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Currently there are four competing technologies for rewritable DVDs: DVD-RAM, DVD+RW and DVD-RW. DVD-RAM is considered a highly reliable format, as the discs have built-in error control and a defect management system. Therefore, DVD-RAM is perceived to be better than the other DVD technologies for traditional computer usage tasks such as general data storage, backup and archival, though the Mt. Rainier standard for DVD+RW somewhat lessens the DVD-RAM format's perceived advantage. Curiously, DVD-RAM has a larger presence in camcorders and set-top boxes than in computers, although the DVD-RAM's popularity in these devices can be explained by the fact that it is very easily written to and erased, which for example allows extensive in-camera editing.

The on-disc structure of DVD-RAMs is closely related to hard disk and floppy disk technology, as it stores data in concentric tracks. DVD-RAMs can be accessed just like a hard or floppy disk and usually without any special software. DVD-RWs and DVD+RWs, on the other hand, store data in one long spiral track and require special packet reading/writing software to read and write data discs. It is a common misconception that DVD-RAM uses magneto-optical (MO) technologies: DVD-RAM is a pure phase change medium, similar to CD-RW or DVD-RW.

Many operating systems like Mac OS (Mac OS 8.6 or later), Linux and Microsoft Windows XP support DVD-RAM operation directly, while earlier versions of Windows require device drivers or the program InCD. The optical drives shipped with most Apple Macintosh computers do not support DVD-RAM operation, but a third party DVD-RAM-compatible drive can be connected and used directly with Mac OS.

Windows XP can only write directly to FAT32-formatted DVD-RAM discs. For UDF-formatted discs, which are considered faster, compatible device drivers or software such as InCD or DLA are required. Windows Vista can natively access and write to UDF-formatted DVD-RAM discs. This is a non-issue with Linux however, which allows the use of virtually any file system of the multitude that ship with the operating system, including UDF. Mac OS can read and write HFS-, HFS Plus-, FAT-, and UDF-formatted DVD-RAM discs directly. It is even possible to use the ext3 file system on a DVD-RAM disc. Even though it is possible to use any file system one likes, only very few perform well on DVD-RAM. This is because some file systems frequently over-write data on the disc and the table of contents is contained at the start of the disc.

Many DVD standalone players and recorders do not support DVD-RAM, especially older or cheaper versions. However, within "RAMPRG" (the DVD-RAM Promotion Group) there are a number of well-known manufacturers of standalone players and recorders that DO support DVD-RAM. Panasonic for instance have a range of players and recorders which make full use of the advantages of DVD-RAM. There are also a number of video cameras that use DVD-RAM as the recording media.

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