This F.A.Q. aims to address some of the commonly asked questions that apply to all (or almost all) NEC/Optiarc DVD-writers.
CDFreaks also has a comprehensive FAQ for PC DVD Writers that covers questions that apply to ALL DVD writers. Please make sure that you also reference that FAQ before posting questions. This FAQ is only for NEC-specific information. If you do not understand some of the terminology used here, please reference the General FAQ first.
Credits: Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this F.A.Q.; you know who you are! The old F.A.Q. written by Wesociety can be found here.
If you would like to send feedback or contribute to this F.A.Q., please feel free to send Dee-27 a private message.
Information is meant to be free, so you may copy this F.A.Q., adapt it, and do whatever you wish with it, as long as you follow the terms stated here.
Table of Contents
NEC/Optiarc DVD±RW Features
Which NEC/Optiarc drives can read and write to DVD-RAM media?
What is 'Labelflash', and which drives support this feature?
There are different letters added onto the end of NEC model names, are these drives different?
Which other brand name drives do NEC manufacture as OEM drives?
Do NEC/Optiarc drives support bitsetting, also known as booktype modification?
Are NEC/Optiarc drives good CD/DVD readers?
Do NEC/Optiarc drives burn a disc with good quality?
Can NEC/Optiarc drives burn media faster than its rated speed?
What is the approximate burn time at different burn speeds for a full disc?
Why does my NEC/Optiarc drive burn media slower than its rated speed?
When I burn a disc in Nero, the buffer dances wildly, is this a problem?
Is my NEC/Optiarc drive good for backing up copy-protected discs?
Can I use Nero CD-DVD Speed for Disc Quality Scans with my NEC Drive?
Can I use Kprobe for PI/PIF Disc Quality Scanning on my NEC drive?
How do I check my firmware version?
What is the best NEC/Optiarc firmware?
How do I download a firmware?
Do I need any special drivers before I backup or flash firmware?
How do I make a backup of my original firmware?
How do I flash my NEC/Optiarc drive?
Do I need to take special precautions if flashing a “slimline” drive?
Do I have to update the firmware with the next version up from the version I have, or can I just update to the latest firmware?
Something went wrong during my firmware flash, can I recover my drive?
Official Firmware Versions
Which is the latest official NEC/Optiarc firmwares?
Which is the latest OEM (rebadged) firmwares?
What risks are involved with flashing a hacked/patched/modified NEC/Optiarc firmware?
Why would I want a modified firmware?
Where can I download this modified firmware?
Once I have a modified firmware on my drive, can I change to another firmware?
Is bitsetting important?
How do I set booktype DVD-ROM?
Can DVD–R media have booktype DVD-ROM?
What is riplock and do I need it?
What is RPC1 and do I need it?
I often see modified firmware files with the following file names, what do these terms mean?
What is Crossflashing?
Is it possible to flash my NEC ND-3500A to a ND-3520A?
Is it possible to flash my NEC ND-3100A to a ND-3500A?
Is it possible to flash my NEC ND-2100/2500A to a ND-2510A?
Is it possible to flash my NEC ND-2500/2510A to a ND-3500A?
Is it possible to flash my NEC ND-3520A to a ND-3530/3540A?
Is it possible to crossflash my ND-3530 to a ND-3540?
Is it possible to crossflash my ND-3540A to a ND-3550/3560?
Is it possible to crossflash my ND-3520/3530/3540 to a ND-4550?
Is it possible to crossflash my ND-3550/3551 to a ND-4550/4551A?
Is it possible to crossflash my ND-4550A to a ND-4551A?
Is it possible to crossflash my ND-3570A to a ND-4571A?
Is it possible to crossflash my ND-4570A to a ND-4571A?
Speed Patched Firmware
Is there firmware patched to increase the burn speeds of media?
Is burn speed at maximum for all media?
How are these media speedups achieved?
Can I patch a firmware myself?
Where can I find a comprehensive review on an NEC/Optiarc drive?
My drive arrived without connecting cables or software. Is this normal?
NEC/Optiarc DVD±RW Features
Q: Which NEC/Optiarc drives can read and write to DVD-RAM media? A: The ND-4550A, 4551A, ND-4570A, and ND-4571A can read and write DVD-RAM media at up to 5x.
