How to Format a CD

Two Methods:WindowsMac

If you want to burn data to a blank CD, the CD will need to be formatted for data. This process is fairly straightforward on Windows and completely invisible on OS X. If you have a CD-RW, you can quickly erase any data on it using each operating system's formatting tools.

Method 1

  1. Image titled Format a CD Step 1
    Insert the blank CD into your computer. If you have multiple optical drives, make sure that you insert it in one that can burn discs. The AutoPlay window will appear with a list of options.
    • You do not need to format the disc if you are burning an audio CD.
    • You cannot format a burned CD-R, but you can format a burned CD-RW.
    • If the AutoPlay notification doesn't appear, or you accidentally closed it, open Windows Explorer by pressing Win+E. Double-click on your drive with the blank disc in it.
  2. Image titled Format a CD Step 2
    Select "Burn files to disc". This will open a new window with your disc formatting options.
  3. Image titled Format a CD Step 3
    Give the disc a title. By default, Windows will display today's date. You can change the title of the disc to whatever you'd like.
  4. Image titled Format a CD Step 4
    Choose your formatting option. There are two different options available, depending on how you plan to use your disk. Click Next once you've chosen your option. Formatting your disc will take up a slight amount of storage space.[1]
    • "Like a USB flash drive" - This uses the Live File System, and allows you to continue to add files later, as well as edit and rewrite existing files. This format can only be read by Windows computers. This is the best option for CD-RW discs, as it allows them to easily be rewritten.
    • "With a CD/DVD player" - When the files are burned, the disc is "Mastered", which finalizes the contents of the disc. This is best for large amounts of files, or when you need to use the CD on another operating system. This is the best option for CD-R discs.
  5. Image titled Format a CD Step 5
    Burn your files. Once your disc is formatted, you can start adding your files to be burnt. See this guide for more details.
    • If you are using Windows XP, see this guide.
  6. Image titled Format a CD Step 6
    Erase all the data off of a CD-RW. If you want to quickly erase the data of a CD-RW file so that you can add new data to it, you can use the Format tool to do so.
    • Open Windows Explorer by pressing Win+E
    • Right-click on the CD-RW on your drive list.
    • Select Format...
    • Leave all the options at their defaults.
    • Enter in a new name for the disc if you wish.
    • Click Start. All of the data on the CD-RW will be deleted. The formatting process will take a few moments.

Method 2

  1. Image titled Format a CD Step 7
    Insert the blank CD. When you insert the blank CD, you are usually asked what you would like to do with it. CDs on OS X will be formatted automatically when you set the disc to burn, so you don't need to worry about changing any settings. If given the option, open the Finder to browse for files. Otherwise, you can open your CD from the icon that appears on the desktop.
  2. Image titled Format a CD Step 8
    Add the files you want to burn. Click and drag files onto the CD icon to add them to the disc. Once you are finished adding files, double-click the CD and then click the "Burn" button at the top of the window.
  3. Image titled Format a CD Step 9
    Give the disc a name. After clicking "Burn", you are given the option to name the disc and select a burn speed. Once you are ready, click Burn. The burning process may take several minutes.
  4. Image titled Format a CD Step 10
    Erase a CD-RW. If you have a CD-RW full of data and you want to completely erase it, you can do so using the Disk Utility program.
    • Click Go and select Utilities. If you don't have the Utilities option, select Applications and then open the "Utilities" folder.
    • Select Disk Utility.
    • Select the CD-RW from the list of connected disks.
    • Choose your erase speed. You can either erase "Quickly" or "Completely". Most users can select "Quickly", but if your disc has been giving you problems, "Completely" might fix them. A Complete erase can take about an hour.
    • Click Erase. All of the data on the CD-RW will be deleted.


  • Using a third-party program, such as Roxio CD Creator or Nero, can simplify the CD formatting process.
  • You can reformat a CD-RW as many times as you need, because the RW means rewritable.


  • CD-Rs can only be formatted once. Files will stay on the CD or DVD and cannot be removed.

Article Info

Categories: CDs and DVDs