10 Simple Suggestions For Handling CDs and DVDs

There are countless bytes of precious memories and critical data stored on optical discs every day but the average user has no idea just how sensitive the media can be. The following is an extract from the NIST’s Quick Reference Guide to optical media care. A good starting place to learn how to care for your optical media:

  1. Handle discs by the outer edge or the center hole. Do not bend the disc.
  2. Use a non-solvent-based felt-tip permanent marker to mark the label side of the disc.
  3. Keep dirt or other foreign matter from the disc.
  4. Store discs upright (book style) in plastic cases specified for CDs and DVDs.
  5. Return discs to storage cases immediately after use.
  6. Leave discs in their packaging (or cases) to minimize the effects of environmental changes.
  7. Open a recordable disc package only when you are ready to record data on that disc.
  8. Do not touch the surface of the disc or use adhesive labels.
  9. Store discs in a cool, dry, dark environment in which the air is clean. Do not expose the disks to bright sunlight for extended periods of time.
  10. Remove dirt, foreign material, fingerprints, smudges, and liquids by wiping with a clean cotton fabric in a straight line from the center of the disc toward the outer edge. Do not wipe in a direction going around the disc.


The National Institute of Standards and Technology or NIST has researched the matter and publishes several excellent references on the subject of proper care and handling of CDs and DVDs.  Following the link will direct you to the NIST Website where you will find Special Publication 500-252, October 2003, Final. This publication carries a wealth of information for use, storage and care of optical media.

There are no absolute assurances that information will always be readable on any media but much can be done to minimize data loss and the expense of recreating material lost to issues as controllable as improper storage or writing a title on the face of the disc just to name two. -33-


2 responses to “10 Simple Suggestions For Handling CDs and DVDs

  1. So this brings up the question, who actually manufactures a “non-solvent-based felt-tip permanent marker”? I know of none that do. As far as I know, most of the major markers are solvent based.

    At the Sharpie website FAQ’s about using their markers on CDs (http://www.sharpie.com/enUS/FAQ/default.html), they state: “Sanford has used Sharpie markers on CDs for years and we have never experienced a problem. We do not believe that the Sharpie ink can affect these CDs, however we have not performed any long-term laboratory testing to verify this. We have spoken to many major CD manufacturers about this issue. They use the Sharpie markers on CDs internally as well, and do not believe that the Sharpie ink will cause any harm to their products. ” So it would seem that all they are saying is that their markers haven’t caused any troubles that we know of but we really haven’t done any long term testing so don’t hold us accountable.

    …and Radium was once a good idea for glow in the dark clock & watch faces…

  2. televisingtherevolution

    Thank you for your comment Martin C.

    The rights and wrongs of marking optical media can be very confusing. I claim no expertise on the subject but rely on researching several trusted sources such as the NIST and others.

    Typing the search term CD Marking Pens into several randomly selected, major search engines yielded many hits for “Write Safe” type of markers. As one visits the links they find that many manufacturers claim their product to be solvent free and safe to use. That is their opinion, not the opinion of this writer.

    My personal method is to mark an identifying number on the clear hub or more detailed information on the case or sleeve. I never write on the surface of the disc itself nor would I apply a label. That way the data area is not subject to any pressure or stress. -33-

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