While Microsoft’s Windows 11 operating system has a rudimentary CD and DVD burning app in the form of Windows Media Player, it’s only suitable for those who occasionally need to burn a CD or DVD. If you regularly need a freshly burned disc, it is better to choose one of these best free CD and DVD burner software packages.
The death of the optical drive has gone fast and most computers don’t even come standard with an optical drive anymore. Still, there are plenty of older devices that will work just fine if you can convert your current digital content into physical form.
Warning! Beware of PuPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs)
This article focuses on CD and DVD burning software, but “free” almost always comes with a different payment type. Sometimes it’s in-app advertising, which is generally acceptable. However, another tactic that is increasingly used is to add other software to the installer of the free application.
Essentially, the developers of other apps pay the free app developer a fee or commission to sneak their software into the installation process. If you stop to read every window of the installation wizard, you’ll find that it’s clearly described, but most people just click through the installer as quickly as possible.
Since this works on an “opt-out” basis, you can allow those apps to be installed without realizing it. The apps generally don’t rise to the level of malware, but they can contain browser hijackers, adware and other stubborn and annoying programs that you probably don’t want.
Since the presence of PuPs in software like the apps we highlight below is constantly changing, it’s best to just pay attention to the installation process and make sure to deselect any apps that try to piggyback on the installer.
Important CD Burner Features
Any disc burning application should have a few key features. It should have a clear interface that makes it clear what type of disc project you are creating. If you want to burn videos to disc for use in set-top players, make sure the app understands the formats you use, such as MOV, WMV or AVI files. Otherwise, you need to use a dedicated video conversion app to homogenize your media.
The ability to create or read ISO files is also worth looking forward to. Allows you to create disk images used in virtual disk drives. It also makes it possible to quickly duplicate drives, even if you only have one drive.
Some features are more niche and not everyone needs them. For example, the ability to erase DVD-RW discs is probably not so important anymore. Spanning files across multiple data CDs is attractive only for specific backup use cases.
Finally, we avoided pure trial software like DVD Creator or Nero Burning ROM. These applications allow you to burn discs for a trial period, after which you have to pay to continue using the application. That’s different from apps that have a free version with fewer features, which we’ve included in this list.
As the name suggests, CDBurnerXP was originally created in the Windows XP era, but it has been preserved through Vista, Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10 and now Windows 11 to remain a popular burning solution.
CDBurnerXP’s feature list covers just about everything you’d normally want to do with disc burning software. It is not only limited to burning CDs and DVDs, but also supports Blu-Ray discs.
You can create bootable discs and MP3 discs. Crucial for audiophiles, you can create CD audio without interruption from formats such as MP3, WAV, OGG, WMA and Apple Lossless files. Specifically, you can burn discs from ISO disc images as well as create disc images from discs. If you have BIN or NRG images, CDBurnerXP can convert them to ISO images.
The only thing we can say about this app that isn’t entirely positive is that it retains the same look and feel as it did in the days of Windows XP, but that could actually be a positive for some of you!
Ashampoo’s software is the free version of the paid premium package. While Burning Studio Free only has some of the features, you’ll find it in the paid version. Most users will be happy with the offer.
Most importantly, this is one of the most accessible burning apps. So if you’re not really confident in your ability to burn a disc properly, Burning Studio Free will do a great job. It describes the different types of disk projects that most people want to tackle while being perfect for beginners.
The only slight annoyance is that you have to request a license key for the free version of the software, which means providing your email address. Use a burner account if that’s a problem for you.
The free version of BurnAware reduces it to the bare bones of burning CDs. You can burn data discs, make copies, create audio CDs, MP3 discs, video DVDs, and burn Blu-Ray.
What’s excluded from the free version are advanced features like spanning multiple discs, ISO extraction, direct disc-to-disk copying, audio extraction, and data recovery from unreadable discs if you don’t need any of these features.
There is some nagging to buy the paid version of the software, and beware of sneaky attempt to install WinX DVD Ripper Platinum during the installation process.
Imgburn is a freeware application. That means it’s not a scaled-down version of paid software, but you get the whole experience. However, freeware is not open source. It is still copyrighted software that the developer has chosen not to charge. You can choose to donate some money to the author to support the development of the app, but this is completely optional.
ImgBurn’s claim to fame is how small and lightweight it is. The software uses special modes to read, build, write or verify disks. It also has a “discovery” mode that tests the quality of your drive’s burned discs.
