While CDs and DVDs are subject to degradation over time, it is possible to increase their longevity through taking good care of the discs. One of the biggest ways to increase the lifespan of your media is to pay close attention to the kind of storage conditions you maintain.
First off you should do everything you can to keep discs away from extremes of heat, and any moisture. Both hot and cold can adversely effect the media, and humidity has been recorded as a major problem for many brands. As a result most people will find that the best solution is to store disks away from windows. Avoid both direct sunlight on the media as well as containers, cabinets, and shelves that receive direct sun. Do not place discs anywhere which is too close to an air-conditioner (which can reduce temperatures next to it be extreme amounts) or a heater.
It’s best to take all media out of players when it is not in use. This saves wear on the players as they spin up and down, and the discs, as well as allowing you to store the media under good temperature conditions. In particular car stereo systems are notorious for getting extremely hot, as the dashboard is exposed to direct sunlight often. Discs stored under these conditions can degrade very quickly.
Never set discs loosely on each other or place them on random surfaces. Dust and grit can easily get between the media (and the surfaces) and damage the protective layer, potentially exposing the data layer in the process. Also avoid allowing young children access to media. Even giving them “junk” discs can be a mistake as they’re later unable to discern which are the “toys” given to them by their parents, and which ones are valuable.
For better protection, storage options which offer an upright configuration are often considered preferable, as the stress of the discs’ weight is not placed on their readable surfaces. The weight is instead held by the bottom edge or the center ring, depending on the storage system’s other attributes.
The question of jewel cases (regular, slim style or long case type) vs. sleeve storage systems is one which has no clear consensus. Proponents of jewel cases insist that sleeves leave marks on disks very easily, while fans of sleeves point the finger at the hard plastic the discs in jewel cases are all too often pressed against as they are removed and replaced. No matter what you prefer, keeping dust away from your media is vital. Thus an enclosed storage system is recommended. In the case of sleeve systems, many come as binders with zippers that should be kept closed at all times. Jewel cases should not be stored on racks, but instead in enclosed drawers or cabinets. Running a cloth over a case before opening it can increase the chances that the media will remain dust free and viable over the long term.
For travel storage, impact resistance is important. Be sure to choose an option with protection (rubberized covers, internal padding, etc.) for your on-the-go needs.
In the end, your choice of storage will need to be customized to your own circumstances, but if you follow the advice in this article you should see considerably more longevity from all your media.