Consider what capabilities you want, balanced against performance of the drive.
Whether you’re looking to add a second CD player/burner or replace an aging or defective model, choosing the right drive can pay dividends down the road. If you’re just looking to read CDs and have no intention of burning your own discs, you can find a 32X to 40X internal CD-ROM for really short money. (The X stands for “times faster than a floppy drive.”) Faster CD-ROM drives are available, but their greater speeds are not much of an advantage when reading a CD’s inside tracks. You might also consider a DVD-ROM drive; it’s a bit slower than current CD-ROMs, but it will read all of your CDs and support DVD video discs if you’re into movies. If versatility is important to you and you want to create your own CD masterpieces, go with a 12/10/32 (or similar) CD-RW drive. A CD-RW can read your CDs at 32X, burn CDs at up to 12X, and rewrite CDs at up to 10X–all using the same drive.
Formerly part of Computer Currents, Stephen J. Bigelow’s Computer Advisor column has been resurrected on computeruser.com as a daily tech tip column. Find Stephen at www.dlspubs.com.