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

Great article.

Wondering what sort of longevity one can expect. Or if it’s ‘testable’. I’ve recently had the need to restore from some DVDs from prox. 5 yrs ago. I was surprised that in some cases the -cheap- ones were more reliably than the -expensive- Verbatims. Is there some way to -test- or -know- the MTBF of a DVD+R when it’s first burned?

TIA,

—JC

Verbatim sells discs that aren’t actually theirs. I suspect this is what you had. I would be very surprised if Verbatim’s own media failed so quickly.

Theres no easy to way to figure out how long the disc will last before failure.

I found these dics on ebay which i bought at £20,

100 PRINTABLE TAIYO YUDEN Dye ID TYG02 DVD-R 8X DISC sold by rscommunications

wondering if i could get your opinion on them as im not sure on their quality.

Thanks a million!

TY media is the most counterfeited brand on eBay. I can’t comment on the quality of yours, but there is a reason I recommended SuperMediaStore, its the only company I’ve verified to be selling the real thing.

Will this also archive DVD’s well? Or will the plastic material somehow degrade the discs? (eg. not acid free)

http://www.supermediastore.com/product/u/cd-dvd-wallet-wallets-520-discs-cd-holders-cd-storages-organizer-sn12520-black

(if ever careful in inserting the discs in the sleeves)

eg. insert once then put in a time capsule, rather than frequent handling

Will a dvd case be the best choice? (rather than a dvd wallet?) In archiving Taeyo DVD+R discs long term. Sleeves rub; fade discs?

What about this?

http://www.supermediastore.com/product/u/dvd-case-7mm-black-double-premium-high-quality-100

Each 100 pack gives 200 dvd discs storage.

Or is there a better less cost solution? (carefully stack discs with a acid free paper layer in a spindle?)

Other than dvd discs and related storage. Is there other good products worth ordering to go along with the order? (also a burner)

Is there a particular Samsung DVD burner model that is best suggested? (get from newegg, amazon, or a general place with best price, service, shipping?)

(Get a model with a 20x write speed? If using 16x DVD+R Taeyo discs?)

I’m looking at this Samsung model.(or what is a better alternative? Why Samsung burners in particular? Are there other better brands as well?)

http://www.amazon.com/Samsung-SE-S204N-External-Super-Multi-Technology/dp/B001CWX156/ref=sr_1_11?s=pc&ie=UTF8&qid=1336432524&sr=1-11

Samsung keeps changing the model number every time they up the speed, but they’re basically the same burner as far as I’m concerned.

I recommend Samsung because its the best burner available currently. TEAC’s industrial/enterprise burners aren’t bad, but they’re often hard to find.

And yes, get 20x write speed or faster and burn at 16x (or 12/8 for non-TY discs). Do NOT burn at 4x or below.

From all the online stores, is just Supermedia and Meritline stores: Taiyo Yuden authorized?

If Cyanine coating is not produced or sold anymore, is silver lacquer the next best? (is expected archival longevity similar? or how many years can a person expect to archive from silver lacquer?)

From the two webpages on Supermedia and Meritline, what is the best ‘specific’ product to choose in long term archiving files? Or a specific DVD+R from another alternative online authorized TY dealer?

Will you also provide specific webpage links to the best value performing burners? (mac os compatible) Or diy build a burner; combining separate bought parts?

Cyanine isn’t a coating, its the organic dye. All burnable CDs and DVDs use an organic dye that is either cyanine-based or functionally identical.

The print surface coating doesn’t effect the performance of the media, you just buy whichever one best matches your printing solution (inkjet, thermal printing, etc). I just use silver lacquer for hand writing using a Sanford Sharpie CD/DVD pen.

SuperMediaStore is the only reseller that I’ve confirmed is an authorized reseller, which is why I recommend them. TY is the most counterfeited brand out there.

As for which burner, I still recommend Samsung burners unless you want to go see if you can get that new optimized burner from JVC Advanced Media that is based on that TEAC design.

OSX is compatible with all SATA, Firewire, and USB burners as far as I know.

From Supermediastore’s or Meritline site, which specific dvd+r is the most ideal in archiving files? (is Cyanine still produced? or is there an equal or better coating alternative?)

http://www.supermediastore.com/category/a/taiyo-yuden-blank-recordable-dvd-plus-r-disc-discs-media

http://www.meritline.com/newsearch.aspx?SortBy=Price%20DESC&SearchTerm=jvc+yuden

Other than the discs, a urner setup is also necessary. How much of a speed or time difference is burning 8x vs 16x?

