Fix CD Writer Buffer Underrun Errors
By Stephen Bucaro
You patiently wait 20 minutes while your CD Writer has written 300 of 600 MB to a CD-R.
Suddenly the "buffer underrun error" message appears, ending your recording session and
wasting your time and a CD-R disc.
What went wrong? CD-R and CD-RW drives require an uninterrupted stream of data from the source
storage device. Itís similar to trying to keep water in a sink with the drain open. If the
source drive can't keep up with the CD writer, the buffer or "sink" that stores data in
transit between the two devices will "dry up" and your recording session will end in failure.
To solve this problem, you need to do whatever you can to reduce the demand of your
CD writer, and increase the efficiency of the source storage. Try the following steps in
order until your recording sessions are able to complete successfully.
1. Set the recording speed of your CD writer to itís lowest setting. If this solves the
problem, you can move it to the next higher setting until you have determined the highest
speed at which your CD writer can record reliably.
2. Keep all other applications closed during the recording session to reduce the demand on
your computerís CPU and other resources.
3. Close any unnecessary programs running in the background. By Pressing the CTRL, ALT and
DEL keys simultaneously, you can bring up the Task Manager with a list of all running
processes. If you canít identify some of the programs listed there, the most important
ones to disable also display icons in your System Tray. Right-click each icon in your
system tray to bring up a menu where you can disable that program. Disable any
communications programs, screen savers, and virus checkers during the recording session.
4. If you are transferring data from a CD-ROM to a CD writer, try making a copy of the data
on your hard disk and transferring from the hard disk instead. A hard disk has a higher
transfer rate than a CD-ROM.
5. Try using a different brand of CD-R or CD-RW media. Try media made by a quality
manufacturer like 3M or Memorex. Cheap generic discs may not be able to record at the
speed of your CD writer. Use the brands recommended by the manufacturer of your CD writer.
6. It may be time to perform maintenance on your computers hard drive to allow it to
transfer data more efficiently. Follow the menu Start | Programs | Accessories |
System Tools to the programs ScanDisk and Disk Defragmenter. Run ScanDisk first to
check for disk errors, then run Disk Defragmenter to optimize the file organization.
7. If you are on a network, make sure others on the network cannot access resources
on your computer during the recording session. Right-click on Network Neighborhood
(My Network Places for Windows Me). Select "Properties" and make sure "I want to be
able to give others access to my files" is not checked.
8. If you are using an IDE (ATAPI) CD writer, put it on a different IDE channel than
the data source. Your PCís motherboard should have two IDE connectors, each capable
of supporting a Master and Slave device. The hard drive that your computer boots from
should be the Master device on the first IDE channel. You may need to locate another
IDE cable to connect your CD Writer as the Master device on the second IDE channel.
9. Visit your CD writerís manufacturerís Web site. Some CD writers have an updateable
BIOS similar to your computers main BIOS. You may be able to download a program that
you can run to update your CD writers BIOS.
To troubleshoot CD writer buffer underrun error, follow the general principle of
taking steps that will make the data source transfer data faster or slow the down
the CD writer so that it does not require such a fast data stream. If you can keep
the transfer buffer from running dry, you will have reliable recording sessions
and not waste your time and good CD-R discs.
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