Introduction

With the recent introduction of dual-layer DVD burners many consumers found that their high speed single layer DVD burners are no longer cutting edge.  There is a way to update the firmware on several of the more recent single-layer DVD RW's that will essentially turn it into a dual-layer burner. If you are one of the many enthusiasts that must have the latest and greatest technology don't toss out that "old" single-layer drive just yet!

We happened to have the popular Sony model #DW-U18A 8x single-layer DVD burner on hand and wanted to see how easy it is to mod into a dual-layer drive.  Basically what we are going to do is take our Sony drive and put a Lite-On 832s firmware update on it, which is known to work fine.  This will allow our DVD burner to function as a Dual-Layer (DL) drive! If this works, then this is a nice free upgrade that will save you a few bucks!

I must indicate now that this will void your warranty with Sony if something with the drive ends up going bad. So, use the instructions at your own risk!

Here is a quick list of the steps we used to flash our DW-U18A to a Lite-On 832s.

To determine if this mod will work for your DW-U18A

As far as we know, this mod will only work for Revision 1 models of this burner, which has the gear-driven tray. Revision 2 has a belt-driven tray and has not been tested. To tell if you have revision 1 of the DW-U18A, open LtnFW (see below on where to download it) and look to see if the current firmware version of your drive is UYS1. If it is, then you have Rev. 1 of this drive and may continue. If it says UFS1, then you have the belt-driven tray and these instructions are not known to work for that drive.

Flashing Instructions

Step 1: Obtain the latest 832s firmware (.bin) file. The source we used was located here

Step 2: Obtain the latest version of Omnipatcher and the Latest "Recommended Tweaks" File. CodeGuys was our source. Put the unzipped recommended tweaks file in the same directory as the unzipped omnipatcher file.

Step 3: Obtain the latest version of LtnFW which is the windows flash utility for Lite-On drives. This Club.CDFreaks.com thread was our source.

Step 4: Run Omnipatcher and load the 832s firmware file you downloaded. At the bottom of the "General Patches" section, check the "Fix the 'dead drive blink'/Enable cross-flashing" checkbox. Click the "Save As" button and save this new .bin file.

Step 5: Run LtnFW. We recommend that you first choose the backup option to save your current firmware. Then use LtnFW with the update option and flash the drive with the new firmware file you saved from the Omnipatcher program in step 4.

Step 6: Once the flash is complete, reboot and test your new 832s drive! Everything should have completed successfully and you can now burn DL media! Our result from following the steps on our Sony DW-U18A is shown in the images below.

As you can tell, Windows now recognizes this burner as a Lite-On 832s! Now let's run some tests to see how well these instructions work!

Testing DL Media

Dual Layer media is not yet readily available at your local WalMart or Retail store, so we decided to talk to our friends at Newegg.com for some sample DL DVDs. They sent out a 5pack of RiData DVD + R DL media. Below you can see the box of DL DVDs we received and how Nero recognized the media.

To test the flashing instructions from page 1, we will attempt to burn a backup of our favorite DVD.  We have seen that Windows successfully recognizes our burner as a Dual Layer DVD burner and that Nero recognizes the media as DL media! So far, everything is looking good for this free upgrade option for those of you with the Sony DW-U18A DVD burner.

Result: Nero burned to our sample DL media without any issues! Notice how Nero has completed burning Layer 1 and was in the process of burning Layer 2 at the time of our screen shot. We then tested the video quality of the DVD we just burned and everything was identical to the original! Total Success!

Conclusion

With the way of hi-fi video, new games, and system backups it now takes up Gigabytes of data, the ability to store this information on a single peice of media is becoming more of a necessity than a luxury. This is what makes discoveries like this so important to the end users. We purchased our Sony DW-U18A during the craze when DVD burners broke the US$100 barrier. In the past 4-6 months, Dual-Layer burners were released to the masses and are also under US$100.  So, in all honesty today a good quailty name brand dual-layer DVD burner is less than $10 more than a single-layer drive.  If you are needing a new DVD-RW then by all means go dual-layer burner with a warranty. However, if you already invested in a single layer DVD burner, and don't feel like spending more money then this is your way around it.  We have shown that if you are a Sony DW-U18A owner, you now have a free upgrade ahead of you just to keep up with your file size demands or to stay with the technology curve.

Although we aren't 100% sure, it is likely that if you have the Lite-On 812s model DVD burner, the exact same steps will work for you to upgrade to the Lite-On 832s to enable DL burning functionality. We have not proven that one, but from what I understand, it is really the exact same burner as the Sony DW-U18A! Along with this theory, with my Sony burner out of the box, the busy LED light flashed green when burning. After the ROM flash, the light now flashes red like all Lite-On burners! It seems like Sony gets this and probably other optical drives from the same manufacturer!

We would like to thank Newegg.com for their sample Dual-Layer media for this test as none could be found locally. If you are in the market for some DL media or any hardware, I would encourage you to check out Newegg for their competatively priced parts!