The Optiarc AD-7170A and AD-7173A can read and write DVD-RAM at up to 12x.
The Optiarc AD-7200A/S and AD-7203A/S can read and write DVD-RAM at up to 12x.
The Sony AW-G170A can read and write DVD-RAM at up to 12x
Q: What is 'Labelflash', and which drives support this feature? A: Labelflash requires special media, where the top side of the disc can be written to with a special laser and prints a graphic or text image onto the disc. Currently only the ND-3551A, ND-4551A,ND-4571A, Optiarc AD-7173A and Optiarc AD-7203A/S drives support this feature.
These drives should come shipped with a special version of Nero Burning Rom If your drive did not come shipped with this software, you should contact your drive supplier. Nero Burning Rom version 7 and 8 (premium) support this feature.
Q: There are different letters added onto the end of NEC model names, are these drives different? A: No, they are all exactly the same! For example; NEC 3500A, 3500AG, 3500AS, 3500AB are all the same drive! Some online stores add extra letters onto the end of the model name to signify different options such as color and bulk version, but the hardware is exactly the same!
Q: Which other brand name drives do NEC manufacture as OEM drives? A: NEC manufacture many drives for many OEM customers. Sony, Maddog, IO-Data and Memorex are among the list
Q: Do NEC/Optiarc drives support bitsetting, also known as booktype modification? A: Official NEC branded firmware generally only supports DVD-ROM bitsetting for DVD+R DL discs. For single layer DVD+R and DVD+RW bitsetting, you will need to flash to an OEM firmware (such as an HP or Mad Dog fw) or a modified firmware with bitsetting support added in. Check the NEC forum for details on specific firmware versions and their bitsetting capabilities.
Q: Are NEC/Optiarc drives good CD/DVD readers? A: Some of the ND-25xx drives have reading problems. This seems to vary from drive to drive.
The ND-35xx/45xx series drives appear to be much better readers and are arguably the fastest readers currently available for reading single layer media.
Q: Do NEC/Optiarc drives burn a disc with good quality? A: Yes, NEC drives are capable of producing extremely high quality burns. However, this is still largely media dependant. Good quality media will produce excellent burns. In general, the better the media quality, the better the burn quality will be.
Q: Can NEC/Optiarc drives burn media faster than its rated speed? A: Yes, in some cases, certain media can be burned at twice or perhaps three times its rated speed.
An overview of burn speeds and supported media can be found here
Q: What is the approximate burn time at different burn speeds for a full disc? A: Times will vary slightly from drive to drive, below is a list of approximate burn times.
4X Approximately 15 minutes.
6X Approximately 12 minutes (approximately 10 minutes with 457x series drives)
8X Approximately 9 - 10 minutes (approximately 8 minutes with 457x series drives)
12X Approximately 6:30 – 7 minutes.
16X Approximately 5:25 – 6:15 minutes.
18x Approximately 5:00 – 5:35 minutes.
20x Approximately 4:35 – 4:45 minutes.
Q: Why does my NEC/Optiarc drive burn media slower than its rated speed? A: For some media, NEC has decided that some media’s cannot be burned at there rated speed because of quality issues with the media. NEC tends to play it safe, in that, they deem write quality is more important than speed.
Another reason why your media may not be burned at its rated speed is, the media might be very new and not yet supported fully in the firmware version you have. In this case you should check your firmware version and check if a newer firmware is available, which might support the media at a faster burn speed.
In all cases your burning application will allow you to select the fastest burn speed for any particular media. The maximum write speed is set in the drives firmware, be it CDR, CDRW, DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW or DVD+R DL
Q: When I burn a disc in Nero, the buffer dances wildly, is this a problem? A: NO, not normally, this happens with most new 16X DVD writers, on the NEC drive this is normally caused by the drives AOPC system recalibrating the optics and laser power as the burn progresses. This system is also used to grade media and determine if the burn should continue at a faster speed or slowed down to preserve burn quality.
Q: Is my NEC/Optiarc drive good for backing up copy-protected discs? A: From the ND-3530 models onwards will classify as “Two Sheep” burners, so they should be able to cope with most copy protected discs.
