Making DVDs Last

Your homemade DVDs, which are “burned” using dyes, probably won’t last the 100 years expected of commercial DVDs, which are etched with lasers. But don’t get too depressed by the occasional article about homemade DVDs “going bad” in a matter of months. Most cases of “DVD rot” come down to one of two things: problems created using manufacturing or poor handling by their owners.

There’s not much you can do about manufacturing errors, apart from buying name-brand blank DVDs. As for handling, these tips should make sure that your recordable DVDs will last for years.

Store your discs in a cool, dry place. DVD-Rs are sensitive  to both temperature and humidity. In an ideal world, DVDs would love to live in a cupboard that’s 68 degrees with 30-50% humidity. In the real world, room temperature is fine as long as temperature swings aren’t a fact of life. Recordable DVDs hate large changes in humidity, too.

Keep your discs out of the light. Prolong exposure to ultraviolet light degrades the organic dyes in the recordable layer, possibly making the data on your discs unreadable. Regular light may also hurt your discs, primarily through heat.

Don’t flex your discs. With their laminated polycarbonate layers, recordable DVDs are very sensitive to bending or flexing. In fact, the quickest way to destroy your disc is to bend it. So don’t. Store your discs in soft envelopes or in cases where you pinch a center hub to release the DVD. Don’t store them in CD jewel boxes that have “buttonless” snap on hubs – you have to bend the discs too much to free them.

Hold discs by the edges. Fingerpirnts, scratches and dust on the disc surface interfere with a laser’s ability to read data. DVDs are much more sensitive than CDs in this regard, because the data is crammed together so much more tightly.

Don’t stick on labels. Adhesive labels thrown off the disc’s balance and might even ruin your drive when the heat makes the glue melt. Instead, use a CD safe marker to write on your DVD-Rs.

credits: iMovie ’11 & iDVD by David Pogue and Aaron Miller

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