DVD Size: How Much Data Do the Various Formats Hold?

Capacity varies among writeable DVD formats

A cutaway of a DVD burner
Felipe La Rotta / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons

Writeable DVDs aren't all the same. Among the most important factors in choosing the proper DVD for a project is the size of the data that needs to be stored. Capacity is a key difference among the various DVD formats.

Factors Affecting Size

A standard, single-layer, recordable DVD has 4.7 GB of storage space — enough for up to 2 hours (120 minutes) of video at DVD quality. Since the DVD's invention in 1995, however, manufacturers have developed formats that allow for significantly greater storage capacity.

The size of data that DVDs can hold is governed mainly by number of sides (one or two) and layers (one or two). As you might expect, double-layer (sometimes called dual-layer) and double-sided DVDs hold more than standard single-sided, single-layer DVDs. Many DVD burners for computers now burn double-sided and double-layer DVDs.

DVD Formats

DVDs are available in various formats, each of which support various capacities. A few of the most common include:

  • DVD+R  and DVD-R: Can be recorded on only once
  • DVD+R/RW and DVD-R/RW: Can be written to, erased and rewritten many times
  • DVD+R DL, DVD-R DL: Has two layers; writing/rewriting are a bit slower than other formats

You'll find an in-depth look at the various formats here.

Common DVD Sizes

The numbers in each format refer — roughly — to capacity in gigabytes; actual capacity is less because technical parameters changed since the nomenclature was designated.

Still, the number is a valid way to approximate how much data the DVD will hold when you're deciding which to purchase.

  • DVD-5: Holds 4.7GB; single-sided, single-layer; supported by the DVD+R/RW and DVD-R/RW formats
  • DVD-10: holds 8.75GB; double-sided single layer; supported by the DVD+R/RW and DVD-R/RW formats
  • DVD-9: holds 8.5GB; single-sided double-layer; supported by the DVD+R and DVD-R formats; officially known as DVD-R DL and DVD+R DL
  • DVD-18: holds 15.9GB; double-sided double-layer; supported by the DVD+R format

Check the specifications of your DVD burner to be sure of the format you need.