DVD Burning

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Writing (or "burning") DVDs requires a different approach than burning CDs. DVDs offer much higher capacities, and the standard CD writing tools will not suffice.

This HOWTO covers a narrow scope for now: writing data onto DVDs using the command line.

Required packages

  1. You still need the standard CD writing tools known as cdrtools (which can be replaced by cdrkit, if desired).
  2. You also need the new DVD writing tools known as dvd+rw-tools found in the official repositories.
Note: Do not install the package known as dvdrtools. It conflicts with cdrtools, and dvd+rw-tools is the superior DVD writing package.
Note: cdrtools provides all the functionality of dvd+rw-tools, as growisofs depends on mkisofs. Also the development of dvd+rw-tools seems to be stalled for the past 5 years (the last release was in 2008)
Tip: If you wish to use a graphical front-end, install k3b or brasero, and you need to read no further.


This HOWTO will use the command growisofs from the dvd+rw-tools package. If you have ever written CDs from the command line before, you will know the process of first creating an iso9660 file (mkisofs), and then burning it to CD (cdrecord). growisofs merges these steps, so you do not need extra storage space for the ISO file anymore. Another advantage is that multisession writing has been simplified.


Essentially, writing a new DVD follows this procedure:

$ growisofs -Z /dev/sr0 -r -J /path/to/files

where /dev/sr0 is your DVD writer device.

To continue a DVD (write an additional session), you use:

$ growisofs -M /dev/sr0 -r -J /path/to/files

To burn an ISO image to disc, use:

$ growisofs -dvd-compat -Z /dev/sr0 /path/to/iso

To create a video DVD, use the following:

$ growisofs -Z /dev/sr0 -dvd-video /path/to/video
start at the beginning of the DVD using the following device
start after the last session on the disc using the following device
Rock Ridge support with sane permission settings (recommended, extended Unix info)
Joliet support (recommended, extended info for Windows NT and Windows 95)
Note: -r will choose different permissions than the real ones; to use the exact permissions use -R instead. See the man page of mkisofs for more information.
Tip: If you want to copy an existing DVD, one way that works is to make an ISO using readcd:
$ readcd -v dev=/dev/sr0 -f image.iso
as per CD Burning Tips, then use the growisofs example above to burn the ISO to a new blank disc.


Although the above might suffice for you, some users require extra settings to successfully write DVDs.

A simple DVD writing template:

$ growisofs -Z /dev/cdrw -v -l -dry-run -iso-level 3 -R -J -speed=2 -joliet-long -graft-points /files/=/path/to/files/
as seen above, this starts a new DVD; to continue a multisession DVD, use -M
increase verbosity level (more output)
breaks DOS compatibility but allows for longer filenames
simulate writing (remove this flag if you are sure that everything is set up correctly)
-iso-level 3
defines how strict you want to adhere to the iso9660 standard (-iso-level 1 is very strict while -iso-level 4 is very loose)
see above
see above
start burning at 2X speed
allows longer Joliet file names

The final part needs more explanation:

-graft-points /files/=/path/to/files/

This specifies that files will be stored in the subdirectory /files rather than the DVD root. See the mkisofs manual for details.

Note: growisofs is basically just a front-end to mkisofs. That means that any option for mkisofs also works with growisofs. See the mkisofs man page for details.

Re-writable DVDs

The process for burning re-writable discs is almost the same as for normal DVDs. However, keep in mind that virgin DVD+RW media needs to be initially formatted ("blanked") prior to usage. Blanking can be done using the program dvd+rw-format like this:

$ dvd+rw-format /dev/cdrw

where /dev/cdrw is your DVD writer device.