CD DVD Storage Media for Preserving Your Digital Memories

Is CD DVD storage media the right option for storing your digital memories? This is an important question because many of us accumulate many Gigabytes of electronic files on our computers. 

For many people, the only thought given to information storage is to download the files to a laptop or desktop computer and then forget about them. However, if we truly want to preserve electronic files such as emails, spreadsheets, word processing documents, digital photographs, digital audio recordings, digital video recordings, and others, then a more concerted effort needs to be undertaken.

Preservation Backup Copies

The most basic thing to do is to make a copy or copies of your information. Having a single copy of your files on your computer is very risky. Hard drives generally have a short lifetime of about five years on average, but this is only an average figure. Hard drives can fail very early on in their lifespan and failures often occur suddenly and without much warning. If your only copy of your digital photos and other digital memories and important files, etc., were on this hard drive then the information would be lost. In some cases, hard drive restoration companies may be able to retrieve some or all your digital files, but this is not always possible and ultimately would cost thousands of dollars to do so.

The recommendation is to have two and for maximum security three copies of your information. One copy can reside on your computer, another copy on different media can reside close by, and a third copy on the same or different storage media than the first two, should be located offsite. This brings us to the question initially asked: is CD DVD storage media a good option for preserving your digital information? When discussing this type of storage media, we are specifically talking about recordable CD and DVD discs (often referred to as CD-Rs or DVD-Rs).  

CD DVD Storage Media Key Factors

Now there are certain key factors that determine whether CD DVD storage media is appropriate for the storage of your valuable files or not and three of these are summarized below.

Capacity of CDs and DVDs

If CD DVD storage media does not have enough capacity to meet your needs, then this can create problems such producing too many discs or having to spread related information (such as a video recording) over more than one disc, which is very inconvenient. CD-R has enough capacity for information such as word processing files, emails, spreadsheets, up to medium quality digital photographs, and reasonable quality audio files, for the most part. Single layer DVD-Rs will accommodate all these files, in addition to being able to store reasonable amounts of high-quality digital photographs and digital audio, and lower quality video. High quality video can only be stored in small amounts on a standard DVD-R. I would not recommend the use of dual layer DVD-Rs or DVD+Rs due to compatibility and longevity issues. The capacities of these formats are:

  • CD-Rs have a capacity of 650 MB or 700 MB
  • DVD-Rs (single layer) have a capacity of 4.7 GB
A CD-R or recordable CD and a DVD-R or recordable DVD optical disc storage media.

Lifetime of Recordable CDs and DVDs

Some CD-Rs and DVD-Rs have a relatively short lifetime of around ten years or less, while others such as the gold discs have lifetimes of 50 to 100 years or more. Depending on your needs, select the lifetime range that works best. Approximate lifetimes for some discs are:

  • CD-R with gold metal layer and light green phthalocyanine dye = over 100 years
  • CD-R with silver metal layer and light green phthalocyanine dye = 50 to 100 years
  • DVD-R with gold metal layer = 50 to 100 years
  • DVD-R with silver metal layer = 10 to 20 years
  • CD-R with silver metal layer and cyanine or azo blue dye = 5 to 10 years

When it comes to lifetime of CD DVD storage media, the longevity of the playback or reader technology is also an issue. Without the equipment, the media is unreadable and the information lost. Unfortunately, there has been a decline in the production, sales, and use of optical disc media, and optical disc drive production is decreasing. Fortunately, new generation drives such as Blu-ray drives are backward compatible with CD and DVD optical discs and therefore, CDs and DVDs are readable by these drives. Presently, many drives, new and old, exist and so the threat to not being able to read CDs and DVDs is currently low.

Costs of CD-R and DVD-R Disc Media

Cost is always a factor in the decisions we make. When it comes to storage media, it is not an issue if only small amounts of information require storage, but as the amounts increase, it is a factor to investigate. For CD-R and DVD-R storage media listed in the lifetime section above, approximate costs are provided below on a price per disc basis. These cost figures were derived from buying in bulk or in other words spindles of 50 or 100. 

  • CD-R with gold metal layer and light green phthalocyanine dye = $2.80 per disc
  • CD-R with silver metal layer and light green phthalocyanine dye = $0.25 per disc
  • CD-R with silver metal layer and cyanine or azo blue dye = $0.25
  • DVD-R with gold metal layer = $2.50
  • DVD-R with silver metal layer = $0.40

As you can see, the cost of the gold media is substantially more. This is not a large issue if only using small amounts because the benefits of high longevity are undeniable. However, if using many of these discs, it may be quite an expensive option.


Do you have any questions about the information discussed on this page or about CD DVD storage media or any other type of storage media? Please send us an email via our contact page and we will be happy to post your question and provide an answer.

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