How To Choose CD/DVD Archival Media

(Last updated January 11th 2013)

Translations: Serbo-Croatian by Jovana Milutinovich

Ahh, I’ve been planning to write this one for awhile: an entire article on archival quality media. As I do professional software development as well as professional photography (what a weird combination), I need archival quality CD and DVD media to store my data on.

However, one of the hardest things to is actually find good media, or even understand why it is good media. This article focuses on the history of Compact Discs, writable CD/DVD media, and why DVD+R is superior to DVD-R. If you want to just know what media is worth buying, skip to the summary at the bottom.

Short history of the Compact Disc
The invention of the Compact Disc has had a large impact on both music and computing in the last 20 years. Invented in 1979 as a joint project between Sony and Philips to counter the self-destructive nature of consumer audio playback (such as tapes and records that could only be played so many times before the recording degraded significantly) by switching to a resilient digital format.

The CD was also designed to store standard computer data, as in 1985 the first CD drives for computers were released; massive, bulky, and expensive, it was not until the mid-90s that they really took off, driven almost solely by video games and large multimedia applications.

In 1990, Sony and Philips went back to the drawing table, and then came out with the CD-R, a record-once medium. Yet again, the first CD burners were large, expensive, and bulky, but by the late 90s having a CD burner was the new ‘in’.

The first few generations of CD media, designed by Taiyo Yuden (a company who I respect, and buy all my archival quality media from), actually kind of sucked; it wasn’t until around 2000 that companies started producing very high end media.

CDs and DVDs store individual bits (encoded in various ways depending on the media) with spots of reflective and non-reflective areas. This method is called ‘pits and lands’, where pits ‘absorb’ light (ie, are ‘off’ bits) and lands ‘reflect’ light (ie, are ‘on’ bits).

With pressed media, the pressing method causes pits to reflect the laser’s light away from the sensor, and the lands to reflect it back at the sensor. With burned media, a high energy laser causes spots of organic dye to go opaque and obscure the reflective surface for the pits, leaving the organic dye for lands alone.

Short history of the DVD
While burning was becoming popular in the late 90s, so was playing high quality video on DVDs. Storing almost 7 times the data of a 700MB CD (or almost 13 in the case of dual layer DVDs), allowed companies to store massive amounts of data on one disc, leading to the movie industry to drop VHS tapes and the video game industry to drop CDs.

In 1995, the first DVD specification was ratified by over a dozen companies including Sony and Philips, as well as Thompson, Pioneer, and Mitsubishi. By 2000, at least half the homes in the US and Japan had DVD players.

So, obviously, the next step was to produce burnable DVDs. Two separate, and incompatible, efforts took hold. The first one, Pioneer’s DVD-R (pronounced ‘DVD dash R’) was released in 1997, using different data storage methods than pressed DVDs (appearing to be more like CD-R than DVD), a poor error correction scheme, and the ‘wobble’ laser tracking system of DVD-R is inadequate for the job.

The second effort, lead by the DVD+RW Alliance (headed by Sony, Philips, Mitsubishi, and Thompson) was released in 2002, as an alternative to the poorly implemented DVD-R. DVD+R uses a superior ‘wobble’ laser tracking system, a far better error correction method, and the media quality itself is typically higher. (See the ‘Why DVD+R?’ section below for a more technical explanation)

Why archival media is hard to produce
Unlike pressed CDs/DVDs, ‘burnt’ CDs/DVDs can eventually ‘fade’, due to five things that effect the quality of CD media: Sealing method, reflective layer, organic dye makeup, where it was manufactured, and your storage practices (please keep all media out of direct sunlight, in a nice cool dry dark place, in acid-free plastic containers; this will triple the lifetime of any media).

The silver and aluminum alloys used in virtually all blank CD/DVD media has one major issue, requiring the manufacturer to lacquer a protective seal over the entire disc: silver and aluminum oxidize when they hit air, turning the normally reflective layer into silver or aluminum rust. Some (very expensive) media uses gold instead which doesn’t oxidize, however DVD media cannot use gold due to design issues (not true anymore, see update 1 below). Today, only the cheapest of the cheap media has severe issues with sealing practices (as such, avoid any media made outside of Japan and Taiwan; especially avoid media made in India).

Assuming that the protective seal and reflective layer are manufactured correctly, the next issue is the organic dye. The first organic dyes, designed by Taiyo Yuden, were Cyanine-based and, under normal conditions, had a shelf life of around ten years; simply, that was simply unacceptable for archive discs. Taiyo Yuden, Mitsubishi Chemicals, Mitsui Co., and Ciba Specialty Chemicals spent the next ten years trying to produce the best organic dyes, eventually reaching archive-quality CD media.

Taiyo Yuden produced ‘Super Cyanine’, a chemically stabilized version of the original Cyanine dye designs, while TDK offers media that uses ‘metal-stabilized Cyanine’ dye, leading to similar shelf lives as Taiyo Yuden’s media. Taiyo Yuden states their Super Cyanine dye is chemically stable for at least 70 years, and TDK states their metal-stabilized Cyanine is also stable for 70 years.

On the other hand, Mitsubishi went in a different direction and produced what is called a Metal Azo dye, that they claim is stable for around 100 years. Azo dyes are chemically stable, however, the shelf life of media using Azo dyes typically does not exceed that of Super Cyanine and metal-stabilized Cyanine.

The third dye produced for CD media is called Phthalocyanine dye, with the majority of such dyes produced by Mitsui and Ciba. Typically marketed as more resistant to heat and UV radiation than Cyanine and Azo, modern Cyanine and Azo dyes last just as long in extreme conditions.

DVDs also use similar dyes, however manufacturers have intentionally kept what dyes they use a secret (instead of a feature in their marketing of the media), and all blank DVDs are intentionally the same color (as different dyes on CDs make blanks different colors, however, it is not indicative of what dye is used due to some manufacturers using different colored silver alloys and non-reactive additives in the dye).

Why Taiyo Yuden media, and how to buy in the US
The best discs in circulation tend to be Taiyo Yuden media. In Japan, you find their media under the brand That’s, which are wholly owned by Taiyo Yuden.