To compare with other drives following intervals can be used:
8 ECC (to compare with BenQ/Philips/QSI/Pioneer)
1 ECC (to compare with LiteOn/BTC/Plextor)
32 ECC (to compare with AOpen)
The colored backgrounds and quality score are changed accordingly.
For presently unsupported drives.
Other options for testing your DVDs with your NEC drive are Nero CD-DVD Speeds' Transfer rate & ScanDisc tests. Transfer rate tests are particularly good to test your recorded media with on NEC 35xx series drives, because they will read DVD±R single layer discs at 16X CAV.
Q: Can I use Kprobe for PI/PIF Disc Quality Scanning on my NEC drive? A: No, NEC drives do NOT support KProbe, KProbe is designed for Liteon drives
Q: How do I check my firmware version? A: There are many ways to check your firmware version. Perhaps the easiest way is to use Nero InfoTool, which comes bundled with Nero or can be downloaded separately as freeware if you do not have Nero.
Q: What is the best NEC/Optiarc firmware? A: There is no “best” firmware, this is all a matter of opinion. New firmwares (official and unofficial) are released very frequently. Do some research and choose a firmware that will best suit your needs.
Unless you have a specific reason to do otherwise, you should always use STOCK (official firmware) downloaded from the NEC website
In the case of rebadged NEC/Optiarc drives, you should download a STOCK (official firmware) from their site. MadDogTDK and HP are three such OEM resellers who rebadge NEC drives.
For an overview of different NEC/Optiarc firmwares including tables of supported media and write speeds, you can check out this thread started and maintained by Liggy
Q: How do I download a firmware? A: Navigate to the website hosting the firmware you require, make sure you have selected the correct firmware for your drive, and then click on the link and save the file to your hard drive. You may have to switch off any firewall running to allow the download.
In the case of a modified firmware. Quite often the thread you are viewing on cdfreaks will contain a link to the firmware, just click on the link and your download should start.
Q: Do I need any special drivers before I backup or flash firmware? A: It’s been well proven that Microsoft’s default IDE drivers work best. Not only for flashing and backing up firmware but for general good and smooth operation of DVD±RW drives and the software used for burning and scanning.
Q: How do I make a backup of my original firmware? A: Again using Binflash. Run the application, and then make sure you select the correct drive you wish to make the backup from. Now select the DUMP option. A file selector dialog will appear. Choose a filename for your backup. Then click on SAVE and wait until the dump is completed.
Q: How do I flash my NEC/Optiarc drive? A: Official NEC/Optiarc firmwares are supplied with their own flash utility. In this case having downloaded your firmware, all that is required is to run the application and follow a few prompts.
In the case of a modified firmware you will need a flash application. The current favourite one on cdfreaks is Binflash by Liggy and can be downloaded here or TDB windows and DOS based flashers here
Using Binflash to flash
Double click the NECWinflash.exe file to run Binflash
Now select your drive from the Device drop down menu
Now click on the Flash button
A file dialog box will now open. Select the firmware BIN file then click on open or ok.
The information dialog below will now appear. Double check you have selected the correct drive and firmware file and then click on Yes Allow the flash to complete then restart your PC.
Some additional information about flashing the new Optiarc drives in Windows.
Originally Posted by Liggy
You might however encounter problems when trying to flash any of the new firmwares to your drive. Due to a bug in the drives’ bootcode, you may be forced to change you drive to PIO mode. We encountered problems when the drive was in UDMA4 mode, resulting in an error when submitting the checksum. But we also had success when flashing the drive in PIO mode, Windows safe mode and when the drive was attached to a 40 ribbon IDE cable instead of an 80 ribbon cable. The latest Vista release candidate 64 bit version seemed to work even with UDMA mode and 80 ribbon cable. No tests have been made with Mac or Linux however.
We have found the safest method of flashing the new Optiarc drives is to use Windows ‘Safe mode’.
In the case of TDB’s DOS based flasher, you will require a DOS boot CD or Floppy, which should also contain the TDB DOS flasher and firmware BIN file.
