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How Do I Take Care of DVDs?
If you've backed up your precious data onto recordable DVDS (DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, or DVD+RW), you want to have some confidence the data will still be readable next year, and the year after that, and so on. No one can guarantee that any particular disc will not develop a fatal error, but how you take care of your DVDs can greatly influence their likely lifetime.
DVD Care: Storage
Store your DVDs where they won't be exposed to extremes of temperature or humidity. Did you know that manufacturers estimate the lifetime of DVDs by repeatedly exposing them to temperature and humidity extremes until they fail and then using a formula to extrapolate? That should give you an idea that temperature and humidity can affect the failure rate of the medium.
Store your DVDs vertically, not horizontally. Most jewel case designs provide center support for the disc, and leaving them horizontal can mean that, over time (and especially in a hot room), the disc can begin to bow.
Use a jewel case that keeps light off the disc. Sunlight (or any indoor lights that supply ultraviolet radiation) can deteriorate the dye used in DVD-R and DVD+R discs, making them fail well before their time. The dye used in DVD-RW and DVD+RW discs is not light sensitive. However, the heat buildup that sunlight can cause damage to any recordable DVD -- RW or R.
DVD Care: Handling
Try to keep your fingers off the data side of the disc. Fingerprints are actually more likely to cause read errors than most light scratches, by causing the laser to lose focus and intensity.
The builtin error correction of recordable DVDs can handle light scratches fairly well. Its the deep scratches that reach into the data layers of the disc that will cause you lost data.
Unlike recordable CDs, scratches on the label side of recordable DVDs is not particularly likely to cause data loss.
It's worth noting that scratches that run in the direction of the track (e.g., parallel to the circumference) are more likely to cause problems than scratches that run perpendicular to the track. If you've got a scratched disc that's giving an error, focus your scratch polishing efforts on those that run parallel to the laser track.
DVD Care: Labeling
You can buy any number of products for creating beautiful labels for your recordable DVD. If you want to avoid as much risk of data damage as possible, most of them are a bad idea.
Putting adhesive labels on recordable CDs is a bad idea because they have a metal layer on that side that is prone to damage from the chemicals in the adhesive. The sensitive layers are in the middle of recordable DVDs, not on the surface, so they should be less sensitive to such problems. However, DVD drives are still susceptible balance problems caused by a DVD that has a label that is not equally distributed around the disc. The safest bet is to not use adhesive layers on DVDs.
Various printing technologies are also capable of causing balance problems for recordable DVDs. However, there are some printing solutions that involve adding no material to the disc. In particular, HP's "LightScribe" technology lets you burn your recordable DVD, then flip the disc over and burn a silkscreen image on the label side, using the same laser that was used to burn data. However, this requires purchasing special DVD discs whose label side is coated in a special material designed for this process.
In the end, the safest labeling solution for ordinary recordable DVDs is the same as for recordable CDs. Use a pen specially designed for labelling recordable media, write on the label side of the disc, and only write on the clear portion of the hub of the disc.
DVD Care: Water Damage
Spills are an unfortunate fact of office life. For some parts of the country, floods are also a fact of life. So, it's worth discussing what's likely to happen if you get that recordable DVD wet or even soaked.
Water will eventually soak into the layers of the DVD disc. The less pure the water is (e.g., coffee is not close to pure water), the more chance of nasty things reacting with the layers inside the DVD.
The chances of getting data off of a DVD that was soaked depend on what it was soaked in and how long. Get the disc clean and dry as soon as possible. If the disc is not readable, do not give up immediately. Moisture that was absorbed into the layers of the DVD may take time to dry out. Keep the disc in a clean, dry environment and retry it every day or so.
Why undelete utilities may fail just when you need them most!
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