CD-ROM Standards Used

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By Wayne Brissette

This article contains a list of CD-ROM Standards, or formats, and their definition.

You may hear or see several terms used to define CD-ROM discs and drives. These include Red Book, Yellow Book, White Book, and Green Book. Some of these standards, such as the White Book, are derived from previous standards, but with added features.

Red Book

The Red Book specification is for digital audio CDs. All audio CDs use this specification to assure that any audio CD-ROM in the world works with any audio CD-player. The Red Book specification was developed by Phillips and Sony.

Yellow Book

The Yellow Book specification is used for computer-based CD-ROMs. The Yellow Book specification only defines the physical arrangement of the data on the disc. Other standards are used in conjunction with the Yellow Book to define directory and file structures. These include ISO-9660, HFS, and Hybrid HFS-ISO. Sector formats are defined as Mode 1, Mode 2, and CD-ROM/XA.


This file system standard is a "lowest common denominator" format. It only allows for an 8.3 filenames (EIGHT__8.TXT). There is an extended ISO-9660 file system, called the Rock Ridge extension, used primarily for UNIX CD-ROMS that allows for longer UNIX file names and directory structures.


This file system is designed to support Macintosh features not supported under the ISO-9660 standard. This includes longer file names (up to 31 characters), custom icons, and other Finder features such as comments and labels.

Hybrid HFS-ISO

This file system is a combination of ISO-9660 and HFS. This format is used by CD-ROM developers on products designed for both the Macintosh and MS-Windows or UNIX platforms.

Mode 1

Mode 1 CD-ROMs contain only computer data, and have 2048 byte sectors.

Mode 2

Mode 2 CD-ROMs contain compressed audio data and video/picture data, and have 2324 byte sectors. Mode 2 sectors also contain end-of-record markers, interrupt triggers, and data type specifications.


CD-ROM/XA (CD-ROM Extended Architecture) is an extension of the Mode 2 format. Like Mode 2 it contains compressed audio and video/picture data. The CD-ROM/XA format however offers the ability to interleave the Mode 2 compressed audio and Mode 2 data sectors.

White Book

This specification covers the Video CD format.

Green Book

This specification builds on the Red Book and the Yellow Book, and is designed for CD-I discs (Compact Disc-Interactive).

Orange Book

This specification covers writable CDs, including CD Recordable (CD-R), magneto-optical cartridge systems and single- and multi-session recordings.

CD+ (CD Plus)

This specification is still being worked on by both the computer and music industry. It is a derivative of the CD+MM format, which combines computer multimedia elements with a standard audio CD-ROM. With the current CD+MM format, Track 1 contains the computer data, and when placed into an audio CD-player, Track 1 must be skipped. The goal is to have a CD-ROM that will contain both audio and computer data on one disc, and when placed into an audio CD-player plays only the audio tracks. All computer data is ignored without any manual assistance.The Famous Apple!

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