In the case of drives housed in external firewire or USB enclosures. Flashing those drives can be a problem. If all else fails you might be able to remove the drive from its enclosure and connect it to an IDE channel on a desktop PC and flash it, this may void your guarantee however. For more info you can check out this thread
Q: Do I need to take special precautions if flashing a “slimline” drive? A: Yes. You must make sure you have the correct “master or slave” firmware. Please make sure you carefully read any documentation supplied with a firmware before you attempt to update your drive.
Q: Do I have to update the firmware with the next version up from the version I have, or can I just update to the latest firmware? A: NEC sometimes state a particular version must already be on your drive. If you use the official NEC flasher then this will be the case. You can however flash to the latest version by loading the .EXE file into Binflash, and using Binflash to flash to the latest firmware.
Q: Something went wrong during my firmware flash, can I recover my drive? A: Most likely yes, but you will have to do this in pure DOS. Use The Dangerous Brothers DOS utility to flash a known good firmware back onto your drive. Step by step instructions for flashing in DOS can be found here.
Please be advised. You flash your drive at your own risk.
Official Firmware Versions
Q: Which is the latest official NEC/Optiarc firmwares? A: The list below lists the latest firmwares for the various NEC/Optiarc drives.
ND-2500A 1.0A (no DL support or bitsetting)
ND-2510A 2.18 (DL support and DL bitsetting)
ND-3500A/G 2.1A (DL bitsetting)
ND-3520AW 3.07 (DL bitsetting)
ND-3530A 3.05 (DL bitsetting)
ND-3540A 1.02 (DL bitsetting)
ND-3550A 1.06 (DL bitsetting)
ND-4550A 1.07 (DL bitsetting)
ND-4551A 1-08 (DL bitsetting)
NEC’s official firmware website will also have firmware files for the Optiarc and Sony drives manufactured by NEC. You can find the website here
Q: Which is the latest OEM (rebadged) firmwares? A: The list below is by no means complete. TDK
TDK1616N 2.7A website
TDK880 1.37 website
TDK882 2.38 website I-O DATA
ND-3520A 3.32 MadDog
MD-16XDVD9 2.FD website
MD-8XDVD9 2.F7 website
MD-16XDVD9A2 1.F3 website HP
HP 420i 1.33 website AOpen
DRW8800 1.5A website
Q: What risks are involved with flashing a hacked/patched/modified NEC/Optiarc firmware? A: Any unofficial firmware that is not provided by the manufacturer will void your warranty! If you do not know what you are doing, do not flash your drive! Firmware patchers refuse to be responsible for the misuse of a patched firmware. USE THEM AT YOUR OWN RISK. It is also possible that a misflash can occur, such as a power outage occurring in the middle of a flash or some other occurrence. In this case your drive will not be functional at all! It is possible to recover the drive after this by reflashing in DOS, but it is not guaranteed to work.
Q: Why would I want a modified firmware? A: Several reasons. Some modified firmwares support enhanced features such as bitsetting on all +R media, others have simpler patches but just as important, such as video riplock removed and region lock removed
Q: Where can I download this modified firmware? A:The Dangerous Brothers (TDB) have many patched firmwares for NEC drives. They will usually have patches for removing video riplock and region coding, other firmwares found on their site has drive ID strings changed, so for example a MadDog firmware will be reported as a NEC drive instead of a MadDog.
TDB currently have patched firmwares for the following NEC drives.
ND-1100A, ND-1300A, ND-2500A, ND-2510A, ND-3450A, ND-3500A/G, ND-3520A, ND-5100A, ND-5500A, ND-6100A, ND-6500A. Their site is located here
Herrie also has patched NEC firmwares and you can find his site here
Liggy And Dee Have original and patched firmwares for all NEC drives, with bitsetting, riplock and RPC1 patches, and can be located here
Liggy also has a patched firmware to enable –R support for the ND-3100A drive. Please make sure you read the first post in the thread for instructions on how to apply the patch. The thread can be located here
You may also like to read the modified firmware thread started by rdgrimes and maintained by wesociety and can be found here.
Another good resource of firmwares can be found at rpc1.org website and can be located here
Q: Once I have a modified firmware on my drive, can I change to another firmware? A: Yes, you can flash your drive back to the STOCK firmware or use any other compatible firmware. All you need to do is load the firmware you want to change to into Binflash and you can flash your drive with any firmware you wish.