As of late 2009, Taiyo Yuden announced they were buying the JVC Advanced Media brand, and making it a wholly owned and operated brand for TY products. They did this to put Taiyo Yuden products on store shelves worldwide. See update 4 at the bottom for a full explanation.

Simply put, I have never had problems with any kind of Taiyo Yuden media. Ever. I have bought CDs and DVDs under a dozen different brands (including non-Taiyo Yuden manufactured TDK and Verbatim), and the only ones that have had a 100% success rate is Taiyo Yuden.

If you cannot find any company selling media under the Taiyo Yuden/JVC Advanced Media brand, I suggest buying from the SuperMediaStore.com, who offer a wide range of Taiyo Yuden CD media, DVD-R media, and DVD+R media. I tend to buy just from them, as they are the only company that guarantees that their media is actually from Taiyo Yuden and not a fake (see the above linked FAQ on information about fake Taiyo Yuden media).

Why DVD+R?
This is the most technical section of the article. If you don’t understand the basics of how CD/DVD media works, or find such technical discussions boring, skip to the next section.

As I said earlier, DVD-R sucks for data preservation for three reasons: inferior error correction, inferior ‘wobble’ tracking, and the fact its data writing methods look like an un-needed halfway point between CD-R and DVD+R. The wobble tracking I shall explain first, then the error corrections method, then the specifics of ATIP/pre-pit/ADIP optimum power settings.

For a CD/DVD burner to track where it is on the disc, it uses three things: the ‘wobble’ of the data track (where it actually wobbles back and forth instead of in a straight line) to tell where it is in the track, the position of the track to tell where it is on the disc, and some additional information on the disc to tell where the track (singular, as CDs and DVDs only have one track, and it is written in a concentric spiral) begins and ends.

This additional information on a CD-R is called the ATIP (Absolute Time In Pregroove), which contains how long the track is, where it begins, what the maximum and minimum writing speeds are, what formula dye it uses, who actually made it, optimum power control settings, and error correction data. The ATIP is stored as a frequency modulation in the wobble itself.

However, since the wobble changes subtly to encode data, it is impossible to use with the small size of tracks DVD requires, as electric noise in the laser pickup and wobbles introduced by the electric motor spinning the disc, these could easily be read as frequency changes in the real track itself.

On DVD-R, they tried to solve the problem with something called ‘pre-pits’ where spikes in the amplitude of the wobble appear due to pits fully out of phase with the rest of the track (ie, between two spirals of the track, where there is no data). This can be viewed as a simple improvement over CD-R as it makes it easier to track the wobble (since the wobble is constant except for the easy to detect and remove spikes).

Unfortunately, this method as one flaw: due to electric noise in the laser pickup, it would be very easy to miss the pre-pit (or read one that wasn’t actually there) if the disc were damaged or spun at fast speeds. The time to read a pre-pit is 1T (roughly .0000000038th of a second), which even for a computer can be easy to miss. DVD-R traded hard to track frequency changes for hard to read wobble-encoded data.

On a DVD+R, however, they came up with a much better method. Instead of changing the frequency of the wobble, or causing amplitude spikes in the wobble, they use complete phase changes. Where CD-R’s and DVD-R’s methods make you choose between either easy wobble tracking or easy ATIP reading, DVD+R’s method makes it very easy to track the wobble, and also very easy to encode data into the wobble. DVD+R’s method is called ADIP (ADdress In Pre-groove), which uses a phase change method.

With ADIPs’ phase changes, the direction of the wobble changes and continues on going in the exact opposite direction (ie, counter-clockwise to clockwise, or the reverse). For example, if the wobble was ‘going up’, the phase change causes it to instantly reverse direction start ‘going down’ no matter where it in the wobble cycle. The phase change is very easy to detect, and also continues for a set period (in this case, one 32T section of the track, or 32 times longer than the pre-pit method of DVD-R).

The state of the phase change (clockwise or counter-clockwise) encodes the individual bits in each block In essence, with the phase change method, not only do you have an easy way of tracking the wobble, but you now have an easy way of reading wobble-encoded data.

As I mentioned earlier, this wobble-encoded data includes error correction of wobble-encoded data itself. Error correction is the most important part of media, because if it does not work, then you’ve lost your data, even if there is nothing seriously wrong with the disc.

The DVD-R specification states that for every 192 bits, 64 of them are not protected under any scheme, 24 of them are protected by 24 bits of parity, and the last 56 bits are protected by another 24 bits of parity. This weird (to put it mildly) scheme allows you to easily scramble or lose 25% of the data that is required to read your disk! This information is almost more important than the actual data burned on the disc itself.

The DVD+R specification, however, states that for every 204 bits of information, it is split into four blocks of 52 bits containing 1 sync bit to prevent misreading because of phase changes, 31 bits of data, and a 20 bit parity (that protects all 32 bits of data). The sync bit is always the same value in all four blocks, and exists only to prevent phase inversions.

Now, the third item on the list: how DVD+R discs burn better. As I said earlier, ATIP/pre-pit/ADIP stores information about optimum power control settings. This information is basically formulas stating how much output power is needed, what the laser startup power should be, and other pieces of information you require to properly burn a DVD.

Optimum power control output is dependent on three things: burning speed, laser wavelength, and information given to the drive about the media. DVD-R basically fails on all three accounts because DVD+R simply includes far more information about the media in the ADIP data than DVD-R does in it’s pre-pit data.

DVD+R includes four optimum profiles, one for four major burning speeds (usually 2x, 4x, 6x, and 8x, though this can change as speeds increase). Each of these profiles include optimum power output based on laser wavelength, more precise laser power settings, and other additional information. With this information, any DVD+R burner can far more optimize it’s burning strategy to fit the media than it can with DVD-R, consistently providing better burns.

For comparison, DVD-R includes one profile, optimum power output based for that one profile only and uncalibrated towards what wavelength it is for, less precise laser power settings, and no other additional information. Typically, DVD-R burners have to already know how to burn a certain piece of media (and include this information in their firmwares) before they can properly burn to it. New media often is not properly supported.

