The Demise of CDs and DVDs

Alas, poor CDs and DVDs, we hardly knew ye.

Have you purchased any software lately? How about digital images of an old genealogy book? Did you obtain them on a CD or DVD disk? If so, keep that disk. It is already an antique and probably will be a collector’s item before long.

Twenty years ago, we all purchased software on floppy disks. Perhaps ten years ago, software was usually delivered on CD-ROM disks. When was the last time you purchased software that was delivered on a CD or even a high-capacity DVD-ROM disk? Yes, there are a few companies that still deliver software that way, but the number of such companies is dwindling.

Most software these days is delivered electronically, usually by means of a file download. Even Microsoft is now delivering Windows 10 by software download.

I own an iMac desktop computer, a MacBook Pro laptop, a Windows 10 laptop, and a Chromebook laptop. None of them have internal CD-ROM or DVD-ROM disk drives. Of course, iPads, Android tablets and other handheld computers never had CD-ROM drives.

My situation is not unusual. Millions of new computers are sold every year without internal CD-ROM drives. In fact, industry experts tell us that CD-ROM drives will soon be as rare as floppy disk drives. To verify this, visit any local computer store and look at the computers being offered for sale. A few of the desktop systems might have CD-ROM/DVD-ROM drives, but most will not. Laptop computers rarely have internal CD-ROM/DVD-ROM drives.

A Samsung Ultrabook Series 9 laptop with no CD or DVD drive. It is too thin to hold a CD disk drive!

Delivering software on a CD is useless for the few million people with similar computers without CD or DVD disk drives. As a result, most vendors have switched to electronic delivery. A few have not made the switch yet but probably will do so before long.

To be sure, I do own an external CD and DVD-ROM disk drive that can plug into a USB port on almost any computer. I purchased it 5 or 6 years ago. However, that external drive has been sitting in the closet, untouched, for 2 or 3 years now. I simply haven’t had a need for it.

A couple of weeks ago, I purchased a new MacBook Pro laptop. Since I wanted to be able to run both the Macintosh and Windows 10 operating systems, I also purchased a copy of “Windows 10 in a Box” from Amazon. The box I received looked like the boxes of software I have purchased in the past that contained CD-ROM or high-capacity DVD-ROM disks, along with instructions and some documentation. I assumed this latest purchase would be the same. Wrong!

When I opened the box, there was no disk inside, not even a flash drive. The box only contained several small pieces of paper. There were several advertisements for other software products, a Windows 10 Certificate of Authority (a software license certifying that I am legally entitled to run one copy of Windows 10), and a piece of paper giving the URL (web address) where I could download Windows 10.

In fact, I did download Windows 10 and installed it along with Parallels on the Macintosh, and everything went smoothly. I now have a MacBook Pro laptop that runs both the macOS operating system and Windows 10. (It also runs Linux and the Chrome operating systems, but I will leave that story for another article.)

Data CDs are going through the same changes. Not long ago, you could purchase all sorts of genealogy books and databases on CD. I think I still have a cardboard box of Family Tree Maker data CDs stored in the basement. Those CD disks are no longer useable with the more recent versions of Family Tree Maker. In fact, Family Tree Maker dropped support for those CDs several years ago. The data contained on the disks is in a proprietary format, not the standard PDF format or the EPUB format that is popular with ebooks. As a result, the data CDs are now about as useful as the old AOL CDs that we all received in the mail years ago. (When was the last time AOL sent you a CD?)

Of course, the music industry dropped CDs almost entirely several years ago. Remember the nearby record store that sold records and CDs or the video rental store that rented DVD disks? What ever happened to those stores? Those two probably disappeared about the same time.

Most music these days is purchased by digital download or is simply rented. For reference, look at iTunes, Pandora, Google Play Music, iHeartRadio, Amazon Music Unlimited, Spotify, and similar services.

A Sony Walkman CD Player – remember those?

When was the last time you saw someone walking along the street with earphones and a rather large Sony Walkman CD Player? That used to be a common sight. Nowadays everyone listens to an iPod that only plays digital music. Even my latest automobile does not contain a CD drive. Instead, there is a USB connector on the radio where I can plug in a flash drive. That’s good news for me and for millions of other drivers, as we can now store many thousands of our favorite songs in the space previously required for storing just a few CDs.

