CD-ROM Productions – CD-R Suite review

test and recover data from CD-R and CD-RW discs
Photo of CD-ROM Productions – CD-R Suite
$64.95 via download, $10 more for boxed version with printed manual

It’s surprisingly simple to lose the data on a CD-R. Even with the widespread use of BURN-proof drives, huge data buffers, increasingly clever software and ever-cheaper discs, errors can be made quite easily. The big problem is that often you don’t notice the error until it’s too late.

For example, on a couple of occasions we’ve been asked by friends and colleagues to try to rescue data from a CD-R. In both cases, the person concerned had backed up their data to CD-R, reformatted their hard drive to reinstall Windows (because the existing installation had become so bogged down with applications that it was painfully slow) and then tried to restore their files from CD-R. But they couldn’t, because the write operation hadn’t completed properly, although no error message had been given at the time. Imagine the interesting swear-words we heard. Until recently, there wasn’t much to be done in such a situation, but now there is.

CD-R Suite consists of two applications; CD-R Verifier and CD-R Diagnostic. The former is a high-speed verification tool that will compare the contents of a newly-burned CD-R with the original master. In this way you can be sure that there are no problems with the CD-R, rather than just hoping that everything went well. It’s the sort of ‘compare’ feature that’s built into most backup tools as standard, but for some reason few if any CD-R mastering software packages include such a useful facility. It’s simple to use and is worth having if you regularly make CD-R copies for distribution or backup purposes.

CD-R Diagnostic, however, is the more useful tool in our opinion, because it will recover data from a CD-R or CD-RW disc that otherwise can’t be read. This could happen because of a buffer under-run during the write process, or a power failure, or a drive error, or any number of possible factors.

The diagnostic program is simplicity itself to use. You launch it, tell it which drive to look at (if you have more than one) and it will analyse the disc, let you know the number of files it’s found and then give you an Explorer-style tree showing the full directory. You can then select the files you want to retrieve and copy them to a new location (the demo version of the program, available for download, will let you view the file list but not actually copy the files). If there are multiple sessions on the disc, the software will let you switch between them, so you can even recover files from previous, ‘over-written’ sessions.

CD-R Diagnostic will recover most session-written discs in a conventional CD-ROM drive, although packet-written discs can only be rescued by using a CD-R or CD-RW drive; sometimes only the drive in which they were actually created.

Additional tools allow you to view the contents of the CD-R at a lower level. You can check the volume information and table of contents, analyse a disc and check for write errors, all from within the main program screen.

Most important of all, it works. Even on a packet-written disc that appeared totally blank, we managed to retrieve all 40MB of lost files. So now we’re flavour of the month with our hassled colleagues.

Company: CD-ROM Productions

Contact: +1 847 415 2377


Verdict
Tools like this have proved essential for floppy drives and hard drives, and it's surprising that it's taken so long for one to become available for CD-R and CD-RW drives, especially given the popularity of such devices. CD-R Suite does its job well and whether you're trying to recover lost data, want to compare a CD-R copy with the master, or simply want to find out more about CD-R writing techniques, it's a worthwhile purchase.