In addition to the optimum power control profiles, DVD+R also gives four times more scratch space for the drive to calibrate the laser on; more space can only improve the calibration quality. So, in short, DVD+R media exists to simply produce better burns and protect your data better.

And finally, the end of the article…
Finally, after roughly three pages of technical discussion, we arrive at the end of my dissertation on archival quality CD/DVD media. So, you’re probably now wondering, in simple terms, what media do I recommend?

To begin with, I do not recommend CD-RW, DVD-RW, or DVD+RW media in any form for permanent storage. This is mostly a no-brainer, but those discs are meant to be able to be changed after burning, and they are simply unsuitable for long-term archival storage. I also do not recommend DVD-R media due to DVD+R’s superior error correction and burning control.

That said, I recommend Taiyo Yuden media across the board. Taiyo Yuden currently manufactures 52x CD-R, 16x DVD-R, and 16x DVD+R media in normal shiney silver, inkjet printable, and thermal printable forms. Taiyo Yuden may be one of the most expensive (if not the most expensive), but their media quality is unsurpassed. Also, as I mentioned earlier, I recommended buying from SuperMediaStore.com as they are the only online US distributor that guarantees that their Taiyo Yuden media is certified as coming from Taiyo Yuden.

So, what am I using? Due to Taiyo Yuden’s superior media quality, and DVD+R’s superior design, I use only Taiyo Yuden DVD+R media. I recommend this media to everyone who wishes to keep their data for a long, long time.

Update 1: It seems MAM-A and Kodak actually has managed to make a gold DVD, though no one else seems to be manufacturing them (Taiyo Yuden/JVC Advanced Media now makes an archival gold disc, see update 6). However, MAM-A’s gold archival media still doesn’t seem to exceed TY quality (although Mr 60,000 in the comments below puts TY second best to MAM-A). Due to the extreme cost of gold archival media ($2+ a disc) with very little increased protection (if any), I’ll still say TY media is better. I want to see more independent tests on this before I change my recommendation.

In addition, I’d like to mention that Verbatim has been relabeling other brands of disc as their own. If the box/spindle/cakebox the discs come in don’t say they’re manufactured with Verbatim’s proprietary Azo dye (sometimes called Advanced Azo, sometimes not, depending on the product) then they aren’t Verbatim media at all and should be avoided as they may not meet typical home archival standards.

Update 2: (Sept. 19th 2007) Its almost been a year since I first wrote this article. My recommendations for media have not changed, my recommendations for DVD burners have.

Samsung: Samsung is currently producing two drives worth owning, the
Samsung SH-S222AB
(SATA). They’re not considered archival grade, but they’re not bad.

TEAC: TEAC makes an archival drive that is ISO/IEC10995 compliant, and is very expensive. Comes in two forms, external USB DV-W5000U and internal SATA DV-W5000S. I’ve seen DV-W5000U drives for sale for $500, and refurbished DV-W5000S drives for $150-200. This is the elite of drives, and recommended if you’re very serious about 30+ year archival storage.

Update 3: (July 26th 2009) Its been awhile since I updated this article. Pioneer is no longer manufacturing drives worth using. Just buy a Samsung or TEAC drive like I link to above. I’m using two Samsung drives now after my PX-716 finally died after years of service.

My recommendation on TY and Verbatim hasn’t changed, and I imagine it will never change; DVD media will not change significantly from here on out. Bluray in my opinion is not worth switching over to unless you’re storing data that can be measured in hundreds of gigabytes, and at that point you might want to look into archival tape storage.

When Bluray is worth switching over to, I’ll write a follow up article to this one. High quality single layer media will have to drop below 50 cents a piece and Bluray burners will have to become ubiquitous (much like DVD burners are now) before that happens. I’m thinking 2011 or later.

Update 4: (August 3rd 2010) Taiyo Yuden has bought the JVC Media brand and is now operating under the JVC Advanced Media brand. You can now buy TY inside JVC boxes and get your usual TY quality. This site has the conversion of part numbers.

JVC has not bought Taiyo Yuden, and Taiyo Yuden is in full control of this new venture. They merely bought they name so they can put TY products on store shelves worldwide.

SuperMediaStore.com is selling almost all JVC Advanced Media branded TY products in place of the old TY branded ones.

Update 5: (September 27th 2011) A few people have asked about how PIE/PIF scans work.

DVD-R and DVD+R both employ two stage error correction.

PIE (Parity Inner Error) just means error correction was used, PIF (Parity Inner Failure) means the error was unrecoverable using the inner ECC block but still may be recovered using the outer ECC block . On tools that give avg/max/total, max PIE values above 140, or max PIF values above 4* means the disc needs to be replaced but the data most likely isn’t corrupted yet**.

For a burn to be considered still pristine you want max PIE below 20 and max PIF 3 or lower.

Discs will NOT be pristine after 5 years, but there is a fall off of PIF/PIE increasing after 6 months and doesn’t seem to start picking up again until 5-10 years depending on storage environment.

Totals for PIF can be as high as 100k yet have a max of 20, and total PIF can be as high as 1000 but have a max below 3. Max PIE is considered mostly fatal above 280 and can reach as high as 1664, and max PIF can reach as high as 208*.

DVD+R generally will maintain lower values for both due to superior error correction techniques.

* Some tools and/or drives won’t list above 4 for PIF.

** Some tools and/or drives also list PO (Parity Outer) uncorrectable errors. This is for any read that has a max PIF above 4. This indicates a mostly unrecoverable data corruption error, which would effect (if I’ve done my math right) 36k of data (although that doesn’t mean the whole 36k of data is corrupted, just that its corrupted inside of that 36k). This still does not indicate the disc is unreadable, some obsessive ripping tools will try multiple reads in an effort to get a valid read or different incorrect reads that can be merged into a valid read.

Update 6: (January 11th 2013) Taiyo Yuden announced last year that they are now producing an ISO/IEC10995 compliant archival grade gold alloy DVD-R. Sadly, its not DVD+R and I’m hoping they’ll consider making a DVD+R version as well. Not many vendors carry this disc yet.

