Whether it is just a matter of curiosity or a genuine need to know, how do you tell if two DVDs are exactly the same? Today’s SuperUser Q&A looks at some different ways to find out.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

Photo courtesy of Luca Colli (Flickr).

The Question

SuperUser reader Mega wants to know if there is a way to tell if two DVDs are exactly the same or not:

I have two DVDs and if I open the them, then copy the contents to my hard-drive to compare the respective files, it shows no difference. As far as I know, DVDs also have some additional content (such as information saying if the DVD is bootable along with some formatting information I guess).

How can I also check this additional content? Is it possible without additional programs on Windows or Ubuntu?

Are there any methods a person could use to verify whether two DVDs are identical or not?

The Answer

SuperUser contributors mtak and Dithermaster have the answer for us. First up, mtak:

The easiest way to determine if two discs are the same is to run a hash of both of them:

  • sudo md5sum /dev/cdrom

If the hashes match, then the disks are exactly the same. However, if the hashes do not match, then this will not tell you what is different about them. If even a single bit is different, you will get a totally different hash.

You can check the partition table of a disc with fdisk:

  • sudo fdisk -l /dev/cdrom

Followed by the answer from Dithermaster:

Just comparing folders and files misses other things about the disc. If you create an .ISO image file from each disc and byte compare them, you would have a better idea if the discs are really the same or not.

Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.

Akemi Iwaya
Akemi Iwaya has been part of the How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media team since 2009. She has previously written under the pen name "Asian Angel" and was a Lifehacker intern before joining How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media. She has been quoted as an authoritative source by ZDNet Worldwide.
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