My homemade CD-Rs are crapping out!

Remember when CDs were the great new more permanent music storage device? So much better than tape or vinyl and would last for 100 or more years?

Well it’s 2007 and CD-Rs I burned in 1999 and 2000 are already crapping out. They are different brands; Memorex, Mitsui, Sony and some I can’t read the brand ‘cause they have paper labels on them. Some will play in some burners/players but can’t be ripped by any of the CD-Rom or DVD-Rom drives in either my Mac or PC with any software I have tried. Some will not play or rip in anything at all. All played fine a few years ago. All are stored in plastic cases in the climate controlled conditions I call my apartment.

So what’s a music collector to do? I’ve got 50 year-old vinyl that plays as good as it did the day it was pressed. But the marvelous CD-R technology can’t last a decade?

What are others doing? Do you back up your CD-Rs every couple of years? For me that would be a full-time job. Going back to cassette tapes? Is there a trick to pulling the music back off these lousy CD-Rs, or is it gone for good? Anybody else want to vent so I don’t feel so shitty?

Ack! I knew this day would come. Thanks for the heads up. I’d better check some of my older files and put them onto flash drives. Those will be around forever and never, ever fail me.

I am pretty sure that there is a big difference between regular CD’s which are pressed like an LP and computer recordable CD’s which use a different laser burning technology. The quality of the media has changed since the “early” years in the 1990’s but there isn’t a good way to be sure how long they will last. I know that you can wear out CD-R’s fairly quickly because I have done it several times in less than 2 years with some of my favorite MP3 compilations.

It sounds like an offshoot to this question is how to archive your music and data for the long-term. We have done that question a bunch of times and there isn’t a great solution. Now that terabyte+ sized hard drives are becoming affordable, you could write everything to one of those and then transfer the data in 5 years when new media will be available or at least a new huge hard drive can be used to move the data on to the next generation of storage.

What Shagnasty said. They don’t last forever. I have lots of CD’s with game files that I’ve lost.

I don’t know if this is a great solution but I have an external HD where I keep everything that I’ve burned to CD.

I seem to recall that 5 years is as long as those CD-Rs were advertised to last. I believe DVDs will last at least twice as long (if not up to 20 years), but my only advice would be to rearchive anything important every two or three years.

TDK and Memorex claim that their premium CD-Rs will last 70 years. Story

They are expensive though.

Here’s Cecil’s column (from 2002) about CD longevity.

Some relevant excerpts:

I assume you’re not overlooking the obvious, but just in case: As the CD’s you’re having trouble with smudged or scratched? Have you tried cleaning them?

I think some formulations, and some brands, are of much higher quality than others. And I have cheap ones that are just fine after 10 years and name brands that are showing age yellowing around the edges. And some are flaking off.

It reminds me of audio tape. I feel age is less important than the formula and/or brand. I have acetate 1/4" consumer-grade tape from the 1950’s that is perfect and studio-quality masters from the 1970s that are just gum on a reel, and both were stored under the same conditions, sometimes in the same storage box. Anyone who claims that old tapes are turning to dust is making a generalization that may not always be true.

Vinyl will outlive you and it sounds better. This is an interesting article on CD Mastering,

I have seen “CD rot” in laser discs that were about 20 years old at the time. I’m sure that the manufacturing process is much better than when these laser discs were made but I would think that they would break down well before vinyl would.

Sounds like a large external hard drive to store stuff on is about the best solution here. Then when my 2001 and 2002 CDs start to die like my 1999 and 2000 CDs are doing right now, I can just re-burn them.

Does the OP’s experiences apply to store-bought music on CD? And, what’s the difference between a CD and a CD-R? I suppose the use of CD-R is to distinguish them from CD-R/W? And, if so, store-bought music on CD equates to CD-R, right?

You think your hard drive will still work 20 years from now?

That’s why I’m backing up all my data on vinyl at 33 1/3 RPM. I have a mastering lathe, of course. :slight_smile:

Store-bought CDs are pressed, not burned. My WAG is they will last longer, but I have no hard evidence and IANAChemical Engineer.

CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RAM all refer to user-writable media as opposed to commercially pressed media. We often refer to the entire genre as CD or DVD without additional distinction if the discussion warrants, as they all share nearly-identical digital coding, size, shape, etc.

No, my experience does not apply to store-bought CDs. I’ve not had any store-bought CDs go bad. CD-Rs are discs you burn yourself. CD-R/Ws are re-writable discs, I don’t use them.

I doubt a hard drive will last 20 years but the idea, of course, is to keep re-archiving as the storage medium ages. Back in 1999 I thought putting the stuff on CD-Rs was the permanent solution. That turned out to be wrong.

I like the idea that, in the future, people will pull out a 33 1/3 RPM vinyl disc to pull up some data. A switch that was made after it was discovered that computers and the storage media they produce are so fragile and unreliable that the worldwide economy was brought to its knees due to the problem. Right out of Futurama.

I grant that vinyl will last longer than CDs. But I’m curious about the claim that it sounds better. My understanding is that blind tests have shown audiophiles cannot reliabily distinguish between CD and vinyl.

Am I mistaken?

An update. I purchased a 500 GB external hard drive and have begun ripping my CD-Rs to it.

The first part of the CD-R will rip fine, but about halfway (it varies from disc to disc) through the process, the ripping software (either dbPoweramp, Alcohol 120% or Nero 7) slows down and finally stops. The last couple of tracks that it manages to make it through sound very poor when played back from the hard drive, either skipping or crackling or both.

My conclusion is that CD-Rs begin to rot from the outer edge moving inward.

Although I have yet to find a disc from my collection that had obvious reading problems due to age, that seems to be the case. Some brands of 10yo discs look a little “yellowed” near the edges. I’m sure they were not like that when I bought them. At least two other silver discs have begun shedding flakes from the outside in, never the reverse.

Aside from teething problems with the first releases, commercially-pressed CD’s are fairly reliable. They have actual, physical bumps in the plastic of the disk that the laser in the drive reads - aside from physically scratching the disk or something, it is hard to damage them.

CD-R’s, on the other hand, work differently - they have a layer of dye that changes its reflectivity when a laser strikes it and heats it up. This emulates the pattern of bumps on a normal CD, but is much less durable - the dye is prone to deterioration and highly sensitive to environmental conditions. CD-RWs and the various flavors of (re)writeable DVDs have the same problem.

Hard drives are a viable option, but they are prone to mechanical failure. Tape is a better choice - it’s the standard for long-term data storage in most corporations, and if you choose a popular format, you can be fairly sure that you’ll be able to read it in 50 years. However, tape has it’s own problems - mostly, it’s just a royal PITA to deal with.

Personally, I keep a copy of all my data on at least three hard drives (primary, two backups). If one of them fails, I immediately replace it.

For data that I am storing long-term, I use magneto-optical drives. These are basically a hyrid between a hard drive and CD. They are removable disks, used primarily for medical record storage. The media is rated for 50 years. They use magnetic fields to store data, but the magnetic domains on the disk can only be changed by heating up the media with a laser. They are a lot more resilient than CDs.