DVD+R and DVD-R 101: An Explanation for Beginners

The difference are minor, but relevant for backup purposes

Businessman holding compact disc on his finger

Dimitri Otis / Getty Images

Buying blank DVDs or choosing a DVD recorder can be confusing if you're not sure how DVD+R and DVD-R are similar and different. In short, the only differences between DVD+R and DVD-R is in their formatting; that is, the laser in a DVD recorder that's made specifically for DVD+R or DVD-R discs uses a different technique to determine the location of data on the disc.

The dash in the DVD-R logo is a hyphen and not a minus symbol.

DVD+R and DVD-R: Physical Similarities

Superficially, DVD+R and DVD-R discs look identical. They're both 120 mm in diameter and 1.2 mm in thickness, comprising two polycarbonate substrates, 0.6 mm each. However, a DVD+R will, of course, have DVD+R written on the disc, while a DVD-R disc will have its respective wording.

Compact disk
Martin Hospach / Getty Images

DVD discs are very data-sturdy and do not wear out through repeated use. Unlike VHS cassettes and floppy diskettes, DVD discs are unaffected by magnetic fields. A DVD movie, even after 10,000 viewings, will offer video reproduction identical to the day you bought it.

DVD+R and DVD-R: Storage Similarities

On just one side, any DVD media disc, no matter if DVD+R or DVD-R, can hold up to 13 times the information of a standard CD (13 x 700 megabytes). Here are some common DVD storage capacities currently available:

  • 4.7 GB (single-sided/single layer)
  • 9.4 GB (double-sided/single layer)
  • 8.5 GB (single-sided/dual layer)
  • 17.1 GB (double-sided/dual layer)

DVD+R and DVD-R: Standards Differences

The DVD-R and -RW media formats are officially approved by the standards group DVD Forum. This forum was founded by Mitsubishi, Sony, Hitachi, and Time Warner, so it has tremendous industry support for its technical standards.

DVD+R and +RW formats are not approved by the DVD Forum standards group but are instead supported by the DVD+RW Alliance. This alliance is supported by Sony, Yamaha, Philips, Dell, and JP, so it also has tremendous industry support for its technical standards.

Two young boys searching for DVDs to buy
Matthias Tunger / Getty Images

DVD+R and DVD-R: Functional Differences

The main functional differences between DVD-R and DVD+R are the DVD recorder's built-in defects management, the way the recorders format and rewrite DVDs, and their respective price tags.

With DVD-R, little marks are positioned in the grooves of the disc that determines how the DVD reader processes the information on the disc. DVD+R, however, does not have these land pre-pits but instead measures the wobble frequency as the laser processes the disc.

Even though these two formats were developed by different companies and can only be used on certain devices, some DVD drives are hybrid models and can support both DVD-R and DVD+R discs.

Hybrid DVD players are sometimes called DVD?R or DVD?RW drives.

Whether you have DVD-R or DVD+R discs, make sure that the DVD drive you intend to purchase says that they're both supported. Similarly, if you already have a DVD+R or DVD-R machine and it's not a hybrid DVD drive, only buy the discs your player supports.

Some DVD+R Advantages

According to the claims of the DVD Alliance, using a DVD+R recorder allows for the following abilities and features:

  • Instantly eject DVDs without having to wait for finalized formatting.
  • Record one DVD disc partially on PC and partially on television.
  • Background formatting — while the disc is being formatted, you can simultaneously record on already-formatted portions of the same disc.
  • Enhanced ability to edit filenames, movie and song titles, and playlists.
  • 100 percent compatibility with all other DVD players, while still enjoying the noted extra recording features.
a close up of a cd on a keyboard
sodapix sodapix / Getty Images

What About DVD-RAM?

While now uncommon, you may hear the occasional comment about DVD-RAM, a third DVD variant from the late 1990s. DVD-RAM discs were created by Panasonic in 1998 and are efficient at storing data but not video. Video stored on a DVD-RAM is written in a special format that is not compatible with most DVD players. In today's world, DVD-RAM is typically a poor choice for most people.