How can I tell if a CD or DVD is fake?

When buying software online, in an auction, or at a flea market it's important to know if you're purchasing a legitimate copy of the program or game. There are several reasons of why you shouldn't purchase pirated or otherwise illegally made programs. Below are some steps that can be taken to help identify fake CDs and DVDs.

Look at the bottom of the disc

One of the most common and easiest ways is to look at the bottom of the disc. Recordable discs like those shown in the picture below will often have a green, purple, or other color of tint to them unlike the traditional CD and DVD. When CDs and DVDs are made in the factor the data contained on them is stamped onto the disc and not burned.

Comparison of real CD and recordable CD discs

Look at the label

Another easy method of identifying a fake CD from the real thing is to look at the label of the disc. If the disc label is hand written with a marker or looks as if the label was printed off an ink jet printer, it's obviously a fake CD or DVD. Unfortunately, many individuals are becoming more sophisticated and are now capable of matching labels that are identical to the real label. This has caused companies such as Microsoft to create more sophisticated and harder to duplicate CDs and DVDs. Below is a picture of one of these discs, which as you can see has a hologram type border. All of the Microsoft discs today have a look similar to this.

Microsoft Expression CD with holigram

Some try duplicating this look by photo copying this label onto a sticker and use it as a label on the disc. Of course when rotating the disc in your hand it's easy to identify this is not a hologram. Others may use a holographic sticker making it look legitimate, however, these too can be identified if you look at the edge of the disc and it appears that holographic sticker can be peeled away from the disc.

Actual examples of pirated software seized by Microsoft can also be seen on their howtotell page.

What the CD or DVD case looks like

Jewel boxIf the CD or DVD is in a standard disc jewel box like the one pictured to the right, this is also often an easy way of identifying a fake CD and DVD. In some situations when buying a disc second hand the seller can claim that they lost or no longer have the original case, which may be true, but treat it as a red flag.

All audio CDs and many software programs and games also have a glossy insert in the case. Make sure this is also found.

Software marked as OEM or NFR

Software discs that are marked as Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), are discs that are supposed to be included with new computers or a new motherboard. Discs also labeled as Not For Resell (NFR) are discs also often included with a new computer. Both of these discs should not be purchased by themselves as they could be an evaluation copy or a copy that will not work with your computer.

Price too good to be true

As with most things if the price seems too good to be true it probably is. For example, if you find a copy of Adobe Photoshop, a software program that often costs several hundred dollars for fifty dollars it's obviously a fake. Although it may be tempting to purchase this program because it is so cheap consider the dangers of buying and installing pirated software.

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