The Genealogy Happy Dance
Technology Tip

Lifespan of CDs - shorter than you might think

Do you have any CDs or DVDs at home? Chances are you've burned CDs/DVDs of your pictures, important data, or even movies. Many genealogists use these digital storage media to backup their computers, thinking that they're now safe in case of emergency.

In a recent article, an IBM expert warns that the CDs you have burned have a relatively short life span of between two to five years, depending on the quality of the CD.

Read the complete article here.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to protect your CDs. We wrote about this in Legacy News earlier this year:

Read the article here.

Regardless of what digital storage media you use to backup your genealogy and other important files, it is vitally important that you make frequent backups. For tips about backing up and restoring your Legacy family files, visit


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What about a portable USB storage device? I've been told that they will store pictures, etc. indefinitely, or at least much longer than cds, dvds and other such devices.

please research before posting. the author of your article must be working for Magnetic media companies. I have CD-R disks which are the cheapest I could buy and they are over 10 years old and the data on them is still accessable !
Manufacturers claim that CD-R and DVD-R discs have a shelf life of 5 to 10 years before recording, but no expiration dates are indicated on CD-R, DVD-R, or DVD+R packaging, nor are there published reports of tests to verify these claims. Still, it would be prudent, in light of these claims, to purchase new discs as they are needed rather than to order large quantities and stockpile them for future use.

What is the life expectancy of your DVD-R media?
When properly stored and handled, KODAK DVD-R media has a life expectancy of 100 years.

While Media life can be a data preservation issue, a greater potential problem is software and hardware compatibility. A perfectly preserved and readable magnetic or optical disk is of little use if your computer lacks the proper drive or if your software fails to recognize the older file format. Migration of data from your old software or computer to your new is a critical part of data preservation.

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