Ask Difference

CD-ROM vs. DVD-ROM — What's the Difference?

By Maham Liaqat & Urooj Arif — Published on March 2, 2024
CD-ROM stores up to 700MB and primarily holds software and audio files, while DVD-ROM can store 4.7GB to 17GB, suited for high-quality video and larger software.
CD-ROM vs. DVD-ROM — What's the Difference?

Difference Between CD-ROM and DVD-ROM


Key Differences

CD-ROM, introduced in the mid-1980s, was revolutionary for storing data much beyond the capacity of floppy disks, making it a popular medium for software distribution. DVD-ROM, which emerged in the late 1990s, expanded on this capacity significantly, allowing for the storage of full-length movies in digital format.
The storage capacity of a standard CD-ROM is around 700MB, which suited the needs of audio storage and smaller software applications for many years. In contrast, a single-layer DVD-ROM can hold 4.7GB of data, making it ideal for larger applications, games, and high-definition video content.
CD-ROMs operate at slower read speeds compared to DVD-ROMs. This speed difference affects how quickly data can be accessed and transferred, making DVD-ROMs more efficient for larger files and multimedia content.
The technology behind CD-ROMs relies on a 780 nm wavelength laser to read the disc, whereas DVD-ROMs use a 650 nm laser, which allows for tighter data packing and hence more storage capacity.
Compatibility is another difference; DVD-ROM drives can usually read CD-ROMs, providing a backward compatibility feature. However, CD-ROM drives cannot read DVD-ROM discs due to the different technologies and data encoding methods used.

Comparison Chart


Late 1990s

Storage Capacity

Up to 700MB
4.7GB to 17GB

Read Speed


Laser Technology

780 nm wavelength
650 nm wavelength

Main Use

Audio, software
High-quality video, larger software

Compare with Definitions


Primarily used for audio and small software applications.
I found an old CD-ROM with my favorite computer game.


Can store up to 17GB of data, depending on the disc type.
This DVD-ROM can hold an entire software suite.


Accessed using a laser that reads the disc.
My computer's CD-ROM drive is not reading discs properly anymore.


Backward compatible with CD-ROMs in most drives.
My DVD-ROM drive can also read CDs.


A compact disc used to store data that cannot be modified.
The software installation was provided on a CD-ROM.


A digital versatile disc used for storing large amounts of data.
The movie is available on a DVD-ROM.


Offers a maximum storage capacity of around 700MB.
The entire album fits on a single CD-ROM.


Uses a more precise laser technology than CD-ROMs.
DVD-ROMs require a specific type of laser to read the densely packed data.


Requires a CD-ROM drive for access.
You'll need a CD-ROM drive to install this software.


Ideal for high-definition video and large applications.
Most high-quality films are distributed on DVD-ROM.


A compact disc that functions as read-only memory.


A compact disk that is used with a computer (rather than with an audio system); a large amount of digital information can be stored and accessed but it cannot be altered by the user.


A compact disk that is used with a computer (rather than with an audio system); a large amount of digital information can be stored and accessed but it cannot be altered by the user

Common Curiosities

Are DVD-ROMs compatible with CD-ROM drives?

No, CD-ROM drives cannot read DVD-ROMs due to different laser technologies and storage formats.

What is the main difference between CD-ROM and DVD-ROM?

The main difference is storage capacity: CD-ROMs hold up to 700MB, while DVD-ROMs store 4.7GB to 17GB.

Can DVD-ROMs play audio files like CD-ROMs?

Yes, DVD-ROMs can store and play audio files, offering much larger storage for higher quality or more files.

What are the typical uses for CD-ROMs today?

CD-ROMs are typically used for smaller software installations, audio CDs, and data archiving.

What is the significance of laser wavelength in CD-ROM and DVD-ROM technology?

The laser wavelength determines the density at which data can be stored; shorter wavelengths in DVD-ROMs allow for greater storage capacity.

How has the usage of CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs changed over the years?

With the advent of digital downloads and streaming, the use of physical storage like CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs has decreased.

Why do DVD-ROMs have more storage capacity than CD-ROMs?

DVD-ROMs use a shorter wavelength laser, allowing for tighter data packing and more storage capacity.

Can CD-ROMs be rewritten or erased?

Standard CD-ROMs cannot be rewritten or erased; they are read-only memory.

Can I use a CD-ROM to store video content effectively?

While possible, CD-ROMs are limited by storage capacity, making them less ideal for high-quality video content compared to DVD-ROMs.

What speed do DVD-ROM drives operate at compared to CD-ROM drives?

DVD-ROM drives typically operate at higher speeds, allowing for faster data access and transfer.

How much data can a dual-layer DVD-ROM hold?

A dual-layer DVD-ROM can hold up to 8.5GB of data.

Are all DVD-ROM drives able to read CD-ROMs?

Most modern DVD-ROM drives can read CD-ROMs, offering backward compatibility.

Can DVD-ROMs be used for software installation?

Yes, DVD-ROMs are commonly used for installing larger software applications that exceed the storage capacity of CD-ROMs.

Is there a quality difference in audio and video between CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs?

DVD-ROMs can store higher quality audio and video due to their larger storage capacity.

What advancements have succeeded CD-ROM and DVD-ROM technologies?

Blu-ray discs and digital storage solutions like USB flash drives and cloud storage have succeeded CD-ROM and DVD-ROM technologies for higher capacity and convenience.

Share Your Discovery

Share via Social Media
Embed This Content
Embed Code
Share Directly via Messenger
Previous Comparison
Holland vs. Netherland

Author Spotlight

Written by
Maham Liaqat
Co-written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.

Popular Comparisons

Trending Comparisons

New Comparisons

Trending Terms