The Low End Mac Mailbag

Disadvantage Macintosh Debunked

Dan Knight - 2007.10.05

Wow, you readers have really come through on this one. Here are the first emails out of dozens received in response to Disadvantage Macintosh, in which I bemoaned the incompatibility of Mac formatted CDs and flash drives with the rest of the world. It turns out that starting with OS X 10.3, the Mac's default is to burn a hybrid CD that can be used in both Macs and Windows PCs, which is much better than the old days when you needed third-party software to do that. The problem we ran into at Sam's Club wasn't an incompatible CD, but a CD that one of their photo kiosks couldn't mount - possibly a hardware problem on their side, possibly a problem with iPhoto's export function (I use iPhoto 06) - something I discovered working through the following emails. Read on.... dk

iPhoto Can Burn a Photo CD

From Tim Harness:

Strange, last spring I used iPhoto 5 to burn a slideshow to Photo CD and my daughter was able to view it on an Xbox 360. My sister tried to view a copy on her iMac G5 with the Kodak software that came with her camera, and couldn't. You might've run into a Kodak issue instead of a windows issue.



I'm using iPhoto 06, and I can't find any option for burning a Photo CD. The only export options are Kodak (export to EasyShare, whatever that means), File Export (which I use), Web Page (which I have almost no use for), and QuickTime (which I don't see the sense of).

I remember the Photo CD system from Kodak, which launched with great promise in 1992 and gave way to Picture CD later on. Photo CD was a proprietary image format, not JPEG, which is part of what killed it.

Even Apple's iPhoto documentation says that you can't burn a CD from iPhoto. You have to follow the steps I shared: export to disk, copy to a blank CD, then burn.

It's a terrible oversight. Maybe they've fixed it in iPhoto 08.


Burning Photos to Cross-platform CDs

From Liam Greenwood:

Hi Dan

In iPhoto go to Help and search for the word "burn". The third item returned is "Creating a CD or DVD to be viewed in Windows or by a photo processing company". Sadly it's an export then burn from the Finder process, however it is a process that doesn't require any other software.



It's a shame that a company that prides itself on intuitive software can't do something as simple as let you burn your photos to a CD within iPhoto.


Burning Mac CD-Rs and Windows

From Jeff Greiner:


I work in a dual platform environment. I regularly use CD-Rs and Flash drives to move data between the Mac (G5 2 gig dual) that sits behind me and my Dell that sits on my desktop, since the IT people here don't "want" my Mac hanging on their Windows network. After reading your article, I got curious, threw a blank CD-R into the G5, used the built in OS X burning features (just copied some PDF's over to the untitled CD-R image), then burned the CD-R.

I ejected the CD-R, moved it to my Dell, inserted it, and up pops the Window with my files. They copy over fine, and even launch from the disc just fine. Am not sure why you are having problems, unless it is a 3rd party driver issue with some of those 3rd party apps you named in the article.

At home we are still using an old G3 iMac, with 10.3.X on it, and we do the same thing using a 3rd party FireWire CD burner. I routinely copy JPEGs over to CD and take them in to the Walgreen's to have photos printed. My office Mac is running 10.4.10.

Jeff Greiner


Thanks for writing.

I don't use Windows unless I have no choice, so I'm only reporting problems I've run into burning CDs for family and friends - and using a flash drive. The problem with the CD used at Sam's Club is that I did what seemed the obvious thing to do: Insert a blank CD-R, select images in iPhoto, and export them to that disc.

It should oughta work, but it resulted in a CD that couldn't be read on the photo kiosk. That's not very Mac-like behavior.


CD Burning from iPhoto

From Jim Brandt:

Hi Dan

I just finished reading your article about burning a CD on a Mac that is readable in Windows. I've burned a number of CDs from the Finder on a Mac and have never had a problem reading them on a Windows machine.

I believe the problem has to do with iPhoto. When burning from iPhoto, it is burned as a Mac-only CD. While it would be nice to have an option to burn it as a hybrid CD, iPhoto is Mac-only software so at least Apple's decision makes some sense.

Apple has a support doc on burning CDs of photos for use on Windows or at a store.

Thanks for Low End Mac. I've looked at it every day for years - it's like a part of my daily routine :-)

Jim Brandt


Thanks for writing - and visiting daily. The support doc has the same steps found in iPhoto help and that I discovered on my own. I'm still perplexed why Export would create a Mac-only CD, as there's no reason to assume that because someone exported images from iPhoto that they're going to end up on another Mac.


Exporting to CD from iPhoto

From Fred Goff:

Mr. Knight,

There is an easier solution to your iPhoto issue.

  1. Make sure your system preferences is set to mount blank CD-Rs in the Finder.
  2. Insert a blank CD-R
  3. Export your iPhoto pictures to the Untitled CD folder
  4. Burn the CD from the Finder. In Tiger, and I think Panther as well, this will make a Mac/Windows hybrid CD.


