Thursday 15 March 2012

How to burn a big file to DVD

If you want to write a big (> 4 GB) file to DVD, you must use a burning program that allows you to choose UDF as the format...  Otherwise, the burn process will fail, and you will end up with a useless coaster!

Yesterday, I tried writing a 7.1 GB file onto a DVD from Ubuntu Linux 10.04.  For starters, you need a DVR-R-DL (Dual Layer) disc so that you have 8.5 GB to play with.  A standard DVR-R is single-layer, and can only store half that much.   By the way, "dual-layer" is not the same as double-sided: a dual-layer disc stores two layers by adjusting the laser focus differently.

I tried two programs (Brasero and K3B) from Ubuntu Linux 10.04; the file explorer in Windows XP SP3; and the Finder in MacOS X 10.7.  In each case, I got a corrupt DVD (coaster).    At first I suspected the unbranded DVD-R-DL media we had lying around at work, but switching to branded media didn't help.

It turns out that the default DVD burn format that those programs used, has a maximum file size of approximately 4 GB.  It's really annoying that none of the programs bothered to check the file size before starting a long, boring burn process which could only ever produce a useless coaster!

For the record, the free Burn utility for Mac OS X just worked.  That is, it wrote a perfect UDF format DVD by default.  That disc then read perfectly on my Linux Dell machine, my Lenovo Windows XP machine, and my Mac.


  1. Nero v6.x onwards burns UDF well

  2. Sad that this wasteful coaster of a page showed up in my search results as it's out of touch with Linux burning. #ObviousMacFan

    1. If you'd bothered to read my post (rather than focussing on your zeal for one particular OS) you'd have noticed that the default burning programs on Linux, Windows and Mac all failed to burn large images as UDF by default. So all the OSes tested were equally dumb: they all produced coasters by default for large images.

      All of these programs will work if you select UDF mode yourself. But only Burn got it right by default.

    2. Sad that "Anonymous" can't read, and yet insists on being annoying.

      So, how do you get Brasero to burn in UDF format? I have made 2 coasters before deciding to check if my DVD burner is DL (it is: LG USB GP40NB40) and then discovered this page, and thank you for doing the research.

  3. Oh. My bad! I just took a look at Brasero and as far as I can see, it doesn't give enough control, so you can't select UDF format. To be honest I tend to use K3B when I need to burn optical media from a Linux machine. "apt-get install k3b" for the win :-)

  4. I was struggling a bit with writing a DL, with k3b and Brasero and dvdbackup. I had the udftools package installed. I don't know if it's coincidence, but after editing the /etc/default/udftools config file to allow both the internal and my external USB dvd writer to be devices registered for packet writing, everything just worked in k3b. When I clicked on the empty DL disc in the drive, k3b reported it as 8.0GB. Also, both drives listed DVD-R DL in their capabilities; and I was able to copy the DVD. (It was a copy for someone who had broken their purchased disc when trying to pop it from the too-tight grip in the case.)
    Previously, what had been happening was that k3b would only see the blank DL disc as 4.7GB, as would Brasero and dvdbackup. (Brasero saw it as 8.0GB but switched that to 4.7GB as soon as I selected the "burn image to disc" option. k3b I think did the same. dvdbackup always saw the 8GB disc as 4.7GB. I made a coaster before getting it right.)
    Note: k3b eventually said it failed (unable to fixate the disc. The disc might still be readable.")
    Fortunately, it does indeed play just fine. :-)


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