Also, a few people have asked when I’m going to write that Bluray follow up article. I don’t think Bluray is viable for long term archival storage yet. I continue my recommendation that if you need to store hundreds of gigabytes of data or more, consider archival tape.

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Published October 30th, 2006

Comments

1,249 Responses

I bought some Fuji CD-R Photodiscs 700Mb which they say are specifically for storing still photos at various quality settings.

The recording surface is shiny black and the face is gold, can you say who makes them and are they of a superior grade to warrant the extra cost and reduced capacity?

I suspect Fuji makes them, I doubt they are better quality than TY though.

can you recommend a vhs to dvd burner/player?? i currently use a toshibia se-r0295 with ty achiveable dvd+r disks.this i just for home use on home movies i want to achive.

I can’t recommend one. They all suck, and it is extremely hard to recover VHS suitably. You probably want to try to find a professional to do it for you, VHS tape is hard to clean up, very low quality.

For today’s companies and organizations, ensuring that data is maintained properly and made available to employees and users is an essential consideration. The traditional way of doing this is through a physical DVD archive. However, there are some compelling reasons that you should ditch the disks and go virtual. What incentives might you find to get rid of your physical library, though?

It depends entirely on what people need. Most people simply don’t have more than a few discs of private data.

Some companies have exabytes of data on the extreme far end, and don’t even back up in the traditional sense, they use multi-site concurrent mirroring where all the sites serve the data.

Hi Patrick,

I came accros this article, it is very informative. Although in french, the graphs speak for themselves. It has results of TY and other archival media makers. FYI
http://www.archivesdefrance.culture.gouv.fr/static/2140

I don’t read French, however I think it says Verbatim and their Pioneer drive and MPO+R Gold (who?) and their LG drive performed the best.

I would let Verbatim and Pioneer slide, but a company I’ve never heard of on an LG drive? I think they need to go learn how testing methodologies work.

I am looking for good quality achiveable disks to save family & travel photos and video on as a backup to both the computer and our external hard drive. Thank you for your great advice on which ones to get, it definitely takes the headache out of trying to figure this out, when we are not very techy. I found the DVD+R disks from Taiyo Yuden on the website you recommended, but they listed a few options that I wasn’t sure about. They listed a Silver Lacquer printable, White Inkjet Hub printable, Shiny Silver Thermal, and a silver inkjet printable. Wondering if you could point me to the best option here? Knowing that it is to save photos and vidoes with the potential of needing to print something off of them in the future, which would you recommend? I appreciate your time & knowledge on this!

It depends entirely on how you intend on labeling them. If you have a inkjet printer with a CD tray, you get the inkjet white ones. If you have an inkjet printer /w CD tray and it has white ink (very few do, most are dedicated to transparencies and CD printing), you get the silver inkjet printable.

Everyone else gets silver lacquer (usually the cheapest) and use a real Sanford brand Sharpie on it, and make sure you don’t accidentally scratch it off before it dries.

Thanks so much for your reply and information! Seems self-explanatory now that you explain it!

Thanks again!!

Greetings

I am having some 8mm tapes transferred to dvd-r discs.

From a picture quality standpoint, how is the comparison between Taiyo Yuden and Maxell?

Thank you

That question implies you don’t understand how digital video works.

Once you transfer the data off 8mm tapes and digitize the data for storage on DVDs, the data remains exactly the same no matter how many times you copy it or burn it to discs (as long as the integrity of the data remains intact). Digital data is an all or nothing endeavor.

TY discs will maintain the integrity of the digital data much longer than Maxell, but the initial burn to both should be a mathematically provable exact identical copy.

Do you see any drawbacks (other than cost) to using BD-R instead of DVD+R?

Not particularly, however BD drives in computers are not ubiquitous yet, so having a backup that can’t be read everywhere isn’t a particularly good situation.

Also, BD-R has not been around long enough to verify longevity claims on current media. I have no doubt that TY makes the best BD-R media, but there is no current reason to believe it will last as long as DVD-R.

Interesting and also very useful information. I always had some problems when I had to choose this kind of support.. :( Thanks for your advice!

Thank you. But, is there any evidence now that supports the opinions that the 8x disc is actually a better quality media (longevity and burn quality)than the 16x disc?

It seems like a lot of this opinion was from a few years ago and maybe some people just held onto the “old standby” excellent TY 8x. But even today, some believe the 16x disc are slightly less better. They site AZO vs. “hybrid AZO”, and a bunch of other stuff.

I’m waffling between buying one or the other, mostly for important data backup. Cost and speed are not an issue, longevity and correctness are. These ideas of 8x maybe being superior is causing analysis paralysis!

I know you rehash these things over and over. It’s tough to collect and digest good internet info. Thank you.

It was indeed mostly people complaining that TY changed the formula. The formulas are almost identical, it was merely a tweak to improve it for 16x burning.

TY still manufactures 8x just because some people just don’t like the newer media, or they buy it for compatibility reasons.

Its really up to you. I’m still chewing through my last 8x spindle. Its not like 8x burning is really slow or anything. Its kind of a waste to buy 16x if you’re just going to burn it at a slower speed when you can buy the slower speed cheaper.

Last question, I hope. How does all this discussion pertain to just copying data files to TY DVD+R (no video)for back up purposes?

If I copy data files (no movies)to a 8x DVD on a PC with a 16x burner using Windows, can I even control the burn speed? I did find reference to “slow,medium,fast” adjustment in Windows with no reference to numerical speed.

In the above scenario, would the burner recognize the 8x media and adjust accordingly, or would it try to burn at 16x?

What if I want to copy at 4x on the 8x media? Select “slow or medium”? With data and Windows, can I, or does need exist, to select speed.

Thanks for the newbie help.

No one uses the built in burner software in Windows, it doesn’t even know how to check disc integrity after burn apparently. Although I quit Windows over a decade ago, Vista/7 burning is on my hate list.

