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What Causes Discs to Fail?

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Storing your files on a disc of any type is a relatively safe method of archival, but there are a few things you should be aware of in order to safeguard your files. The first is to of course use quality media, but beyond that, you can avoid damage by following a number of simple tips: Never expose your discs to extreme temperatures. Both heat and cold have an adverse effect on the longevity of discs. Cool, constant temperatures are best, so try and avoid sunlight, heaters, air conditioning vents, and the like. Remember that simply being inside of a container may not be protection. Glove boxes, trunks, and the like, while popular storage places in vehicles, are poor choices.

  • In addition to the issue of heat, UV light may damage discs. This means that sun is a double no-no when it comes to ensuring you do not damage your collection.
  • Do not leave your discs out in the open, or stacked on each other. While discs often come in spindles, this type of storage (particularly when done with loose discs) can lead to scratching of the protective layers of the media if dust and other particles are introduced. Instead, choose a storage solution which keeps your discs as free of such environmental hazards as possible.
  • Handle the discs from the outside edge and the inner ring. While fingerprints are not really a permanent problem (though they can cause massive temporary issues if left uncleaned), any kind of debris which may insinuate itself between fingers grasping either of the flat surfaces of the media can cause damage.
  • Exposure to various hazardous materials can severely degrade discs in a very short period of time, so it is imperative that you avoid exposing your media to any chemicals. This can include some aerosols which might be commonly used in your household.
  • Avoid moisture. Many people use water to clean their discs, but that is not recommended. Only use purpose-built cleaning solutions.
  • When using a marker, only use one that is appropriate to disc usage. Generally water-based inks and broad felt tips are better than other types. For the most safety, only mark the clear plastic interior of a disc.
  • Don’t put undue pressure on your media, such as by bending it or subjecting it to extreme rotational speeds.
  • Avoid adhesive labels. They can peel and cause issues with drive operation, leading to damage.

By doing your best to avoid the above problems, you can help to preserve your discs. With good care you should be able to keep them viable for decades.

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