Setting CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drive speed

Since the issues mentioned here apply to CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives as well as to recorders for these types of media, in this document the name 'CD-ROM drive' will be used to refer to all of these drive types.

Fast CD-ROM drives have one big disadvantage over older and slower models. In order to be able to support high data transfer speeds, the CD-ROM disk must spin very quickly in the disk drive, which results in a lot of noise. This loud humming can make listening to MP3 or OGG music from CD-ROMs a very unpleasant experience and is very annoying at best for other tasks which don't require the CD-ROM to work at full speed.

Fortunately, it is easy to temporarily decrease the drive's speed which can reduce the noise to nil (and probably also increase the drive's longevity). Using this command:

eject -x N /dev/cdrom

one can set the drive's speed to N (N should be a number which represents a speed setting supported by the drive, e.g. 4, 8, 32, 48 etc.). Using N equal to 0 resets the speed to maximum value supported by the drive. Ejecting the disk also has the effect of resetting drive speed to the default value.

Some speeds which are especially useful include:

  • 4 — for many drives, this is the lowest speed supported. No or very little audible noise is produced. This speed is enough for listening to MP3 or OGG files, viewing text documents or small images etc.
  • 12 — very little noise can be heard. This speed is adequate for viewing movies and large compressed images as well as almost any other task.
  • 0 (maximum speed) — this usually means 48 or a similar value, depending on the CD-ROM drive. Produces a lot of noise. Recommended only for copying large files from CD-ROM to hard disk or for very demanding multimedia applications.

You can create shortcuts to the above command with different values of N in your Desktop Environment's menu or on the desktop in order to always have them handy. You can also use Set CD-ROM Speed, a graphical application for KDE to perform the same actions using a GUI.

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