Go use something like InfraRecorder instead, I’m not a Windows user but a lot of people like it.

Also, as a side note, video isn’t special. The kind of DVDs you buy with movies on them are just a collection of normal files on a standard file system.

I did an internet search of 8x vs. 16x DVD+R quality. You say there is little significant difference(for me archive life and copy quality matters). Most discussions are 2-5 years old.

There seems to be a slight consensus that 8x are actually better quality DVDs. For instance, this guy’s opinion is mirrored by many:

“Even the finest 16x is more difficult to burn well than 8x. 16x requires more laser power and can wear down your burner a little quicker than 8x. The 8x, especially TY or Verbatim, is thought to have an edge over 16x in archival storage and playback compatibility. If using a standalone DVD recorder, 8x is vastly preferable to 16x for any number of reasons, but if you are burning on a PC with a reasonably new burner and good burning/authoring software the only real difference between TY 8x and 16x will be the 16x burning faster and the 8x being arguably more stable in long term storage.”

I am especially interested concept of storage life. HAS ANY NEW INFO SURFACED REGARDING THIS?

My delemma: my PC has a 16x burner (you advise to use 1 or 2 speed down). Yet, the write speed difference between 8X and 16x is negligable, 1-2 minutes). If 8x DVD’s are ANY better as the geeks propose, then the choice is simple. Your thoughts?

Thank you.

What you are quoting is partially correct, there was a huge discussion on one of the boards awhile ago (can’t find it, a few of the boards that cover this have died since then so it might have went down with the ship). I have a rule that I never burn at a burner’s maximum speed, when TY 16x media came out, 16x drives were the fastest, thus I would have never burned 16x media at 16x to begin with. Now that 20/22/24x burners are common, burning at the full 16x is fine.

TY 16x discs burned on 16x drives at 16x is “okay”, but you often have worse PIE/PIF scores, which is what a lot of burnable media aficionados were complaining about. Some people claimed TY’s first batch of 16x discs were not up to TY’s usual quality (due to different dye formula to improve 16x burning), but there would have been no way to test that at the time, since no one owned >16x drives at the time.

There is also the case that drives may have not had a burning profile for TY 16x discs (since they would have come out after 16x drives were manufactured, and the profile is stored in the drive’s firmware). However, TY designed the 16x discs to have the same performance while burning and work fine with the older profile at slower speeds on drives that predate 16x.

In your case, yeah, I’d burn at 12 or 8x. You may think the difference is negligible, but it increases burn quality greatly. Either that, or buy a new drive.

I’ve written here some time ago, regarding cd-rs that deteriorated in a very short period of time. I mainly used TDK discs, and they turned out to be terrible. As you told me before, the burn speed was critical, and although they all played well to begin with, many would not play after a year or two. Thankyou for your help and recommendations. I now use JVC-Taiyo Yuden.
Now though, I have found that many recorded DVD-Rs will now not play.
Years back, I always trusted TDK for audio tapes. I continued on using TDK DVD-Rs. THAT WAS A BIG MISTAKE !
In the case of DVD-Rs, the record speed was not the problem, but I believe it is due to storage temperature and humidity.
I now realise that TDK do not actually manufacture recordable DVDs.
As for 16x discs, I normally burn at 8x on my computer.
I believe that recorded discs must be stored at a very restricted temperature and humidity (and kept in the dark!)
The worst TDK disc seems to be the printable ones, and if you do print on them, there seems to be far more failures.
TDK discs are manufactured in different plants, but the worst plant in India, is the discs that are numbered ‘TTH02′.
These discs are terrible, and I recommended nobody to use them.
In future, I will be using TDK-Taiyo Yuden DVD-Rs.
Now, since USB external hard-drives are now getting cheaper, I would recommend everyone to backup all their DVDRs to the hard-drive.
A 2TB hard-drive will back-up approx. 350 recordable discs.
I am now going thru my archive, and hope that I have not lost too many recordings.
By the way, I think TDK should compensate me for lost recordings !

CORRECTION…..I meant ‘I will be using JVC-Taiyo Yuden DVD-Rs’.

TDK should just go under imo. Passing off crap media is unconscionable.

I use an external harddrive currently in tandem with optical media as a backup (as in, both have all my data in duplicate).

All the pre-assembled drives suck, so I went with this instead.

I would like to broadcast this loudly !
Alot of people are buying these inferior discs and it is not being publicised enough.
If you have a recording that you wish to keep, everyone should know the situation.
If you have a treasured recording (possibly one you made on cam and can not duplicate), then everyone should know that alot of DVDRs will NOT last (even though some say that they will for 50-70 years!)
Remember MISSION IMPOSSIBLE…….’this tape will self-destruct in the neyt five seconds’.
Well, most discs last longer than that, but some self-destruct in under 2 years !!

Regarding your oft recommended commercial style black DVD cases, is there any downside to using the space saving 7mm thin cases, especially since they should be handled infrequently? Recycled vs. virgin polypropylene matter for archive use?

Do you also use DVD’s for full/differential backups in case your hard drive fails? Any other advice regarding this subject (disaster recovery).

On behalf of everyone benefiting from your sharing of information, thank you.

Its not the size of the case that matters, its the material. The “soft” polypropylene used in DVD cases harms the discs the least, low chance of scratches caused by disc removal.

The “hard” polystyrene of jewel cases tend to scratch discs and also often break and do not sufficiently seal the disc away from environmental change.

If space is an issue, they make DVD cases that can store 8 discs. DO NOT use the hub stackable ones, as accidental disc rotation can scratch discs very badly, use the ones with the individual trays.

Supermediastore does carry them, as of this writing $15 for a 20 pack of them, or room for 100 discs.

The burner on my several year old HP Pavillion is labeled LightScribeDVD SuperMultiDrive/CD-Writer. Can I use your recommended TY DVD+R? Please explain why or why not, thank you.

If not, would it be better to install your recommended Samsung burner vs. going with “lesser” DVD brands for data backup?

Finally, disregarding price, is there a compelling reason to buy 8x vs 16x, again for data backup only.

Thank you very much.

