Long-term CD/DVD storage

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We're all making loads and loads of CDs and DVDs nowadays - music compilations, backups and storage for digital photos and video. But what's the best way to protect these discs from damage?

Here are my top tips for CD and DVD storage.

  • Keep fingers off both sides of the disc, not just the "data" side but also the label side. The grease and acids on the skin can damage discs. Pick discs up by putting a finger tip through the hole and resting a thumb on the edge.
  • Store discs in a jewel cases. Soft-sleeve cases don't protect the discs from scratching and deformation. There is also a danger that the plasticizers from some plastic sleeves could cause damage to the discs in the long term.
  • Don't drop or bend discs.
  • Don't stick adhesive labels to the surface (unless they are designed for CDs or DVDs).
  • Store discs in a cool and moderately dry environment. Slight temperature and humidity changes won't harm them but fast changes between very warm and wet conditions to cooler and very dry conditions can sometimes result in warping and distortion.
  • Store discs away from bright light as this can damage the dyes used in recordable CDs and DVDs. Keep them away from direct sunlight too (sunlight contains high levels of UV which can damage discs).
  • Remove dirt, fingerprints, smudges, and liquid splashes by wiping with a clean cotton fabric in a straight line from the center of the disc toward the outer edge. Never clean in a circular direction around the disc. Use isopropyl alcohol or methanol to remove stubborn dirt.
  • For maximum lifespan, don't store discs horizontally for extended periods. Store them vertically in a jewel case.

A temperature of 18°C and 40% relative humidity is considered suitable for long-term storage.

A CD or DVD can get quite hot when being read (55°C) so it's a good idea not to keep an important disc in the drive for extended periods.

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