Taking care of your CDs and DVDs

by Antony

CDs and DVDs are sensitive optical recording surfaces. A good rule of thumb is to handle a DVD more carefully than a CD. Because a DVD consists of two sides glued together (each a mere 0.6 mm thick), it can be susceptible to damage from bending and/or twisting. Also, though DVD error-correction encoding is nearly ten times better than those of audio CDs, because of DVD’s much higher compression ratio, shorter pit length and narrower tracks, severe scratches can create occasional problems in playback. Here are some do’s and don’ts to safeguard your DVD, so that your precious data is readable for years to come.

Here are some suggested best practices:


  1. Handle discs by the outer edge or the center hole.
  2. Store your DVDs vertically, not horizontally, in plastic cases specified for CDs and DVDs. Leaving them horizontal can mean that, over time (and specially in a hot room), the disc can begin to bow.
  3. Use a non-solvent-based felt-tip permanent marker to mark the label side of the disc, and, only write on the clear portion of the hub of the disc.
  4. Try to keep your fingers off the data side of the disc. Fingerprints are actually more likely to cause read errors than most light scratches, by causing the laser to lose focus and intensity.
  5. Remove dirt, foreign material, fingerprints, smudges, and liquids by wiping with a damp, lint-free, nonabrasive cotton cloth in a straight line from the center of the disc toward the outer edge.
  6. Use CD/DVD-cleaning detergent, isopropyl alcohol, or methanol to remove stubborn dirt or material.
  7. Leave discs in their packaging (or cases) to minimize the effects of environmental changes.
  8. Store discs in a cool, dry, dark environment in which the air is clean.
  9. Keep the DVD away from extreme heat or direct sun. Sunlight (or any indoor lights that supply ultraviolet radiation) can deteriorate the dye used in DVD-R and DVD+R discs, making them fail well before their time.
  10. Single-sided discs should be inserted into the player with titles/artwork facing up. Make sure the disc is seated properly inside the player before closing the tray.


  1. Touch the surface of the disc.
  2. Store your DVDs where they will be exposed to extremes of temperature or humidity.
  3. Bend the disc.
  4. Do not use adhesive labels on DVDs. Putting adhesive labels on recordable CDs is a bad idea because they have a metal layer on that side that is prone to damage from the chemicals in the adhesive.
  5. Store discs horizontally for a long time (years).
  6. Use any harsh, abrasive chemicals or cleaning agents.
  7. Never use a circular motion when cleaning a disc.
  8. Expose recordable discs to prolonged sunlight or other sources of ultraviolet light.
  9. Write or mark in the data area of the disc (the area the laser "reads").
  10. Open a recordable optical disc package if you are not ready to record.