[Windows] Best free CD, DVD, and Blu-ray burning program — ImgBurn vs Ashampoo Burning Studio vs Burnaware vs CDBurnerXP

Although optical media such as CDs and DVDs have become less prevalent in recent times, they are still a valid means of storing media and with the advent of the Blu-ray disc, users have the option to store large amounts of information on a relatively small device. This article seeks to explore the best burning software on Windows out there today.

Functionality is very important but the ability to handle Blu-ray discs heavily influenced the programs reviewed since this disc was designed to be the so called successor to the ever so popular DVD. All of the programs reviewed here are capable of handling Blu-ray discs, as well as CDs and DVDs. [Note: The programs mentioned here are DVD burners but will not author movie DVDs. If you are looking for a program to author movie DVDs, then check out our review on best free DVD authoring programs for Windows.]

This review is part of our Best Free Windows Software section. Check out more articles on the best free Windows programs from here.

Table of Contents

Best Free Burning Software

ImgBurn-1Program Name: ImgBurn

Developer: LIGHTNING UK!

Download Size: 5.83MB

Version Reviewed: 2.5.7.0

Requires: Windows 95 and higher

Approximate Memory Usage When Idle: 25.2MB

Pros

  • Allows users to burn files or disk images to CD, DVD, and Blu-ray
  • Supports several image file formats such as .BIN, .CCD, .CUE, .DI, .DVD, .GI, .IMG, .ISO, .MDS, .NRG and .PDI.
  • Ability users to burn DVD video, HD-DVD video, and Blu-ray video disks
  • Ability to customize every aspect of the burning experience
  • Supports a wide variety of drives without needing to download any additional files
  • Log is always displayed showing users important information such as that pertaining to their optical drive as well as actions which were carried out
  • Batch mode options
  • Aside from burning disk images, can create disk images from files

Cons

  • Can be a bit confusing to operate, if you are a first time user
  • Will burn but not author video DVD/HD-DVD/Blu-ray. The difference between burn and author is when a program can author a DVD/HD-DVD/Blu-ray, it converts non-compliant videos to proper formats; burning requires you to have the proper format otherwise you will create a data DVD/HD-DVD/Blu-ray with videos on it and not a video DVD/HD-DVD/Blu-ray.

Discussion

ImgBurn offers users complete control over their burning experience.

On opening ImgBurn, users are presented with the default view of the program. This view allows users to quickly and easily view and select the task they want to carry out. The options available are:

  • Write image file to a disc
  • Write files/folders to a disc
  • Create image file from disc
  • Create image file from files/folders
  • Verify disc (check that a disk is readable)
  • Discovery (allows for the checking of the quality of burned disks)

It offers advanced options such as overburning, the ability to choose when to lock or eject the disc and the ability to choose the file system of a particular disc. It also allows users to tweak advanced settings such as ‘write type’, ‘write mode’ and ‘link size’. One of the more notable features of this programs is that it allows users to build blu-ray video discs from scratch which sets it apart from the other programs reviewed.

The creation of data discs and writing image files to discs are rather straightforward, however, functions such as the creation of a DVD video disc are rather complicated – the user must manually create the required folders for a DVD and then they must select build mode and the type of file system – which would be a major headache for several users. With the other programs reviewed, users simply need to select the DVD video option and then drag and drop the required files.

It cannot be said however that this program lacks in functionality and it is clear to see that this is a powerful program which is both simple enough in most cases( see comments on DVD discs ) for novice users to use and configurable enough for the more advanced user.

Runner Up

Program Name: Ashampoo Burning Studio Freeashampoo screenshot

Developer: Ashampoo

Download Size: 9.21MB

Version Reviewed: 6.81

Requires: Windows XP/Vista/7/8

Approximate Memory Usage When Idle: 31.19MB

Discussion

Ashampoo makes the claim on Ashampoo Burning Studio’s main screen that the program is ‘the easiest way to burn CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs’.  After using the program, this claim is difficult to dispute. Ashampoo offers a wide variety of burning options and allows for projects to be created and competed quite easily with little to no hassle. The most difficult part of the process of creating a project using Ashampoo is – quite literally – waiting on the burning process to finish.

