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I have a lot of old unused/unburned CD-R/CD-RW media. Are there published test results documenting the expected shelf life of this type of media?

  • 3
    Just a tip - Storage is also important. Store airtightly in a dark area. – Scott Rhee Oct 6 '14 at 22:00
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    After reading the answers that are already here, it is also worth pointing out historically that in the early days, it was thought CD's would last much longer than they actually did. After a few years the estimates started falling downward. – Tyson Oct 7 '14 at 3:23
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    everyone seems to say ~10 years, but I have CD-Rs DVD-Rs for well over that and I have had no issues. Im still using them to burn media and I have had them over 10 years now. – Keltari Oct 7 '14 at 4:10
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    Until seeing this post I was completely unaware that unburned discs have a shorter lifespan than burned ones. I'm surprised manufacturers aren't required to put a Best Before date on them, as with canned goods. – Robin Hood Oct 7 '14 at 6:14
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    @RobinHood -- "I'm surprised manufacturers..."* -- There are government agencies, such as the US Agriculture and the FDA, that have rules about food and public health. There are no such health concerns over recordable media. Some batteries have date codes as a marketing ploy. – sawdust Oct 7 '14 at 7:40
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According to the US National Archives:

According to the Optical Storage Technology Association (OSTA), the unrecorded shelf life of a CD-R/DVD-R disc is conservatively estimated to be between 5 and 10 years.

Source: http://www.osta.org/technology/cdqa13.htm"

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This article estimates the shelf life to be from five to ten years, but it really depends on the quality of the disc that your purchase, since you can buy discs that are intended to have a longer life span through protective coatings or being produced using different materials.

CD's aren't a great medium to use for long term storage, since any non-archival quality disks have a short lifespan and their failure rates are reasonably high, not to mention the data density. Typically long term data is written to tape due to its high density, relatively low cost.

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    Depends on the materials used to create the CD media. About ten years, one of my jobs was archiving digital movie footage. We used Kodak Gold for archival purposes. Consumer grade stuff is not going to last. Even some of my music CDs (retail CDs) are starting to show cd rot after 20 years. – Sun Oct 6 '14 at 21:20
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    Thanks for the response @sunk818, for the sake of discussion, why did you choose discs over tape media, which has been considered the champion of long term data archival for a very long time. – Adam Oct 6 '14 at 21:32
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    BTW, tape also goes bad....My experience with OLD tapes has been problematic. – mdpc Oct 7 '14 at 1:51
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    Good answer, except your "typically" rates a "citation needed". Reliable tape drives are not cheap, and I've never seen one used in a small (less than 100 users) org. And it's not obvious to me that tapes are more reliable than archival-quality discs. – Isaac Rabinovitch Oct 8 '14 at 17:14
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Just got through burning some CDs that were over ten years old. Five were good, and eight were bad. Over a 50% failure rate.

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