In researching this same issue--CD-R longevity--another reader found a wonderful resource:
Fred, I just happened onto a site that goes into great detail about CD-R and CD-RW technology and thought it might be of interest to you and your readers. It's the Optical Storage Technology Association site at http://www.osta.org/ with the CD-R/RW info at http://www.osta.org/technology/cdqa.htm, and it covers labeling, writing, longevity and much more.
-- Bill Tone
Thanks, Bill. There's lots of good info on that site--including recommendations on print-it-yourself CD-R labels I wish I'd known about several years ago! Highly recommended.
Armed with the above info, I think most of us will be able to avoid premature failures in CD-R/CD-RW media. But don't make assumptions: It's wise to check your old CDs from time to time to make sure they're aging gracefully. With regular spot-checks, you may be able to catch degradation before it's gone too far, and then recopy the deteriorating CDs to fresh media.
There may be some cases where unusual circumstances may cause the disks to fail sooner than they otherwise would. But with a little care in selecting the right medium to begin with, and then further care in storage and handling, we should be able to rest easy about our archived data!
Have you checked your old CDs? Have you discovered problems? If so, are there patterns to the failures (such as CDs with labels failing more than unlabeled units)? If you have none or only a few CD failures, what storage methods are you using; what tips can you share to help others achieve long storage life? Join in the discussion!