Multi-session CD Mini Howto

by Mike Stolove

April 15, 1999

1 Introduction

I've always been curious as to whether my Linux setup would support writing and reading multi-session CDs. Now I know it does. No surprise really, but I wasn't able to find a quick guide or HowTo so I thought I'd post this. I hope you find it useful.

2 Configuration

My CD-R is an HP 7100i CD-Writer Plus connected to a Pentium II system with 128MB RAM and a 6.4GB main drive. The system is running Redhat GNU-Linux 5.2 kernel 2.0.36 with SCSI emulation compliled in. The CD-R appears to the system as /dev/scd1, and to cdrecord as dev=1,0.

CDRECORD and MKISOFS are the two tools you will need to make your multi-session burns. I used cdrecord version 1.8a4 and mkisofs 1.12b4 while writing this document.

3 Make Initial CD

3.1 Make first image file

The initial step is to make an image file which will be written to the CD-R as the first session. My preferred command line is:
mkisofs -l -J -L -r -m core -m lost+found -o <outfile> <dir>
The breakdown for this is as follows:

|Switch | Description                               |
| -l    | allow 32 character filenames              |
| -J    | allow Joliet extension for our NT friends |
| -L    | allow leading periods in filenames        |
| -r    | reset file ownership and mode flags       |
| -m    | disallow the following filename           |
| -o    | filename for output image                 |
| <dir> | directory to read                         |

3.2 Test image file

If the first step proceeded without error, we should check the image file to make sure it's ok. I use the loopback driver that I have compiled sinto my Linux kernel. The following command mounts the file.
mount <IMG file > -t iso9660 <mount point> -o loop
Browse the mounted filesystem to be sure the files are fine, then umount the image file.

3.3 Write image file

Now we're going to do the initial burn on the cd. My command line for this is:
cdrecord -v -multi -data speed=2 dev=1,0 <img>
The switches are as follows:
| Switch | Description                                      |
| -v     | allow increased feedback from cdrecord           |
| -multi | set multi-session flag (not for the last session)|
| speed= | write speed of CD_R (2x in example)              |
| dev=   | SCSI device (1,0 in example)                     |
| <img>  | filename of ISO image                            |
Use the commands cdrecord -scanbus and cdrecord -inq dev=x,x to obtain further information about your CD-R.

3.4 Test CD

Mount your freshly burned CD using:
mount /dev/<device name> -t iso9660 <mount point>
Check it for correctness and close it using:
umount <mount point>

4 Add a New Session

Here we will add a new session to the CD we just made. Essentially we just repeat our first steps, adding some new track number information to the command lines. This information applies to all sessions written to the CD except for the first and last session.

4.1 Get Track Information

First we have to obtain the track start and track end data for the previous session using the command:
cdrecord -msinfo dev=1,0
which will output two numbers. Jot them down because you will need them for our next step. For our examples I will use the numbers 0,17137.

4.2 Make second image file

Now we run mkisofs with the same options as before but add two new switches before the -o option:
mkisofs -l -J -L -r -m core -m lost+found -C 0,17137 -M /dev/scd1 -o <outfile> <DIR>
The descriptions for these new command line switches are:
|Switch | Description                     |
| -C    | track info for previous session |
| -M    | system device name for CD-R     |
Testing the resulting image is difficult. I normally just mount the file (see 3.2) and then do a df to see if it mounted correctly. Files will not appear on the mount point. This is normal - we are just testing for the actual mount itself. Now umount the image and proceed to the next step.

4.3 Write image file

Now we write the second (or later) session to the CD . The command is identical to our first write (see 3.3).
cdrecord -v -multi -data speed=2 dev=1,0 <IMG>

4.4 Mount the multi-session CD

If everything went well in the last step we mount the CD as normal (see 3.4) and can view the entire filesystem.

5 Final Sessions

5.1 Write final image

To write your final track to the disk simply omit the -multi switch from the cdrecord command line in step 4.3. This will finalize the disk, and allow it to be read by other operating systems such as DOS or WinNT (depending on your mkisofs instructions).

6 Caveats & Notes

6.1 CD Capacity

CD-R media have a maximum capacity of 99 tracks , and ~650 megabytes of data. No error checking exists in cdrecord (that I'm aware of) to prevent you from trying to write a track larger than the available free space on the CD. Measure free space twice before nearing the edge. It may be more prudent to start a new CD than to risk frying all your previous sessions.

6.2 File Structure

Cdrecord will assume the <DIR> part of any mkisofs command to be the root directory of the target CD. If you want subdirectories on the CD make sure you have created them in the <DIR> directory before running mkisofs.

6.3 File Names

Files with the same name - TRANS.TBL for example - will be overwritten by subsequent sessions containing the same name in the same directory. I assume this same behaviour applies to directories as well, although I haven't tested this.

6.4 Acknowledgements

CDRECORD is written and maintained by Jorg Schilling. His url is

MKISOFS is written and maintained by Eric Youngdale. He may be reached at MKISOFS is available at all major ftp sites. Additionally, patched versions are included in selected releases of CDRECORD.

Kudos to both these gentlemen for offering the GNU/Linux community such valuable tools.

Please report any inaccuracies in this document to me at

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