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Although DVD+RW is considered the most compatible writable DVD media, some players do not play these discs.

In this article we explain why, and how (in some cases) to fix the problem.

Note: Don't forget to read the disclaimer.

This information is based on information by DVDplusRW.org and was written by Jorg Kennis. Visit his website, as it contains a lot of info on DVD+RW.

DVD+RW compatibility issues

Compatibility Issues

My DVD-Video player/DVD-ROM drive is indicated on the compatibility list as compatible, but I can't play DVD+RW or DVD+R discs on it. Why is that?

Sometimes this question is being asked to me by people who were unsuccesful in their attempts to play a DVD+RW or DVD+R disc on their equipment, even though it was listed as compatible. Usually, these results are due to one of the issues that are covered on this page, and in most cases the problems can be resolved. The most frequently made mistakes or reasons for compatibility are listed first, followed by some general statements with regard to the compatibility list.

1. The disc does not contain enough data to be recognized by the player

If you fail to read a disc that contains just a few minutes of video on a particular DVD-Video player, try to fill up the disc with some more video. Most DVD-Video players need a disc to contain a certain amount of video to allow laser power calibration to function correctly, as they try to read the disc at various locations when it is loaded. This is not possible when there has never been any data written to these locations of the disc (the disc has never undergone a process called "de-icing").

We suggest you to fill the disc to at least half of its capacity, however, some tests of us have indicated that the "break point" is often reached when the disc is filled for about 1/12th of its capacity, i.e contains at least 5 minutes recorded in HQ mode, 10 minutes SP, 15 minutes LP or 20 minutes EP mode. You may even erase the dummy video that you recorded but don't want to be part of your recording afterwards, since the disc just needs to be "de-iced" once.

Some DVD authoring tools on the PC offer a feature called "enhanced compatibility" or "30 milimeter compatibility" which fills up a disc with dummy data if it does not contain enough data.

2. Incompatible DVD-Video authoring on a PC

One of the most common playback problems for people who own a DVD+RW drive in their PC, is due to the fact that it was incorrectly authored.

Some people falsly assume that creating a DVD-Video filesystem on a DVD+RW disc will result in the creation of a DVD-Video compatible disc. This is not true! While the recorded disc might play correctly on a PC using a software DVD player, it might not work in a stand-alone DVD-Video player. The format and filesystem that needs to be used on a DVD-Video disc is exactly specified in the DVD-Video standard, a general DVD writing application will not always take care of enabling the settings needed for the creation of a DVD-Video disc.

One of the tools that is known to cause many problems is Nero Burning ROM - not due to limitations of Nero, but thanks to the incorrect use of Nero by the end-user. You should use a dedicated DVD-Video authoring program like Sonic's MyDVD, DVDiT, WinOnCD or TMPGEnc DVD Author, or make sure that you use a general DVD writing tool which creates DVD-Video discs that fully conform to the DVD-Video specification.

3. Media quality

As with CD-R and CD-RW, there are different manufacturers of DVD+RW and DVD+R discs, each with their own quality levels and tolerance standards. Some brands might work better on certain players than others. You might want to check compatibility of a certain DVD-Video player or DVD-ROM drive with a different type of DVD+RW or DVD+R media.

Usually media of well known brands perform good (ie. Nashua, Sony, etc.). White label DVD's and other cheap media brands, might perform OK. But keep in mind that the chance on not so great media is bigger than with well known brands.

4. Incorrect setting of compatibility bits

Some DVD players fail to read a DVD+R or DVD+RW disc when the "compatibility bits" at the lead-in section of a disc do not contain the value for DVD-ROM. Thankfully, there are ways to change these bitsettings using both a DVD+RW PC drive and a DVD+RW video recorder, which is explained in full detail in the article about bitsettings on this site.

Players that are known to only read DVD+RW discs that need this procedure are marked in the compatibilitylist with (cs). However, it might be worth a try to apply this procedure to a disc when you have a player that is not listed as (cs), but you have troubles reading a disc. If you encounter reading problems with DVD+R discs, make sure that you apply DVD-ROM bitsettings on your DVD+R discs as well (Philips DVD video recorders, and some PC DVD+R drives such as the ones from HP will do this automatically).

5. Obsolete firmware version

Any DVD-Video player or DVD-ROM drive should be physically able to read a DVD+RW or DVD+R disc, as the specifications for these types of discs fully meet the DVD-ROM margins. All incompatibility problems are due to software and/or firmware implementations.