Ashampoo Burning Studio will without a doubt comfortably satisfy the needs of the majority of users. It allows you to:

  • Burn files, folders, music, and movies to CD/DVD/Blu-ray
    • Note: Music CDs created by Ashampoo Burning Studio can be played in any music player (boombox, car, stereo, etc.)
    • Note: You need movies in the proper DVD/Blu-ray format if you want to create movie DVDs/Blu-rays. If you burn a non-DVD/Blu-ray format movie to DVD/Blu-ray, you are just creating a data DVD/Blu-ray aka VCD.
  • Create/burn disc images
  • Copy CD/DVD/Blu-ray
  • Erase rewriterable discs

It is required for you to simply drag and drop the files required for your project and then simply wait until the burning process is complete.

Some users however will no doubt be looking for some of the advanced options like those found in ImgBurn. ImgBurn offers users the option of changing how data is written to the media and even goes as far as to allow the user to specify when they want the CD tray to remain locked or to be ejected. Ashampoo simply does not offer these which is my main gripe with the program as I am one of those users!

Despite the lack of advanced options, Ashampoo has demonstrated that it will still get the job done satisfactorily, as the developer has sought to include in the simple interface the options which the majority of users will need as well as the handy backup and restoration options.

Honorable Mention 1

Program Name: BurnAware Freeburnaware free screenshot

Developer: GloryLogic Software Company

Download Size: 7.97MB

Version Reviewed: 1.3.1

Requires: Windows XP/Vista/7 (both 32 and 64-bit)/Windows 8

Approximate Memory Usage When Idle: 2.28MB

Discussion

BurnAware Free is similar to Ashampoo Burning Studio Free in that it has a simple interface which presents users with the options they will need to complete their burning projects.

Burnaware Free allows you to create data discs, video DVDs and audio discs. It also allows you to burn and copy ISO images and to erase re-writable discs. It also offers users some additional options such as the generation of CD-Text information. It also allows for the creation of bootable discs!

BurnAware Free however lacks many of the disc options which Ashampoo Burning Studio Free offers such as the creation of VCDs, SVCDs and WMA CDs/DVDs/Blu-ray discs. This program does offer the user slightly more advanced options such as the ability to create bootable discs, but the lack of many of the disc creation options present in Ashampoo Burning Studio weighs heavily on it being chosen as runner up. While the extra customizability the options such as CD-Text information offer are duly noted, the lack of several types of disc format limits the scope of the program and constricts the user—most users probably will not be creating bootable discs —  to a relatively small number of options which ultimately makes for a lesser experience. With fewer disc creation option, this program can force users to use unsuitable media for the task at hand which could be quite a waste. For example,  the 4.7GB available on a single layer DVD may not be necessary for several tasks such as the creation of a photo CD where the VCD or SVCD option could be easily used as 4.7GGB will not be required for this task in many cases.

BurnAware Freewill get the job done  but you will notice the difference in experience when it comes to the number of choices it offers you when compared to Ashampoo Burning Studio Free. The options that are included however will be adequate for most therefore BurnAware Free must still be given credit for being an excellent piece of burning software.

Honorable Mention 2

Program Name: CDBurnerXPcdburnerxp screenshot

Developer: Canneverbe Ltd

Download Size: 5.17MB

Version Reviewed: 4.4.2.3422

Requires: Windows 2000 and higher, .NET Framework 4.0

Approximate Memory Usage When Idle: 13.44MB

The options the user is presented with in CDBurnerXP are almost identical to those offered in Burnaware Free.

In addition to the features of Burnaware Free, CDBurnerXp allows the user to add replay gain to audio discs. However, like Burnaware Free it lacks many of the disc creation options of Ashampoo Burning Studio.

