CD Burning in Windows Vista

Summary: When creating a CD from Vista, create it as a “Mastered” CD instead of as a “Live File System”. This gives the best chance of being able to share it with friends and family.

Microsoft has sprung some surprises for those who burn CDs using Windows Vista: they’re not as compatible as when created with Windows XP — in particular, they don’t use the long established [ISO 9660]( standard, which is compatible with Windows 3.1, 95, 98, 2000 and other legacy operating systems. The ISO 9660 format is readable in all CDROM drives. Instead, Vista uses the [UDF]( standard, which is the right choice for DVDs, but not for CDs.

In other words, I can’t burn a CD of family pictures from Vista and read them on my legacy 500 Mhz computer. The CDROM drive in that machine isn’t capable of reading the UDF format. Microsoft has created yet another road block to compatibility. It wouldn’t have been difficult to support ISO 9660.

Still, that’s a legacy computer. What about modern computers?

Vista creates CDs in either “Live File System” or “Mastered” ([UDF]( format. Neither one of these formats is supported by most CDROM drives — you’ll need a DVD drive to read them. The “Live File System” format will cause problems if you want to share the CD with non-Vista computers. To achieve maximum compatibility when burning a CD from Windows Vista, choose the “Mastered – Readable on all computers and some CD/DVD players” option. With this, I can read a CD, created by Vista, in a Linux computer with a DVD drive.

Picture of Vista CD Burning Dialog

My solution to get ISO 9660 CD burning capability is to install and dual-boot [Fedora Linux]( alongside my Vista computer. Its CD burning is a user-friendly experience, with none of the hassles that Microsoft introduced with Windows Vista. Linux even gives me access to the files on my Vista disk partition. I’ll bet that [Ubuntu]( or [Suse]( linux would work just as well.

Windows solutions for burning ISO 9660 CDs include [Nero]( (commercial) or [Burn At Once]( (freeware).