Genealogists and the companies that serve the genealogical marketplace tend to be conservative. We probably are amongst the last ones to go away from plastic disks in favor of digital downloads. Yet this is happening now within the genealogy community. The big book stores (Amazon along with Barnes & Noble) now sell more ebooks as downloads than they do printed books. To my knowledge, neither Amazon nor Barnes & Noble sell ebooks on CD-ROM disks these days.

The genealogy specialty publishers, including Genealogical Publishing Company and Heritage Books, continue to offer printed books, downloadable ebooks, and even ebooks on CD-ROM disks. I suspect the smaller vendors will continue to offer books on CD as long as there is any significant market left for them but certainly will not do so forever. After all, many of their customers are like me: they don’t own a computer with an internal CD-ROM drive. That will become even more common as the PC manufacturers keep omitting CD-ROM drives from their products.

So what are we supposed to do with our genealogy CDs? There are several answers:

1. Family Tree Maker data CDs

If you own any Family Tree Maker data CDs, you probably are out of luck unless you still have a very old version of Family Tree Maker installed. Even then, there is no easy method of exporting the data to a more modern or widely-available format.

IMPORTANT: The required Family Archive CDs software will NOT work on Windows 10 and there is no known workaround.

If you are running Windows 8.1 or earlier, you can find some information at http://www.genealogical.com/content/dlfav6.html and at http://www.genealogical.com/content/cd_help.html. However, the information appears to be long out-of-date. In fact, it states that the software is only for Windows 95 and later. Windows 95??? Yes, the info hasn’t been updated in a long time.

A companion program, called Family Archive Viewer, was designed for use on Windows computers that did not have Family Tree Maker installed and used to be available from the FamilyTreeMaker.com web site. Family Archive Viewer software for Windows apparently has now been removed from the site. It used to be available at http://www.genealogy.com/abtffiv.html but that link no longer works.

If you feel adventurous, there is a download available at http://downloads.informer.com/family-archive-viewer/11.0/ that claims to be Family Archive Viewer version 11.0. However, the site is not sponsored by any of the past producers of Family Tree Maker, and the site is therefore suspect.

I won’t download that file because (1.) I question its legality and (2) I don’t own a computer with an internal CD drive. However, you are welcome to try it, if you dare. Should you download it, make sure you also check the downloaded file for viruses! Illegal file download sites often are full of viruses.

2. CD-ROM disks containing PDF files

Thousands of genealogy CDs have been sold over the years that contain various books digitized in PDF format. If you are fortunate enough to have both the disk and a CD-ROM drive, I would suggest copying the CD immediately to a hard drive or to a flash drive or to a dedicated file space in the cloud, such as Dropbox. (I would do all three! You can never have too many backup copies.)

If you no longer own a computer with an internal CD-ROM drive, see if a friend who still owns a CD-equipped computer will copy it to a flash drive for you. If unsuccessful, you can still purchase external CD-ROM drives that plug into a computer’s USB connector. See Amazon, eBay, and other retailers for a selection of drives to choose from.

NOTE: If you own a Macintosh, I would suggest purchasing only the Apple USB SuperDrive (see https://www.apple.com/shop/product/MD564LL/A/apple-usb-superdrive). You can find cheaper external CD-ROM drives from other vendors, but they often have problems with drivers when used on a Mac. While it is expensive, the Macintosh SuperDrive is 100% compatible with all current Macintosh computers.

3. CD-ROM disks containing EPUB files

A few ebooks were sold on CD-ROM disks with files in the very popular EPUB format. If you have one of those disks, I would suggest copying the CD immediately to a hard drive or to a flash drive or to a dedicated file space in the cloud, such as Dropbox. (I would do all three! You can never have too many backup copies.)

In fact, I would leave it in EPUB format unless I had a specific need for something else. If you do need to convert the file format to something else, there are dozens of programs that will do this for you. I would start first with EPUB to PDF, a FREE conversion service in the cloud at http://www.convertfiles.com/convert/ebook/EPUB-to-PDF.html.

Summation

So what am I going to do with all my old Family Tree Maker data CDs? I am going to store them right next to my buggy whip collection!

As for your other future “collector’s items,” I suggest you copy your data CDs NOW!

26 Comments

Hi, Dick! I had success in uploading the 14.1 FTM. I paid for the 15 FTM, but I have tried 3 times to update with failures each time. I requested help from MacKiev and I have not received a response. Do you know of a MacKiev problem contact info? Thanks!

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    I am aware of MacKiev’s customer support page on the company’s website site a https://support.mackiev.com/ but do not have any other contact info.

