Nero 9 Free Version
Yowser! I must admit that a free version of Nero's burning suite caught me by surprise. I suppose it shouldn't have, as there are enough free disc burning alternatives out there--and enough articles pointing to them--that this was probably inevitable. Inevitable and welcome. There's absolutely no questioning Nero's expertise with all things optical.
Basically a stripped down version of the Nero StartSmart control center, it only creates CD/DVD data discs: no audio ripping or burning, no VCD/SVCD support, and no DVD movie burning from existing files, though it will copy all those types of discs. I wasn't shocked that the free version of Nero lacked almost all the functionality of the pay version, but I was a tad surprised at just how limited it was compared to other free programs such as DeepBurner Free, ImgBurn, and InfraRecorder Portable. The program was also a bit of a tease. It recognized the Lite-on WH08LS20 Blu-ray burner on my system as well as BD discs. I was hoping that like ImgBurn it would burn Blu-ray data discs--however, it did not.
Despite its highly-limited functionality, hefty 130MB install footprint, and dead-end buttons encouraging you to buy a full version, the extremely reliable free Nero is a welcome addition to my toolbox. It's nice having something around that I know will work (I've had some problems with other freebies and late-model drives recently), even if it's not my first option. Now if they'd only make a portable version...
Note: The Nero Free install routine wants to install the Ask toolbar. If you don't want said toolbar, be sure to de-select this option.
--Jon L. Jacobi