CDs Are Beginning To Rot

CDs Are Beginning To Rot

It has been almost 35 years since Polygram, Sony and Philips executives gathered at a German factory to get their hands on the first Compact Disc. Now, the first batch of CDs produced are starting to fall victim to what is known as “disc rot”.

Disk rot is what occurs when a CD or DVD suffers oxidisation on the reflective layer, a condition previously only seen in disks using faulty dyes or adhesives. But now we are starting to see the deterioration occur in your average well-made disks within 20 years, as reported by cdm.

It’s not like we can put a definitive timeline on how long CDs last though – the United States of America’s Library of Congress conducted a large-scale study in 2009 that showed some disks will be readable into the 28th Century.

The average lifespan of a CD came in at 776 years, but some come in at under 25 years – and those are the ones that are starting to fail, or “rot” now.

So how do you preserve the data? Put them in the fridge. The Library of Congress study concluded that 5 degrees C and 30 per cent relative humidity is the best condition to keep your CDs operational for at least 500 years.

Otherwise, start transferring your data – preferably to cloud storage – now.

This story originally appeared on Gizmodo


  • Clearly I’m going to tip my age here, but I recall when CDs were first being introduced, touted as indestructible. And they could take a beating compared to magnetic tape.
    There was this one demonstration I vaguely recall where a cd was thrown briefly into a fireplace, and then retrieved and played. I think I read somewhere they line the bottom of space shuttles with old Billy Idol cds.

    • I was working at a public library around the time they started stocking some CDs. Everyone at the time was told that CDs were indestructible so one of the patrons decided to physically drill a hole through one to check. It turned out that the answer to his research was no, they’re not indestructible.

    • Compared to magnetic tape, CDs may as well be indestructible. That being said, I have a 35-year-old cassette tape somewhere that still plays just fine.

      • 35 years and it hasn’t even stretched, snagged or got that disease where ten days after listening some well dweller tries to murder your face? Sounds like TDK quality to me. Look around you right now and count the items you expect not to be useless in 35 year’s time.

        I have a mental picture that it’s a mix-tape including Eye of the Tiger, Footloose and Sussudio, and the only device you’ve got to play it on lives in the centre console of your 120Y (burnt orange).

        How much do you want for the lot? 🙂

        • LOL, no it’s a tape that my dad made of me talking at about 1-2 years old. I think part of the reason it’s in good nick is that I listen to it every few years and then put it back on the shelf. I do have some awesome mix tapes though… time to dig them out!

    • There’s a big difference between destructibility (can I break it?) and durability (will it break down over time?).

  • This used to happen a lot with cheap blank CDs, particularly if you labelled them with an alcohol based marker

  • Transferred my old CD/DVD backups to a RAID a few years back. And yes, I keep a backup of my backup just to be safe.

    Wish I did the same for my HD-DVD collection. Too late now.

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