Note: Our best free DVD burning software round-up has been fully updated. This feature was first published in April 2013.
We may be more likely to sync our files with Dropbox or a smartphone these days, but CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs can still be a useful way to store, share and present data.
Commercial burning suites will handle all this for you, but at a ridiculous price, and often for overweight packages with an array of pointless features you'll never need or use.
But you may not have to spend big money – or any money at all, in fact – to get the functions you need.
Some of the best disc burning software around is actually free, and yet still has the power to burn data discs, audio CDs, videos, Blu-ray discs, run backups, manage disc images and more. We've got everything you need to know right here…
AnyBurn is a solid all-round burning tool with CD, DVD and Blu-ray support, an excellent CD ripper, and some outstanding disc image tools (like a converter which handles 30 formats including ISO, BIN, CUE, VMDK, VHD, VDI, IMG, DMG, VCD, WIM, and more).
There's no support for directly burning video discs, unfortunately – other than video folders – and the interface is basic in the extreme.
Still, AnyBurn has plenty of configuration options, a fast and reliable burning engine, and is exceptionally convenient to use – the portable version can be run from a USB stick on anything from Windows 2000 through to Windows 10. Recommended.
DVDStyler is a popular open source authoring tool which enables users to create video DVDs from almost any media format.
A straightforward interface means you'll be using the program right away. Choose a template, drag and drop your source files, and you can be authoring your disc in a click or two.
There's also plenty of control, if you need it, with a range of simple menu templates, each of which is fully customisable (background, buttons, actions, you can tweak them all).
When you're done, DVDStyler can create video folders, an ISO image, or burn your project to CD or DVD, and smart use of reliable open source components (FFmpeg, mkisofs, etc) means it generally delivers what you need.
Also worth noting is the fact that this is the only program here which offers versions outside of Windows – you can grab this for OS X and Linux as well as Microsoft's operating system.
Ashampoo Burning Studio Free
Ashampoo Burning Studio Free is a cut-down version of a commercial authoring tool, which means it's mostly about the basics: burning data to CDs, DVDs or Blu-ray, creating and ripping audio CDs, copying and erasing discs.
There's still room for one or two extras, including a simple file-based backup tool with encryption and disc spanning support, and options to create or burn images in various formats (ISO, IMG, CUE, ASHDISC).
Experts might be concerned by the lack of low-level tweaks and configuration options, but Burning Studio is easy to use, and if you prefer the simple life then Ashampoo's stripped-back approach may appeal.
Don't be put off by the basic sounding name – CDBurnerXP supports CDs and DVDs, writes audio and video discs (from folders), creates and burns ISO images, and runs happily on anything from Windows 2000 to Windows 10.
There's also room for some surprising bonus features, including modules to print thumbnail indexes of your photos, and simple covers for your discs.
CDBurnerXP doesn't offer the low-level tweakery you'll get with something like ImgBurn, but then it's also considerably easier to use, with more than enough power for most people. If you're a novice, or not sure what you want, then this program is a great place to start finding out.
WinX DVD Author 6.3.6
WinX DVD Author is a free tool which makes it easy to build video DVDs from just about any movie file.
The program's YouTube downloader sounded like a good idea, but didn't work for us, regularly downloading videos without any audio track.
The authoring process is better, being commendably simple and straightforward. The interface looks good, there are basic options to set a custom menu background or music, and limited subtitle (SRT) support.
DVDStyler wins out for menu creation options, and it's also much faster at encoding your videos, but if your authoring needs are basic then WinX DVD Author could be a smart choice.
Don't be fooled by the opening launcher, which is all friendly icons and simple captions – ImgBurn is packed with expert options for tweaking file systems, setting up bootable discs, customising images, and adjusting a host of other low-level CD, DVD and Blu-ray burning details.
If you need that level of power then there's plenty to like here, including the ability to automatically set your preferred burn speed settings by drive and media ID.
An awkward and cumbersome interface means ImgBurn takes some time to master, though, and burning beginners – or anyone in a hurry – would be better off looking elsewhere.
BurnAware Free 8.5
It's supposed to be the restricted version of a commercial product, but BurnAware Free still has more features than most of the competition. That includes data, audio, DVD video and BDMV/AVCHD authoring (from folders), disc spanning for simple backups, image burning, and various ways to create regular and bootable ISOs.
Fortunately a well-designed interface keeps any complexity at bay, and even authoring novices will finish their project with the minimum of clicks.
Factor in its excellent burning engine – the best-performing in this set – and BurnAware Free is a great product. It's only free for personal use, but if that's not a problem, you need to give it a try.