5 tips to protect your CDs and DVDs

They may not last forever, but CDs and DVDs are a good bet for long-term storage of your digital documents and images — as well as your music and videos. A bit of extra caution will go a long way in making your discs last a long time.

5 tips to protect your CDs and DVDs

1. Watch your CD wallets

  • Those slim, zippered CD wallets certainly make it easy to transport your CDs from one place to another, but they should never be used for long-term or archival storage.
  • Many wallets provide adequate cushioning behind the discs, but your CDs are still prone to scratches (typically as a result of frequent trips in and out of the sleeve) and other hazards.

2. Store with care

  • The long life of your discs is contingent upon maintaining ideal storage conditions with a minimum of handling.
  • To those ends, it is recommended that you store discs in their jewel cases upright (rather than stacked) in a cool, dry environment — between 4°C and 19°C (39°F and 66°F) with a 20 to 50 percent relative humidity.
  • Prolonged exposure to heat or direct sunlight can be particularly damaging to most discs.

3. Keep CDs off the dashboard

  • If you keep a CD wallet in your car, never, ever, leave it on the dashboard or front seat in the heat, on sunny days or during the summer months.
  • The plastic sleeves of some poorly made wallets have been known to melt and adhere to CDs after several hours of exposure to the hot sun.

4. Handle DVDs with care

  • Although the error-correction encoding for DVDs is almost ten times more thorough than that used for audio CDs, DVDs are still more susceptible to damage by scratches and mishandling than CDs.
  • That's because DVDs cram a lot more information into a comparable amount of space (up to 4.7GB per side compared with 700MB in a CD — that's more than six times as much).
  • With that in mind, you may want to handle your DVDs a bit more carefully than your CDs.
  • Never touch the disc's flat surface; rather, always hold it with one finger in the centre hole and the other fingers around the outside edge.
  • When removing a DVD from its case, always be sure to press the button on the centre hub and push downward on it; never remove a DVD from its package simply by prying up the outer edge of the disc.

5. Stick to old-fashioned labelling

  • The need to label your home-recorded CD-Rs and DVD-Rs is obvious; how else will you identify them?
  • Although there's no shortage of labelling kits on the market, you may want to think twice before using any of them.
  • The problem is that the adhesives used for virtually all of the labels included in these kits can harm the data stored on your discs or offset the discs' balance when they're played, which can damage computer drives and CD and DVD players.
  • Until true archival-quality labels for optical discs arrive, it's best to simply write the information in the printed area of the disc with a nonsolvent-based felt-tip pen.
  • Never use a ballpoint pen, pencil, or other types of permanent markers, as they're likely to destroy the disc or the data.
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