Q: What’s the best way to handle and store CDs and DVDs?

A: The answer depends on whether your disc is meant for everyday or archival use. If you’re expecting your data to survive five or 10 years, or even longer, you’ll have to take special care.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, recently subjected CDs and DVDs to a series of stresses. Researchers built chambers increasing heat, humidity and light to mimic aging and found the recordable DVD it tested should last 30 years if stored at 77 degrees and at 50 percent relative humidity. Tests on other types of discs are ongoing.

But conditions are often less than ideal, so count on migrating your data to a new disc long before the 30 years are up.

And more likely, if you wait that long, you won’t have the equipment capable of reading today’s file formats. Your word processor is likely to go through a dozen or more generations by then and would be incapable of reading documents stored today. So you may have to convert your music, photos, documents and other files to newer formats several times along the way.

The type of blank CD or DVD you buy for burning can matter, although there’s no easy way to tell which is best, said Fred Byers, an information technology specialist at the NIST.

Generally brand names are better, and ones made with gold are the best, although they’re more expensive and harder to find, Byers said. If you’re just burning a CD to play music in your car stereo, however, a cheap, generic disc may do just fine – you can always burn another one.

Be careful about stick-on labels. They’re not recommended if you want your disc to last more than a few years, Byers said.

You can write on the top side using CD-safe markers – generally labeled nontoxic. Avoid hard tips; felt tips are fine, unless you press down hard. And CDs are more vulnerable than DVDs to harm from writing because the layer that stores the data is closer to the top.

Handle discs using the edges or the center hole. Fingerprints will cause more trouble than scratches, although prints can be wiped off with a cotton cloth dipped in water, rubbing alcohol or special cleaning solutions sold in stores.

When storing CDs and DVDs, jewel cases are the best. If you can, keep them vertical, like books on a shelf, rather than flat, as the disc may eventually bend if your shelf does.

Paper envelopes, plastic sleeves or the spindles you buy blank discs in are theoretically OK, but they increase the risk of scratching and smudging in handling, Byers said.

Again, don’t worry about it as much if you’re just burning music for a car stereo.

CDs and DVDs are also vulnerable to light, heat and humidity – and a combination will damage a disc much more quickly than any single element, Byers said. A surefire way to lose data is to keep the disc on the dashboard of your car, parked on a treeless street on a hot, humid summer day.

Prerecorded DVDs, including movies you buy, are especially sensitive because they use aluminum, which reacts with oxygen, Byers said. Keep them in the original cases, away from the sun.

If you do have trouble reading a disc, don’t toss it right away.

It may still work on other drives, particular ones that burn discs. Perhaps you can use that machine to copy data to a new disc to play on read-only machines. (Though for movie DVDs that are copy-protected, the head of the Motion Picture Association of America recommends you simply buy a new DVD.)

Associated Press

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Members of Gravitics' team and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen stand in front of a mockup of a space module interior on Thursday, August 17, 2023 at Gravitics' Marysville facility. Left to right: Mark Tiner, government affairs representative; Jiral Shah, business development; U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen; Mike DeRosa, marketing; Scott Macklin, lead engineer. (Gravitics.)
Marysville startup prepares for space — the financial frontier

Gravitics is building space station module prototypes to one day house space travelers and researchers.

Orca Mobility designer Mike Lowell, left, and CEO Bill Messing at their office on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023 in Granite Falls, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Could a Granite Falls startup’s three-wheeler revolutionize delivery?

Orca Mobility’s battery-powered, three-wheel truck is built on a motorcycle frame. Now, they aim to make it self-driving.

Catherine Robinweiler leads the class during a lab session at Edmonds College on April 29, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Grant aids apprenticeship program in Mukilteo and elsewhere

A $5.6 million U.S. Department of Labor grant will boost apprenticeships for special education teachers and nurses.

Peoples Bank is placing piggy banks with $30 around Washington starting Aug. 1.
(Peoples Bank)
Peoples Bank grant program seeks proposals from nonprofits

Peoples Bank offers up to $35,000 in Impact Grants aimed at helping communities. Applications due Sept. 15.

Workers build the first all-electric commuter plane, the Eviation Alice, at Eviation's plant on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Arlington, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Arlington’s Eviation selects Seattle firm to configure production plane

TLG Aerospace chosen to configure Eviation Aircraft’s all-electric commuter plane for mass production.

Jim Simpson leans on Blue Ray III, one of his designs, in his shop on Friday, August 25, 2023, in Clinton, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Whidbey Island master mechanic building dream car from “Speed Racer”

Jim Simpson, 68, of Clinton, is using his knowledge of sports cars to assemble his own Mach Five.

Inside the new Boeing 737 simulator at Simulation Flight in Mukilteo, Washington on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
New Boeing 737 simulator takes ‘flight’ in Mukilteo

Pilots can test their flying skills or up their game at Simulation Flight in Mukilteo.

An Amazon worker transfers and organizes items at the new PAE2 Amazon Fulfillment Center on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amazon cuts ribbon on colossal $355M fulfillment center in Arlington

At 2.8 million square feet, the facility is the largest of its kind in Washington. It can hold 40 million “units” of inventory.

A computer rendering of the North Creek Commerce Center industrial park in development at 18712 Bothell-Everett Highway. (Kidder Mathews)
Developer breaks ground on new Bothell industrial park

The North Creek Commerce Center on Bothell Everett Highway will provide warehouse and office space in three buildings.

Dan Bates / The Herald
Funko president, Brian Mariotti is excited about the growth that has led his company to need a 62,000 square foot facility in Lynnwood.
Photo Taken: 102312
Former Funko CEO resigns from the Everett company

Brian Mariotti resigned Sept. 1, six weeks after announcing he was taking a six-month sabbatical from the company.

Cash is used for a purchase at Molly Moon's Ice Cream in Edmonds, Washington on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Paper or plastic? Snohomish County may require businesses to take cash

County Council member Nate Nehring proposed an ordinance to ban cashless sales under $200. He hopes cities will follow suit.

A crowd begins to form before a large reception for the opening of Fisherman Jack’s at the Port of Everett on Wednesday, August 30, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Seafood with a view: Fisherman Jack’s opens at Port of Everett

“The port is booming!” The new restaurant is the first to open on “restaurant row” at the port’s Waterfront Place.