Anecdotes, experiences with various CDs & DVDs

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by lex_jenkins, May 10, 2015.

  1. I've read the many articles, some of which contradict each other about whether dye based CD-R/DVD-R are more archival or less archival compared with CD-RW/DVD-RW discs with metallic film. Since the experts can't seem to agree, I'm interested in the experiences of other photographers, regarding long term experiences with CDs/DVDs. (And, yes, I'm considering the M-Disc, although I'm not sure my existing drives are compatible.)
    For the past week I've been copying decade-old and older photo CDs and DVDs to a new 3 TB hard drive. So far I've encountered only a few bad discs. But there's no apparent pattern. Some discs with unrecoverable photos were CD-R, some were DVD-R. There doesn't seem to be any pattern of failure attributable to brand, or type within a brand (e.g., Maxell CD-R vs Maxell CD-R Pro). And there aren't enough failures to spot any patterns. I've used mostly Maxell and Fuji CDs, and Sony DVDs including DVD-RW and DVD+RW. I also have a few CD-RW from Office Depot that turned out to be rebadged Sony or other good brands (according to Nero's disc inspection utility).
    The most significant failures were CDs burned by pro labs and minilabs from my film scans 10 or more years ago. Those appear to have fared significantly worse than my own burns.
    The only pattern I've noticed was an immediate failure with some CD-R and DVD-R discs I burned years ago with an outboard USB 2 Lite On drive, but I was able to minimize those burn errors by reducing the write speeds. At full write speed I was getting about 50% failure, especially with DVDs. But reducing the write speed improved successful burns to around 90%. I'd guesstimate 97% of the discs I burned successfully up to 10 years ago with the Lite On are still good.
    I haven't used enough dual layer DVDs, DVD-RAM or DVD-ROM discs to say anything. Maybe half a dozen and all appear to be okay.
    As an experiment, about 10 years ago I began burning important long term documentary projects to both CD-R and CD-RW; and DVD-R, and DVD-RW or DVD+RW discs. So far all of the rewritable discs, and most of the write-only discs, are still good. The only interesting observation is that the rewritable discs have fared as well as the write-only discs. This seems to contradict the conventional wisdom of the previous decade that rewritable discs wouldn't last as long.
    One reason I'm reconsidering my whole approach is because my options for off-site storage are very limited. I have a couple of friends and family members who may be willing to store a carton of CDs/DVDs for me. But there are no guarantees about storage conditions. One family home where I left a carton of discs was left un-air conditioned for several years, and a plumbing leak flooded the entire house, along with those discs and some of my negatives and slides. Any cartons I leave with other folks may very well migrate to garages, attics or basements. All I can do is pack the discs in sealed plastic bins and hope for the best. (Military surplus ammo cans also hold up very well and are flood resistant, but I'd need to repaint those into something friendly to make them less ominous appearing.)
    I don't really have any options for off-site storage of backup hard drives, so those stay with me. Any off-site storage will be limited to CDs/DVDs as a last-ditch method.
    Beyond that, my best bet is probably cloud storage with Amazon, which has affordable rates provided you don't need immediate or frequent access to the files.
    Anyway, mostly I'm curious about your long term experiences with various types of CDs and DVDs.
  2. Anyway, mostly I'm curious about your long term experiences with various types of CDs and DVDs.​
    You got me curious. Even though I know it doesn't mean anything, I ran a (successful) test with a sample size of one. I checked a Memorex CD-R from 2001 which contains a particularly valuable file, a 400K scan of a 4x5 neg of a painting by a dear friend. The disk reads without any drama, but that doesn't matter, all my files are copied 6 times on external disk drives, which I rotate regularly (usually 4 copies at home, 2 at my wife's office.) After years of spending time burning CDs and DVDs, I don't even look at the ones I have archived, and rely entirely on multiple external drives. When there's a sale, I replace the drives.
    Lex, you are so important to this community that you're likely to get multiple offers, but I'll start. If you would like to keep an additional copy of your work at my house, and doing things by mail (to the Santa Barbara area) is not a huge hassle for you, you're totally welcome to do that. Just email and we can set it up.
  3. Thanks for the offer, I may take you up on that. In the past I've left copies of CDs/DVDs with various family members, but as folks marry, move, divorce, move again, etc., those things get misplaced.
    I need to better organize my various projects first, and condense them to a few DVDs. I'd like to get everything down to what will fit in a single small USPS Priority Mail box, return shipping prepaid, etc., so it doesn't impose on anyone. Right now everything fits into a carton a little larger than I'd like, but those are mostly CDs rather than DVDs.
    It was easier to keep up with this stuff years ago when I used only 1 GB or smaller media cards. Most sessions would fit on a single CD, including raw files. But higher megapickle cameras, 8 GB and larger media cards required spanning sessions over multiple DVDs, right about the same time my upgraded version of Nero discontinued disc spanning. So by 2013 or so I fell way behind in backing up important projects to disc and mostly relied on external hard drives.
    At the moment I'm up late trying to recover some one-of-a-kind photos from a Philips DVD+RW disc, one of the few that went bad. Probably due to my using Nero InCD rather than other burning techniques. It seemed easier for quick, on-the-fly drag and drop saves, but at the time I didn't realize these utilities that allow using CDs/DVDs like a floppy drive sometimes were buggy. The hard drive with the originals died in 2012 and I haven't found another disc with these photos.
  4. I never burned a DVD so far. All I know: minimizing write speed seems to help. - This would explain why lab CDs died, since a lab is unlikely to waste time when it can get away with less hassle / resources.
  5. I had a stack of gold Kodak (where have I heard that name before ;-) "archival" DVDs where I copied each 4G CF card when it filled up. When I exhausted those DVDs, the cost of replacing the blank gold DVDs was $$$ and my default CF card was up to 32G. Storage space was filling up. Time to rethink archiving strategy.
    All media decays over time and maintaining archives implies moving data to fresh media over time. Data transfer rates become an issue. Reading/writing optical media or USB Flash is slow. Consequently, I have settled on portable hard drives to backup my primary and secondary RAID storage. The drives fit easily into a safe deposit box in contrast to stacks of DVDs needed to store a Terrabyte. I add a new drive to the rotation every year to address data decay on older drives. Amazon Prime storage is interesting but I haven't included that in my backup strategy yet.
  6. AJG