One of the main issues I had with this program is its lack of ability to create bootable discs. This is again going to be a non-issue for many but the fact remains that the other programs reviewed offer this functionality while CDBurnerXP does not.

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23 comments

  1. Eric989

    I have some dvd’s that I burned with either imgburn or infrarecorder and since they are not full I want to add something to them. Can any of these burners add a session to these disks. I tried CdBurnerXP but it can only import disks that it burned and can’t add a session to a disk burned by another burner.

  2. Mountainking

    Hi mate. Just again finding some time to have a quick look around.
    My 2 worthless cents. I have both imgburn and ashampoo v6 installed on my PC. I agree imgburn is the best free software but it comes with one caveat. As a con you might want to add “No multi session support”
    It has 2 implications.
    1) It wont allow you to add data to a CD/DVD later. They are always finalised.
    2) If you have burned a disc in multi session, imgburn will not properly read it (It has happened to me when it failed to output an ISO of a DVD recorder which saved stuffs broadcast from TV)

  3. Zebra148

    @Ashraf:

    That will be awesome…can not wait to see what comes out of it…
    Unless I missed it someday you could run an article on good joiner programs…I lost what I had in a crash. So would love to see something on this line about them
    Thanks for everything

  4. Strahd

    I have tried many burning software, and always do I go back to cdburnerxp. I personally would rank a shampoo last in regards to this test. A shampoo, to me, looks and feels much like Nero that had a new logo slapped onto it. But that’s my opinion.

  5. Rob (Down Under)

    Friends Romans countrymen I come to ignore Nero, not to praise him.
    I know technically Nero Express is not free, but surely most of us got a free copy with our DVD burner ?
    Since it is my ‘Go To’ application for burning, and for copying, it might not do any harm to add it to the comparisons.
    Just say’in,
    Rob
    PS for those that have Nero, please note that I am talking about the much simpler Nero Express, not the Rom. It is part of the install, and I just use the Express part.

  6. Mary

    I’m interested to see the results.

    I have so many burning softwares right now, I think I’ll just uninstall them all!

    For me, I burn
    *grandkid videos (some of which I need to join together)
    *Vacation DVDs, (same joining)
    *data CD’s. That’s how I save stuff that’s on my PC: pictures, documents, all my graphic art….and other things I deem important.

    Every time I need to burn a cd or DVD, I end up just going to what I started with: Real Networks!

    Real Player, RealPlayer Trimmer, RealPlayer Converter. All FREE and probably already on everyones PC.

    I never see anyone recommend RealNetworks, and surely I can’t be the only person on this planet who likes them! I’m even tempted to buy the Pro version!

    Not to mention, All my videos and music is all right there in front of my face to choose from, and put in the order I want it! Easy!

    I’m sure it does much more, but I haven’t had the need to discover the rest. Maybe someone else who actually uses it can supply that info! :)

    As for joining my grandsons football games together…I just use the simple, free and elementary easy (cuz I need that!) Free Video Joiner!

    http://www.freevideojoiner.com/

    http://realnetworks.com/products-services/realplayer.aspx

    Anyways, just wanted to add my favorite in! :)

    Oh, edit to add: I also use the already installed Windows Burner! :)

  7. Mags

    @james: I’d like to see this one included also. I have Burning Studio 2010 Advanced (which I got free, I think from dottech) and prefer it over any of the others I’ve tried.

    If V 6 is anywhere near half as good as 2010 Advanced I’d like to know as I would probably install it on my son’s pc.

  8. mukhi

    imgburn for DVDs, hands down. none of the programs (even paid) come close to it. for CDs (specially, multi-session), go elsewhere. starburn also recommended.

    anyway, i don’t like burning anymore. ^_^

  9. JackS

    For me depends what you want to do..
    ImgBurn is great, but it does not do multi-session discs
    CDBurnerXP does multi- session and is, for me, the best..but requires .net which puts some people off (also make sure you download the non open-candy version
    Both available as portable,tho ImgBurn not officially.