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CD Speed not what it seems:

Fast CD-ROM drives are SLOW!

But surely this can't be so? A faster CD must be FASTER? A 56 speed is faster than a 16 speed? Isn't it?! Oddly, it's not!

CD drives sell on how fast they are stated to be, and it is an assumption that the faster drives are faster and better etc. But it is an error, as the drive speed (in terms of 2X, 8X, 24X, etc) is often at odds with the actual speed.

The reason for this is that the speed is quoted in terms of how fast the drive goes when it is running at full tilt. If you want to copy a huge file or a whole CD, then it's true that the faster the drive is stated to be then the quicker it will copy, but for most purposes the faster drives are slower because the drive has to speed up to top speed just to read a few bytes. The faster the drive the longer it takes to get up to speed.

"But surely they'd not get away with that?" - but who's going to test it and compare the speed? People buying a computer just ASSUME a faster speed specification on a CD drive means it takes less time to read a file, but they never test it and just believe the hype!

From looking at a few different types of drives (2001/03), it appears that the best speed is about 8X or 16X. Above that it's a trade-off, and by the time you get to 56X it is often slower than a floppy disc.

Also note that when playing music a CD drive always runs at 1X, (if it went faster it would sound silly and could finish playing a song in less time than however many minutes it should take).

About the best configuration for CD drives on a computer is to have one 16X drive for CD ROMS and a second drive, an old 2X or 1X with the TWO pushbuttons on the front - that's important, linked to power and to audio but not connected to the data link, so it's possible to play music at the same time as using a CD ROM but without losing an IDE slot.

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Some of this is old-fashioned now, but there are still similar issues such as the best size to get a hard disc drive