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    I too have had a problem with MacKiev. I ordered and paid for FTM 2017 when it was announced that it was going to be released in a few days. A week went by and I heard nothing so I contacted them by webchat and was told there was a problem and directed to a progress page which told me there was a problem with syncing with Ancestry. As I don’t sync my tree this was annoying. A few more weeks went by and there was still no release. I contacted them again and they suggested I download the insider tester programme which I did, this was fine but every couple of days it made me fill out a survey before it would load.I finally got the full programme at the start of July four months after I had paid for it.
    I have asked them numerous times why I am not getting ancestry.com hints like I did with FTM2014 but not had any reply at all.I can only assume they are having more syncing problems with their customer service staff.

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    Is MacKiev stuck shut? I’ve been using 14.1 and wanted to wait to try 15 until other users reported trouble free experience. Unfortunately, a couple of weeks ago it lost it’s connection to the internet, when all other applications are fine. I’m baffled–one day it was fine and the next day it wasn’t, and I’ve tried all the obvious things like firewall settings, and nothing helped. I went to the support page and got an automated response twelve days ago with no follow up. I’d advise no one to buy an upgrade or new software from them until they are capable of supporting their products.

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I am curious about your windows 10 download or any downloaded program really. I am wondering if a lifetime download option is included or if you have to pay to download each time there is a need to do so? In the past I usually purchased a backup disk for any program electronically delivered. What choices will I have now? Can those program set up files be saved on a flash drive for later use?

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    —> I am wondering if a lifetime download option is included or if you have to pay to download each time there is a need to do so?

    With Microsoft, you can download it as often as you wish. I suspect most other companies are the same. HOWEVER, the more important factor is the Certificate of Authority (sometimes called the serial number or the software license). I only have one of those and it only allows for one installation of the software.

    I haven’t tested this but I assume that if I download the software a second time, install it on a different computer, and then try to register it by using the same Certificate of Authority number I used the first time, I probably will receive an error message saying “Sorry but that number is already registered to a different computer” or some similar words.

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You: “So what am I going to do with all my old Family Tree Maker data CDs?”

Me: A few months ago I finally decided to have my old Windows XP hard drive destroyed. A Boy Scout leader told me he’d be very happy to receive it because his Scouts need new targets for target practice. He said it would definitely be “obliterated!” That’s my suggestion to you. Some Scout leader would love to receive your box-in-the-basement of CDs.

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Just got off the phone with RootsMagic, and opened up your site to see this story.

I was on the phone with RootsMagic because I just opened the package I got from them the other day with the CD and book for RootsMagic7, and the CD is in about 3 pieces. It did not survive in the VERY cheapo CD container and in the bubble wrap Priority bag.

Of course, they’re happy to send me another copy, but in the meantime, if I want to use the program, I have to, you guessed it, DOWNLOAD IT!

Sigh…

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I have a rather new laptop, complete with CD Rom. However, I purchases a rather expensive Asus Gaming Computer. I did this for the speed and lack of bugs I normally get. Sometimes you do get what you pay for. And the designers know that Gamers want the best. That flips over to helping me do Genealogy Quick.

On the other hand I had someone send me a Floppy with a .BAK file. Nothing worked as it was from 2003. I even tried changing to a .PAF file.

Eventually I learned it had a PAF 3.0 Program, and the PAF 5.1 won’t open it.

Yes I still use PAF 5.1. That may sound odd, but I prefer basic information that I can self analyze without distractions, and I find this perfect.

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    .bak was a generic extention typically used for backups. Unless you knew it was a pad backup it could have been anything.

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I use CDs and DVDs almost daily, for music and movie watching. I hate paying good money for snippets of software I can only use once when I can still install my Office 2007 on my systems. It’s a rip off.

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It’s not just computers. We have just taken delivery of our brand new car and discovered there was no CD player! So, we asked the dealer “how do we play our favourite music in the car?” Hopefully you can imagine the look we were given before being told “well, you just download it all to your phone”. Too bad if you still don’t have a smartphone (I have one but the better half doesn’t). Fortunately, we were advised by a third person to just download the music onto a USB. Problem solved!

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I have been busily uploading my music CD’s to my computer’s hard drive. (I’ve been using iTunes as the program for doing this, though there are other ways to move the content of these disks off to a hard drive. ) So far I’ve found 3 CD’s that are completely or partially unreadable ( or about 10% of those I’ve done). Those that are unreadable just spin in the drive, and after a few tries the disk drive drawer opens and spits out the disk. So I’ve found from personal experience that what they say about CD’s sitting on the shelf and deteriorating is true.

