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CD-ROM vs. DVD-ROM: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on February 7, 2024
CD-ROM is an older optical disc format with a capacity of about 700MB, primarily for data storage and music, while DVD-ROM is a newer format with up to 4.7GB capacity, used for data and high-quality video.

Key Differences

CD-ROMs, which stand for Compact Disc Read-Only Memory, were introduced in the mid-1980s and typically hold about 700 megabytes of data. DVD-ROMs, meaning Digital Versatile Disc Read-Only Memory, emerged in the late 1990s with a significantly higher capacity, often storing up to 4.7 gigabytes on a single layer disc. This stark difference in storage allows DVD-ROMs to hold more complex and larger files like movies and software.
Both CD-ROM and DVD-ROM use laser technology to read data, but the way they store data is different. The pits and lands on a CD-ROM are longer, while those on a DVD-ROM are shorter, allowing more data to be stored in the same physical space. This structure change enables the higher capacity of DVD-ROMs.
Initially, CD-ROMs were widely used for distributing software, music, and games. DVD-ROMs, with their higher capacity, became popular for distributing full-length movies and complex software. While most DVD players and drives can read CD-ROMs, the reverse is not true.
The data transfer rate of CD-ROMs is slower compared to DVD-ROMs. This is due to the lower density of data storage in CD-ROMs. DVD-ROMs can transfer data faster, making them more efficient for larger files and videos.
CD-ROMs were a breakthrough in data storage and distribution, but DVD-ROMs have largely superseded them due to their higher capacity and versatility. Today, DVD-ROMs are still in use, though they are gradually being overtaken by Blu-ray discs and digital downloads.

Comparison Chart


Up to 700MB
Up to 4.7GB (single layer)

Data Structure

Larger pits and lands
Smaller pits and lands


Software, music, games
Movies, large software

Transfer Rate

Slower due to lower data density
Faster due to higher data density


Replaced by DVD-ROMs for larger capacity
Being overtaken by Blu-ray, digital media

CD-ROM and DVD-ROM Definitions


CD-ROM refers to a compact disc that can only be read and not written to.
My music collection is mostly on CD-ROMs.


DVD-ROM is a versatile disc used widely for multimedia content.
The documentary came on a DVD-ROM with extra features.


CD-ROM is a pre-recorded optical disc used for data storage.
I installed my computer software from a CD-ROM.


DVD-ROM is a high-capacity optical disc used for storing data and video.
I watched a movie on a DVD-ROM last night.


CD-ROM is a physical medium for distributing digital data, especially software.
The game was popularly sold on CD-ROM in the 90s.


DVD-ROM, an advancement over CD-ROM, offers greater storage and quality.
Our family photo album is stored on a DVD-ROM.


CD-ROM, a type of read-only memory, is an older digital storage format.
I found an old encyclopedia on CD-ROM at the library.


DVD-ROM is a digital storage medium capable of holding large files like movies.
The software installation required a DVD-ROM due to its size.


CD-ROM is an early form of digital storage media for files and applications.
We used a CD-ROM to distribute our annual report.


DVD-ROM is a read-only format for distributing high-definition content.
The educational series was provided on a set of DVD-ROMs.


A compact disc that functions as read-only memory.


A compact disk that is used with a computer (rather than with an audio system); a large amount of digital information can be stored and accessed but it cannot be altered by the user.


A compact disk that is used with a computer (rather than with an audio system); a large amount of digital information can be stored and accessed but it cannot be altered by the user


What is a CD-ROM?

A CD-ROM is a type of optical disc used to store data that can only be read and not written or erased.

Can a DVD-ROM player read CD-ROMs?

Yes, most DVD-ROM players are backward compatible and can read CD-ROMs.

Is a DVD-ROM the same as a DVD movie disc?

Yes, a DVD movie is a type of DVD-ROM, specifically used for storing movies.

What is the storage capacity of a CD-ROM?

A CD-ROM typically holds about 700MB of data.

How much data can a DVD-ROM store?

A single-layer DVD-ROM can store up to 4.7GB of data.

What does DVD-ROM stand for?

DVD-ROM stands for Digital Versatile Disc Read-Only Memory.

Are DVD-ROMs more expensive than CD-ROMs?

Historically, DVD-ROMs were more expensive, but the price difference is negligible now.

Can a computer without a DVD drive read a DVD-ROM?

No, a computer needs a DVD drive to read a DVD-ROM.

Are CD-ROMs still used today?

CD-ROMs are less common today, mostly replaced by DVD-ROMs and other digital storage methods.

What is the main difference between CD-ROM and DVD-ROM?

The main difference is in their storage capacity; DVD-ROMs can hold much more data than CD-ROMs.

Can CD-ROMs store video?

Yes, but due to limited storage, they can only hold short or low-quality video.

Do CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs require different players?

Yes, they require different players, but most DVD players can also play CD-ROMs.

Can CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs be recycled?

Yes, they can be recycled, but it requires specialized recycling facilities.

Can I burn data onto a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM?

No, CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs are read-only and cannot be written to.

What types of files are commonly stored on DVD-ROMs?

Large files like software applications, high-quality videos, and large databases.

Why were CD-ROMs popular in the 90s?

CD-ROMs were popular for their then-high capacity and durability compared to floppy disks.

What are the environmental impacts of CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs?

They contribute to e-waste if not properly recycled and are made from non-biodegradable materials.

Are there any security risks with using CD-ROMs or DVD-ROMs?

Like any storage media, they can contain malicious software, so it's important to use them carefully.

How long do CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs last?

They can last decades if stored properly, but are susceptible to physical damage.

Do CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs work in Blu-ray players?

Most Blu-ray players are compatible with both CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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