There should be no real issues with your DVD burner while using TY DVD+R.

8x vs 16x is purely preference. If your burner is 16x or less, stick with the 8x discs.

Thanks for this great topic. Whild a little off topic, I’m also interested in anticipating what should be done to preserve very LONG TERM media when the platforms may have changed. For instance, if you were to seal media in a ‘time capsule’ now to be opened in a hundred years, what form would you use if you wanted to include thousands of photos? Could anyone in the even near future (tried to find a 1 inch video tape player lately?) even play a perfectly preserved DVD? Solid state drives?

DVDs won’t last longer than 25 years reliably (I don’t care what they advertise). SSDs and fash drives wont last longer than 5-10, and very crappy flash drives have been known to go completely blank after only a year.

There have been some very notable government studies on how to preserve data after the end of society (post WW3, etc), and anything outside of chiseling it on stone has come up short.

So yeah, anything but printed material won’t last past the 100 year mark. Its kinda sad.

will dvd last longer than 25 years if i use ty achiveable disks dvd+r and store them without use. also i would like to also have dvd that i can watch once or twice a year. should i use the same dvd or can you suggest something different.

They can last longer than 25 years if stored in a temperature and humidity controlled environment.

Yes, I also recommend TY for day to day use although TY and Verbatim sell a scratchproof version as well for heavy use.

Patrick

Thanks for this wonderful article. Have you any thoughts on Blu Ray as an archiving/storage format?

Yeah, I mentioned it a few comments back. I have no real doubts about TY BD-R quality, but not enough people have adopted BD-R, nor are BD drives in computers considered ubiquitous yet. I was supposed to be handling it by now, but the market moved slower than I anticipated.

After reading your excellent article several years ago, I began using JVC/TY archival-grade 16x DVD+R to archive hi-resolution digital camera captures of art works in the collection of a major art museum. About 4 months ago, I switched to DVD-R (same formulation), because DVD+R were unavailable. Now, I cannot locate even these. The best option seems to be JVC premium grade. Any suggestions?

Thanks,
Bruce

I’m not sure who you were buying from, but SuperMediaStore (see the links in the article) carries it.

Supermediastore has premium grade gold lacquer and photo grade waterproof white, but not archival grade gold scratch proof.

Which of the two that are available would you recommend for our purposes?

Thanks,
Bruce

TY has archival and value grades for DVD-R, TY DVD+R is archival grade only.

Scratch proof is of value only if you plan on handling the discs often (such as keeping CDs in the car for playing music). Archival discs should be rarely handled, so the chances of developing scratches are nill as long as you take care of them.

I buy silver thermal lacquer because I don’t inkjet print on them and use a Sandford Sharpie to write on it (just make sure you don’t scratch it off or smear it before it dries).

We do handle the discs often, because they are the only recourse when a client needs a digital file from us. We keep one copy of each disc in our office for such purposes; a second copy is stored in our institution’s archives as backup. Of course, we would like to have our image files on-line, but we currently have over 2500 DVD’s, and we’re a not-for-profit, so $$ for storage is limited.

Is there a comparison somewhere between archival grade and premium grade?

TY doesn’t differentiate between DVD+R because they only make one kind. Premium and Archival grade have no set meaning, which is unfortunate.

Have you considered just setting up two ~16TB file servers to store all the files seeing as they are frequently accessed?

Thanks for answering all of my questions, Patrick.

We continue to press our IT department for file servers, but it doesn’t seem to be a high priority for them.

u so obviously know what you’re talking about (though it really extends a bit beyond my ability to fully comprehend)

I’ve finished a protools (audio recording) project and would like to archive/protect the sessions. Would love your suggestions; I’ve scoured the internet, called gov’t preservation organizations and asked around. And I am still undecided

From what I’ve researched, hard drives don’t seem reliable.

Gold DVD’s were suggested.

someone even suggested printing the sessions into data and then storing that in paper form (that is sooo beyond my understanding)

But after reading your article I am thinking: JVC DVD +R in DVD style black acid free polypro cases….and re done every 4 years or so

and then maybe an online storage like carbonite to protect just in case there’s some kind of natural disaster in this area? or would you suggest dvd’s sent to another part of the country?

(I already have an external hard drive to which my computer including the sessions…. is backed up)

you can tell I am obviously not technically astute…so any of your help would be wonderful. thanks!

Online storage is frequently used in addition to DVD+Rs nowadays. A lot of people think archival means just make one copy and throw it in a safe, but its not. More copies in different places means more chances of data survival.

Storing the project along with par2 files to detect and correct data corruption is extremely useful. Windows and OSX and Linux all have tools to handle par2 error correction easily.

So you agree that dvd’s are better than external hard drives?

do you have any preferences in online companies?

forgive me for my lack of understanding, but are par2 files already on windows?

finally, I had tried signing up for your feed but had trouble. I’d like to receive your updates…best way? do you have an email list?

Out of all the sources I’ve contacted, you are the one I trust the most….thank you for your generosity…:)

I don’t like magnetic media because they are designed for change and are easy to damage and are largely self-destructive.

I don’t have a preference in online companies for cloud storage. Just don’t rely on them as your only backup method.

Windows doesn’t come with a par2 client. I’m not a Windows person, but a lot of people seem to be using QuickPar.

What RSS client are you using to try to subscribe to my feed? I don’t have an email list because the RSS feed alone seems to suffice.

By now, you’ve probably realized my lack of knowledge in this area …this is a new computer with windows 7 and ie and I access your rss feed thru ie…this is the error message I get:

Internet Explorer cannot display this feed

This feed contains code errors.
Go back to the previous page.

More information

Invalid xml declaration.
Line: 2 Character: 3

<rss version="2.0"

Because MSIE can’t handle RSS feeds at all. Use a dedicated feed reader, or use something like Google Reader.

QuickPar is a program (free) that will enable you to make parity files of variable percentages (to your own liking or confidence level — whether you store your files on HDD or disks) to correct corruption.

I’ve used it for years on all files that I value and it will give you a lot of confidence in your stored data.

