The computer helper: Archival CDs and DVDs
By Jay Dougherty Apr 28, 2006, 6:39 GMT
Washington - Anyone who has used writable CDs and DVDs for very long knows one unfortunate fact: they're fragile. They're so fragile, in fact, that even a small smudge, a fingerprint, or a tiny scratch can cause irreparable reading and writing problems. So where does that leave those who want to use these popular optical disks for serious archival data storage? There's hope. Read on to find out why.
Q: I want to archive my digital photographs onto DVDs, but I don't trust the fragile ones that I've purchased before. Which type of DVDs should I look for? I want them to last a long time.
A: Archival-quality writable DVDs are just beginning to appear on the market. Manufacturers such as Delkin, Memorex, and Verbatim have released discs specifically for archiving important data, including digital photographs.
Traditional CDs and DVDs use easily-damaged Cyanine or Azo dyes on the writable surface of their discs. Delkin and others are employing a new Phthalocyanine dye, which lasts significantly longer and is tougher to boot. Combined with more durable gold coatings, these disks generally carry life expectancy ratings of up to 100 years. Additionally, they are less prone to being damaged from typical handling.
Unfortunately, right now, you'll pay for the privilege of having disks that are more durable and long-lasting. At the retail level, archival single-layer DVDs are running anywhere from two to four times more than traditional DVDs. At that price, you may wish to consider making two copies of your data and storing one in a safe place where it's never handled.
Q: What are some dos and don'ts of handling DVDs?
A: Avoid getting your fingerprints on the data side of the disks. Hold the disks at the edges, or put one of your fingers in the centre hole. Touch only the label side of the disk.
Always have and use protective sleeves for your disks. This is the single best way to prevent disks from becoming damaged. Disks sustain the most damage by being placed, data surface down, on a desk or being left out of the protective sleeve.
Handle writable CDs and DVDs as carefully as you did the long playing records of yesterday. They're about as fragile, in fact. The good news is that, when handled carefully, they will give you trouble-free service for much longer than those old vinyl recordings did.
Q: How should I clean a DVD or CD?
A: Use a soft, lint-free cloth moistened with water or a mild detergent. If you go the route of a detergent, it's a good idea to use something specifically designed for the task. At any electronics or computer store, you'll find cleaning kits specifically for CDs and DVDs. These can be beneficial, and certainly they are worth a try if you are attempting to retrieve important data from a disk.
Q: Do I need to clean my CD or DVD drive in any way?
A: You should, yes. Problems with reading and writing CDs or DVDs are not always because of a scratched or damaged disk. CD and DVD drives, not unlike VCR players of old, can benefit from a periodic cleaning, every six months or so. You can purchase lens cleaning disks now just as you could lens cleaning tapes some time ago. These help to remove dust buildup that can affect the playback of your disks.
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