Are DVDs and CDs Disintegrating?

There have been a number of articles in this newsletter and elsewhere in genealogy publications about long-term storage of magnetic and optical media. Many of us are concerned about the life expectancy of CD-ROM and the newer DVD-ROM disks. Tina Sieber writes in the MakeUseOF web site, “While estimations predict a life time of up to 200 years for optical discs, we can never be sure when they are really going to break. However, by being aware of what determines the life span of optical discs and what causes them to break, you can make choices and significantly increase the survival time of your stored data.”

Tina describes music on CD and movies on DVD disks, but her comments apply equally to computer data stored on DVD-ROM disks.

You can read her article at


I would add that even though CDs and DVDs may last a long time (in theory), the technology that reads these devices may not last as long. An archival CD that lasts for 200 years is useless if it can no longer be opened or read. Technological obsolescence is one of the biggest threats to current digital media.


    I agree with Jill
    I worked for a number of years for a data archiving company and we ran into the problem of customers having to keep old technology readers to be able to use their backup. This was especially true of early adopters of CD technology — many in the medical industry. When you pick a backup media, be sure it will be useful in the future. That is why 1/2 inch computer tape is still popular as a backup medium.

    Mike Lewis


I guess that pen and paper is starting to look really good right about now.


I recently went through several hundred of old backup CD-ROMs and DVDs. I was retrieving old audio files and video files which were too large to keep on my Smaller older hard disk. There was only one disk which I could not read on my BD-ROM drive. The age of these disks over 20 years! My current computer has 3 drives each over 2 TB in size and I also have a My Cloud EX2 with 2 each 4 TB drives for backup. In the belt and suspenders mode I also back up the most valuable files I have on Drop Box.
my question is how long the new SSD (Solid State Drives) will last. Is the solid state technology as reliable as BD-ROMS. Thumb drives are now down below 50 cents per GB! BD-DISKs are also in the neighborhood of 50 cents per GB!


    —> my question is how long the new SSD (Solid State Drives) will last.

    Nothing lasts forever. Not paper, not disk drives, not flash drives, and nothing else I can think of.

    I think you have already done the best thing possible: you have realized that the information you already have will not last forever and you have copied it to more modern media. I believe your method is the best solution of all: to periodically copy your valuable information to whatever is the best storage media available at this moment. You need to do that again and again every few years.

    The only other thing I can add is to always have two or more copies of everything, in case something ever goes bad or is lost. That includes having backup copies on paper, on disk drives, on flash drives, in the cloud, or whatever else makes sense today. Having two, three, or more copies of everything provides great insurance against data loss.

    As to the decision of “which is best, GEDCOM file or files in the format my genealogy program uses?” I believe in doing both. I save my files in the native format my genealogy program uses and then I save ANOTHER COPY of the same information in GEDCOM format. I also save them in multiple places, including in the cloud (Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud, etc.) and on local disk drives and flash drives. I also believe in wearing BOTH a belt plus suspenders.

    Storage space is cheap these days. How valuable is the genealogy information you have spent hundreds of hours collecting?


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