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    Don’t throw out those CDs they probably aren’t faulty. For some years the record industry tried to stop music CDS from being ripped to digital files by putting a special track on the disks which makes them unreadable by computers, hence the issue that you have described. Take a look on the underside and compare with a normal CD without the outer ring.

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    Known in the computer industry as “bit rot.” Sadly it happens. Now that hard drives and cloud storage are cheap people should backup all their files which they can’t do without; especially photographs.

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For years my grandchildren used my old CD/DVD when playing house. Made great pancakes. More recently I use them to cover the outside of my wood shed, overlapping like shingles. Beautiful when the light hits them at the right angle.

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Well, I would suggest “Never say Never!” My local Barnes & Noble is now selling 33 1/3 vinyl records again, and a couple weeks back I read about a company that will start to produce cassette tapes once again. Just saying….

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    Oh I wasn’t going to say this, lest I be accused of being a Luddite (I sort of am), but when we moved 3,000 miles I shipped over my record player, a little step-down transformer for it and my collection of LPs, which I play often. I have a zillion CDs, which I also play often. I have nothing but a laptop I use for work upon which to play any sort of digital music and have no interest in getting anything. I hate having things in my ears (earbuds) or wearing headphones. I want the music to be in the air around me, wrapping me in sound and feeling. I like to listen to albums in the sequence the artist thought carefully about, not single songs, which I mainly associate with listening to the radio.
    I used to have a lot of cassette tapes, but gave up on that technology not only because of the infamous snarling of the fragile tape (fixed with a pencil) or the eating of said tape by the player, but by the fact tape players have a sort of rubber band inside them which runs things. Over time it degrades (as one does when one is a rubber band) and breaks. Good luck getting anyone to fix it. Or finding a new player. I left my cassettes behind with the furniture, most of our clothes. We brought over said record player/records/CDs, 12 boxes of books, our laptops and a good monitor and my good knives. We have our priorities. {;>)

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You can never have too many backups, or different types of backup. I use my CD-ROM drive almost exclusively for backup. Anything I really really want to keep I burn to a disk that I can put in safe places, send to relatives, etc. I burn a DVD (using M-disks currently) with all my important changeable files at least once a year. Disks don’t last forever, but USB drives and hard drives will fail much sooner. BTW, the LG CD-ROM drive works quite well with my iMac (Mac Superdrives don’t work with M-disks I believe).

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We have all of our old movies and pictures on DVD, what is a person to do!

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I use my ancestry and family tree maker cd’s on XP desktop with an external cd drive because the disk drive on the XP machine died. I also use them on a laptop with Windows 7 which has a cd drive. Believe me, even though the CDs are apparently part of Ancestry, one can search much better with the CDs. And I just purchased a Dell laptop with a CD drive on the business section of Dell which still sells windows 7 for “businesses” who cannot continue to continually update to new versions of windows. All this to avoid Windows 10! I have had 2 external drives die but I still have working CDs. I also just bought an external floppy disk reader where I used to make several backups. And it worked fine.

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    I hate Win 10 so thanks for the tip about Dell’s business section. I’ve always used Lenovo, but will definitely look at Dell now.

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Thanks for the tip about the FTM disks though I’m not sure if I found any really useful info.
Here in the UK the DVD rental stores have just about gone but music CDs and video DVDs are still widely available. Most music downloads are lo-fi which is OK for some.

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For those inquiring about problems with Mac Kiev and FTM, I would like to add that I have had nothing but great support from them. FTM 14.1 no longer works with Ancestry.com. It was made when Ancestry had control of FTM. FTM 2017 by Mac Kiev is now available and is working fine. Don’t blame Mac Kiev for FTM 14.1 not working it is all because Ancestry.com dropped FTM. I am enjoying the new FTM 2017. Not only will you receive Ancestry hints but you will also receive hints from Family Search.

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    You presumably haven’t tried to get help lately. I’ve now been waiting for 13 days for service, and note that this has nothing to do with not working with ancestry.com.

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I use a few of my old FTM data disks often enough that I keep one in my laptop cd/dvd drive all the time. I am using Windows 10 which was updated from Windows 8. While I had trouble using the cd’s before, installing the old archive viewer works perfectly in W 10. Some of the old cd’s contain many volumes as in the RI CD215 which has all of Beaman’s vital record books. The original books do not have a common index and need to be searched book by book. CD215 just has what I need right at my fingertips. I’ll be using my collection of cd’s as long as I can.

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