I recommend that you download and learn how to use the program immediately and while you’re doing that, you can read and learn how parity files work.

You’ll find QuickPar will give you a much greater confidence in your stored data and as Patrick recommended, use Taiyo Yuden. They have the best reputation in the world. Using QuickPar with them will simply give you added comfort that your data, even if partially corrupted, will be recoverable and therefore safe.

As he also recommended, NEVER trust one backup. There’s not only corruption to deal with but disaster and theft. I would never trust my data solely to ANY COMPANY in the “cloud.”

Okay. now you’ve scared me. I know so little about ‘cloud’…online storage. Is it something I can trust? some of the info is sensitive….

what’s the way you back up and archive files?

thank you both for your generosity and willingness to help someone who’s so unwise in this subject.

I will read up on Quickpar…I might have questions…again, thank you so much!!!

If you’re worried about people spying on you, just encrypt it before uploading and burning.

I would probably recommend TrueCrypt, it allows you to create TrueCrypt volumes that are just a large file image (a “container”), and then you can just burn the image itself to the disc.

It isn’t the easiest thing to use, but it works for a lot of people.

again, thank you!

I’ve done some research on Quickpar and I’m a little confused. There’s little on it after 2009; references point to usenet and winrar…

I’m hoping to work with 80 gb to archive; it won’t be in a winrar format…

Once I download quickpar will it be self explanatory to work with reg files (thes files will hve the extension: ptf)

sorry to belabor this …I’m sure you can tell I hve very little knowledge in this area and much seems like another language…many thanks.

Usenet typically rars large files so they can upload the file using multi-part rar files (1.2mb or so chunks).

This is unneeded for what you’re doing. par2 supports lists of files instead of just one, you can use it that way (as I do here on Linux).

par2-ing the entire 80gb set only makes sense if you intend on burning the entire thing on a set of discs (ie, numbered discs that require restoring from the entire set at once).

The side effect of burning a set of discs is if you lose one and have more than 6gb of par2 files on the other remaining discs, you can restore the data lost on that disc in it’s entirety.

It is somewhat common to burn disc sets where each disc is half files half par2. Using rar makes it easy to split sets of files across multiple discs, but as I said, most people don’t (unless they have individual files that exceed the size of one disc, anyways).

it must take patience to constantly field questions from someone having little understanding. thank you so much!

Dear Mr. McFarland, Your article was very helpful. I’m looking for the best way to make duplicates of a DVD. I was looking around, hoping to find a commercial place that would use Taiyo Yuden DVD+R blanks to make the copies. I was surprised to learn that for 1000 copies ( which I am looking for )the place I was talking to ( NWMEDIA in Portland Oregon )would press the duplicates so the DVD+ or – issue didn’t matter. Is this typical ? Are pressed DVDs inherently more archival than any kind of burnt DVDs?

George Layne – Philadelphia

Pressed are considered superior to burned. Also, when they press DVDs, they’re not -R or +R, they’re just DVDs, the same kind you buy movies on. Companies that press discs use whatever they have chosen, sometimes its TY sometimes its some other high quality media. I would trust them on whichever choice they’ve made.

Based on everything you have written (which is excellent BTW) it would seem at this point in time DVD+R is the best available archive format vs CD-R. And that the TY disks are still the best. I have used MAM-A CD-R on and off and lately ran into some quality control issues with disks failing the verify step. Another issue is size variability. I use a Microboard disk publisher and due to the way it loads disks they were jamming (MAM-A). MAM-A disks of late tend to have a bit of a ridge and this catches. Also the disks run about 120.3 millimeters (used a micrometer) vs TY that seem to always run 120 mm. It seems others have also run into issues once I started calling around. We have to ensure disks are readable for 25 + years. Not that a drive will exist in 25 years that can read them. :-)

Yeah, I’ve said this before, but ever since MAM split into MAM-A and MAM-E, the resulting products have been pretty low grade. Although I’m surprised they botched it enough that the disc gets stuck. As far as I know, discs have to be within 0.1 mm of the 120mm requirement, so I wonder why DVD6C (the DVD patent pool and licensing group) haven’t smacked them around yet.

Just read you updated articles. There were very good and gave me some very useful information about Cd’s and DVDs media. I looked up the Samsung SH-s222ab, SATA DVD writers. I found a couple other Samsung models. One is a SH-S223L, a SH-S223Q and a SH-S223F. Can you tell me more about these or do you still standby the SH-S222AB? Thanks for you reply.

Underneath they’re all the same model. Some are SATA, some are IDE, some have Lightscribe, some don’t, and every time they re-certify it for a new top speed, they change the letter. All the SH-S222 and SH-S223 I treat mostly identical

Sorry if this subject was discussed before, but I can’t find a search function on your blog.
3 questions:
1. What do you think as Blue-ray disks as archives?

2. I know you are a TY fan and also had specific recommendations in regards to writers, but on TY DVD-R disks written 4 yrs ago (bought from SMS) I get terrible readings with discSpeed (PIF from 30s to 2-300, PIE much higher)
I burned them with a NEC 3520AW that died in the meantime. Do you think the reason for the bad readings is the now-defunct burner? what is funny is that some Verbatim DVD-Rs burned around the same time have much better readings now (PIF 3-4 and PIE <100). These are photo archives that were burned and never touched again till now, kept in the dark :) . I wish I tested them at that time too, for comparison; all of them have been marked with Sharpie for DVD marker.

3. do you think I should burn the above named archives on new DVD+Rs or am I safe? The files are still perfectly readable. Should I avoid writing archive DVDs with the Lite-On BD writer (iHBS112) that I have now?

Thanks

I’ve updated the article to explain how PIE/PIF scans work.

Unless your NEC drive was defective I doubt that it was the problem. I don’t care for Lite-On drives, however, so if you’re trying to perform PIE/PIF scans on a Lite-On the results are questionable.

I still won’t put my rubber stamp on Bluray media, even TY’s, until a few more years have passed. Not enough people are buying them and testing them for archival to get a good sense of how well they’re working.

