Monday, February 14, 2011

How to Care For Your DVD and CD

VHS tapes had tracking problems, were easy to accidentally erase, frequently got jammed in VCRs and occasionally melted in hot cars. Compared with a flimsy tape, it's safe to say DVDs and CDs are indestructable and will last forever. Right? Well, not necessarily. Just one good scratch could render your disc unreadable.

DVDs and CDs are actually a lot more fragile than you would think. They are made up of multiple layers. The information is stored on the middle layer. Below the middle layer is a protective layer of plastic. Above the middle layer is a layer of metal used to reflect the laser of your CD or DVD play. Without the top layer of metal the disc could not be read. Most people worry about scratching the bottom of the disc, when it's the top that they should be more worried about. While you want to avoid scratches on either side, scratches through the label have the potential of damaging the disc more than a light scratch on the bottom since it destroys that top metal layer. The label on the top of the disc does not have as much protection as the bottom. Even writing on the top with a sharp pen could scratch the disc. It's best to use a soft tip, fast drying permanent marker.

I admit, having an iPod makes me a little more careless with my CDs. It's a lot easier and cheaper to replace songs nowadays. But when I make a backup of my photos and save it to a CD or when I have home movies saved on a DVD, I want them to last forever. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee. DVDs and CDs simply haven't been around long enough to prove their longevity. But there are things you can do to help keep them safe. The number one thing is to keep them clean. Even cleaning your disc has the potential to scratch it, so be aware of how you treat your discs. Hold a disc by the outside edges or one finger in the center hole and one on the outer edge. Do not eat and drink around your DVD or CD. The best rule of thumb is to return the disc to it's case once you are done using it. Don't let them sit on your table, waiting to be damaged. Even collecting dust could cause a CD to skip or a DVD to be unreadable if it interferes with the lasers ability to read the data.

I have seen people lose their home movies because food had spilled on the disc and when they cleaned it, they accidentally put a deep enough scratch that it rendered their disc unreadable. At least back when we had home movies on tape, we were able to cut out the bad part but save the remainder. Once a DVD or CD is unable to be read, everything is lost, not just a small part. If you find you have smudges on the disc, be gentle when cleaning it. Use a lint-free, nonabrasive cloth. Starting from the center, wipe in a straight line to the outer edge using light pressure. Never use a circular motion to wipe the disc. This can cause more damaging scratches.

You may need a little more for hard to remove smudges or gummy substances. There are many different suggestions out there. But what they all have in common is you should use something mild like lukewarm water and mild soap or isopropyl alcohol. Don't soak your cloth, use only enough liquid to make your cloth slightly damp.

There is a lot of common sense involved with the care of your DVD and CD. Avoid extreme temperatures and direct sunlight. Wipe off any liquid immediately. Don't bend the disc. This can happen when trying to remove it from it's case. The best way to keep your DVD or CD working is to avoid touching the shiny surface and always store the disc in a case. Make that your goal, and you have a very good chance of keeping your memories alive. But always have a back up!

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