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Posted: March 24, 2000
Written By: Keith "Farrel" McClellan
You might be asking yourself, what exactly is an optical drive? Well, it is any data storage media that uses a laser to write or retrieve information. The most common form of optical media is CD, but there are also CD-R, CD-RW, DVD, DVD-RAM, MiniDisc, etc.
While getting drivers isn't exactly the first thing you probably think about when tweaking your optical drive, it should be. Believe it or not, new optical media drivers include bug fixes, add features, and occasionally even increase performance. I personally recommend that you check out Drivers Headquarters for new drivers for your drive before continuing.
Device Manager Settings
There are several powerful tweaks that can be done from within the Device Manager (right click My Computer, choose Properties, choose Device Manager). To enable them, go to the CD-ROM or DVD drive listing and select it. Then hit the properties button. Switch to the driver tab and turn on Sync Data Transfer and DMA.
Sync Data Transfer - This setting enables a synchronization of data transfers between your optical drive and your system, which is by default asynchronous. The synchronization will speed up data transfers significantly.
Direct Memory Access (DMA) - This setting allows the optical drive to directly access system memory without intervention from the CPU. When this setting is enabled, there is a significant performance boost.
Enabling DMA can occasionally cause problems within your system - you have been warned.
Optical Drive Cache
Almost archaically called the CD-ROM cache by Microsoft, these controls handle how data is pulled off of the optical drive. You can reach the settings from within the system applet. Under the performance tab, there will be a file system button. Within the file system sub-applet, there is a tab that says CD-ROM. I personally recommend setting the "Supplemental Cache Size" to Large. While you are here, you might as well make sure that the Access Pattern for your drive is set to Quad-speed or higher.
If you have any problems with your system after changing these settings, you may need to lower the supplemental cache size.