The Plexwriter 4/12 Max: Writing to CD-ROM

HANDS ON: Plextor Plexwriter 4/12 Max

Recordable CD devices (CD-R) are popping up as a tool in many IT department technical support roles. Using CD-Rs, IT departments can create inexpensive backups of important system or application discs as well as disk images of complete operating system and application environments. CD-Rs also can be used to easily store important data for retrieval and distribution throughout the enterprise. For the purposes of this hands-on review, we put one of the most popular CD-R devices, the Plexwriter 4/12 Max from Plextor Corp. (Santa Clara, Calif.,, through the paces.

With a maximum read speed of 12x and a maximum writing speed of 4x, the Plexwriter 4/12 Max is among the upper echelon of CD-R products, most of which offer reading and writing speeds of 8x and 2x, respectively.

The Plexwriter 4/12 Max is available in both internal and external models. The Plextor CD-R kit that we received included an internal Plexwriter 4/12 Max and an AHA-2930 UltraSCSI adapter from Adaptec Inc. (Sunnyvale, Calif.,, which is capable of a sustained data throughput of nearly 20 MB.


Installing the Plexwriter 4/12 Max drive into a Windows NT PC was a snap. If Windows NT’s Plug-and-Play support is enabled with the PNPISA.SYS driver, Windows NT will automatically detect the supplied Adaptec AHA-2930 SCSI adapter upon boot-up. That’s it -- you’re done. The Plexwriter 4/12 Max is recognized under Windows NT from that point on. If Plug-and-Play is not enabled, installation is a simple matter of adding the Adaptec adapter through Windows NT’s SCSI adapter control panel.

Of the two CD-R software titles supplied by Plextor, Adaptec’s Easy CD-Creator and DirectCD, only Easy CD-Creator is supported by both Windows 95 and Windows NT. Easy CD Creator provides file-by-file backup to CD-R media, imaging of CD-ROM and digital audio discs to CD-R media and the transfer of .WAV files to digital audio CD media.


The Plexwriter 4/12 Max’s 2 MB cache gives it a leg up on its competitors, many of which rely on a smaller 1 MB buffer.

Other CD-Rs in the past frequently encountered buffering errors from problems presented by the insolvency of the CD-R data cache. Because the Plexwriter 4/12 Max caches 2 MB of data in its buffer, these errors were nonexistent. In fact, during the test time we didn’t experience a single buffering error.

The performance of the Plexwriter 4/12 Max in many day-to-day IT tasks was excellent. Several CD-R devices used in the past have proven generally unstable for day-to-day use. Some had device failures -- in which a reboot was required to gain control of the CD-R device -- while others had blue screens of death of the Windows NT operating system. The Plexwriter 4/12 suffered only mildly from these ailments: On only one occasion were we forced to reboot because it had stopped responding, and the Plexwriter 4/12 Max never caused a blue screen.

The ability to create backup CD-R copies of vital source discs is invaluable. In this model, IT departments can store original source discs in a safe place and distribute inexpensive CD-R copies to technical support personnel as they are needed for operating system upgrades or repairs.

To test this ability, we used the Plexwriter 4/12 Max in conjunction with version 1.2 of a CD-R replication and imaging software tool called Gear Replicator from Elektroson Inc. (Campbell, Calif., Gear Replicator was used to perform bit-by-bit imaging of the Windows NT Workstation source CD-ROM, along with other important application software titles, such as Microsoft Office 97.

The Plexwriter 4/12 Max performed admirably. Its 4x maximum recording speed is sufficient to read and image a 600 MB CD in less than 25 minutes, for example. The Windows NT Workstation disc we created was, as its original source, bootable.

The Plexwriter 4/12 Max’s ability to create fully functional backup discs, data discs and disc images should be an asset to the management of almost any IT organization.

Plexwriter 4/12 Max
Plextor Corp.
Santa Clara, Calif.
(408) 980-1838
Price: $739

+ 4x writing speed enables fast disc-writing operations
+ Includes popular CD-R software titles such as Easy CD Creator and DirectCD from Adaptec
+ Includes Adaptec AHA-2930 Ultra SCSI controller
+ Reliable and stable operation, even through non-interactive usage

- Generates a great deal of heat; proper ventilation and source of airflow required