A Primer On Optical Storage Data Preservation

Picking a storage medium for data preservation can be a conflicting time. Sure, they say optical storage tends to last, but it can’t be as straightforward as just burning everything onto Blu-Rays, right? Here’s a paper from Canadian Conservation Institute, teaching you the basics of using compact disks for data storage, it appears, without missing a single detail, and taking about ten minutes to read.

Here, you will learn about the different kinds of disks available and how their manufacturing-inherent qualities affect their preservation capabilities. Are dual-layer DVDs better than single-layer ones, or is it the opposite? How do CDs compare? And what about Blu-Ray disks? Wonder no more, here you will get answers to questions you didn’t known to ask. Data preservation is a game of numbers to preserve numbers, and this paper also outlines how to properly record, store, and test your disks to raise your chances.

Whether you’re only looking to delve into data preservation, or trying to improve your own policies, this looks like is a perfect document for you. After all, if you’re not aware of the best practices, you might end up having to digitize old floppies or even LaserDisks – not that those aren’t fun journeys to read about, of course, and we recommend it. Data preservation isn’t just about optical disks, of course – it’s a practice with a rich history.

16 thoughts on “A Primer On Optical Storage Data Preservation

  1. Thanks for the link. Good info.

    At least here at home, I am swimming in disk space, so there is no need for a ‘Data Preservation’ plan in the sense of having a ‘set of optical disks’ or ‘tapes’ of old data that maybe one day need to access. What’s a terrabyte or two, or three now? I can simply keep all the data I want ‘spinning’ and then keep good backups on and off site that are rotated in the backup cycle. This means the spinning and backup media will always be the latest tech within the last couple of years and no worries of it corrupting due to age or having no device able to read old media down the road. Always spinning and accessible — that’s my motto now. And when I am six feet under, no one will care about the data (ie. no need for 100 year ‘shelf’ life). This wasn’t the case only a few years ago, when you had to ‘clean’ your spinning disk(s) and save off a bunch of data so you can get more ‘space’ . We’ve come a long way since those days.

  2. Can someone point me to a good CD image format that supports both data and CD audio? I’ve got a bunch of 90’s games that I want to preserve, but they all have their music and some dialog in CD tracks

  3. Interesting read. I was surprised it seems to really only be interested in talking dyes, which given, are a very important consideration, but not the only consideration. There was no talk about the difference between DVD-R and DVD+R. The difference is quite important, and dang if I can remember the details! Needless to say, after doing my research and finding out that difference, I have only used DVD+R since.

    I was also saddened that M-DISC was not mentioned. Compatible with all readers, but needs a dedicated writer. Gets away from using dye altogether, so the lifespan goes WAY up. I use the things for all my long term storage. Good even when mistreated (left in the sun, in a hot car, etc).

    A further tip, and one also not mentioned, is the use of software and data formats to increase reliability. By writing a disc with software that adds additional error correction on top of what the base hardware does increases the long term viability of even badly stored discs significantly. I use DVDisaster. Free and easy to use. Select enough data to fill 2/3 or 3/4 of the disc, and fill the rest with error correction.

    1. I was also surprised at the lack of M DISC. Frankly, the data in this paper seemed to conflict with what I thought was established. I’m left wondering about the accuracy of the paper. BTW, Thanks for mentioning DVDisaster!

    2. @Fred said: “There was no talk about the difference between DVD-R and DVD+R.”

      Look at the end:


      1 Recordable DVDs are available in two formats, the −R version and the +R version, which are supported by two different groups of manufacturers. The −R format was released into the marketplace five years prior to the +R format and, therefore, is more commonly found and used. There are some technical differences between the two formats. For example, the +R format uses a different system of tracking and speed control than the −R format; this system is supposed to allow for better high-speed recording quality. In addition, the +R version has a more robust error management system, which could translate into better-quality recordings, regardless of the disc brand or type being used. For the most part, these differences have not been a huge benefit for the average user. Where this Note refers to both formats, the term DVD±R is used.

      2 CD-Rs first appeared in the marketplace in 1991. DVD-Rs appeared in 1997, and DVD+Rs, in 2002. BD-Rs appeared in 2006.

    3. Mdisc dvd used their fancy “rock-like layer” but the BluRay versions are just a standard stable dye due to the multiple layers.
      It was a really neat idea, but i think that the original idea has been muddied a bit after their absorption after bankruptcy.

  4. It’s been many years since I’ve seen a document combining the words “Nero” without using the term “shovelware”.

    It used to be such a credible tool, and I upgraded every single year, but since about 2010 it’s been just minimally updated versions with a new year after the name. I wondered whether they even hired programmers anymore, and the bios of their executive leadership team seemed to be financial guys with zero technical expertise.

    1. @FrbDemn said: “Again, no M-DISC mention. That’s what I use for really long term storage, and it comes in DVD or BluRay capacities.”


      M-DISC (Millennial Disc) is a write-once optical disc technology introduced in 2009 by Millenniata, Inc., and available as DVD and Blu-ray discs.[1][2][3][4]

      1. M-DISC


      2. M-DISC


      Media type – write-once optical disc
      Encoding – Universal Disk Format (UDF)
      Standard – DVD, Blu-ray, Blu-ray BDXL
      Developed by – Millenniata, Inc.
      Manufactured by – Millenniata, Verbatim, Ritek
      Dimensions – Diameter: 120 mm (4.7 in)
      Usage – Archival storage
      Extended from – DVD+R, BD-R, BD-R DL, BDXL-R TL
      Released – 2009

      3. Millenniata M-DISC MDBD015 – Blank Blu-Ray Discs (Spindle) 3.9 out of 5 stars 64 ratings $99.99 | 15 single layer non-rewritable 25GB 4X M-Discs


      Visit the Electronics World Store


      4. Verbatim M DISC BDXL 100GB 6X with Branded Surface Blank Blu-Ray Recordable Media – 25pk Spindle 4.5 out of 5 stars 880 ratings $245.02 | 25 100GB 6X non-rewritable BDXL M-Discs


      Visit the Verbatim Store


  5. My biggest fear about optical data storage is having the device to read them back.
    I already use M-DISC, and regularly check on or refresh non-M-DISC backups, but I need to acquire a couple of good drives to “put in cold storage” for when they stop making physical media and their respective drives altogether.
    Yeah, you and I know the importance of local storage and off-line backups (and ownership of personal copies of anything), but most of the populace doesn’t care.
    The biggest threat to our backups is the push for expensive and fickle cloud storage. In other words, never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.
    I do appreciate that someone made this article though.

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