What are the best value performing mac compatible burners you suggest? Or is a dvd+r drive in a macbook adequate enough?

DVD storage cases, no sleeves? Use a flip case instead?

The DVD+R media part of all of those discs are identical, the only difference is the top layer coating for printing. TY makes many different kinds, including white inkjet, clear inkjet, and silver lacquer. I use silver lacquer and Sanford Sharpie CD/DVD pens and very carefully mark them, Sharpie ink will rub/scratch off on silver lacquer if you’re not careful.

Speed time, obviously, takes approximately half the time on 16x.

I recommend you avoid all laptop drives, they tend to have very low quality and also produce discs of very low quality.

JVC Advanced Media (aka TY) has an external TEAC-made industrial drive, model DV-W5000S-76, but I can’t see it for sale anywhere. See the bottom of this page. It looks nice, but since they just came out with it no one seems to carry it yet.

And yes, use DVD storage cases or jewel cases. Make sure they use higher grade plastic, if the plastic feels greasy don’t use them.

Patrick:

Have you seen this: http://www.writeexpress.com/m-writer.html? It claims that these discs and this particular burner create DVDs that last forever.

Any thoughts on it?

btw, I referenced this post in my PC World blog. http://www.pcworld.com/article/254641/on_what_media_should_i_backup_my_photos.html.

Lincoln

Yeah, I don’t like this idea of special burners. I don’t care how perfect their media is, anything that requires a special burner will not be perfectly compatible with generic DVD drives no matter what they claim. Millennium Disc tries to make the same claim, and I think they went out of business as well.

There is a reason why we have standards, it’d be great if everyone followed them.

So as of today, 4-26-12, choosing from the JVC/Taiyo Yuden brand, what is the best archival grade DVD+R media? Cost is not an issue…

And what is the best way to store them? felt case, paper sleeve, plastic jewel case, spindle? I’m no expert of any sort, just have ALOT of digital pics that I need to archive and want to make sure they don’t get compromised while in storage on these disks.. Thanks.

I still prefer full sized jewel case or full sized DVD cases using real polystyrene (low grade Chinese knockoffs have a greasy feel to them and may react with discs over long term storage). They sell 6 and 8 disc DVD cases, so if you’re short on storage room you might want to look into those. NEVER use felt, paper, or spindle storage as it can scratch the disc.

I’m still going with the same recommendation, the archival grade DVD+R still is at the top.

Someone recently said that CDs and DVD aren’t going to be going away anytime soon.

Sorry to rain on everyone’s parade, but has anyone checked the Auto aisle of Best Buy? Except for the old audio systems, CD players are gone, replaced with USB / phone connections.

And once one segment of a market has excluded a product, the rest will certainly follow, for the simple reason that we, as consumers, want portability. If we can’t take the CD / DVD into the car, why bother with it at all. I’ll buy a 64G thumb drive for <$100, have capacity to carry 15 movies, or a whole buttload of music, plus I can also carry important documents on it, and plug it in to my car, home media system, phone, etc.

By 2020, Our (grand) children will be looking at CDs & DVDs like us (our children) looked at cassettes (much less 8-track or vinyl).

Yet I can go into the multimedia isle of Best Buy and see Bluray players, which, by specification, are required to play audio CDs.

Your USB flash drive will also go blank in 5 years, hardly useful for archival use. 2020 is too soon of an estimate, 2035 minimum.

In addition, you’ll have no trouble buying a turntable or a cassette player. They may not be ubiquitous anymore, but there’s still enough of a market for many companies to make new ones.

Not so with 8-track, but that was only commercially viable for a short time.

This may be heretical on this discussion post, but it seems to be a legitimate question.
I asked a salesman at Best Buy to direct me to their archival discs. He said they had none, AND “why would anyone want a 30 year life disc in today’s world? 30 years from now, discs and disc writers will be about as common usable and practical as 8-track audio cassettes and 12 inch vinyl records are today. Mainly, the province of hobbyists and “old stuff” antiquers. You need to stop with the archival discs and get with something that is not going to be a fringe weirdo product 30 years from now. Get a hard drive. Or a bunch of flash USB sticks. Or ANYTHING but a disc.”

