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How do you tell if a Linux distribution fails to load because of something in the computer vs. a problem with the CD? I've had that happen to me with Puppy Linux and sometimes with Damn Small Linux (though this distribution usually works).
I read somewhere that you're supposed to boot up with CD-Rs, not CD-RWs. But many people load up the lightweight live distros with CD-RWs so that they can save everything. If you have to use a CD-R for every Linux distribution you ever think of trying, you'll end up wasting many CD-Rs.
So given all this, how do you tell the difference between a good CD and a bad one?
To make sure you got the iso ok, you can check the md5sum of the downloaded iso against the one on the place where you downloaded it. I don't know if there's really a good way to tell a bad burn other than testing it, though.
You can use any CD or DVD recordable or rewritable discs for any ISO image. This means an image for CD can be written on a DVD with out any problems. The quality of writing depends on the quality of burn. Slower the write speed, better the burn and more compatible the disc is in other drives. Higher the write speed, worst the burn is and disc may or may not be able to be read in other drives.
Every disc that is burnt will have some amount of errors. It is better to stamp out the discs instead of burning morse code.
Also, a fair number of install/live CDs have some sort of "check CD" functionality built in, usually accessible from the boot menu (but often hidden under 'advanced' or 'more options'). To be honest, I don't really know what it does, and it can take a little while to run sometimes, but it may be what you're looking for.