Erasing and Formatting a DVD RW: 13 Steps (with Pictures)

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Erasing and Formatting a DVD RW: 13 Steps (with Pictures)
Erasing and Formatting a DVD RW: 13 Steps (with Pictures)

DVD-RWs can be used multiple times for saving and deleting data (the "RW" stands for "rewrite"). This allows you to use a DVD-RW for storing files over and over again. Before "overwriting" a DVD-RW, you may have to delete the data already present. This procedure gives you the option to reformat the drive depending on how you want to use it for data storage and reading. Erasing and formatting a DVD-RW is fairly straightforward, but it does depend on the operating system (such as Windows versus OS X) you're using.


Method 1 of 2: Format DVD-RWs in Windows

Format DVD RW Step 1

Step 1. Insert the DVD-RW into a DVD burner

Make sure your burner has the capability to burn DVDs, otherwise you won't be able to write or read new data to the disc, or you won't be able to format the disc.

If you have Windows XP or an older version of Windows, you may need to install Service Pack 3 to recognize your DVD-RW disc

Format DVD RW Step 2

Step 2. Clear the existing data

If the DVD-RW is not blank, you will need to delete that data first. Click "Start"->"Computer"->"Windows Explorer" and then click the DVD icon. This will open the DVD burner software. In the menu, click on "Erase Disk" and follow the instructions.

In Windows 8 and 10 you will first have to click on the "Manage" tab

Format DVD RW Step 3

Step 3. Open the "Burn files to disc" window

This appears when you insert a blank disc into the drive, or when you double-click the blank disc in the Computer window.

If no window appears after erasing the data on the disk, eject and reinsert the disk to make sure the window does appear

Format DVD RW Step 4

Step 4. Give your drive a name

You will be prompted to name the drive. This name will appear when the disc is inserted, ensuring that the disc is recognizable. Make sure the name matches the intended content, if you can.

Format DVD RW Step 5

Step 5. Select the format you want to use

You have two options for formatting a DVD-RW in Windows: "As a USB flash drive" (aka: Live File System) or "Using a CD/DVD player" (aka: Mastered). Your choice will depend on how you plan to use the drive.

  • Live File System is a good choice if you want to be able to easily add and remove files at any time. The disc will behave like a USB stick and files will be burned once they are added.
  • Note: Live File System discs created in this way are only suitable for Windows.
  • Mastered is suitable if you want the drive to behave more like a closed system. All files will be burned at the same time when you're done adding, and no more files can be added without first completely erasing the drive by formatting it.
  • Note: Mastered is better for burning many files. In addition, mastered discs are also suitable for other operating systems.
Format DVD RW Step 6

Step 6. Finish formatting

Once you have chosen a formatting method, the drive will begin preparing the disc. This may take a while. Once that's done, you can start adding files to the drive.

Format DVD RW Step 7

Step 7. Add files to your drive

Open the disc in the explorer window and drag and drop the files you want to burn to the disc. If you're using a Live File System, the files are burned immediately as soon as they're dragged and the disc is finalized when you eject the disc. If you use the Mastered format, you will first have to click on "Burn to disc" after all files have been added

Method 2 of 2: Formatting DVD-RWs on a Mac

Format DVD RW Step 8

Step 1. Insert a DVD-RW into your burner

The majority of Mac computers have a DVD burner. If you have a Mac without a DVD drive, you will need to connect an external optical drive.

Format DVD RW Step 9

Step #2. Open the Disk Utility

You can find it in "Utilities" in the Applications folder.

Format DVD RW Step 10

Step 3. Find the program for the DVD-RW

Select your DVD-RW disc in Disk Utility. You can find it in the list on the left side of the window.

Format DVD RW Step 11

Step 4. Click the "Erase" tab to open the formatting tool

You will be asked to choose from "Quick" or "Full" for clearing. Usually the "Quick" option will suffice, but if you are having trouble with the disk, select "Full".

The "Full" option takes at least a few minutes, significantly more time than the "Fast" option

Format DVD RW Step 12

Step 5. Click the "Clear" button

Once the process is complete, you'll have a clean DVD-RW to put files on.

Format DVD RW Step 13

Step 6. Burn your data to your DVD-RW

Double-click the drive on your desktop in the Finder window that opens. When you are done adding the files, click the "Burn" button to burn them to the disc. The drive is compatible with other operating systems.


  • If the "Erase" function doesn't appear when applying the methods outlined above, then you may have a DVD-R (which you can only burn once) and not a DVD-RW (rewritable).
  • Consider using a DVD burning program to burn data to your DVD-RW. Roxio, Nero, and several other companies offer comprehensive DVD burning software if you find that the features offered by the operating system are not up to the mark.

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