Cds and Dvds: Taking Care of Them

by : Phillip Kimpo Jr.

As a rule, optical discs -- CDs, CD-ROMs, CD-Rs, CD-RWs, and the many variants of DVDs -- are much more durable than some other types of data storage, such as floppy disks. In fact, the first batch of audio CDs produced in 1980 are claimed to last for 100 years (for more on the history of CDs, visit this page).

However, this doesn't mean that you're free to abuse your optical discs. Improper handling and usage leads to scratched, broken, or dirty discs. As the damage accrues, your discs become simply unreadable. Chances are you already know the run-of-the-mill tips regarding taking care of your CDs and DVDs. Some of these are:

1) Keep your discs away from medium to direct sunlight for an extended length of time.
2) Protect the underside (the "signal side") of the disc from scratches, dust, dirt, stains, water, and finger prints.
3) To clean your discs, gently wipe the underside with soft, dry cloth. Wipe starting from the inside hole to the rim in a straight motion. Do not wipe the disc in a circular motion.

If you've taken these precautions and still your discs fail in one way or another, then you can attribute it to uncertainty -- the culprit might be substandard manufacturing processes, or the varying materials used by different disc manufacturers.

For CDs and DVDs that you have burned yourself, there are some additional things that you'll need to take note of. First, know that manufactured discs are more durable than recorded ones, especially those that you did at home. This can be attributed to the different ways that the data is recorded for these discs -- manufactured CDs and DVDs have data literally pressed onto them, while recordable ones use dyes that change color or reflectivity under the heat of a laser.

Also remember that burning CDs and DVDs at high speeds (such as 52X) result in less dependable discs. The way to go is the middle speeds (e.g. 24X); as they always say, everything in moderation, and this is true in burning discs.

After you've burned your CDs and DVDs, the next step you often take is to label them, usually with marking pens. One word: DON'T. These can slowly seep into the dye layers and damage the data. As an alternative, you can write on the transparent area in the disc's center (there's no data recorded there).