DVD+/-R and DVD+/-RW discs are different in that while a DVD+/-R can only have information recorded onto it once, DVD+/-RW discs can have information recorded onto them multiple times. The "R" in DVD+/-R stands for "recordable" while the "RW" stands for "rewritable."
There are two variations of both recordable and rewritable DVD formats: DVD-R(W) and DVD+R(W). The two formats are nearly identical, and most players, drives and burners made today have built-in compatibility for both. Devices that support both formats are usually advertised as "DVD+/-R(W) compatible." The main reason the later +R(W) format was created was so disc manufacturers could create discs without having to pay royalties to the owners of the -R(W) format. The biggest notable difference between the two formats is that the +R(W) format supports "drag and drop" use, allowing the discs to be used like USB drives or floppy discs while the =R(W) format does not.
While both single layer and dual layer DVD-R and DVD+Rs are available, no dual layer format exists for either the DVD-RW or DVD+RW formats. And while a DVD+RW DL format was announced in 2006, as of May 2010 the medium has yet to be released. A dual layer DVD can hold almost twice the information of a single layer DVD, 8.5 GB compared to 4.7 GB, as is the common DVD format for movies released on DVD. The added capacity of dual layer discs is one advantage that the DVD+/-R formats has over the RW discs.
Because of their re-usability RW discs typically cost more than their single-use counterparts. As of May 2010 a 25 pack of DVD-R discs by one manufacturer is available for $14.99, but a 25-pack spindle of DVD-RW discs by the same manufacturer is $25.99. Similar prices differences can be found when comparing the price of DVD+R to DVD+RW.
While data can only be burned to a DVD+/-R disc once, DVD+/-RWs can be burned many times over before they become unusable. According to a study done by the Optical Storage Technology Association (OSTA), discs of both the +R(W) and -R(W) format can be burned approximately 1,000 times before they finally stop recording data properly. However, the overall self-life of RW discs is expected to be shorter. The same study says that single use DVD+/-R discs will remain readable for up to 100 years, but RW discs may become unreadable in as little as 30 years.
The RW formats are younger than the traditional single-use recordable DVD formats. Because of this, the RW format does not have as wide a compatibility range. While almost all new DVD drives, players and burners support both formats, many older ones do not--especially standalone DVD players. If someone wants to burn a video file to DVD for use on a DVD player, he may be better off sticking with a DVD+/-R disc, as it has a better chance of working on older equipment.
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