How to Care For Your Burnt Media

used_mediaIt has only been in the last few years that many digitisation projects have taken a serious approach to digital preservation.  In that time CD-R quickly become the most common optical media for preserving digital images. More recently there has been a move towards DVD-R due to the additional space that it offers.  The popularity of both these media is largely due to their ease of use and low cost.  However during this time, there has been a steady flow of worrying reports of ‘lost data’ or ‘unreadable disks’, which has lead to the reliability of laser-burnt media being questioned.

Much of this worry has been centred on the choice of disc manufacturer and the construction method used to create the disc.  Of course a project should always buy the best and most reliable discs it can find. However, it should be remembered that loss of digital data stored on optical media is far more likely to be caused by bad storage rather than by badly manufactured discs in the first place.  Optical media can provide reliable back up at a reasonable cost as long as great care and attention is paid to storing them correctly.

Disc quality, the type of dye used on the underside of the disc, storage method, storage environment and what you use to mark the disc all have their effect on the disc’s shelf life. For example, only a felt-tip water based marker on the label side of the CD-R should be used, ideally on the clear inner part near the center. Permanent markers (like Sharpies) should be avoided. Paper labels should always be applied to the jewel case, never to the disc itself. While manufacturers may sell circular adhesive labels, solvents in the paper, adhesives or inks can all degrade the disc. Uneven application of the labels can also cause read/write errors or even damaging the player itself.  

Please note that it is illegal to make a DVD of commercially produced material or material otherwise protected by copyright. This includes MP3 files, videos, TV shows, etc.