With proper care and maintenance, rewritable compact discs will remain readable for 50-200
years. However, much of their longevity depends upon how well they are cared for. Following a
few simple steps, it is possible to maximize the lifespans of your discs.
Although it is important to keep your CD-Rs clean, it is very easy to damage them during
cleaning if you do not use the proper methods. Remove dust particles with a soft, clean piece
of cloth. Hold the disc by placing your index finger in the middle hole and pressing your thumb
against the outer edge. Slowly wipe directly outward from the center. Do not swirl the cloth
around the disc or wipe diagonally.
If the disc is sticky or greasy, do not use standard household cleaners as these may abrade or
corrode the disc. Instead, you’ll want to use purpose-built CD/DVD quick-cleaning wipes,
available from a number of manufacturers. You may also want to consider investing in a disc
cleaning kit. Several good models are available from companies such as Maxell and Allsop. Bear
in mind that even if you exercise caution while cleaning your CDs, frequently subjecting the
discs to this routine will still cause damage over time.
While compact discs may be considered highly durable when compared to records and cassettes,
scratches will occur over time during the course of normal handling. Removing scratches with
normal home equipment is difficult because CD resurfacing requires the removal of part of
the outer layer of a CD. This can be accomplished by purchasing a CD resurfacing kit. These
accessories are produced by companies like Scotch and 3M and cost around $20-$30.
Obviously, there is a limit to how many times you can peel off the outer layer of a disc to fix it
before incurring further damage to the disc’s contents as well. If your disc is scratched but still
playable, you may want to consider re-burning its contents onto a new disc and starting fresh
rather than risking the loss of data integrity which can occur while resurfacing.
When considering options for the long term storage of vital data, it is wise to take the fragility of
CD media into account. While at present optical drives continue to support the CD standard, the
third generation (Blu-ray) discs are now in heavy use, making CDs very much a legacy solution
for data storage. As time progresses and the price of solid state media continues to drop it is
likely that solutions based on this technology will become preferred over discs for important files
due to the technology’s lack of reliance on moving parts. In addition, cloud storage is becoming a
better option every day for handling the archival of data important enough to keep of-site.