Alcohol 120% $49.95 Alcohol Software www.alcohol-software.com Rating: 4 out of 5
Do you have Alcohol in your system? If you spend much time using optical media, perhaps you should.
Alcohol 120% can copy discs while dealing with several copy-protection schemes and disc errors and also create disc images and burn discs from images, handling standard ISO files and images DiscJuggler, CloneCD, and other utilities created. Although the app can read many image formats, I couldn't detect a way to convert images from one format to another.
Alcohol is easy enough to use, but it's really for tweakers. Scattered throughout are options to fine-tune performance, such as a choice of disc-write methods and whether to perform data-position measurements when reading discs. After burning a disc, you can view performance graphs depicting buffer usage, write speed, and CPU usage, and the CD/DVD manager provides specs about your optical drives and discs. (For writeable discs, the app even indicates the media's manufacturer and the material used in the recording layer.)
An emulation function fools the PC into believing a CD/DVD is inserted when in fact the PC is reading a disc image from the hard drive. You can have as many as 31 virtual discs, creating an easy-access library of favorite software. You can also change the region code for virtual DVD drives--a handy way to watch imported DVDs without modifying hardware.
The app's interface is similar to WinXP's Control Panel. Be prepared, though, to experiment before understanding a few technical features. The online manual is generally helpful but doesn't offer enough details about these complex, esoteric features. For backing up CDs/DVDs, though, this Alcohol goes down easily.
Reprinted with permission from Computer Power User magazine.