CD-Rs vs. Store-bought CDs (WAS: Do Burned CDs Have a Short Life Span?)

Subject: CD-Rs vs. Store-bought CDs (WAS: Do Burned CDs Have a Short Life Span?)
From: "Nuckols, Kenneth M" <Kenneth -dot- Nuckols -at- mybrighthouse -dot- com>
To: "Jon Konrath" <Jon -at- datasynapse -dot- com>, "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 12 Jan 2006 12:37:09 -0500

Jon Konrath said...
> It depends on the type of dye and the reflective layer. Cheapies use
> cyanine dye (bluish-green) which isn't stable; better discs use
> Phthalocyanine dye (deeper blue) which is pretty stable. The
> surface varies from real gold to fake silvery color with some combos
> between, with the actual gold being corrosion-resistant.
> Temperature also has plays a big role in degredation. Don't expect
> CD-Rs in your car to last as long as those archived in a cool, dry
> place. And CD-RWs are basically useless for long-term storage.
> Even if writable CDs or DVDs lasted a thousand years, I think the big
> problem is that in ten years, you might have trouble finding hardware
> read them. I have a whole stack of 5.25" floppies in my office and
> absolutely no way of reading them, and that was only about 15 years
> After a few rounds of Blu-Ray/HD-DVD/whatever upgrades, you might end
> with a stack of DVD backups and no computer that can read them.
> My oldest CD-R is from early 1996, and as of a few months ago, it
> worked. It did have an ancient Stuffit archive that required some
> to crack open though, since it was like five versions old.

What Jon's saying--correct me if I'm wrong, Jon, and please accept my
apologies for putting words in your mouth--is that the technology to
store data is going to be upgraded before the media you stored it on
wears out, so if you really want to keep your data you need to keep
moving it from one storage media to another, and that will prevent the
problem of decay altogether.

What I find a more intriguing question is the difference in durability
of CD-Rs you burn at home (for music or data) vs. store-bought CDs
(software or music). Just the other day I noticed the first music CD I
own (store-bought) that has begun to show signs of age. It's a copy of
Robert Plant's "Principle of Moments" that I bought in sophomore year of
high school in 1984 (I remember because of the girl who liked Robert
Plant that I was drooling over at the time). I hadn't listened to it in
many years and the holidays when I went to play it in my CD player it
hissed and popped and crackled and spat like an alley full of annoyed
cats. So that's roughly 20 - 21 years that CD lasted (always kept in its
original jewel case). Should I feel like I got my money's worth, or
should I feel cheated that the disc has decayed and I'll have to replace
it? Does anyone know the "true" life expectancy for a commercially
produced music or data CD?

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