    Lex--my experiences parallel yours, in that I have had very few problems with CD/DVD that I have burned myself (mostly in a LaCie burner with Toast), especially once I stopped using maximum speed. My backups have been the Delkin gold CDs and DVDs along with everything that I care about being on several hard drives, and so far I have been able to access anything that I have needed.
    Your situation concerning where backup materials can go is probably a more common one than most of us realize, so perhaps Photonet could facilitate a buddy system where we agree to help each other with storing backups.
  7. I burn a lot of CDs and DVDs pursuant to audio-visual production, as well as for backups of photos and other projects. While some of my discs from 15-20 years ago are hard to read, I have been able to extract needed information using recovery software. The problem seems related to hardware and software issues, rather than to the discs themselves. I recently needed to recover several years of photos from the loss of a 2 TB hard drive with no signficant reading issues in the backup discs. Backing up to optical discs is, IMO, a good practice, and is reasonable if you keep up to date. Hard drives can fail without warning, or by a single miscreant key stroke.
    My working library is now kept on an 8 TB (4 drive) Drobo, which acts like a RAID without the maintenance issues. It's just slow in its present state of the art (USB3 or Ethernet are faster). It has 4 drives, and can recover automatically from the failure of one disk by hot-swapping with a good drive (takes nearly a day to recover), or upgraded with larger disks at any time.
    It is impractical to use CDs for backup any more. Even DVDs and BDs are limiting when the smallest memory card in my kit is 16 GB, and 64 GB is the new norm (considering video). So-called "gold" archival CDs (phthalocyanine dye) may be durable, but have caused me more problems than "green" (mixed cyanine dyes) discs at a fraction of the cost. The difference is that "gold" discs have a very narrow power window for burning, and a lower S/N ratio once burned than discs used for mass reproduction. The write/read speed for CDs is only 1/5th that of a DVD or BD, which significantly limits their utility.
    While the dye (cyanine & diazo) in DVDs is theoretically less stable, there is no difference in practice. Furthermore, the dye is sandwiched between two layers of plastic, and not subject to destruction if the lacquered back (label area) is compromised. I've been using DVDs for backup almost exclusively since 2005 and BDs since about 2010, and have experienced no reading problems. All my headaches have been from CDs. BDs record on the front surface, but seem to be well protected from damage through ordinary handling.
    Discs and hardware have evolved greatly since the early days, as has software. I use Nero software for several reasons. Nero discs are ISO compatible, and default to disc-at-once rather than packet writing used by photo processors and drag-and-drop programs. Packet writing emulates floppy discs, but in fact must copy the entire directory each time something is added to the disc. One glitch, and the disc is rendered useless. Nero offers a 100% read/source comparison to verify each disc, which seems to be bulletproof. You can chain discs together for a continuous backup (90 minutes of video can take up to 6 BDs), and reburn any disc if it fails its verification.
  8. I'm using Western Digital WD My Passport Ultra 1.5 TB auto backup. Very convenient. Plugs into the USB jack and you pretty much forget about it.
    Does anyone know how archival these are?
  9. AJG