1) Is there something to what he says, or not? Discs are wonderful now, but it seems he has a valid point.

2) Is there anything NOW (USB thumb drive sticks or whatever) that I can consider as an alternative to archival DVDs?

thanks!

That guy was an idiot. The first commercial CD player went on sale in 1974, or 38 years ago. There is no reason to believe CDs and DVD/Blurays will not be sold for another 20. In the event of CD readers no longer being in production (ie, more than 20 years from now), you can always switch formats.

USB flash sticks cannot be trusted because flash (USB, SD, CF, etc) tends to go blank after a few years.

The problem with that guy’s argument (and by proxy, yours) is people didn’t make their own 8 track tapes or vinyl records. You don’t have home videos stored on them, or important financial documents, or anything else like that. Due to the shear amount of unique irreplaceable personal data on disc format, I cannot see disc drives stopping production for a very long time.

Eventually cloud services will be stable and common place, but that won’t be for another 10-15 years at least, so there simply is no other alternative.

Just a small correction: the first CD players were not available until 1982. It doesn’t takes away from your solid argument that optical discs will be around for at least a couple more decades, however, in 1974 the CD was but a twinkle in the eye of one of the Sony LaserDisc engineers (or, at the very least, still in prototype).

Just came across your excellent article when doing a Google search for archival DVDs. You recommend DVD+R over DVD-R; however, on the supermediastore.com site, there don’t seem to be any JVC Advanced/TY +Rs, and, checking with Google, the great majority of gold DVDs are DVD-Rs. Any suggestions on a seller for the +Rs?

They still have them: Front page -> blank CD/DVD media: DVD+R -> Disc brand: Taiyo Yuden. SMS continues to call them “JVC Taiyo Yuden”, which more accurately reflects the product.

On the Web site,I don’t see any JVC/Taiyo Yuden DVD+Rs with gold lacquer; there are some with silver lacquer at $39.99 for a spindle of 100. The site cdrdvdrmedia.com has JVC/Taiyo Yuden gold lacquer disks (VP-R47HG100) at $29.99 for 100. Are these actually of archival quality?

No, I don’t believe so. They’re not being sold under the JVC Advance Media brand, but the old JVC brand instead. They aren’t TY.

Just noticed that JVC has launched a new line of “Archival Grade DVD-R” products that are “ISO/IEC 10995 Certified” and claim, “The certified results for our products depict an archival life of more than 30 years.” The part number is: J-DMR-ISO-WPY25-HC (http://jvc-media.com/archives/index.html)

At a current price of almost $4 a disk, they think they’re something special. Wondering if you agree or have any information on how much better these disks would be compared to the 70 year dye lifetimes mentioned in your article?

Yeah as far as I can tell, all they’re doing is selling archival-grade TY at high prices.

Is the 50 pack of the JVC “premium grade” considered archival quality? The labelling and title suggests otherwise (when compared to the authoritative label of the TY cake box). I don’t think I will use a 100 disc pack quick enough, hence my decision to consider purchasing the 50 pack instead.

http://www.supermediastore.com/product/u/jvc-taiyo-yuden-premium-grade-gold-lacquer-16x-dvd-plus-r-media-50-pack

I think those discs might be labeled wrong. They are clearly not TY manufactured JVC, TY makes no gold alloy products. Also, Supermedia store lists two different brands, JVC for non-TY JVC products, and TY for the new JVC Advance Media branded stuff.

Might as well get a 100 disc pack, they’re cheap and you can keep them on the shelf (as long as the cakebox is shut, it seals properly and keeps out environmental damage), and they don’t seem to degrade before being burned.

Looking at Taiyou Yuden/JVC, I see various silver DVD options and one gold option branded as a JVC/ Taiyo Yuden 16x DVD+R, and about $0.36 per disk. The silver ones look to be about $0.32 per disk. What if any would be the advantage to the “gold” compared to the various silver ones?

The Gold ones are old JVC stock, and aren’t manufactured by TY. I would ignore them.

I had bought a 4 Disc Black PP Poly CD DVD Case from supermediastore (http://www.supermediastore.com/product/u/10-4mm-4-disc-black-pp-poly-cd-dvd-case-1-tray-ppd4blk50pk-50pk). What I noticed is that the central push hub on which the CD’s plastic hub sits is not elevated, so I think the disk surface is in contact with the case surface. Do you suggest to buy a single CD Polypropylene jewel case that has a highly elevated central push hub ? Any specific product suggestions would be greatly helpful.

