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Top 10 CD/DVD Hints & Tips

The good folk at Imation kindly sent me through a short paper on taking good care of your CD and DVD discs. The advice offered is very sensible and may be news to some people (f’rinstance I didn’t know that humidity could corrode the dye area under some circumstances). I decided that it might be useful to add a few bits to it (the last five tips have been collated by me) and present a Top 10 CD Hints & Tips page for your delectation.

Please note that the definitive resource for anything to do with CD recordable media – and its cousins – is still Andy McFadden’s CD-Recordable FAQ.

CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW or even DVD stores huge amounts of digital data; meaning proper handling becomes a data security issue. The data stored on optical storage media can often have significant sentimental and commercial value. Adopting the following recommendations can extend the life of optical discs and can help to avoid data loss: See also the Digital Innovations’ CD Guide.

1.Never touch a disc on its blank side. Whether an optical disc is pre-recorded or recordable, the unlabelled, shiny side is sensitive to fingerprints, scratches, dust or any kind of physical damage. The disc should always be handled by the outer or inner edges. Today’s disc usually only has one blank side. Exceptions from the rule include the DVD-RAM-disc, which comes within a protective cartridge, which can be inserted, directly into the drive.

2.The DCD-strategy. Keeping them Dark, Cool and Dry, all discs love that.

* Dark: Although optical media use laser beamed light to read and/or write data, they don’t like sunlight. The UV-radiation of normal sunlight is quite aggressive and can damage the storage layer within the disc.
* Cool: Heat can impact the stability of both the protective coating and the storage layer. It can cause a deformation of the disc, which results in read/write errors and eventually data loss.
* Dry: Moisture may impact data integrity as well. Although the plastic (polycarbonate) itself is waterproof, high levels of humidity accompanied by high temperatures can make moisture reach the dye layer, leading to corrosion.

Those wishing to keep files for decades should archive their media in a protective case or box, protected from direct UV-radiation, at a temperature range from min. -5�C to max. +30�C and air humidity of 40 to 60%.

3. Keep it clean! Once a fingerprint or dust has found its way onto the CD-R or DVD, it needs to be removed. Water and a soft lint-free cloth is all one needs to clean it up. Solvents or aggressive cleaning products are not recommended. If grease gets on the disc, a drop of washing up liquid within the water is advised.

4. Soft is cool. The labelled side of the disc is quite robust because it isn’t important for the initial process of writing or reading data. It is nevertheless recommended that the surface is not damaged or exposed to aggressive chemical solvents or mechanical stress. Use felt-tip pens and labels with a stable adhesive formulation when marking the content of the disc. Some solvent based marking pens can, over time, penetrate the label surface and seriously harm the reflective layer.

5. Place labels accurately. More important than the “chemical construction” of a label is the way it is applied to the disc. The electric motor within a high-speed drive (from ca. 40x upwards) operates at several thousand revolutions per minute. Where a label has not been accurately placed in the centre of the disc, the disc may start to wobble or oscillate, which affects read-/write integrity. The worst-case scenario is that the disc or the drive will be damaged.

6. In the event that you do scratch the disk on the data side – note that severe scratch damage on the label side is usually fatal – you can try and repair it in a number of different ways.
a) Take it to a professional disc repairer. Here is a listing of the top ones in the UK.
b) Buy a Skip Doctor hand repair gizmo as reviewed here on the Ferret, and try and clean it up yourself. They do work, as long as the scratches are not too deep. Priced at around �29.99 in the UK.

c) In extreme cases, or with regular requirements for multiple discs, consider investing in a Discus professional repair machine. At �3395 + VAT it is not for the casual user, but it offers professional quality repairs at the touch of a button and in 5 to 8 minutes per disc.

7. All discs write data from the inside of the disc out (the opposite of a vinyl record). If a disc is not full, the outer portion will be blank. You can usually see the data that has been written if you hold the disk up to the light and move it gently to accentuate the surface reflection. The written part on the inner part of the disc will be slightly darker than the unwritten outer portion.

8. Scratches on the blank portion will not have any effect on playability. However, scratches on the very inner part – or Table of Contents – will often render the disc unusable. Likewise a circumferential scratch (see figure) is more likely to cause problems than a radial scratch.

For more detailed advice see the Skip Doctor support pages.

9. For those who need to archive their DVD data as securely as possible, TDK has introduced a range of Armor Plated DVD recordable discs which are supposed to be 100x more impervious to scratches and other damage due to a hardened coating. A short review can be found here at

10. Warning�Never try to remove a label stuck to any type of CD or DVD – even if it is mis-positioned – as it could destroy your media causing you to lose your data. As an alternative, cut off any portion of the label extending over the edge of the disc. Burn a new copy from this disc, then reprint a new label and apply to the newly burned disc checking for alignment.

Note: If after all your best efforts, you are still unable to save your CD from its fate, you might consider one using it in one of the more imaginative ways described on the 101 Uses for AOL Disks site.

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