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Caring for CDs and DVDs


Optical discs (CDs and DVDs) may seem to be rugged and durable. In reality, they are some of the most fragile materials that we use. They are susceptible to heat, direct sunlight, bending, scratching, humidity, and pollution.

Commercially created discs are less fragile than write-able discs, and re-write-able discs are the most susceptible to damage of all. How you store the discs, and how you handle them, will determine how long they will last. Some tests show that discs can fail within two years.

Marking Discs

Use a non solvent-based felt-tip permanent marker to write on the label side of the disc. Writing on the data side can interfere with the laser reading the data. Do not use adhesive labels which can damage the disc. When writing on discs which have a write-able surface, do not press hard on the disc.


Make your discs last longer by following these few simple rules:

  • Keep the discs away from heat and out of direct sunlight
  • Store discs in a cool, dark place if possible
  • Be careful to not bend the discs when removing from the case
  • Avoid humid storage conditions
  • Store the discs in upright cases when not in use
  • Handle the discs carefully
  • Avoid scratching the discs, especially the top surface of a CD

More Information

For more information on the care of optical discs, please refer to the following publication:

Care and Handling of CDs and DVDs: A Guide for Librarians and Archivists
by Fred R. Byers