Q: Almost from the time of installation, my external compact-disc burner has exhibited a problem. Many CD-Rs respond normally to repeated...

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Almost from the time of installation, my external compact-disc burner has exhibited a problem. Many CD-Rs respond normally to repeated opening, closing, writing, reading and deletion, but approximately 25 percent of CD-Rs become unrecognized, some after only a few file additions.

The failure always occurs with the CD-R in the open state, making the disc unusable. In rare instances, an unrecognized disc will become usable on a later try. The CD-RW drive functions normally in the CD-ROM mode.

As a cause of the failures, I have considered intermittent burner malfunction, bad CD-Rs or a combination of both.

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— Elliott Brogren


Recording CDs is almost as much art as it is science. Unlike commercial CDs, which are made by cutting pits in the plastic, computer-recordable CDs write data by hitting dyes in the plastic with light. This process is a bit more error-prone. You might find that a CD you burn in one computer can be read in that computer but not in another computer.

The burning process can be corrupted by a number of other factors, including other applications running while you’re burning a CD, insufficient RAM or Windows resources, a slow processor or electrical surges.

Another way your CD-RW can become unreadable is if the disc is filled before the burning process is done. With certain data formats, the last piece of information written to the disc after the copying process is the “defaulting” information, which allows your software to locate data on the disc. If that information can’t be recorded, the disc can’t be read.

As a start, I’d avoid running other applications while burning CDs. Second, you might want to experiment with different brands of discs to see whether one works better than another with your drive.

If you need to recover data from the CDs, you might consider a data-recovery service. Just search for CD data recovery on the Internet and you’ll find several such services. Look for one that will give you a firm estimate for recovery charges.


We use Outlook Express for e-mail. During the past year, I began to receive Chef to Chef recipes every day. I have been able to block the messages so that they go directly to my deleted-messages folder, but I would like to stop them altogether.

I cannot find an e-mail address to accomplish this. When I try to reply to the e-mail, it says, “Do not reply here.” So I’m asking for help.

— Audrey Waddell


I wasn’t able to locate the recipe service you describe, so I can’t say whether there is a way to get off its mailing list.

Assuming it’s going to keep sending you mail, the most effective way to block the e-mails is just as you are doing — having them sent directly to the deleted-messages folder.

You can also configure Outlook Express to automatically purge deleted messages every time you close Outlook Express. To do so, go to the Tools menu and select Options. Next, click on the Maintenance tab and check the box next to “Empty messages from the ‘Deleted Items’ folder on exit.”

That way you need never notice whether you’re still receiving the messages or not.


When we close our e-mail through Outlook Express, we get a small pop-up that reads, “To free up disk space Outlook Express can compact messages.”

What does this mean, and if we say yes, will we lose e-mail messages? Some of them include pictures — I suspect that’s why we are getting this message.

What does a “compact” message look like, and where is it stored?

— Gail Crouch


Don’t worry about losing messages. If you allow Outlook Express to compact messages, it will compress the files so that they take up less space on your drive.

The only drawback is that you might experience a minor delay when you try to open a compressed message. Other than that, you won’t notice a difference.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by e-mail to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.