The "why will my photo cds go bad over time?" mystery.

I know it's been weeks and weeks since I posted about archiving your photos. I said I would post the next day the continuation and that just didn't get done. Sorry. Anyhow, I hope today is as good a day as any :c)

So to continue, yes, probably most of the cd's that you archive your photos onto will go bad. Yep, it's true (I've had it happen!), which is why I wanted to tell you about it.

It is scary to think that the majority of people these days take pictures but never actually print any of them. Most of the time the majority of us, who use digital cameras, do this. And many times this is all we do; download the pictures to our hard drive, archive them to a cd, then delete the ones from the hard drive making room for more, but hardly ever do we put them onto an external hard drive or archive them the way we should.

If you buy cd+-r (or dvds) for archiving your pictures, you better rethink it. They will go bad. I'm not just saying it. They really will.

Many manufacturers say that their cds will last 40+ years, but it's not true. Tests have been done that show that they only last an average of 2 years. Of course we will probably read and keep reading varying reports, but from my own research, I keep seeing around 2 years. That scares me. The thought of not being able to pass my children's baby pictures down to them and their families because of something I did the wrong way (and could have easily done right) is really frightening.

You can read numerous reports here, here, here and here. Oh, and here.

I won't go into depth because you can read those articles, but bottom line is, the materials the cds are made from will deteriorate making your pictures inaccessible. The chemicals that the cds are made of will eventually break down. Who wants that to happen? Even more, who wants to risk that happening?

The solution: buy archival gold cds. Yes, they are expensive (around $42 for 25), but they are worth it. They are proven to last more than 300 years because they are made with 24K gold instead of silver, which stops degradation from oxidation (the CD rot). I highly (did I say highly?) recommend getting them. To me, just like the external hard drive, they are 110% worth every penny. Pictures, to me, are worth a thousand words plus so much more . . .

I haven't found the gold cds in many retail stores (yet). I am sure eventually I will as they gain popularity. But you can find them at numerous places online: light impressions (one of my favorites), delkin, mac mall (another fave), my digital discount, print file (a great one for archival anything), and encore data.

Here are a few things you can do to possibly keep your silver cds living longer (even though I still wouldn't rely on them personally):

*store them vertically in a protective case
* do NOT write on them with a permanent marker. Use a felt-tipped water-based pen. Solvent-based are no-no's and will destroy your cds even quicker.
* buy only branded cds. Don't try and save money with an unbranded cd because in many cases you will be disappointed with cd failure. This, again, has been proven over and over. Use only branded cds. To identify them, they just need to have the brand on the outside of the cd.
* do not use any sort of labels or tape. The solvents in these will slowly destroy your data. (I recommend using the white cd envelopes with the clear window in them. I find them at Office Depot and places like that.)
* store them in dark places out of sunlight (these things will break your cds down quicker as well:
high temperatures, humidity, light exposure, mechanical stress, chemical exposure and air quality)
* use a good quality burner and do not burn cds at fast speeds like 52x. Even slow burning can cause problems with the images after time. Stay in the middle at 12-16x.
* and finally, do not not not buy cds that say "CD-RW". This means it's a rewritable cd which can be the worst quality cd ever. I always buy "CD-R" or "DVD-R". I actually burn most of my personal images these days on DVD's because I can store so many more images, especially high jpeg, tiff or RAW image files.

My last few words:

if you can't go the gold cd route, go the DVD route for burning your photos. While they will probably break down over time, too, they are sealed with a thin plastic, unlike cds, so your photos will at least last longer with dvds than cds. And if you can't even do the dvd route, PRINT OUT YOUR PICTURES. Better yet, go ahead and do that anyway! You'll thank me later :c)


LiLi said...

HEY Beautiful! I checked w/ Matt about our pix, he does external hard drive archival PLUS cd/dvd. I need to PRINT. I'm actually thinking of having some digital memory books made for the past 4 years of our life. Creative Memories has them, but so do most photo storing/sharing websites. The books are an awesome way to utilize your best photos and journal, without having random pictures lying around the house! Thanks for this post, it is VERY important!!! xoxo Miss ya!

Erin said...

Now I'm all freaking out. I'm going to check as soon as I can for some of the other ways you suggested to store my pictures. I have thousands of pictures that I would HATE to lose. Thanks for the tip. Very valuable information.

AnnieM said...

I need to figure out how to get the pictures off my camera first! I'm not that bad, but almost. I finally did the tag. Sorry it took me forever!

Mike said...

Very informative. I burn my images on two dvds. I also have a dedicated external drive to store a third back-up.


JO said...

we save all of ours to an external hard drive, but I NEED to print them out. In the olden days of the film cameras i was so good about keeping my albums up to date. I am so bad about printing them. I put them on kodak gallery and forget to print them!