Dear Patrick,

I would first like to say what an impressive and lucid description and analysis your article was and how very helpful, especially to this total novice and obviously to many others of all levels of expertise. I just think we need more of this kind of patience and clarity to demystify what is a very challenging field. This is someone who doesn’t even drive a car, but you have given me some confidence and steered me in a good direction for what DVD’s t use by sharing your experience and expertise. Finally to my question! I have forty years of Kodak slides (maybe 30,000) and I would like in my retirement to transfer them to DVD’s. I have an iMac of three years vintage. But what would your recommendation be for a fine scanner? I see models from $99 (Hamm & Schlerm) to $400 and $800. Even my Canon copier PIXMA MP980 claims it can scan slides. But my project is a serious one to me, and I value my slides as a record of the life lived, so I am not adverse to spending, but what do you recommend? There are services that do it for a very hefty price (especially with such quantities), but if you thought I could learn to do it with effort, concentration and diligence, I need to know what equipment to get for the initial scan into my iMac on order to burn them onto DVD’s. As a professional photographer you must have this experience. Again, mych admiration and many thanks, Edward

All scanners that aren’t dedicated film scanners produce bad scans. Every single one. They may produce amazing normal scans, but they aren’t meant for film scanning.

Canon used to make a scanner called the FS400 and it was considered the holy grail of film scanners, but its been off the market for a decade. The only thing currently manufactured that seems to be any good is Microtek’s ArtixScan M1 Pro (flatbed scanner, but has a direct scanning path for film scanning, so its really a film scanner underneath) and Plustek’s OpticFilm 7600i.

Whatever you end up choosing, make sure VueScan supports it and that you use VueScan exclusively to scan. The software that comes with scanners usually is complete crap, even on several thousand dollar units. The Pro version (which is completely worth it for the IT8 color calibration which you’ll need to keep color balance on your slides correct) is only $80.

Also, make sure you buy IT8 calibration targets for the kind of film you’re scanning. Kodak has made several different products over the years, including Kodachrome and Ektachrome among others.

Just as bit of info, the Nikon Coolscan LS-5000 ED and 9000 were nicer scanners than the Canon. Unfortunately they too were discontinued as Nikon got out of the scanner business. Both are still available used on Ebay. The Nikons though got pricey used (twice their original price) as there are no new ones that can do the same job.

Its kind of depressing the best scanners ever made are behind us.

I use my point and shoot digital camera, a nikon S 8100, set to macro mode to make copies of B&W negs and color slides. I built a light box using 8 w fluorescent cool white bulbs and set the camera white balance to fluorescent, although 5000k bulbs might be better. I also built a small wooden “jig” to hold the camera high enough for focus and hold the camera steady. This setup works great,although there is a slight amount of barrel
distortion in the pictures. I then import the files into i Photo for some tweaking.

I hate florescent bulbs because of the low Color Reproduction Index (CRI). Makes it really hard to get color accuracy out of it.

Professionals try to “scan” paintings using a similar method, but they use a DSLR, high intensity flashes, and a tilt and shift lens to eliminate all distortions.

Have you looked at the China Lake report commissioned by Millenniata?
( http://millenniata.com/wp-content/uploads/m-disc/mdisc_china_lake_study.pdf )
Aside from Millenniata vs. regular DVDs, the study stress-tested several brands of regular DVDs. TY came in the middle of the pack, behind Verbatim and Mitsubishi. Any thoughts?

The fact they paid for a study makes it somewhat suspect, and the fact that they rated TY below Verbatim makes the entire thing suspect.

I misread it. The worst were Verbatim and Mitsubishi, then TY, and the best were Delkin and MAM-A (p. 44). The stress test involved heat, humidity and bright light. They don’t give details on the type of disc used other than the brand name.

That sounds slightly better, but I wonder if they tested MAM and labeled it wrong. MAM used to make really great discs (on par with TY), but the company split up into MAM-A and MAM-E, and neither have been able to produce anything nearly as good afterwards.

I’d like to throw another question at you.
I burn large video files from my storage drive with FireWire (Maxtor 1394 Disk Drive IEEE 1394 SBP2 Device). These large files are always fragmented. Is there an advantage in defragging these files before a burn to potentially improve quality and will the speed of FireWire’s faster file transfer effect the burning speed you select? These files are not HD.

Thanks

I’d copy them to an internal drive first.

Good Information. Thanks.
I’ve been researching for quality DVD manufacturers. TY clearly appears to be the winner.
My question pertains to suppliers. Amazon.com uses “One Stop Outlet” out of New Jersey. By any chance, would you have info on this suppliers authenticity to provide legitimate TY?

Thanks

Amazon does not use third party suppliers, instead they allow third party suppliers come to them and use their interface to sell goods. You have to sometimes be careful on Amazon and make sure the product is either sold by Amazon or by another major vendor (AntOnline, Adorama, B&H, etc).

The interesting thing is they now also provide their warehouse shipping service to third parties (you ship your entire inventory to Amazon, and then Amazon ships them out to customers for you), which also qualifies for Prime service.

However, I’ve never heard of One Stop Outlet, so I’d avoid them.

HI, good info! Didn’t know the DVD-R and DVD+R formats had such large differences. Shall switch to +R from now on.

What do you think of the stone based M-DISCs from http://millenniata.com/ ? Seems to be seriously archival but perhaps overkill? Rather expensive as well. Only burns in their burner but can be read in any DVD drive that supports DVD+R format.

Not particularly interested in it. Since it only works on their burners, there never will be a large scale independent test of their media over long periods of time. They haven’t sold me on the idea.

Writing M-Discs is now supported by LG Blu-ray drives, I think all the current Blu-ray burners, and at least one Blu-ray reader / DVD burner. The M-Disc media is pricey at $4-5 per 4.7GB disc, but they claim it should last for 1000 years when stored properly, and it should last much longer than any other media when stored improperly.

M-Discs appears to be THE best solution for archival data storage.

Until every DVD burner on the market can burn M-Discs, its still a proprietary spec and not suitable for long term archival. Also, there has been no third party large scale test on their claims.

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