DVD Pen: Myth or Reality?

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by bdpics, Sep 21, 2005.

  1. I'm using DVD's to archive RAW and other digital image files. I
    noticed that a few manufacturers offer a "special pen" for writing
    on DVD/CD's. I know from experience that many "special" products
    are little more than marketing hype (i.e. "camera lens cleaner"
    @$2.99 a bottle vs. "glasses lens cleaner" @$.99 a bottle....) and
    so I'm wondering if there's any real issue with the type of pen used.

    I'm presently using a Sharpie fine-point permanent marker, and
    indeed the Sharpie website says that while they've not done any long-
    term studies, that they have marked CDs with their markers for years
    and never had a problem, and all the CD manufacturers that they
    contacted also said that they used Sharpie permanent markers and
    also have never had a problem.

    Obviously, it's nice to be able to mark the DVD somehow, and I've
    hear horror stories about using adhesive labels that A) CAN damage
    the media because of chemicals in the glue, and B) can cause damage
    to drives if the label isn't perfectly placed as the CD/DVD spins at
    high speed and an imbalanced CD/DVD can really damage a drive.

    Anyway, I was wondering what others had heard about the DVD/CD pen

    Many thanks!

  2. Use a Sharpie with a soft nib, but not with a hard one. One of the Sharpies has a hard nib -- don't remember whether it's fine-point or extra-fine-point...
  3. Perhaps it's also one of those urban legends when it comes to writing on DVDs and CDs, but the solvent used in the markers can also allegedly damage the data if it eats its way into the top varnish on the disc. I guess that's why many people restrict themselves to writing on the clear plastic part at the middle of the disc, or just on the cover and make sure that the disc stays in it.
    I've never had any problems with discs no matter what I've written with on them, though, but for those vital backups, being safe rather than sorry might be the way to go.
    These days, I guess most people make at least two backups of everything in any case.
    Hakon Soreide
    Bergen, Norway
  4. I don't usually write on CDs or DVDs I'm archiving at all. When I do, I use the Delkin pens, which are solvent-free, alcohol-free and permanent. While I buy them at dealer net, at retail, they're $2 each, so they won't break the bank:

  5. ~ Hakon Soreide Photo.net Patron, sep 21, 2005; 04:46 p.m
    "I guess that's why many people restrict themselves to writing on the clear plastic part at the middle of the disc" ~

    Or if you don't fill the disc to capacity, around the outer edge if you need more space [cds + dvds burn from the centre outwards].
  6. The dye/reflective layer is sandwiched between two polycarbonate discs in DVD's. It is well protected from abrasion or chemical attach. CD's are protected only by a thin layer of lacquer. Some, like Mitsui and Taiyo Yuden have a substantial coating, and are not affected by Sharpie brand pens.
  7. http://www.itl.nist.gov/div895/carefordisc/CDandDVDCareandHandlingGuide.pdf

    This NIST publication will answer your questions.

    Short version is, use a marker with a water based ink. The solvents in Sharpie ink will damage the DVD/CD.
  8. Hmmmm...
    Been burning DVD's here for 5 years.
    Have over 725 disk of photos backed-up.
    Each of those was marked by a sharpie on the top.
    Have not experienced any problems retrieving data from even the oldest of disks.
    Maybe in 10 years there will be a problem.
    I'll let you know.
  9. I've been using Sharpies on the tops of CDs for years, and never a problem. There's also an industrial grade Sharpie, and those don't seem to cause any damage either. IMO, the solvent evaporates almost instantly, and shouldn't be a problem over time. None the less, the marketing hype finally got to me and I bought some Staedtler Lumocolor CD/DVD markers. The colors are prettier.
  10. The problem seems to be that nobody knows for sure, yet. I just find it unacceptable to take the unnecessary risk of maybe spoiling something five, 10 or 20 years from now. I mark a simple few letter code to the clear center portion with permanent Sharpie and then the same code on the cover and do all the detailed writing on the cover only. I would not want to leave that center marking out because it is just too easy to have a few CDs lying around and getting them mixed up. Better safe than sorry is my motto with anything that has to do with computers. (In addition to the CD copies I also keep the images on two separate removable hard drives, in different locations).
  11. This question is addressed in Scott Mueller's Upgrading and Repairing PCs, 13th edition, (C)2002, ISBN 0-7897-2542-8 (and probably in later editions as well) in Chapter 13, Optical Storage, "Caring for Optical Media."

    "Most people are careful about the bottom of the disc because that is where the laser reads, but the top is actually more fragile! This is because the lacquer coating on top of the disc is very thin, normally only 6-7 microns (0.24-0.28 thousandths of an inch). If you write on a disc with a ball point pen, for example, you will press through the lacquer layer and damage the reflective layer underneath, ruining the disc. Also, certain types of markers have solvents that can eat through the lacquer and damage the disc as well. You should write on discs only with felt tip pens that have compatible inks, such as the Sharpie or Staedtler Lumocolor brand, or other markers specifically sold for writing on CDs. In any case, remember that scratches or dents on the top of the disc are more fatal than those on the bottom."

    It's an excellent book. Hope I haven't gotten into trouble by quoting too much of his material.
  12. That's true for CDs, but they are long obsolete. The marker isn't an issue in my experience because discs fail for other reasons before markers become an issue.
  13. Sorry this does not have to do specifically with pens, but I thought it might be worth sharing for those people considering abandoning the idea of using a pen altogether due to the uncertainty of solvents + time (which is why I did the Google search on the topic & arrived here, just like probably thousands of others for whom I am posting this).
    I put a label on a DVD used to back up several GB of pictures & now at least one of my drives won't read it, presumably because the extra weight and/or height added to the DVD by the label has made the DVD drive unhappy. It's not a small mailing label or something that would make the DVD wobble when spinning, it's one of those CD/DVD-shaped labels that covers the entire surface (so the weight/height distribution is even). Even if you put a label on a DVD and it works fine in your computer today, keep in mind that the most likely scenario for the data being transferred back off of the DVD onto a hard drive will be on a different computer with a different optical drive that may have the same attitude problem as mine. HTH

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