    Any hard drive has potential issues over time, and I certainly wouldn't trust a single hard drive of any make or model as my sole back up. I think that each of us has to figure out just how important our files are and then go from there. As a commercial photographer I do get requests for older material from clients who have lost the CD or DVD that I originally delivered, so I go to great lengths (multiple hard drives, two back up DVDs [different brands]) to make sure that I can meet my clients' needs. So far, so good, I have always been able to bring back my files, 99.9% of the time from one of the hard drives. I would't go to this much trouble if it was just personal work, since I have few illusions about how much anybody will care about it after I'm gone, but others may feel differently about this.
  10. I use M-disc DVD-R media for off-line storage
  11. For archival purposes, my experiences with CDs and DVDs have been bad enough to not trust them, but I never used the gold archive CDs/DVDs, so possibly those are better; so my experiences are a bit limited to the normal recordable media.
    Mostly I've used decent brands (Verbatim, TDK, Sony) recordables, and of any brand I've had to throw out numerous CDs and DVDs. Some completely unreadable, some just a few CRC errors on a few files (but Murphy's law is always in full effect to select the exact file you need). They scratch too easy too, and size is getting a nuisance - 4GB isn't that much anymore. For optical media, if I really need/should use that, I actually prefer rewritable media. I've got quite a pile of CD-RWs and DVD+RWs, and so far, only one failed (it had a scratch down to the metal), and one at work after a year of rewriting it 2-3 times per week. All the others, even with superficial scratches just continue to work fine. Accidentally erasing them requires enough foolishness to make it rather foolproof, so my little bit of experience: go with rewritables.
    Now, hard disks aren't without problems either, and I never trust a single hard disk either. But failing multiple hard disks simultaneously - so far I never saw that (knock on wood). My preference is really with hard disks for local copies - especially now that 2,5" portable USB3 disks become really affordable, I just buy one when on offer, and keep piling them up.
    I've had a fair number of CD and DVD writers from different brands; never noticed major differences between them in terms of long-term reliability for the media. But, as Jochen said, lower writing speeds has always proven beneficial - media written at the highest speeds show a lot more issues reading than those written at moderate speeds.
    Software continues to make a difference too, somehow. At present, the one program that never seems to fail me is ImgBurn. It lacks in userfriendliness, but its price is very right (just watch out for its attempt to install browser addon junk), and the DVDs it cooks just work.
  12. If the disc and drive are rated appropriately, you can use the maximum recording speed. I can go faster, but use 16-24x for CDs and 8-16x for DVDs without creating errors. Using slower speeds usually doesn't improve the recording accuracy with a newer drive and modern media. If you have a problem at 8x, and your system is keeping up, recording at 1x won't fix it and may make matters worse. You need to replace the drive or buy better media.
    I use "Diagnostic" by Infinadyne to check the error rate. I use this, along with experience, to base my conclusions about recording speed.
  13. Lex - have you looked at M-discs?
    They don't use dyes or metallic films. They etch pits in an inorganic material ("stone") and claim a life of 1000 years. I think their blu-ray disks work in most standard burners, but their DVDs may require approved burners and software (
    I haven't tried them myself. So far I've not had any CDs or DVDs go bad (that I know of...).
  14. Yup, I'm definitely considering the M-Disc, but I
    need to better organize and condense my projects

    Anyone else noticing any significant differences
    in long term reliability between write-only and
    rewritable discs?