Most manufacturer's of DVD-ROM drives that cause problems when reading DVD+RW or DVD+R media have released a firmware fix to solve this issue. Usually, a firmware fix to read DVD-R and/or DVD-RW discs will also enable this drive to read DVD+RW and/or DVD+R media. Some manufacturer's of DVD-Video players also offer firmware updates for their players, although those are much rarer. It might be a good idea to search for a firmware update for your drive, if it's listed as compatible but you are experiencing read problems. Check for the latest firmware on the drive manufacturer's website, or this unofficial firmware web site.


Compatibility Bitsettings / Book Type Field

For a DVD player or drive to identify what kind of disc is loaded, it queries the so called "Book Type Field" found in the lead-in section of each DVD disc. These few bits, commonly referred to as "compatibility bitsettings" tell the drive which low-level format specification does the media conform to, such as DVD-ROM, DVD+R or DVD+RW.

Most DVD players will read a DVD+RW or DVD+R disc without any problems, however a small minority of them report a disc error when a disc is loaded that is not marked as a "DVD-ROM" disc in the compatibility bits. Ususally, these players are physically able to read the disc (since DVD+RW reflectivity is identical to that of a dual layered DVD-Video disc, which all players must be capable of reading), but their compatibility problems are due to different interpretations of these bits in the various firmware versions. In most cases, the problem can be solved by updating the firmware.

When a firmware fix is unavailable, or when you want to increase changes of playability when you give the disc to others with an unknown player, you could solve the issue by marking the DVD+R or DVD+RW disc as a DVD-ROM disc. This is what's called "changing the compatibility bitsettings". To instruct your DVD recorder to mark your DVD+R or DVD+RW discs as DVD-ROM, a special procedure must be followed. On a DVD+RW video recorder, you need to press a number of keys on the remote control. With a DVD+RW PC drive, you'll need a special utility program to accomplish this.

Note: You only need to apply this special compatibility setting to a disc if you encounter reading problems with your DVD equipment. Players and drives that need the DVD-ROM setting for DVD+RW discs are marked with (cs) in the compatibility list DVD-Video players. DVD+RW drive vendors advice you not to apply these setting unless you specifically need so in your situation, however we think that no DVD drive or player should encounter problems with a disc marked as "DVD-ROM", as this is the default value for read only discs too.

  Default written
Change default
(Before writing disc)
Change identification on disc
(After writing disc)
Default written
Change default
(Before writing disc)
Change identification on disc
(After writing disc)
(see note)
DVD+R or
  Note: HP DVD+R drives are known to write DVD-ROM identification to DVD+R discs by default, most others write DVD+R identification to DVD+R discs by default.

As you can see from the above table, there are various ways to change the identification bitsettings.

On a DVD+R/+RW video recorder you can only change the bitsettings on a DVD+RW disc, after it has been recorded. DVD+R discs are recorded with the DVD-ROM identification, for highest compatibility.

Using a DVD+R/+RW PC drive, you can change the bitsettings on a DVD+RW disc, both on an already recorded DVD+RW disc, as well as by setting the drive to automatically write the desired identification by default on future DVD+RW or DVD+R discs. Since there is no way to change the identification bitsettings on a finalized DVD+R disc (as it is a write once), you can only set the drive to the desired bitsettings for new or unfinalized DVD+R discs.

Apply Compatibility Bitsettings DVD+R(W) PC drive

To change the compatibility bitsettings using a DVD+RW PC drive, you need a dedicated utility. Currently, there are several of these tools available. Of the DVD+RW drive manufacturers, Hewlett-Packard has publicly released a tool to change bitsettings on a DVD+RW disc (which can only be used with the HP DVD100/DVD200 drive), and Ricoh made a tool to change bitsettings for DVD+R discs (for usage with its MP5125 drive). The programs on this site are developed by users and can be used with all drives. We suggest you to use one of these (even if you own a HP or Ricoh DVD writer), because of their unmatched functionality. It is strongly advised not to install the HP utility on your system if you plan to use any of these, since it will most likely interfere with these tools and cause unexpected behaviour.

The tools are designed for drives based on the Ricoh design, bot first generation (DVD+RW only) and second generation (DVD+R/+RW) drives (see models overviews on this site). Sony DRU110, 120 and 500 series are known to be an exception, their firmware does not work with the tools. For the tools to work, a first generation drive (DVD+RW only) must be equipped with at least version 1.37 of the firmware. If it's not, you must first download and install the new firmware version, for example from this firmware page. For second generation drives (DVD+R/DVD+RW), a firmware upgrade is not needed since the tools work with all versions of the firmware.

Note: For now, the tools will not work with some drives, particularly if they are not based on a Ricoh engine, such as the drives build by NEC and Sony, as these manufacturers have not (yet) unvieled the methods to change the bitsettings using their drives. All so-called "first" and "second generation" drives are build by Ricoh. Refer to the PC drive model overviews on this site to determine the OEM manufacturer of your drive. If things won't work with your drive, we urge you to contact the manufacturers directly in order to convince them into publishing these details to the programmers of the bitset utilities.