Since this is “image” burning, the support for disc image formats is phenomenal. You can use BIN, CCD, CDI, CUE, DI, GI, IMG, ISO, MDS, NRG, and PDI file formats. If you’ve discovered an archive of old disk images, ImgBurn is the perfect tool to unlock them. ImgBurn supports most Windows versions, not just Windows 10 or Windows 11. We’re talking back to Windows 95! Even better, if you have a Linux system, it works through WINE.
While most CD and DVD burning programs do a good job of simply putting data on a disc or making direct copies of original discs, creating DVDs is a more specialized task. Here’s how to create a DVD that works in a DVD player, complete with menus, subtitles, and other features that make commercial DVDs what they are.
Let’s say you want to create a home video DVD for the family, or you want to create a workout DVD for work from video files you’ve recorded. That’s where you want authoring software. WinX DVD Author is one of the few free solutions for creating a good DVD.
It’s also easy to use, which is a blessing as DVD creation can get confusing quickly. If you are looking for a solution because you suddenly need to create a DVD for the first time, this is one of the best free DVD authoring packages in our opinion.
If you are not completely satisfied with WinX DVD Author, DVDStyler is the first alternative we recommend. Like the WinX program, this software allows you to create your interactive DVD menus. You can create them from scratch or quickly pick a template to use as is or modify.
It’s easy to add multiple subtitles and audio tracks and create custom navigation using DVD scripting. You can also mix and match audio and video formats on the same DVD project as the software will just convert everything at the end of the process. As long as your content is in one of the supported formats, it should work just fine. This saves time because you don’t have to recode anything.
DVDStyler needs a little more effort, time and learning to master than WinX DVD Author, that’s true. However, you can tailor a little tighter if you need it.
While everyone seems to have switched to music streaming services these days, many quality audio systems only play audio CDs. Maybe you have an excellent HiFi system that works just fine or one of the many people who drive a car with a CD player. If you have such a car and don’t have an aux audio input, Free Audio CD Burner is good.
DeepBurner is another respected name in the world of disc burning, and the free version of the software offers just enough for most home users. You can burn data DVDs and CDs, burn audio CDs, create and burn ISO files, and create bootable discs.
Everything else is stuck in the $30 DeepBurner Pro version of the application. However, you can get a full-featured 30-day trial if you only need these advanced features for a short time.
InfraRecorder is an open source program. This means that the source code is available for anyone to tinker with or research. That means there is no spyware or other malicious code in this software.
Although the software is only listed as compatible up to Windows 7 and at the time of writing it hasn’t been updated in ten years, it installed and started up on our Windows 11 system without any issues.
All the major features that you would want in a disc burning program are here, although, as you would expect from such an old application, there is no support for burning Blu-Ray discs. But again, this is open source software. So any intrepid coder who feels like doing the job can add this feature.
iTunes (Windows Store)
It’s deeply ironic that while Apple’s computers no longer use iTunes, the app on Windows is alive and well. While we can’t recommend iTunes as an available CD or DVD burning application, it’s great if you want to create audio CDs or MP3 CDs. The discs iTunes makes are, in our experience, highly compatible with most players out there.
If you have a significant collection of music purchased from Apple over the years, creating your audio CDs is the best way to play that music on CD player systems. It’s so easy to create a playlist and click “Burn Playlist to Disc” with iTunes. In fact, you can easily print a track list for the CD so you don’t have to wonder what music is on the disc you’re watching.
Quick Burn (Windows Store)
Express Burn is an NCH software product, a name you may remember for all the wrong reasons. Around 2013, the company got some flak for bundling the Google Toolbar (a PuP), but by 2015, the bloatware was gone and today their software has a clean bill of health.
The free version of the software does have one major limitation: it is limited to burning CDs. To burn DVDs, you have to pay for the full version of the app. If you also have a Mac, Express Burn is available for those systems.
Fire baby fire!
The days of 500-disc binders filled with CD-Rs may be long gone, but it’s good to know if you still need to burn CDs, DVDs, audio discs, or other optical media (except HD DVDs!) . it is still possible without spending any money.
That is, apart from a USB disk burner and disk spindles, it seems like it’s going to be a long time before you can find these on places like Amazon. After all, Sony just stopped making 1.44 MB diskettes in 2010!