Q: Is bitsetting important? A: In the case of DL media it’s critical to have bitsetting as very few set top DVD players can support booktype DVD +R DL media.
With SL media, using bitsetting to have booktype DVD-ROM will also greatly improve compatibility with set top DVD players, especially older players.
Q: How do I set booktype DVD-ROM? A: Some firmwares support AUTO bitsetting, in this case all +R +RW media will have it’s booktype set as DVD-ROM. Other firmwares allow you to manually set booktype. As a general rule, you should set all supported +R media to booktype DVD-ROM. You can do this with Binflash or the NEC WinBtype utility, newer versions of Nero CD-DVD Speed also support this feature. In each case the booktype setting is remembered in the firmware and you will only need to set this once, unless you wish to change the booktype again.
In the case of the 1300 and 2500 series of drives Booktype DVD-ROM for +RW worked by using some firmware supporting RICOH type bitsetting. This doesn’t work on the 3500 series.
35xx series update
Originally Posted by GlamRocker
First set +RW to DVD-ROM then get a brand new +RW disc (not a used one, erasing and formating is useless for first setting the booktype), pop it in the drive then open any burning tool of your choice and burn the disc, it should be set at DVD-ROM.
Then get a used +RW and erase or format it and it also should be changed from +RW to DVD-ROM.
Q: Can DVD–R media have booktype DVD-ROM? A: Although some have claimed this is possible, no NEC drives support this feature as it is not necessary, or even possible to set this type of media to booktype DVD-ROM.
Q: What is riplock and do I need it? A: Riplock is a term used for locking the reading speed on a drive for certain media types. For example a DVD-VIDEO will only read back at a certain speed, somewhere around 4X - 5X. This keeps the film makers happy as you won’t be able to backup a DVD very quickly. Another use for riplock is keeping noise levels down when playing back a DVD movie on your PC.
In most patched firmwares riplock has been removed, allowing faster rip speeds, these will generally only affect pressed DVD-Video discs. For DVD5 (SL) the drive will generally reach its max read speed with riplock removed. For DVD9 (DL) the rip speed will be much reduced. In the case of the ND-3500 and ND-3520 drives, about 7X is all you should expect. In the case of the ND-3530 and ND-3540 drives, 12X is possible.
Riplock removed can make a drive noisier when playing back pressed DVD’s on your PC.
Q: What is RPC1 and do I need it? A: RPC1 is a general term used for region free. This patch will make your drive region free; however, region free software will also be required to enjoy DVD region free playback on your PC. If you have DVD discs from only one region, there is really no need for this patch. For more info, you may like to check this out here
Q: I often see modified firmware files with the following file names, what do these terms mean? A: The following is a list of the most common terms.
Firmware_orig.bin Other than Bitsetting patches, the firmware has no riplock or RPC1 patches. Firmware_slow.bin this firmware will have RPC1 patches, bitsetting and possibly media speedups, but the drive will be riplocked for quiet DVD-Video playback. Firmware_fast.bin This firmware will have bitsetting patches and riplock removed, but will not contain RPC1 region patches. Firmware_RPC1.bin This firmware will include Bittsetting, riplock and RPC1 patches and possibly media speedups.
Q: What is Crossflashing? A: Crossflashing is a term used for turning a drive model into another.
This could be simply flashing an OEM firmware onto a drive. In this case the only thing that changes is the drive string (how the drive is identified in Windows)
Another way of crossflashing is used for upgrading an older drive to a newer drive.
Below is a short list of which drives can and can’t be upgraded using the crossflash method.
Q: Is it possible to flash my NEC ND-3500A to a ND-3520A? A: This upgrade is not possible due to the fact that NEC changed some essential parts in the hardware.
Q: Is it possible to flash my NEC ND-3100A to a ND-3500A? A: Yes, using a specially modified firmware here Please make sure you read the instructions carefully.
Q: Is it possible to flash my NEC ND-2100/2500A to a ND-2510A? A: Yes, all you need is ND-2510A firmware and Binflash to do this or you can use Herries famous firmware instead.
