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Liggy's and Dee's modified NEC and Optiarc firmwares

Everything you always wanted to know about NEC DVD burner firmwares but were afraid to ask

 
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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.
Click here for an overview of NEC OEM drives
Q: Do NEC 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 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 series drives appear to be much better readers and are arguably the fastest readers currently available for reading single layer media.

Q: Do the NEC 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 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. Click here for a list of approximate burn times.

Q: Why does my NEC drive burn media slower than its rated speed?
A: NEC has decided that some medias cannot be burned at their rated speed because of quality issues. 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, DVD+R DL 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 drive good for backing up copy-protected discs?
A: Most NEC drives will classify as a "one sheep" writer, which means that they will have trouble backing up some copy-protected discs. Other drives such as LiteOn writers will have better results with backing up copy-protected content.

Q: Can I use Nero CD-DVD Speed for Disc Quality Scans with my NEC Drive?
A: Yes, CD-DVD Speed version 3.75 or higher supports this feature. Some NEC drives already have this feature supported, and more will likely be added. Below is a list of supported drives. Note: Special firmware versions are required.
ND-3520 (requires a version based on NEC 3.04 firmware like LD3520 1.UC (or higher) or Liggy's 3.04 Bitsetting firmware)
ND-3530A
ND-3540A
Below is some additional info from the author of CD-Speed.
Originally Posted by ErikDeppe:
I haven't been able to test this myself but it seems that NEC fixed a bug with the scanning interval. To change the scanning interval with Nero CD-DVD Speed the following registry value can be added:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Ahead\Nero Toolkit\CD Speed\CD Quality]
"Scanning Interval"=dword:0000008

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 Windows XP X64 Edition, the following key should be added.

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Ahead\Nero Toolkit\CD Speed\CD Quality]
"Scanning Interval"=dword:0000008
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 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 only.

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 firmware?
A: There is no 'best' firmware, this is all a matter of opinion. New firmwares (official and unofficial) are released more or less 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 drives, you should download a STOCK (official firmware) from their site.
For an overview of different NEC 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 on some sites to allow the download.
In the case of a modified firmware, the thread you are viewing on cdfreaks will usually 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: You can backup your current firmware with 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 a few seconds until the dump is completed.

Q: How do I flash my NEC drive?
A: Official NEC 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 CD Freaks is Binflash by Liggy and TDB's Windows and DOS based flashers here.
In the case of Binflash, make sure you select the correct drive to flash, then click on the flash button, you will now have to select the firmware .BIN file or .EXE file, then click on open. A dialog will appear with some info, click on YES if you wish to continue the flash. Allow the flash to complete then restart your PC.
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. Drives housed in external firewire or USB enclosures usually cannot be flashed from DOS. If all else fails you might be able to remove the drive from its enclosure, 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 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 may be the case. You can however flash to the latest version by loading the .EXE file into Binflash, and use this program 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 might 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.

Q: Which is the latest official NEC firmwares?
A: The list below lists the latest firmwares for the various NEC drives.
  • ND-1100A 1.A3
  • ND-1300A 1.0B
  • ND-2500A 1.0A (no DL support or bitsetting)
  • ND-2510A 2.18 (DL support and DL bitsetting)
  • ND-3450A 102B
  • ND-3500A 2.1A (DL bitsetting)
  • ND-3520A 3.04 (DL bitsetting)
  • ND-3530A 3.01 (DL bitsetting)
  • ND-3540A 1.01 (DL bitsetting)
  • ND-5100A 1.51
  • ND-5500A 1.51
  • ND-6100A 104D
  • ND-6500A 2.23
NEC's official firmware website

Q: Which is the latest OEM (rebadged) firmware?
A: The list below is by no means complete.

Q: What risks are involved with flashing a hacked/patched/modified NEC 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 might 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 Plus media, others have simpler patches but just as important, such as video riplock removed and region lock removed or higher writing speeds on several media.

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 has a patched ND-3500A/G firmware based on the official NEC 2.18 firmware with bitsetting, riplock and RPC1 patches, and can be located here
  • Liggy has released a firmware for the ND-3520 drive which supports full bitsetting and PI/PIF scanning. For more details see this thread
  • Liggy has released a firmware for the ND-3530 drive which supports full bitsetting. For more details see this thread
  • Liggy has released a firmware for the ND-3540A drive which supports full bitsetting. For more details see this thread
  • 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 great resource of firmwares can be found at the rpc1.org website.

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. Of course you will need a firmware that was made for your drive.

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 and +R DL media will have its 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.

Note: In the case of the 1300 and 2500 series of drives Booktype DVD-ROM for +RW worked by using some firmwares 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, DVD-RW or DVD-R DL 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. Since the booktype is already written to DVD during the manufacturing process, a different booktype can only be achieved by adding a second session. There are no reports that this behaviour increased the compatibility of written discs.

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 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 series drives, about 7X is all you should expect. 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: 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.
Instead of using the method described above, you may also try our NEC Drive Converter.

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, although some work is ongoing to give the ND-3520A the same DVD write features as the ND-3530/3540A drive.

Q: Is it possible to flash my NEC ND-3530A to a ND-3540A?
A: Although both drives should have identical hardware, a successfull crossflash has yet to be done. Do NOT try to convert your drive unless you are able to flash your drive's firmware with an external flash hardware.

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
ND-3500A/G can be located here
ND-3520AW can be located here
ND-3540A can be located 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: Are there any tools I can use with my NEC drive?
A: Yes there are a good range of tools available for use with you're NEC drive. Below is a list of the most common ones available.
  • Binflash - NEC firmware flash and dump utility
  • NECDump - lists media speeds and strategy version information
  • MediaCodeSpeedEdit - Basic firmware patcher for NEC ND-3520AW and ND-3540A drives. More drives are expected soon
  • WinBType - Booktype setting utility provided by Mad Dog for firmwares that supports bitsetting

Q: Are there other tools which are not specifically designed for NEC drives that I can use?
A: Yes, see the list below.

Q: Where can I find a comprehensive review on an NEC drive?
A: CDFreaks is constantly performing new drive reviews! These reviews are highly recommended reading, even if you already own the subject drive!

Q: My drive arrived without connecting cables or software. Is this normal?
A: Most NEC 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.
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