That's exactly what I did. For some reason I ended up with a CD that the photo kiosk at Sam's Club could not recognize. One reader tells me that when you export images to CD from iPhoto, it defaults to a Mac-only disc format.


Well, I'm not sure what to tell you. I did it both ways, choosing burn CD from iPhoto and doing the export to a burn folder and then burning from the Finder, and both types made UDF CD-ROMs, which Windows can read and use. I tested both in Windows, and they showed up fine, even being recognized as a picture CD by Windows and prompting me how I wanted to handle the pictures on the disk. I'm using iLife 08 and the latest Tiger, so perhaps that is the difference.

In any event, this is obviously not a general issue and so does not deserve your blanket criticism. Might I suggest that in the future you might want to a little more due diligence before going off on, what was, frankly, a bit of a rant.


You're right. This was the first time I'd burned a CD from iPhoto and taken it to Sam's Club for printing; in the past, we've just used the camera's memory card. After further discussion and testing, it seems the problem isn't iPhoto or OS X (which nowadays burns hybrid Mac/PC discs by default), but with the photo kiosk.


Toast Rocks

From Adam:

Hi Dan,

You write in your latest column regarding CD burning:

(I'm not a Toast user, but I suspect it's the same story there. Dragon Burn costs half as much.)

I've been using Toast since v3 when Astarte owned it, writing CDs to my $1,200 2x external SCSI CD-R (ouch . . . and blanks were $10 each). It's a bit more expensive but very stable and highly capable. Mac/Windows cross platform data-discs are the default format, along with Audio CDs, Video DVDs, Camcorder captures, TiVo support, etc. The program supports both Apple's built-in drives and most third party recorders. I highly recommend it.

I agree; it's unfortunate that Apple doesn't support burning DOS format CDs, although I've been using Toast so long that I never really noticed! Will need to give Dragon Burn a look, haven't used that one.


Burning CD-Rs with Photos

From Shaun Wolfson :


You can totally burn a PC compatible - ISO 9660 CD in the Mac Finder with no third party apps necessary.

You can even drag your iPhotos straight to the CD icon on your desktop right from iPhoto. Drag and drop, then burn your CD.

Shaun Wolfson


Thanks for writing. There are some problems with that. First, you have to figure out which image out of dozens or hundreds shot the same day (116 in this case), as the files all have generic icons. And you have to know where to look for the image(s) you need. Once you've done that, drag and drop is easy.

The problem is that iPhoto doesn't have a way of exporting images to a CD that Windows PCs can use. As far as I can tell, it insists on burning in a Mac-only format and gives you no other options.


I am not understand your work flow. Here is what I do when I take my pictures to Costco or send a CD to friends from an event they were at.

In iPhoto, make the screen smaller so you can see your desktop. Insert a blank CD. Select the pictures that you want to burn in iPhoto, not in your Finder. From iPhoto drag the reselected pictures to the CD icon on your desktop. Then in your finder click burn CD.



It turns out the problem wasn't my workflow, which I've since verified works with a Windows PC, but apparently the photo kiosk at the local Sam's Club was the source of the problem.


Burn PC Readable Discs

From Taras R. Hnatyshyn:


I think if you use the menu rather than the icon you should get the choice for which format to burn the disc in Burning a CD or DVD [Mac OS X 10.4 Help].



Thanks for writing. As that article note, by default OS X 10.4 produces discs using an HFS+/ISO 9660 hybrid format with HFS+, ISO-9660 with Rock Ridge, and Joliet with Rock Ridge. This should be readable on any Mac, Windows PC, Linux system, etc., and I'm trying to figure out how and why it's creating a disc that's unreadable on the (probably Fujifilm) photo kiosk at Sam's Club.

I've tried the intuitive process again: Put in a blank CD, choose pictures in iPhoto, export to the CD image, and then burn. This time I also dug out my Acer Aspire notebook, a cheap Windows PC I bought a couple years ago when LEM wasn't working with IE 6. (It's a pretty pathetic computer. Who would have thought a 1.4 GHz computer could feel excruciatingly slow or that anyone would sell a notebook PC with a 45 minute battery?)

Anyhow, I put the burned disc in the Acer, and it recognized it. As I'm typing this, it's running a slide show of images from last weekend's church musical. It looks like the problem isn't Mac OS X, its default CD format, or iPhoto; it looks like the photo kiosk at the local Sam's Club may be the problem.


Problems with Dragon Burn

From Scott Cook:

Hey Dan,

I vaguely remember that iPhoto CDs don't work with other software. Most Mac users should have a copy of Roxio Toast these days. I have multiple OEM copies here that came with CD burners over the years. Just open Toast, select "Data" as the disc type, name the disc (or else it'll be named "My Disc"), drag and drop your .jpg files into the Toast window, and click the big red record button. Toast will ask you some questions about how you want to burn the disc, and then it burns it. Toast is by far the finest CD burning software ever. It really isn't even close.

