Is it possible to determine whether a CD was burned by a particular CD/DVD burner? Is there any identifier of that burner that is always written to any disc it burns?

This is something I'd like to know for my coursework in Computing Forensics. I'm personally much interested to find out. I never thought about this much...


I believe it depends on the manufacturer. Here's an article from the EFF that details the digital fingerprints left by CD burners.

Most computer users are unaware that CD burners in their PCs also contain a similar tracking mechanism that embeds a unique serial number, called a Recorder Identification Code, on every CD they burn. (As far as we know, this mechanism has also been extended to DVD burners.) This rule is enforced by Philips via its patents on the CD formats. The standards for the RID code are not directly available to the public, but Philips writes:

As result of the discussion in March of 1995, between the consumer electronics manufacturers and the recording industry [...] it will be possible to trace each disc back to the exact machine on which it was made using coded information in the recording itself. [...] The RID coding system, which has been incorporated in the various Orange Books which contain the CD-R and CD-RW Standard Specifications, specifies a system which enables every CD recorder/rewriter to write its unique ID to every CD disc recorded by that CD recorder. [...] THE USE OF THE RID CODE IS MANDATORY.


Wow. The above answer is completely wrong. CD/DVD Diagnostic and CD/DVD Inspector both capture RID when it is available, but for the most part it is not.

Yes, there is a standard for RID and it is mandatory for stand-alone CD audio recorders. It has been completely implemented in all of these devices. However, most people are using computer components, not stand-alone stereo components and RID implementation is very, very spotty.

In general you have maybe a 10% chance of finding RID on a CD disc. There is no implementation of RID on DVDs, although there are some indications that a RID-like scheme was proposed as an optional part of DVD recorders, but nobody has done it to my knowledge.

The format of the RID data is completely documented in the standards documents. You just have to dig it out. But for the most part, you aren't going to see it. Look at discs written by older NEC drives (2003-2004) for an example.

Other information, such as the real date the disc was written and the application used to write the disc are much more likely to be present. Not quite as good as a serial number, but it is there and you can get it. CD/DVD Inspector makes it very simple to collect this information.

  • nice, thanks. Almost a year after I asked the question but still good to learn some extra info. – Peter Perháč Nov 23 '10 at 9:10

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