A lot of people like to burn their precious data to CDs and DVDs, thinking that it's safe there from any computer crashes and hard drive failures. It's always good to keep backups, of course, but you might not realize that optical discs aren’t quite a permanent solution.
Yes, you read that right. All those discs you have won’t last forever. This doesn’t just go for burned disks either, but even old CDs you’ve purchased long ago. It's a phenomenon known as disc rot and it's unfortunately very real. This can happen due to all sorts of reasons and doesn’t necessarily indicate a major manufacturing fault with the medium. It wasn’t designed to last forever, after all.
This phenomenon makes the disc unreadable and can happen for a variety of reasons causing both chemical and physical deterioration of the medium. Take out some old disks. Go on. Look closely at them. You might notice the reflective layer has oxidised, or the surface and edges have started to look rough. You might even notice that the layers have started to become unbonded and have started to come apart. In general if you notice any discolouration or any inconsistencies when you hold it up to a strong light, you’re a victim of disc rot.
Optical discs can be pretty good at holding your data in a stable manner, and last quite a while but don’t get complacent. If you’ve got valuable data on disks you should make a redundant copy, and check on it every few years. Consider burning a new copy of the disk just in case the existing copy starts to rot soon. You’re better off spending a few minutes doing it now, while you can rather than wait until you discover that your disc has become unreadable.
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