Saturday, January 21, 2006

CD's Don't Last Forever

Just a heads up concerning the CDs you burn for music, pictures, backup files and such. The CD-Rs and CD-RWs you burn are not the same as the pressed CDs you buy in the store. They do deteriorate. In two to five years say some experts. Magnetic storage tapes last a lot longer if you want to save irreplaceable pictures. Depending on the tape quality magnetic tapes can have a life span of 30 to 100 years.

Follows some quotes from an article at

"Unlike pressed original CDs, burned CDs have a relatively short life span of between two to five years, depending on the quality of the CD," Gerecke said in an interview this week. "There are a few things you can do to extend the life of a burned CD, like keeping the disc in a cool, dark space, but not a whole lot more."

The problem is material degradation. Optical discs commonly used for burning, such as CD-R and CD-RW, have a recording surface consisting of a layer of dye that can be modified by heat to store data. The degradation process can result in the data "shifting" on the surface and thus becoming unreadable to the laser beam.

"Many of the cheap burnable CDs available at discount stores have a life span of around two years," Gerecke said. "Some of the better-quality discs offer a longer life span, of a maximum of five years."

Distinguishing high-quality burnable CDs from low-quality discs is difficult, he said, because few vendors use life span as a selling point.

To overcome the preservation limitations of burnable CDs, Gerecke suggests using magnetic tapes, which, he claims, can have a life span of 30 to 100 years, depending on their quality. "Even if magnetic tapes are also subject to degradation, they're still the superior storage media," he said.

But he's quick to point out that no storage medium lasts forever and, consequently, consumers and business alike need to have a plan for migrating to new storage technologies.

prying1 sez: Want to score points with your boss? Let him know about this problem of using burnable CDs for storage of company computer backups. If he (or she) is depending on them for IRS or financial files there may be problems down the road.

For your irreplaceable pics? Perhaps hard copies would be best. Or invest in a tape drive...

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