    BTW, I've been able to recover files from that
    one defective Philips DVD+RW disc by reading from
    the old Lite On external drive that I used to
    burn the disc. It's slow and had to run
    overnight, but so far, so good. That was the only
    copy of some live theatre photos I took more than
    10 years ago. Some of my theatre friends will be
    happy to see those photos.
  15. Bob Atkins [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG], May 11, 2015; 04:57 p.m.
    Lex - have you looked at M-discs?
    They don't use dyes or metallic films. They etch pits in an inorganic material ("stone") and claim a life of 1000 years. I think their blu-ray disks work in most standard burners, but their DVDs may require approved burners and software (​
    The best kind of archival recording.
  16. I now swear by Sony CDR's 700MB for reliability. I get the 50 pack at Walmart to make a lot of CD compilations for personal use burning from the original AIFF's off a huge collection of CD albums I bought off Amazon from the original label (not mp3's).
    The oldest being in 2005 was burned from a Mac Pismo Powerbook and still plays in both my home and automobile CD players even though they're getting quite old and yellowed. I think it might be from the Sharpy marker I've been using to write the names of each song.
    I don't use them to back up photos or data though. I just back up to two external hard drives.
  17. Have you considered The Cloud ?
  18. As I mentioned toward the end of my rather lengthy opening post, yup, I'm considering Amazon's paid cloud service. First I want to be sure it offers reasonable automation and background function.
    My main concern in this thread is the longevity of various types of CDs and DVDs in other photographers' experiences: DVD-RW vs. DVD+RW, etc. There are plenty of tech articles citing estimates, but even those contradict each other.
    I'm already using the free cloud storage provided with my Amazon Prime subscription, which stores full resolution JPEGs and raw files from all of my cameras (NEFs, RAFs and DNGs). However there's no syncing, no automation, and no practical way to avoid duplicate uploads. Upload speed seems reasonably quick, considering my basic DSL.
    I'm also using Google+ Drive and Photos. It too has pros and cons.
    • The free Drive storage is limited (around 12 GB, I think).
    • Paid storage is reasonably priced.
    • Syncing is relatively easy.
    • However, as far as I can tell, it's necessary to assign a specific folder on the local hard drive for the Google Drive, to be used only for that purpose, and it involves duplicating files that are normally cataloged elsewhere. And it's essential to be careful not to delete duplicate files from the local Google Drive folder, or they'll be deleted from the cloud as well.
    Free Photos storage is unlimited. But there are limitations and annoyances;
    • Unlimited free storage is limited to photos resized to 2048 pixels maximum.
    • JPEGs only, no raw files.
    • Syncing is painless and runs in the background, including at lower resource demands. Virtually all of my photos from synced folders have uploaded over the course of the past couple of weeks.
    • As far as I can tell, deleting photos locally doesn't delete them from the cloud.
    • Synced folders can be synced/unsynced as desired.
    • Google does some fun stuff automagically, creating animated GIFs from sequences of similar photos; video/slideshows from sequences of photos taken on a single day. These are private until the owner decides otherwise, so if you don't like the results nobody needs to see them.
    • The major annoyance: during the past week Google inexplicably made "Auto Awesome" animated GIFs, Stories, etc., almost impossible to find. For awhile these were easy to find via desktop or mobile apps. But this changed a few days ago, burying these features into everything else. If you upload thousands of photos, as I have, it's a huge hassle to dig out any one particular animated GIF or Story that contains video/stills slideshows. So over the course of a week it went from a nifty and fun feature to essentially useless.
  19. I'm already using the free cloud storage provided with my Amazon Prime subscription, which stores full resolution JPEGs and raw files from all of my cameras (NEFs, RAFs and DNGs). However there's no syncing, no automation, and no practical way to avoid duplicate uploads. Upload speed seems reasonably quick, considering my basic DSL.​
    How quick, Lex? Can you define by file size and upload time?
    I didn't know Amazon provided fast uploads of huge files such as Raws with their Cloud storage service. I take it you upload a few at a time instead of an entire folder archive of over 1000 images at once.
  20. With Amazon Prime's free cloud storage, I upload a folder or project at a time, just before bedtime, and let it run overnight. Only the first run took much longer than expected, presumably setup time. The rest were finished before I woke up. No idea what the transfer rate is, haven't checked.
    With Google+ sync to Photos, and Drive, I set it to low priority and let it run continuously until everything I wanted was backed up. Again, no idea how long it took, there were a few hundred GB involved over about two weeks. Occasionally when it seemed to bog down our ISP I'd pause the sync. But it syncs only JPEGs to Photos (Drive accepts raw, JPEGs and TIFFs), so it didn't seem to take too long.
    I would guess that uploading to the cloud would depend on many factors, including syncing protocol, error checking, etc. I would imagine that Western Digital's SmartWare would be rather slow for syncing to Dropbox or other cloud storage, because it's quite slow to my external hard drives via USB and ethernet.
    But I like the fact that SmartWare is one-way: it writes to the external HD, but does not allow deleting. This minimizes the risk of accidentally deleted any backups, which can sometimes occur with full synchronization - if you delete a file from the hard drive, it may also be deleted from the backup. SmartWare prevents this. The downside is that the only way to free up space on the external HD backed up via SmartWare is to reformat it and start over from scratch.
  21. The role of cloud storage is not long-term archiving, rather short term accessibility without the burden of local storage. I use iCloud for storage of documents (mostly manuals), music and photos so that I can retrieve them on any device on a piecemeal basis any time I have Wi-Fi access.
    Unfortunately cloud servers come and go with little warning, and even a few GB of information can take a long time to download and save, should that occur. I feel comfortable using the cloud to augment local storage. Music, for example, is automatically uploaded from my home server, which has ample scalable storage space, for use on iOS devices which are severely limited in that respect.
  22. "The role of cloud storage is not long-term archiving, rather short term accessibility without the burden of local storage."​
    That's debatable. Amazon has invested into the cloud with such serious intent that its clients include the US gummint, including the CIA. And Amazon's paid service is promoted as an archival service, specifying limitations to downloads of uploaded materials. Given this investment and intent, Amazon is among the few cloud providers I'd consider as a paid archival service.
    There are other alternatives, less well controlled, including encrypted files via bit torrent. But that's beyond my ambition to tackle.
  23. Incidentally, back to the original intent of the thread...