It probably is not in contact with the surface and is barely not touching it. Prevents accidental disc bending when removing the disc. Old style jewel cases cause way too much disc flex. Even if the disc touches a little, real PP Poly cases will not react with the disc.

I have some family oral histories which I recorded onto Verbatim CD-R disks before I knew to look for better-quality disks. (No mention on them of Azo dye, but there are some Japanese characters I can’t read.) I’m assuming I should rerecord onto higher quality disks? Can I copy from the Verbatims or should I go all the way back to my audio cassettes, which is more of a pain (but I will if I need to) ? Also, I had always assumed I should end up on DVDs with these histories because at some point CDs will be obsolete. Should I do that now or simply ride into the future on good quality CD-Rs, knowing that in 20 years (last chance I’ll have to update in my lifetime) there’ll be some new format to jump to?

Copy them to DVDs, the double polycarbonate layers will protect the data better. As for copying them from those CD-Rs? Test if all the data is still coherent first, no sense in burning corrupted data.

I have read this article and its comments, but am surprised to see no reference to the Century Disk. This disk is a glass disk, where the digital info is directly written by means of etching. After that the pattern is covered by a thin layer of gold. The Disk was manufactured by Plasmon-MT in Caen, France and as far as I know they still produce it. The Century Disk was used by Nasa for one of its Mars missions

It seems the company went under, and it also looks like its just yet another generic gold CD. Not particularly interesting, I’m only interested in discs that are produced in the millions and repeatedly are proved to be stable and long lasting.

Also, they never seem to have produced a DVD version, the double polycarbonate layer of DVD design improves stability and viability several fold as you only have to seal the very edge of the disc, instead of the whole top of the single disc.

Hello!

Thanks for the extremely helpful and well-presented info. I want to buy some Taiyo Yuden CD-R’s, but I live in the UK. Do you happen to know a reliable retailer on this side of the pond?

Also, do you happen to know if there’s any meaningful differences between the full-face silver and the non-full-face (the ones with the clear plastic in the middle) silver media? Any advantages of one over the other, or is it purely cosmetic?

Thanks again!!

Raffi

Hi. I just recently recorded 4 copies each onto Maxell DVD+r discs of all my sons 1st year pictures and videos…. Quite a large stack of discs… Anyways there was an article in todays newspapers that for storing photos long term to use gold dvds… I started looking into it and that is how I came across your website…. Based on what I have read, do you now recommend that I record them again onto TY discs? They are kept in my banks vault for storage… Thank you… Can I just make one disc and copy that disc or how many copies would you recommend making? Thank you… Tanya

Also, could you recommend the best external hard drive I should buy to keep my pictures and videos stored on. Dell says they store mine offsite somewhere but I don’t know… Thank you Tanya

I ended up building my own external hard drive. See here. A then new Samsung F3EG 2TB 5400rpm (that product has been replaced with the new F4EG 5400rpm series) and a Vantec NexStar 3 USB3 enclosure (stick with the new USB3 ones even if you don’t have USB3 yet in your computer).

I highly recommend you use a Samsung 5400rpm drive in any external drive you end up building, 7200rpm drives just get too warm and can fry the drive in an enclosure.

Thank you so much for the reply…. The external hard drive info is over my head though… lol….. Is there one you can recommend I can just buy for long term photo/video storage? I ordered the TY discs you recommend and you really feel like they will last 30 years at least as long as they are stored properly? Thank you again!!!! Tanya

I really don’t recommend buying already assembled external drives. They either use low quality drives and/or they use enclosures that cannot properly protect or cool the drive. This is why I built one myself.

Its easy to do it, just buy the drive and enclosure I recommended, slide the enclosure’s tray out, put the drive in, and push the tray back in. All done.

Yeah, I’d recommend you use TY instead of Maxell.

Make two or three copies, keep one at home, one at your bank, and then one in another secure location. The chances of all three being stolen or corrupt/damaged is very low.

Also, is it okay to write on the dvd with a Sharpie? I have jewel cases for each single dvd from supermedia store now too…. I was using the plastic sleeve jackets previously… :(

Yeah, either use a fine line Sanford brand Sharpie, a CD marking Sharpie, or a CD marking pen from a good brand like Verbatim. They should stick to thermal printable discs fine, just make sure you don’t smear it before drying.

