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How Long Do CDs and DVDs Last? How to Choose Discs That Will Last a Long Time

By Edited Mar 20, 2016 2 1

This electronic age has completely changed how we deal with information. At no time before could mankind document and store such an abundance of information and resources  along with so much variety. Even though the quantity of information has grown tremendously, the forecasted life expectency associated with the storage media barely surpasses the actual life-time for a human being. Many people would like to acquire data, information, knowledge,memories(photos and videos) as well as leaving a legacy to their particular descendants, (not to mention to mankind , which seems to love acquiring more and more information) , presents a substantial task.

Optical discs have actually been available for public use as early as the eighties. Over these short few decades, a good all round degree of specifics have been gathered regarding what may cause Compact disks as well as Dvd disks to stop working and a great deal of development has recently been achieved in the evolution of materials designed to endure longer. Regardless of estimates predicting a lifetime of as much as 200 years for optical disks, we may in no way be certain if they're actually likely to break. In spite of this, when you're informed about specifically what influences the lifespan of optical discs and just what leads to them to breaking, you are able to make plans and substantially improve the survival period of your saved data.


Compact discs Aren't Forever: The Facts about CD/DVD Longevity.

One thing that decides the optimum lifespan of an optical disc will be kind of reflective coating. Other variables are definitely the basic quality of the actual raw material as well as manufacturing and finally just how the medium is taken care of by the end user. The actual handling of your optical disc certainly has got most important influence on its life expectancy, for this reason we're going to re-visit this particular topic in just a moment.

It's tough to forecast just how long an optical disc may last for because it varies according to several things. Regardless of this, estimates continue to be going around which forecast a life time of as much as Two hundred years for recorded CD-Rs and Blu-Ray discs. The smallest expected life with 5-10 years is predicted for  CD-Rs and CD-RWs, and then  DVD-RWs with as many as 30 years. Put simply, you can't be reliant upon any one of these media to get life time storage of your important data, because they're probably going to stop working eventually.

Let's look at this process case in detail.

Just what Defines The Life Span Of Specific Optical Discs?

In order to fully grasp exactly what reduces the lifespan of optical discs, let’s look into the way they are typically constructed. Just what all the optical discs share is the existence of 3 essential layers:

  •    A coating layer that shields the actual reflective layer.
  •    A reflective layer to reflects the light from the laser beam.
  •    A  polycarbonate disc layer which holds the information.

Furthermore, a label is used over the coating layer and additionally re-writable discs possess a dye layer in the middle of the reflective and protective layers.

CD and DVD disc layers
Credit: -

Just how Do CDs or DVDs Rot?

As outlined above, different varieties of optical discs consist of various layers. The reflective layer is especially subsceptible to deterioration. Typical compact discs normally have a reflective layer manufactured from aluminum. Once in contact with air, aluminum oxidizes, which will usually occur around the edges of the Disc. Although, deterioration of the reflective layer isn't the only contributing factor to disc rot.

The causes of disc rot are many and might include some of the following:

    oxidation or deterioration of reflective layer
    physical damage to disc areas as well as edges
    galvanic reaction in between layers and coatings
    chemical reactions by means of contaminants
    ultra-violet light break down
    wearing down of disc elements, e.g. de-bonding of adhesives in between layers

Oddly enough, while many kinds of disc rot are due to improper use and/or storage, there exists one in particular, i.e. CD bronzing, which happens to be the result of a fault present in manufacturing.

How To Check If My Optical Discs Are Good?

You can perform a very easy visual examination. When you notice light shining through extremely small little holes if you hold a disc towards light, then the actual reflective layer has begun to break down. At the same time examine your Discs for discoloring, particularly around the edges. Determine if all the layers continue to be firmly connected or have begun to de-laminate. Last of all, you can attempt copying the optical discs to a hard disk drive or scan all of them for data integrity utilizing various software programs.

How Can I Improve Lifetime Of My Compact disks & Dvd disks?

Presently there are several methods for you to improve the chance that your CDs and DVDs may last you an extended period of time. Listed here are some of the key ones:

  •  Go with a top quality medium originating from a good brand name.
  • When you need to further increase Disc longevity, go with gold as a reflective layer.
  • Handle your Compact disks and Dvd disks carefully, i.e. handle all of them using the outside edges or maybe the hole in the middle, don’t put your hands on the actual surface area, try to avoid scratches, and keep dirt and grime away from the disc.

  • Store them in a dry, dark, and cool location because humidity, sun rays, excessive temperature ranges, as well as pollutants can harm the different layers.

  • Keep all of them in jewel cases instead of just paper slips.

  • Choose non solvent-based felt-tip permanent marker pens, designed for writing on Compact disc or Dvd and blu-ray labeling.

  • Rewrite your rewritable discs as few times as possible.

  • Choose slower writing speeds to minimize errors while increasing quality.

So What Can I Actually Do If My Disc Won't Read?

A cd /dvd that might possibly be  no longer readable by the player or displays errors is not always a lost cause. At this point, here are a couple of suggestions for what you should do

  • Ensure that you didn’t by chance put in the Disc or DVD the wrong way up! We all do silly things sometimes!    
  • Very carefully cleanse the underside layer with alcohol to get rid of grease coming from fingerprints and airborne dirt and dust.    
  • Make an attempt to read the Compact disc or DVD in another player. There's a chance that the laser within your player is malfunctioning or that a different player is still able to read your CD or DVD.


Always have a back-up of your data as well as verify all your backup copies routinely to ensure no copies have broken in the meantime, no matter if you save your files on a Compact disc, DVD, or even a hard drive.

Which kind of stuff have you ever kept on optical discs and just how do you back up computer software, music, or movies you already own?



Mar 15, 2016 2:48pm
However much I love the convenince of CDs they are not archival in the same way vinyl LPs are (or Bakelite and shellac 78rpm records). And I can tell the sonic difference between CDs I bought in the late 1980s versus the newer ones I have--they seem to be ":fading" away (losing their higend and genral wallop). That's my only beef with CDs (that, and the fact they sound soullless0. Good artticle. Thumb's up.
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