    ...I did a little more digging and finally found a coherent (to me, at least) answer to the question "What's the difference between DVD-RW and DVD+RW?" This link helped.

    Several years ago I bought mostly DVD-RW, and a few DVD+RW, but at the time couldn't find a clear answer about the advantages/disadvantages. So I mostly used DVD-RW. Technically, DVD+RW seems to have advantages in data integrity.

    But one of the very few DVDs I've burned that went bad was a DVD+RW (Maxell branded, but Philips manufactured). I was finally able to extract most photos from that disc, although the process took many hours. I had to retrieve my old Lite On external USB 2 drive, which had more capabilities than the newer Pioneer drive built into my desktop PC. It's also likely the horizontal-oriented Lite On drive had less wobble and jitter than the vertically oriented drive in the desktop mini-tower. This may have facilitated the unique error recovery capabilities that seems to be part of the DVD+RW protocol.

    I also error tested my various Sony and Maxell DVDs and found few or no errors with the Sonys, while the Maxells tended to have more errors. Apparently Maxell doesn't make their discs and the Nero utility shows various manufacturers for their CDs and DVDs.
  24. Three or four cloud services have gone out of business in my recollection, and users have scrambled to reclaim their data. If the "gummint" uses cloud servers, it is for distribution of non-critical data in lieu of a network based server. I see the cloud as a convenience for remote access, rather than using a VPN connection to my home server.
    Nothing is free. There are always catches. Your habits, if not your data itself, are valuable to Amazon and Google and their commercial subscribers. Free or low cost cloud service is bait in that trap. Apple, at least, is parsimonious about sharing data with other companies, and charges accordingly. Read about "Apple Pay" to see why credit card companies are throwing such a hissy in opposition.

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