Q: Is it possible to flash my NEC ND-2500/2510A to a ND-3500A? A: No, the hardware is completely different.
Q: Is it possible to flash my NEC ND-3520A to a ND-3530/3540A? A: No, not at this time.
Q: Is it possible to crossflash my ND-3530 to a ND-3540? A: This might be possible. Beta testers are required to test this.
Q: Is it possible to crossflash my ND-3540A to a ND-3550/3560? A: No, the firmware is totally incompatible.
Q: Is it possible to crossflash my ND-3520/3530/3540 to a ND-4550? A: No, the hardware and firmware are totally incompatible.
Q: Is it possible to crossflash my ND-3550/3551 to a ND-4550/4551A? A: Yes, but we at CD Freaks will not support this modification.
Q: Is it possible to crossflash my ND-4550A to a ND-4551A? A: Yes, but we at CD Freaks will not support this modification.
Q: Is it possible to crossflash my ND-3570A to a ND-4571A? A: Yes, but we at CD Freaks will not support this modification.
Q: Is it possible to crossflash my ND-4570A to a ND-4571A? A: Yes, but we at CD Freaks will not support this modification.
Speed Patched Firmware
Q: Is there firmware patched to increase the burn speeds of media? A: Some modified firmwares take patching to even more extremes by offering faster burn speeds on certain media than the officially NEC firmware in addition to bitsetting. riplock removed and region free patches.
Q: Is burn speed at maximum for all media? A: No, only specific media has its burn speed increased above the stock firmware speed. These should be listed with any documentation provided by the person who has patched the firmware.
Q: How are these media speedups achieved? A: Within the firmware write strategy groups are swapped from one media strategy group to another. In some cases a new strategy group is created to speed up a single media or group of media’s.
Q: Can I patch a firmware myself? A: It is not recommended that you do this unless you have the proper know-how and tools to do it, and I don’t mean a HEX editor, this is not suitable for general firmware patching for 3 reasons.
1, You must know exactly which bytes to alter within the firmware.
2, Should you get it wrong, and you are somehow able to submit a bad firmware to your drive. The drive will most likely be permanently damaged.
3, If the drive does not enter into “safe mode” from trying to submit a bad firmware, your drive will “lock up” and you will most likely never be able to recover it.
Some threads are running in the NEC forum at the moment for a few NEC drives. You should post any questions about these firmwares in the relevant thread.
Liggy and Dee LD firmwares
Liggy and Dee have most original firmware and develop many modified firmwares for most NEC and Optiarc drives.
The site is located here
ND-2500/2510A V3 firmware can be located here
Ala42 has made a basic tool called “MediaCodeSpeedEdit” for swapping strategies on some NEC drives, and can be found here
With all these speed patched firmwares. The results you get will largely depend on the quality of your media.
WARNING! You flash your drive with any of these modified firmwares at your own risk. Flashing your drive with any unofficial firmware will void your guarantee.
Q: Where can I find a comprehensive review on an NEC/Optiarc drive? A: CDFreaks is constantly performing new drive reviews!
These reviews are highly recommend reading, even if you already own the subject drive!
Read the AD-7200A review here Read the AD-7173A preview here Read the ND-4570A preview here Read the ND-4551A review here Read the ND-3540A review here Read the ND-4550A first look article here Read the Mad MD-16XDVD9 (OEM NEC 3500A) review here. Read the LaCie d2 (OEM NEC 2510A) review here. Read the NEC 2500A review here.
Q: My drive arrived without connecting cables or software. Is this normal? A: Most NEC/Optiarc drives are sold as OEM drives. They will usually be supplied as just a bare drive (no cables or software or operating manual). The resellers purchase the drives in bulk, not including accessories helps keep costs down.
If you require cables or software, you should purchase a retail drive if available. If you can’t purchase a retail drive, you should be able to purchase the necessary cables from any good computer store.
Auto-formatted by FAQFormat65536 v1.1.3.
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Added information about the new Optiarc drives.
Updated the official firmware versions information
Added some graphics and information about flashing the new Optiarc drives in 'How to flash NEC/Optiarc drives' section
Updated review and preview list
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