Burning DVD+RW in Linux


DVD+RW-tools is a set of utilities for recording dvd+rw's in the Linux operating system.  It is the only set of utilities supported by Physics Computing Services for this purpose.  Use of these tools requires installation of the software, as well as SCSI drivers and possibly other supporting software.  This document assumes you have already had these requirements  setup by PCS.  

Please note that as DVD+RW/+R is a fairly infant technology (and one that PCS has limited experience with), this document is most certainly a work-in-progress.  Therefor you should check back occasionally in case updates have been made to the burning methodology described.  You may want to check out the Other Resources section for more information regarding DVD+RW/+R.

Writing initial data to your DVD+RW/+R

Writing data to the the DVD drive is a fairly straightforward process using an application called growisofs.  If you do not have this application installed, contact pcs@physics.ucsb.edu and request it.

Once installed, you can just run:
    growisofs -Z <scsi-device-name> -R -J <your-files-here>

What is this doing?  Well, growisofs is a DVD+R/RW front-end to the old mkisofs command use to create iso filesystems.  The -Z flag tells it you want to burn the data directly (instead of creating an iso image file first).  The <scsi-device-name> is the name of your DVD+R/+RW device, usually /dev/scd0.  The -R and -J flags tell it you want Rock-Ridge extensions and Joliet filetypes (these allow for more flexibility when using Unix than the traditional iso9660 format).

So, as a more specific example, if I wanted to burn my home directory /home/happyuser using the DVD writing device located at /dev/scd0, I would run:

    growisofs -Z /dev/scd0 -R -J /home/happyuser

And viola!  I should then be able to mount the DVD (via the mount /mnt/cdrom command) and read it.  As I mentioned, since growisofs is really just a front-end to mkisofs, there is no man page for the former.  Instead, for available options, consult the mkisofs manpage.  the -Z flag mentioned above is the only new option that I'm aware of.

PLEASE NOTE: Since you're translating your data to an ISO9660 filesystem, you may not keep all the permissions/ownership/etc that you wanted!   If you have permission problems, you can try creating a tar of your data as follows: like

    tar --preserve -cvf burn-this-file.tar <your-files-here>

Then burning the tar file to a DVD.  This will ensure that the files keep all ownership, permissions, and modification times that they originally had. HOWEVER, tar is a fickle beast; if one byte goes bad in the archive, you may lose ALL the data in the archive (particularly if you use any kind of compression on the tar). For this reason, we don't recommend burning tar's unless you absolutely need to.

BIG WARNING: There is a known limitation in the mkisofs (and therefor the growisofs) command shipped with all current versions of RedHat Linux that won't allow you to burn more than 2GB of data at a time.  You can burn multiple sessions of 2GB each (see Adding data to your DVD+RW below), but only in 2GB increments.   PCS is looking into a good solution for this, but for now just make sure you burn in <2GB increments.  

Adding data to your DVD+RW

This is where the real power (and name) of growisofs comes into play.  If you're using a DVD+RW drive and media, you can use growisofs to quickly and easily add data to DVD+RW.  To do so, run growisofs as mentioned above, but substitute -M for -Z (you must keep all other options the same!).  So,  if I wanted to add the directory /home/saduser to the DVD+RW I burned earlier with /home/happyuser,I would execute the following command:

        growisofs -M /dev/scd0 -R -J /home/saduser

When adding data in this way, be sure to use the same options (aside from substituting -M for -Z) that you did to burn the initial session.  For instance, above I burned my initial /home/happyuser directory with the -R and -J flags.  So, when I added the /home/saduser directory, I used those same two flags.  If I'd used other options, they would have to be repeated as well.

Another thing I've noticed is DVD+RW drives seem to like have the media ejected and re-inserted each time a new burn session happens.  I don't know why.   Also note that if you have any kind of automounter running, you might notice it mount your DVD while you're mid-burn.  Don't worry about this; it will still burn just fine.  

Formatting your DVD+RW

It should go without saying that you can ONLY do this if you have a DVD+RW drive AND DVD+RW media!  If you've just got DVD+R media, then formatting them will be an exercise in futility (formatting will write to them, then you won't be able to do anything after that).

To format your DVD+RW (assuming your DVD writer is /dev/scd0), you would run:

    dvd+rw-format /dev/scd0

If you get an error back that you've already got data on that drive (and you're sure you still want to format, which of course deletes any existing data), run:

    dvd+rw-format -force /dev/scd0

But make sure that's what you really want!

Known Issues

Mounting and Unmounting your DVD

Other Resources


Email Physics Computing Services at pcs@physics.ucsb.edu

Updated September 13, 2004
Physics Computing Services