Patrick,
I have just bought a pack of 10 JVC 1-16x DVD-R. I have also managed to confirm these as being manufactured by Taiyo Yuden (at least according to Wikipedia, “GHxxxxxx”).
In short, I plan to use these for permanent storage. Should I take them back and buy DVD+R discs? Would burning at the lowest speed possible make any difference?

Thank you in advance,
Rob.

TY DVD-R still has the very high quality of TY products, I just prefer DVD+R because of the better design of the specification that I’ve detailed in the article. Its up to you to switch, but I would have bought the DVD+R to begin with.

NEVER burn at lowest speed. I follow a simple rule: Never burn TY and Verbatim faster than fastest speed, never burn other brands faster than second highest speed, never burn faster than the DVD burner’s second highest speed. So, 16x TY in a 20x drive is fine at 16x, 16x TY in a 16x drive is fine at 12x, etc.

Patrick
Thank you for the useful information regarding archiving. Do you have any preference between the 8x or 16x DVD+R disks of Taiyo Yuden? Regarding storing the individual DVDs in acid free containers, how do you propose storing them inside the container – paper sleeves or plastic sleeves or just place them one over the other inside the box?

Thank You
Felix

I recommend using actual jewel/DVD cases made of acid free non-oily plastic (usually polypropylene), paper/plastic sleeves tend to scratch the disc. Never stack discs, even in cases that allow it, as that scratches discs too (sometimes even worse, causing radial scratches due to discs spinning). You can get DVD cases that hold 6 or 8 discs without stacking.

Thanks for getting back on this. Now when it comes to cases, the problem is that a typical DVD case is bulky and becomes a space issue when you try to store hundreds of DVDs inside a box and that can be one of the reasons why sleeves are popular. Do you have any recommendation of the polypropylene dvd cases that are compact and available in the market. I found this one on the internet which has a 8 disc case -http://www.sleevetown.com/dvd-case-multi.shtml but I am not sure if this is something you would recommend. It would be great if you can let us know the one you use or recommend. Some of the forums talk about tyvek cases and something called d_skin (protective layer around the cd/dvd) but would like to know your opinion about them.

Supermediastore sells cases identical to those Diskkeeper cases, and I think cheaper too.

I don’t like Tyvek sleeves, although they’re much better than paper ones. Its a DuPont technology that is used in home construction, light low grade hazmat suits, and shipping envelopes. However, Tyvek sleeves still contact the disc surface abrasively when you slide it in and out of the sleeve. Same does for d_skin (which some have described as a disc condom of sorts).

Jewel case type designs hold the disk in the case around the hub, and doesn’t touch (or non-abrasively touches in very slim cases) the surface. This is essentially why I prefer them. Its not like it takes up much space, 12 discs in a DVD case is very small.

Do you think there is any difference in the longevity of BD-R single layer vs BD-R DL dual layer?

JVC has 3 distinct grades of DVD+R on their website http://jvc-media.com/dvd/dvd_plus_r/ – photo, premium, and archival. Archival doesn’t seem to be available in the US. Are there any real differences between the 3 in terms of quality / longevity? Thanks.

JVC has a confusing product line up. None of those three are the new JVC-branded TY media which goes under the brand of “JVC Advance Media”.

Dear Patrick,

In your article on choosing cd/dvd archival disks you say the Taiyo Yuden cds are expected to last 70 years or more. Other sites make similar claims, however I haven’t been able to find where Taiyo Yuden makes this expectation itself.

Where and when did Taiyo Yuden make this statement? I would like to read it first hand.

Sincerely,

John

I can’t find it on their site, but their site isn’t for consumers. I suspect its in their PR materials they hand out to vendors, which also isn’t on their website.

However, to be fair, the only way to get 70 years is lock them away in a humidity and temperature controlled archive room. Real world usage is going to be around 20 as long as they are kept temperature and humidity stable and away from UV light and rarely handled. Excessively high temperature or humidity will degrade discs faster, and you also want to maintain multiple off-site backups of important data just in case a disc starts degrading or is otherwise lost or damaged.

thank you for this excellent write-up. it is useful and helpful even for the technically challenged. I have read far too many that go over technicalities without getting to the point or vice-versa.

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