVD player might support any combination of these, all of them, or none of them. It's just a fact of life. DVD players in computers and video game systems generally support them all.

How can I tell which type of disc I got?
Look at the disc or the box it came in: it'll say DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, or DVD+RW. If it doesn't say, it's hard to tell without a computer and software to show the disc type.

How can I tell what types of discs my player will play?
Here's one way: go to www.videohelp.com and look up your player. Click on "View DVD Player Reports" in the left-hand column. Then enter your DVD player's brand name in the "Search by brand" box and click Search. Look in the results for your exact player model number. The entry will show the formats your player can play. Plain text (like "DVD+R") means it's supported. Strikethrough (DVD+R) means it's not supported. Gray (DVD+R?) means "unknown."

If your DVD player isn't listed there, Google its exact model number and the word "Specifications." Those pages usually show the list of media types the player will play.

My player says it will play the type of disc I got but it doesn't work
Maybe something went wrong when the disc was made. It happens. Or maybe it's gone bad since then. Media quality varies, and some players are more tolerant than others. Try another player, or ask for a replacement disc.

What about NTSC vs. PAL?
If you are in the US or Japan and you got a disc from someplace else (or vice-versa), this might be the problem. Just like commercial DVDs, home-made DVDs are either NTSC format or PAL format. Most players are designed to play just one format: US players all play NTSC, and only special ones can also play PAL. Computers can often play both types, so try the disc in a computer's DVD player instead of a stand-alone player.
What about DVD-RAM?
That's a different animal, a format that's strictly for storing computer data. It's not generally for movies or video at all.

This page was last edited July 08, 2010.