Constant angular velocity

A typical CD-ROM drive operates in CLV mode, in contrast to a floppy or hard disk drive, or gramophone, which operates in CAV mode. In CAV mode, the spindle motor turns at a constant speed, which makes the medium pass by the read/write head faster when the head is positioned at the outside of the disk. In contrast, in CLV mode, the spindle motor speed varies so that the medium passes by the head at the same speed regardless of where on the disk the head is positioned.

If the disk is recorded at the same areal density throughout, then when read or written in CAV mode, the data rate is higher for the outer tracks than for the inner tracks, whereas in CLV mode, the data rate is the same everywhere.

An advantage of CAV mode over CLV is that the drive mechanism is easier to engineer (less expensive to build). Another advantage is that a device can switch from reading one part of a disk to reading another part more quickly, because in CLV mode, when the device moves the head in or out, it must change the speed of the disc.

For a miniature disc with a diameter of 8 cm (radius of 4 cm), the speed ratio of outer to inner data edge is 1.6.

This means that, for example, if a disc is accessed at a constant angular velocity of ×24, the equivalent linear velocity is ×24 while accessed at the outermost edge of the data area while being ×10 at the innermost data area.

If the used media (e.g. DVD-RAM variants) has a linear (writing) speed limitation that can not be attained with physically supported angular (rotation) speeds at the inner edge of the recordable area, the disc writing can start off with a constant angular velocity, until the increasing linear velocity has reached the writing speed limitation of the disc.

At that point, the drive transitions into writing with a constant linear velocity.