Nero Burning ROM

DVD+RW: Nero can also assist in setting the bit

Nero allows you to change the Book Type Field on DVD+RW discs from version onwards. Make sure to install the latest version of Nero, available from http://www.nero.com/. The program is reported to work with Ricoh based DVD+R/+RW drives. Refer to the PC drive model overviews on this site to determine the OEM manufacturer of your drive.

To change the bitsettings on a DVD+RW disc, first load the disc in the drive, then select the "Medium Info..." option from the "Recorder" menu. If necessary, select your DVD+R/+RW drive in this dialog window. The window will also display the current Book Type setting for the loaded disc. A "Change Book Type..." button will be displayed at the bottom of this window. When you press this button, a new window will come up which allows you to change between DVD-ROM and DVD+RW settings. Select the desired setting, and press the "Set" button.

DVD Bitsetter

DVD+RW: BitSetter can help you set the compatibility bit as well

DVD Bitsetter was developed by Maurice Zuiderwijk, based on the public domain command-line utility, discussed below. The tool can be used in any Windows version (both 9x/Me-based, as well as NT/2000/XP-based). It is available as a free download from the DVDplusRW website or from WeetHet (version 2.1.13 - January 14, 2003 - 1,005 KB).

First, make sure you selected your DVD+R/+RW drive from the drop-down menu. When you press the Check settings button, the program will show you the physical kind of disc that is currently loaded, its current identification settings, and the settings the drive will use when it writes on its next unfinalized DVD+R or unformatted DVD+RW disc. Italicalized indications mean that the unit settings weren't read from the drive (because this was not possible, or the check wasn't performed yet), but generally show a good gues based on previous settings made with this tool. Select the Check settings button to read the actual values from the drive. Note that first generation drives (DVD+RW only) can not read these settings from the drive.

When you want to change the bitsettings of the currently loaded DVD+RW disc, select the appropriate radio button under New Settings (choose from 'DVD+RW specification' and 'DVD-ROM specificaton') and press the Set for current disc button. Of course you cannot change the bitsettings on an already finalized DVD+R disc (as it is write once).

To change the default identification bitsetting that should be written to future DVD+RW and DVD+R discs (or DVD+R discs that still need to be "finalized" or DVD+RW media that is going to be re-formatted), select the desired setting from the New settings list and press the Set drive for DVD+R discs or Set drive for DVD+RW discs button. You can change bitsettings for a DVD+R disc to 'DVD-ROM specification' and 'DVD+R' specification, for a DVD+RW disc you can change between 'DVD-ROM specification' and 'DVD+RW specification'. When you change the drive settings for DVD+RW discs, the changes will only apply to new, unused (unformatted) discs. When a disc was already used in a recorder before, use the Set for current disc option to change its value.

Unit settings are not always remembered by the drive when you reboot your system. This behaviour varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, based on the firmware implementation. To be sure that the unit settings are restored when Windows restarts (independent of hardware/firmware implementation of storing settings), use the 'Apply settings when Windows starts' function of this program.

DVD+R/+RW Bitset Utilities for Apple Macintosh OS X and Linux

For Mac OS X and Linux similar tools can be founs. For Macintosh see: http://www.plak.net/dvdplustool/ and for Linux see: http://fy.chalmers.se/~appro/linux/DVD+RW/.

DVD+RW: Issues solvable for the Mac too

Apply Compatibility Bitsettings using a DVD+R(W) video recorder

Refer to the article on Compatibility Bitsettings / Book Type Field for general information.

On a DVD+R/+RW video recorder, you can use this procedure to apply the DVD-ROM bitsettings to an already recorded DVD+RW disc:

  • Open the drawer of the recorder.

  • Insert the disc containing the video recordings that you want to make compatible with one of the players marked with (cs). Do not close the drawer!

  • Press and hold the '2' button on the remote control of the recorder.

  • The drawer will now close, and the special procedure will be applied to the disc. This may take several seconds.

    If the disc is still not readable, you might try to repeat this operation, but now press and hold the '3' key instead of the '2' key. This extra identification bitsetting is only available on DVD+R/+RW video recorders, and will only be helpfull for a very small minority of players.

You need to repeat this procedure for each disc that you intend to play on one of those players, the setting will not be stored in the recorder. Any new disc that you record will be recorded according to the standard DVD+RW settings again. To undo the operation, and make the disc fully conforming to the standard DVD+RW specification again, repeat the operation but press the '1' button instead of the '2' button.

You can not change bitsettings for DVD+R discs. A DVD+R/+RW video recorder will always record DVD+R discs with DVD-ROM bitsettings, for maximum compatibility.



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