I have used NTI Dragon Burn in the past. I absolutely hate it. It is unstable, burns coasters, and NTI would not refund my money. They have come out with newer versions since then, but I will never purchase anything from NTI again. You are the only person I have ever heard say they liked Dragon Burn.

I probably sound like a Roxio salesman or something. The truth is the latest version of Toast I have is Toast 6 Titanium with Jam 6. I don't see any reason to upgrade to newer versions. I would have stayed with the excellent Toast 5 Titanium with Jam 5 except I needed to encode and author .mpeg2 video DVDs with my G3, which version 6 does a beautiful job of. Toast with Jam 5 has the advantage of running in both OS 9 and OS X. Toast 6 with Jam 6 and newer is OS X only.

If you intend to encode high quality .mpeg2 video you should get the Titanium version. If you intend to encode Dolby digital audio, you should get Jam 6 with Toast 6. Jam 5 and 6 is primarily for audio disks. If you only work with data disks you don't need Jam at all. Toast 5 is capable of encoding and authoring .mpeg1 video CDs (VCDs) but not .mpeg2 DVDs. Toast 6 is handy for making multiple copies of a disc without having to keep clicking on the big red record button each time like you do in Toast 5.

So in short, for OS 9 and OS X, get Toast 5. For video DVDs, get Toast 6 Titanium. For audio discs, get Jam 5 or 6 with Toast 5 or 6. Don't buy any other disc burning software no matter how cheap it is. Buy Toast 5 or 6 used and never look back.

I burn discs professionally. I have probably burned 100,000 discs per year for the past few years now. Toast is as good as it gets. Anyone wanna buy my copy of NTI Dragon Burn? (laugh)

Scott Cook


Thanks for sharing your findings. Reviews of Dragon Burn are decidedly mixed, ranging from those who have been very happy with it to those who found it unusable - with few opinions in between. That's why I strongly recommend try before you buy. (On MacUpdate, it rates 3.5 out of 5, and on Version Tracker the latest version rates 2.9 out of 5.)

I've used Dragon Burn on my eMac and now use it on my Power Mac, as both have non-Apple SuperDrives (Pioneer DVR-110D, which it a 16x burner that supports DVD-R, DVD+R, and dual-layer - and cost only $60 two years ago when my eMac's optical drive failed out of warranty). Between that and PatchBurn, I've had no reason to invest in Toast, which is definitely the gold standard of disc burning software.


Drag and Drop from iPhoto

From Miguel Alcantara:

Hi Dan,

I'm a long time fan of your site. I enjoy your articles and also all the other columns; you guys are top three in the Mac Web for me! I find you guys to be very honest when it comes to writing about Macs, and I especially enjoy the articles where you veer off and talk about personal stuff (life, faith, your deep inner thoughts about buying an Intel Mac, etc.); I find this journalistic honesty very comforting and always look forward to new content.

Regarding your problem with exporting to iPhoto, I have had a similar experience, and it frustrated me. I found a really easy work around by inserting a blank CD, then selecting all the pictures in the album and dragging them into the CD folder and hitting burn.

I hope this helps,


Thanks for writing and for your high opinion of Low End Mac. Our official policy at Cobweb Publishing is that real life comes first; Macs are just tools, and writing about them sometimes need to take a back seat to divorce, illness, being deployed to Iraq or the Balkans, studies, etc. We don't too often make that the subject of a whole article, but sometimes it's important to share our stories and remind our readers that people are always more important than things.

As for burning CDs from iPhoto, at this point it looks like the problem is the photo kiosk at Sam's Club, as I burned another disc this morning, put it in my Acer laptop, and it mounted just fine.

Using drag and drop from iPhoto never occurred to me, but thanks for the suggestion. Just one more way Apple gives us to burn pictures to disc. :-)


No Problem on Win 98 and XP

From Steven Hunter:

I have burned lots of CDs and DVDs of files for PC users over the years with OS X. In fact I just did both a "Share" -> "Burn" and a "File" -> "Export", "drag to CD and burn" of some pictures from iPhoto 06 (on my Early 2006 Intel iMac with 10.4.10), and both discs are perfectly readable in a Windows XP machine without any special software (in fact it was freshly installed with Service Pack 2 only). A Win98 PC was able to read it without problems either.

Anecdotally at least, it would seem that the fault lies with the photo printing place's computer and not OS X.

Steven Hunter


Thanks for writing. Later testing on my Windows laptop (every time I have to use Windows, I seem to hate it more, so I avoid using that machine as much as possible) showed that it can mount CDs. It's the photo kiosk that has the problem.


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Dan Knight has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. Mailbag columns come from email responses to his Mac Musings, Mac Daniel, Online Tech Journal, and other columns on the site.

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