CD/DVD backup longevity and reliability


Feb 17, 2010

I'm wondering if "homemade" burnt media really lasts "forever'. From what I've read there are a lot of factors that determine how long a disc remains readable, and assuming best case scenarios for each, some people claim 5 years while others claim decades or even centuries.

Can anyone clear this up for me? If I were to say get some verbatim dvd-r's and burn them at 2x, store them in a dark cool place, would they likely last many years?

I also read that marker ink can seep through over time and damage the dye, so have begun writing on the clear middle ring =p

I would look at it this way -- in 5 years, and certainly in 10-20 you will be lucky to even find an optical drive in working order that will be able to read anything burned and stored away.

I used to burn all my important stuff to DVD - I have so much of it though that the best cost effective method is either putting it on a cheap 500GB HDD, or burning things off to a few blu-ray 50GB discs.

If you had the cash - I would think the most reliable method of storing a lot of data would be an SSD drive. No moving parts, (so not fragile like normal HDDs) and not succeptible to scratching or any day to day physical issues. If you throw your stuff on it and then put it in a safe it would be safe and sound for god knows how long.
I highly doubt reading DVDs in 5 years will be a problem. I wouldn't trust the data itself much longer than that though. As to using flash media for archival, we have no long term information on how well flash at modern feature sizes retain data. It's a moving target, as the technologies used to make flash memory change constantly.

Hard drives are much the same, recording techniques and densities have changed too fast to pin down any real figures, but data on the platters is considered pretty safe. The problem lies in expecting a drive to spin up and work 5 or 10 years from now, there are mechanical systems in them that aren't necessarily designed to remain static for years at a time. Most of the time it will work just fine, but a significant (enough) amount of the time it will not, then you are looking at expensive recovery services if you really want your data back.

Truth is, there aren't that many options for reliable long term archival of data available at reasonable cost to the consumer. LTO3 tape is the option I chose, but I had to invest nearly $1000 in it, and expect to do the same again in a couple of years to move everything to a newer generation of tape. I do backups for several others, so this helps offset the investment. I came to the decision after exploring all other options I know of, but some data is not replaceable.
As do I. I've also lost data to burned DVDs after only a few years. Most of the time they will be fine, especially if quality media is used. But I wouldn't count on it.