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What’s The Difference Between DVD+R and DVD-R?

Whenever you go out to buy writeable DVDs, you always have the choice of +R or -R. Is it marketing hype or are they really different in the way they work?

The answer is yes, they are different.

Pioneer developed DVD-R and is based on CD-R. However it is important to note that DVD-R is not an industry standard like CD-R is (labeled “Red Book” and “Orange Book” standard).

DVD+R also stems from CD-R. But this is not industry standard either. This is why the + and – formats compete with each other and you see them side by side on store shelves wherever you buy discs.

DVD-R is the older format.

Basically put, DVD-R  is the legacy format and you don’t really need to use it.


Is there any reason to use DVD-R at all?

There are only three instances I can think of where DVD-R is required:

  • The on-the-shelf price is sometimes cheaper than the +R’s. So if you’re trying to save a buck, the -R format may be a little less in price.
  • You have an older (or cheap) DVD player that will not read +R burned movie discs but will read -R discs.
  • You’re making a home movie for a friend and need to be sure the disc you give will actually play on their console player. DVD-R is the legacy format and even the cheapest 30-dollar Maganavox DVD player at Wal-Mart will play DVD-R burned movie discs.

For everything else, use DVD+R.

And if you wanted a plain English description of the technical differences:

  • A single-layer (what the vast majority of us use) DVD-R holds more data than a DVD+R does. The -R will hold 4,707,319,808 bytes while the +R holds 4,700,372,992 bytes.
  • A dual-layer DVD-R holds less data than a DVD+R does. The -R holds 8,543,666,176 bytes, the +R holds  8,547,991,552 bytes.
  • The data rate for both formats is the same, however DVD-R does have a higher top available speed. The fastest DVD+R is 16x. The fastest DVD-R is 20x. However if you were to pit +R vs. -R at 16x for each, the data rate is the same (21.12 MB/s).

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8 thoughts on “What’s The Difference Between DVD+R and DVD-R?”

Jared says:
I found some quick reading that is simple to understand here.
Most pages say the same things pretty much. I have heard that dvd+r also supports longer file names, but don’t quote me on that as I can’t remember where I read that. Since I have never had filename length issues on dvd-r, I’m guessing it wouldn’t matter to 99% of people even if it were true.
Moon River says:
Nice information about DVD!
DVD-R was first released in 1997 by Pioneer, and proved by DVD Forum, and 5 years later, year 2002, DVD+R released by DVD+RW Alliance as the compete formats. DVD+R is a non-rewritable format and it is compatible with about 89% of all DVD Players and most DVD-ROMs.
I also found a cool articles about the difference between DVD+r and DVD-r, More information about this topic:
MajTJKong says:
After checking the capacity of both Verbatim DVD-R and DVD+R and TDK DVD-R, I have to believe that this is wrong: “The -R will hold 4,707,319,808 bytes while the +R holds 4,700,372,992 bytes”

In fact, these figures are probably transversed. I found out because I have a 4,700,421,808 byte .ISO (4.3776 GB) that would not fit on either manufacturer’s DVD-R but did fit on the DVD+R.

SAP says:
RW is useful for disks that you don’t want to keep unchanged forever.

For example, a toolbox disk containing useful utilities. When a utility is updated, just update the RW disk instead of burning a new one.

Or Linux install disks – unless you really want to keep copies of every version, just reburn with the latest image.

Write-once disks are cheaper to buy, but their disposal is not environmentally friendly, so they should ideally be reserved for long-term storage.

Better yet, use USB memory sticks instead. However DVD may be required for some situations.

Steve Stone says:
The only reason I purchased RW disks is to use with my Toshiba TX-20 TIVO
( ). Sometimes a 1 hour TV show contains only a 10 or 15 minute segment I wish to hang onto. I burn from the TIVO hard drive to a DVD-RW in the TIVO DVD burner, then walk the DVD-RW over to my computer to edit the show down to what I want to keep on my computer in a wmv, mpeg, avi, etc format. At one time DVD-RW might have been a backup media solution, but not in these days of multi terrabyte hard drives
trendless says:
Regarding points two and three of “where DVD-R is required”: bitsetting makes minus or plus R moot. It’s [fairly] simple to set the book type to DVD-ROM so as to guarantee compatibility with all DVD players, especially the old ones — if you want to ensure this, you’ll be changing the book type no matter whether you burn to minus or plus R discs.

Very interesting about the differences in data capacity!

Alex says:
Thanks for the clarification. Can you shed some light on RWs? It seems to me there’s no logical reason to get them.
Steve Stone says:
I have a 3 year old Toshiba Series 2 TIVO with DVD burner that will only burn to DVD-R or DVD-RW. From what I’ve read the hardware could write to DVD+R but the Linux based OS is hardwired for DVD-R only. I’ve also read that writing to DVD+R is more reliable than writing to DVD-R, something to do with track following?
Rich Menga says:
DVD+R is supported by most major companies (Microsoft, Philips, etc.) but I’m unsure as to how widely it is in the open source (Linux) community. I’m on the assumption it should work just as well?

And yes it’s true, the +R format is usually more reliable for data storage. But bear in mind track following errors are usually indicative of a hardware or media fault (i.e. bad drive and/or bad disc) rather than disc format. This is why I tell anyone never to buy Sony brand DVDs (trust me, there’s a reason why they’re always on sale). :-)

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Feb 12, 2009

643 Articles Published