Tue. Mar 5th, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • LightScribe allows you to “print” grayscale designs on the label side of a disc using a special laser, making it easy to add artwork or text.
  • LightScribe may be slower than writing on a disc with a marker, but it allows for more writing and legible labels, saving time in the long run.
  • LightScribe drives and media are still available to buy, and they offer neat labeling tricks, though optical media is on the decline in favor of digital formats.

Most computers these days don’t have optical drives, but not too long ago optical discs were the cheapest and easiest way store and share media and data. That meant lots of writing with markers, until Lightscribe came on the scene.

How the Tech Works

LightScribe discs have a thin dye coating on the label side of the disc. By using the same laser that can alter the state of the dye layer on the data side of a regular disc, LightScribe drives can “print” any grayscale design you can think of. Coupled with the right software, it’s generally easy to plop some artwork or even just plain text on the label side of a disc.

The only real downside to LightScribe is that it’s much slower than simply writing on a disc with a marker. But later, when you’re going through all of your discs, you’ll always save time by fitting more writing in on the disc, or simply by having legible writing.

LightScribe Is Actually Super Useful

My first encounter with LightScribe happened when my old band had a single it wanted to give away at gigs. It was way too expensive to get discs pressed professionally, and CD sticker labels were too finicky, So what we ended up doing was buying three LightScribe drives and putting them in the same PC tower. Then I would sit there all day as I worked or played and burned literally hundreds of discs and labels. The cost of the LightScribe discs was more than a normal blank CD, but still orders of magnitude less than a factory-pressed disc. Even better, we could make these discs on-demand at home.

Beyond the reason I bought into LightScribe, you can probably guess that there are tons of great uses for these drives. If you make home movies, or need labels with lots of dense text so you know what’s on the disc, it’s basically perfect. If you buy DRM-free games from outlets like Good Old Games (GoG) you can put your own game art on the disc.

It’s pretty good for business use as well. If you run a small business as, for example, a wedding photographer, then it’s a lot more professional than writing with a market, and if you’re submitting a disc for work reasons, a neat label is better for archival purposes.

You Can STILL Buy Them

I haven’t used LightScribe in over a decade, so I was rather shocked to find that not only can you still buy LightScribe drives and media, you can get them cheaply and easily. In particular, external LightScribe drives are numerous, and as I’ve written before, everyone should at least have one external optical drive. So, if you’re in the market for a DVD burner, a LightScribe-equipped model might offer you a few neat tricks when it comes to labeling.

Bunud LightScribe drive and Dock

Bunud LightScribe External DVD Burner and Dock

$46 $57 Save $11

This clever external LightScribe DVD burner also doubles as a USB dock with support for multiple peripherals.

Even if you’re not, LightScribe is still a cool technology after all these years, and perhaps if optical media as a whole wasn’t on the decline, it would have become a standard feature on all optical drives. In this universe, though, it’s all about solid state and digital cloud media these days, so the mildly sci-fi concept of a laser-burnt disc label is unlikely to make a major comeback.

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By John P.

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