Storing and Handling Optical Media

Many users of optical media learned many years ago about some of the right – and wrong – ways to handle their CDs.  Such rules as holding the CD from the edges or the center hub, and not touching the readable surface are probably second nature to most users.
They may also know that the way to wipe dirt off a disc is to use a soft cloth and to gently wipe out from the center, rather than in a circular motion.  If you do have scratched discs, disc repair machines (like those made by Aleratec) can often be used to restore these and extend their life. Many users have probably also learned the hard way that a CD and hot surface don’t mix.
These rules apply as well to the newer optical disc technologies – DVD and Blu-ray.  When it’s YOUR data that’s recorded onto an optical disc, your desire to protect your data may be even stronger than it is for a CD that you’ll probably be able to easily replace, should something make it unusable.
General guidelines have been developed for disc storage, and they are readily available from many websites.  In addition to the general guidelines above, there are many other suggestions that will help to ensure long media life:
Store discs vertically (like a book) in a ‘jewel box’ designed for disc storage.  Sleeves that hold discs may not be adequate for long term storage, and storage horizontally may eventually cause the disc to sag from the center to the outer edges, making the disc hard to read or possibly unreadable.  Storing discs that are bought in bulk, and shipped in what the industry calls a ‘cake box’ is discouraged because discs stored horizontally may eventually deform slightly – but possibly enough to make reading the discs difficult for some drives.
Store the discs away from heat, and in areas with a relative humidity between 20% and 50%.
Do not use adhesive labels. Over time, the adhesive may stop holding and may damage the sensitive label surface, making the disc unreadable. Similarly, you should never try to remove and reposition an adhesive label.  Optical media using LightScribe allows labeling to be ‘burned’ directly into the label surface of the disc.  If you have a printer designed to print onto CD media, and use quality media, labels printed directly onto the media should also withstand storage , although it isn’t certain whether certain inkjet-printed labels will not fade over time.  In general, if you plan to label Inkjet Printable discs using a compatible printer, choose one that uses pigments, rather than dyes, in their ink.   Dyes can fade – pigments retain their colors.
Writing on a disc with a fine point pen – or with any instrument not designed specifically for writing onto a CD should never be done.  If the label surface is scratched, or chemicals in the inks erode into the surface, the disc may wind up unreadable.  Writing anywhere on the data surface can also make discs unreadable.
It’s also recommended that you shouldn’t open a package of recordable media until you’re ready to use it.

Mark Brownstein is a technology journalist and technology consultant who specializes in explaining and interpreting new technologies, and clarifying how to integrate these new products into current systems. He has been Editor-In-Chief at computer technology and networking publications, has held significant editorial positions at major technology magazines, and is a frequent contributor to various technology magazines. He has written seven books. He is Microsoft Certified, and spends much of his time testing hardware and software products, running his own networks, and learning the best ways to get computer systems running and to keep them running.

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