Lightscribe Drives

by tirial

Lightscribe is a labelling system that only needs a disc and a drive. This is a close look at the range of drives available, and what is best to pick.

Lightscribe drives can burn labels directly onto the surface of discs. However there are a wide range of lightscribe drives available, and it can be hgard to choose. This is a guide to what to look for when choosing your drive.

Identifying a Lightscribe drive

The lightscribe logo

Lightscribes drives display the Lightscribe symbol, shown on the left. If it doesn't have the logo, it isn't a lightscribe drive.

The logo may be rendered in black, white, or greyscale, but it will be visible. Usually it is on the drive tray or somewhere else on the front of the drive in a contrasting colour.

External Lightscribe Drives


External drives are exactly what they say: standalone drives that plug into a computer through a cable connection. They are usually connected in one of two ways:

  • External SATA
  • USB

USB is more common and compatible with a wider range of machines. If you are looking for a drive that is portable with the most computers, USB is probably the better option. USB drives can also be easily switched between PC, MAC and Linux.

While External SATA is thought to be faster at transfering data, for a Lightscribe drive you will be limited by the speed a DVD or Blu-ray drive physically runs at, which will be slower than either USB or SATA, making any speed advantage irrelevant.


Power requirements for external USB drives

Additional energy requirements.

Lightscribe is laser etching, and uses the drive's main laser to generate heat. This uses energy, which means some external USB drives may require additional power. Even those that don't can drain the battery in a laptop if the laptop isn't connected to the mains.

These power requirements can be resolved in various ways:

  • Using a USB hub with its own independant power supply, instead of conecting the drive directly to the computer.
  • Some drives have a splitter cable, so they can connect to multiple USB ports on the same machine.
  • Some drives simply have independant power supplies, and a seperate mains cable.

I use a mix of the first and second option, depending on what I am using it with.

Internal Lightscribe Drives

Internal Drives are drives which need to be physically installed into a computer. They won't run otherwise. This would be similar to a drive that came pre-installed with the box.

They can be used to replace or work alongside your existing drive. They are often slightly faster than external drives and don't have any additional power requirements. They are also often quieter. The downside is the technical knowledge required to install one, and compatibility issues which may arise.

Internal drives are usually more expensive. However, if you just want a basic DVD drive with lightscribe, there are affordable options.

It may be no-frills, but it will label your discs, which is what Lightscribe is about.

A cheap internal drive

DVD RW 24x
Lite-On LightScribe 24X SATA DVD+/-RW Dual Layer Drive IHAS424-98 - Retail (Black)

Lite-On IHAS424-98 LightScribe 24X SATA DVD+/-RW Dual Layer Drive (Black), Retail

Only $39.99

View on Amazon

A word of warning about Internal Drives

Technical knowledge required

Installing a new internal drive is not something you should try without a degree of technical knowledge. It isn't sadly simply a question of plug and play as internal drives need to be physically compatible with the internal workings of your machine. e.g. Most internal Lightscribes drives now connect by SATA. This is a standard connection, but if you have an older machine, you may have IDE instead of SATA and won't be able to use it. If you get it wrong you can do serious damage to your machine.

In this case, I would suggest getting an external USB drive which will almost certainly be compatible, and simply needs to be plugged in.

TechHarvest, who are tech savvy, demonstrate an install below:

A demonstration

Techharvest demonstrating how to install an internal drive.

Whether to buy Blu-ray capability?

Blu-ray combo drives

Blu-ray combo drives are available which will handle blu-ray, DVDs and CDs. These are significantly more expensive, but add the ability to read and write Blu-ray discs on your PC. They can be found in internal and external styles.

However, regarding lightscribe there is a problem. The Combo drive can be used to label Lightscribe DVDs and CDs normally, but while there are Blu-ray drives which can write Lightscribe, there are currently no Lightscribe compatible blu-ray discs available on the market.

If you want to label blu-ray discs, you should probably look for alternatives (or write to the disc manufacturers and request they start making them).

More articles about Lightscribe

More about Lightscribe on Wizzley

An Introduction to Lightscribe Labelling

Lightscribe compatible discs
From CD to Blu-ray, a guide to which type of disc to buy for your project, and whether it is available in Lightscribe.

Updated: 09/24/2012, tirial
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